SDCC 2011 Exclusive: Liss Pits BLACK PANTHER vs. Kingpin

SDCC 2011: BLACK PANTHER vs. Kingpin

Following the events of last summer’s Shadowland event, Daredevil left New York to find himself. That created a void in Hell’s Kitchen, one filled by an unlikely source — Black Panther, himself displaced from his home country of Wakanda.

T’Challa has encountered many different challenges since his relocation, but starting with November’s Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #525, he’s taking on one of the biggest threats in the Marvel Universe, in terms of both power and girth: the Kingpin. And Wilson Fisk’s got the Hand, Lady Bullseye and Typhoid Mary in tow, which means Black Panther is taking on Daredevil’s old business in a very direct way.

Newsarama has the first interview with series writer David Liss on the “Black Panther vs. Kingpin” arc, with The Whiskey Rebels novelist discussing holding off on introducing traditional Daredevil villains to the book, the surprisingly personal nature of the story’s conflict, and working with artist Shawn Martinbrough (Detective Comics), who's illustrating the arc.

Newsarama: David, Black Panther has been in Hell's Kitchen for a while now, but it looks like this story arc — with Kingpin, the Hand, Lady Bullseye and Typhoid Mary — is him dealing with traditional Daredevil business in a much more overt way than before. Were you deliberately holding back on these types of elements until further into your run?

David Liss: The short answer is: yes. I didn't want to jump in by having Black Panther take on Daredevil enemies because, though Black Panther is taking on Daredevil's responsibilities, I wanted to make it clear T'Challa was more than a substitution player. Our book is about Black Panther, not about some guy taking care of Daredevil's business. But that said, the Hand has set up shop in Hell's Kitchen, and Wilson Fisk is now ruling the hand, so sooner or later, these guys were certain to butt heads. So while I absolutely wanted this conflict to happen from the beginning, I did not think it ought to happen at the beginning.

Nrama: In this story, you're getting a chance to work with a lot of iconic Marvel villains that have been in some very famous stories, but in a new context given that the Black Panther is the one going after them, not Spider-Man or Daredevil. Can we expect to see different sides of these characters due to this dynamic?

Liss: Daredevil and Spider-Man have their styles, and T'Challa has his. Kingpin would know that he can't hope to resist Black Panther the same way he resisted those guys, so yes, you will see a different dynamic and a different kind of contest. They are both ruthless plotters and canny strategists, and their conflict is going to reflect that.

Nrama: On the flipside of that, how is Black Panther going to react to the threat? How does it compare to other conflicts he's dealt with thus far in your run?

Liss: One of the things I've been moving toward in this book, especially in the current Fear Itself tie-in, is clarifying who Black Panther is and why he is the most dangerous man alive. But when he takes on the Kingpin, he'll be taking on one of the most dangerous criminals alive. The stakes are going to rise in all kinds of ways — some of them political, some of them personal. I'd say the biggest difference with this arc is going to be that everyone is playing for keeps and no one can afford to lose.

Nrama: What can you say about the nature of the conflict between Kingpin (and his crew) and Black Panther? Is it more of a matter of the natural conflict that comes with the territory, or do things, as you suggested earlier, get pretty personal?

Liss: Without giving too much away, I will say that this conflict is more than just the protector of Hell's Kitchen standing up to the Kingpin. Wilson Fisk and T'Challa find themselves in direct opposition, and they both have a great deal to fight for. So it is personal, and as the conflict continues, it will get even more so. Both of these characters are going to find themselves in a position where each feels he must win, but only one can. One of them is going to walk away — assuming he does walk away — much worse off than he began.

Nrama: When you think about Kingpin and Typhoid Mary, you think about the classic comics by creators like Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti. Are there any specific stories serving as inspiration for this arc, either directly or obliquely?

Liss: I am not riffing on any particular arcs, but I always keep the Daredevil legacy in mind when putting together stories for this title. It's a Black Panther book, but because of where he is, I always want it to feel like its happening within the Daredevil tradition.

Nrama: Black Panther taking on these types of threats doesn't seem like something that'll be wrapped up in one or two issues. How long will the Kingpin's presence be felt in the book?

Liss: This arc will be five issues, but there is a lead-in issue, and I'm currently plotting out the arc that will come out of this, which will be based on the fallout of what happens in this story. What I have in mind is not a sequel or a continuation, but rather a consequence.

Nrama: In less than a year, Black Panther has established a pretty lofty artistic legacy with the work of Francesco Francavilla and Jefte Palo. Next up is Shawn Martinbrough. It’s early still, but what can you say about what he's bringing to the book?

Liss: I'm thrilled, and frankly kind of humbled, to be working with Shawn. I haven't seen any of the art for this arc yet, but the guy is amazing, and I love his style. I can't wait to see what he does with this story.

Nrama: Let’s wrap up with the obligatory question: with Daredevil reintegrating himself back into the Marvel Universe courtesy of the new Mark Waid-written ongoing series, is there a chance we'll see some seemingly inevitable interaction between DD and BP?

Liss: It seems to me inevitable that there will be some kind of cooperation at some point between the current and former guardians of Hell's Kitchen. It won't be in this arc, but I would love to put Daredevil to use somewhere down the road, and sooner rather than later.

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