In December of 2010, Daredevil became Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, with the Wakandan king taking over not only Matt Murdock's series numbering, but also his old beat in Hell's Kitchen.
Joining the title was David Liss, the writer of historical fiction novels Conspiracy of Paper and The Whiskey Rebels, who had dabbled in comic books before but was making his ongoing series debut. After 18 issues — and a title change to Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive — the series is coming to a close with a climax of the Kingpin vs. T'Challa story, also featuring Typhoid Mary, Lady Bullseye, Falcon and Luke Cage.
With the series finale, Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #529, out in February, Newsarama talked with Liss about his experience writing the series, the contributions he made to the title character, and what's next for him in the comic book world. Courtesy of Marvel Comics, we've also got an exclusive first look at interior art for #529, by Shawn Martinbrough and Jefte Palo.Newsarama: David, I was recently talking to Rob Williams about the end of Daken: Dark Wolverine, and asked him a similar thing that I think is relevant here: How much advance notice did you have that Black Panther was ending? Did you have enough time to pretty much wrap things up the way you wanted to?
David Liss: The word came down about halfway through our final arc. As it turned out, wrapping things up in a way that felt satisfying didn’t require that many changes from the original script. I had to add a few things to build toward a conclusion, and then add on a conclusion to the series rather than just an arc. But the story we were telling was always about T'Challa's relationship with Wakanda, and that made it easy to alter the story so as to give the entire run a feeling of symmetry.
Nrama: Black Panther was your first ongoing comic book series, and your first comic story of length (18 issues counting the Point One, certainly a sizable run) — now that the book is coming to a close, how was that experience for you? As someone whose made a career writing novels, did you enjoy crafting stories in the periodical world of mainstream comics?Liss: I’ve absolutely loved working on an ongoing comic. Serialized narrative has its own particular pleasures, and I’ve really enjoyed the chance to tell not only a single story over an extended period, but multiple stories that link together, build, and so on.
I’ve also enjoyed having the room to develop T'Challa from where we began, when he was at an all-time low in his career, and show his progress as he finds his way back to being the most dangerous man alive. It’s also been very cool working in a the larger continuity that the Marvel Universe provides, getting to bring in characters I love for guest spots, and generally feeling like I'm writing something that's one piece of something much larger.
Nrama: Some amazing artists have worked on the series — starting off with Francesco Francavilla, to Jefte Palo, Shawn Martinbrough, and, just this past issue, Michael Avon Oeming. What's it been like collaborating with that kind of talent?
Liss: I feel very lucky to have worked with so many talented artists, and I've loved seeing the unique perspective each one brings to the characters and the scripts. After working in prose for so long, it's been an amazing experience to see stories I write rendered visually. Sometimes I get almost exactly what was in my head, and sometimes I get an interpretation that was nothing like what I had anticipated and is way better than anything I could have come up with. That’s what makes working collaboratively so interesting and enjoyable.Nrama: The final issue of the series, #529, is out in February. What can readers expect from the finale?
Liss: I’m glad you asked. Here's exactly how the story ends…
OK, I’m not really going to tell you. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will tell you that things will change for many of the characters. We're not just ending the story because the music stopped. We were able to bring everything together in a way that makes it feel like the conclusion to not only this arc but to the series. In other words, continuity changes, but I'm not telling you how.
Nrama: Black Panther has been around since the Silver Age, and you definitely put a new spin on the character in your run. Are there any contributions that you've made to the character that you're particularly proud of?
Liss: A lot of fans made it clear that they didn’t love seeing T'Challa de-powered and doubting himself, but I personally enjoyed writing those issues — especially since it gave me the opportunity to re-build a great character. So I'd probably say that I'm most proud of showing how that, even without his powers and his technology, T'Challa is still a guy you most definitely never want to cross. I also really enjoyed doing something entirely new with the character. I feel really lucky to have had the chance to take a long-established hero in an entirely new direction.Nrama: With Black Panther ending imminently, what's next for you in terms of comic book work? It was announced a few months ago that you'll be writing The Spider for Dynamite — when can readers expect to see that? Anything more for Marvel in development?
Liss: The Spider should be out this spring, though we still don’t have an exact date. I've seen a lot of the art from Colton Worley, and I can tell you this is going to be a fantastic looking book. I love the old pulp characters, and it was great getting a chance to take a crack at this.
Otherwise, I have a few projects that I'm cooking up elsewhere, so hopefully there will be announcements in the not-too-distant future. I don’t have anything coming up at Marvel, however, so I encourage fans to write in and complain.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!