Captain America may have just been reborn, but that doesn’t mean that Marvel is done with his storied past. In fact, 2010 will see the release of a mini-series that shows how Cap, and some other familiar faces, ran into the Black Panther of the 1940s during World War II. Announced today at Comic-Con International San Diego during the Mondo Marvel panel, Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers comes to us from Black Panther writer/multi-media talent Reginald Hudlin and writer/artist Denys Cowan (handling the art chores this go-round). We had a chance to speak to them ahead of the panel announcement at San Diego to see what it’s like handling Marvel history.
Newsarama: How did you get involved with this particular project?
Reginald Hudlin: Denys and I have worked together a lot over the years, but never done a comic book together. That seemed stupid to us, we decided to do one. I think this was the first idea we said, and that was kinda it. We’ll do other things together, but [this] will be the first.
Denys Cowan: I've always loved the Black Panther and I've worked on various Black Panther projects throughout my career. Reggie is the current writer of BP, of course, and this seemed like a natural project for us to do together.
NRAMA: As creators, what is the appeal of the World War II era? And what’s it like to handle Captain America in that specific setting?
Hudlin:World War Two is when Black Panther and Captain America met. It’s also a rich era, with characters like Nick Fury and the Howling Commandoes, the Red Skull, Baron Strucker, and other more obscure but interesting characters.
Captain America is still the noble man he was before he took the super soldier serum, but he’s green. He’s still rocking the triangle shield. That’s a fun period in his life to explore.
Cowan: The appeal of the era is that it was a pivotal time in U.S. history. It's [also] a chance to focus on a character, Gabe Jones, who hasn't had a lot of light on him. And a chance to do Golden Age Panther is something that we couldn't pass up.
NRAMA: With Black Panther, he’s been established as a generational character. Which Black Panther will we be seeing here, and how would the protector of Wakanda react to Cap and Nick Fury at that point in history?
Hudlin: Azzuri the Wise is the Black Panther, who is T’Chaka’s father, T’Challa’s grandfather. We’ve seen him before in my first run of BLACK PANTHER where he defeats the Sub-Mariner in combat, then schools him to the future implications of WW2. There’s a reason why he’s called “the Wise”.
Azzuri sees a lot of promise in Steve Rogers. It’s tough love, but he wants to help him. As for Nick, Azzuri sees the war hero he is and the cold war spy he’s going to be…and treats him accordingly.
There’s another character in play here – Gabe Jones, the black member of the Howling Commandos. He really provides the point of view of the mini-series. He’s a guy who sees a lot to admire in both Captain America and Black Panther, and ends up getting caught in the middle of a much larger conflict.
Cowan: Very little surprises this Golden Age Black Panther and very little impresses him. However, he's impressed by Captain America. The Panther's first obligation is to his people, to his country, to his family. So his relationship to Nick Fury and in fact, anyone who's not Wakandan, is subject to those considerations.
NRAMA: You obviously have an association with one another through both working at BET; in the comic arena, could you describe what your collaborative process is like?
Hudlin: We go back way further than that. We met when Denys was launching Milestone. We’ve worked on a number of animation projects together, and developed some original properties…some of which we’ll finally follow up on, now that we’re both free men again.
As for the process, we just talk it out till the other is ready to get to work.
Cowan: Reggie and I will discuss an idea, in this case Captain America-Black Panther, discuss story ideas and plot points. Then Reggie goes off and writes an excellent script, tying all the ideas together so that they make sense. And then, I draw it.
NRAMA: Denys, how does your background as an artist influence this type of piece?
Cowan: The scope of this story forces everyone involved to be at the top of their game.
NRAMA: Similarly, Reginald, as a film director, you’re used to staging scenes and realizing your own particular vision. How does that work for you with a co-writer? With an artist? Is that writer-artist relationship for you similar to how you relate to a Director of Photography on-set?
Hudlin: When I write, I write some stage direction, but don’t overdo it. Denys has great instincts as an artist. When I saw the thumbnails of the first issue, I about lost it. His “roughs” crush most people out there. It’s not just the look, it’s the storytelling.
NRAMA: Granted, Wakanda is a fictional country. However, did the project avail you the opportunity to do research on that general region of Africa in World War II? What might have been happening in the area at the time, and do elements of that impact your story?
Hudlin: There’s real history of the region, there’s Marvel history of that period, then there’s racial dynamics of that era that aren’t in most popular entertainment. All of it gets mashed up in the story.
Cowan: Even though Wakanda is fictional, it's based in fact on several real locations in Africa. The research that we've done on that part of Africa and the troops that were fighting in Africa at the time have all influenced the way I'm telling this story.
NRAMA: The title “Flags of Our Fathers” evokes patriotic imagery and the recent Eastwood film. Why is that name especially appropriate for this event?
Hudlin: I haven’t seen the Eastwood film, but I did love that title. For me, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS refers to the beliefs that generations before us fought for. Quinten Tarantino was talking with me about his new movie INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, and he made a great observation – WW2 is a war about racism. The Nazis thought they were the Master Race, and the world rose up and told them NO.
NRAMA: What kind of resonance might this meeting have in the Marvel Universe of today?
Cowan: It's a story that has never been fully told and it's just the beginning. Since we don't know alot about T'Challa's grandfather and the Golden Age Panther, there are endless possibilities for further exploration.
Hudlin: You mean Bucky Cap meeting female Panther? Could happen….