David Liss talks with the Outhouse about his upcoming run on the new Black Panther: Man Without Fear title and what it holds for both Hell's Kitchen and T'Challa.
David Liss is the Edgar Award winning novelist who was recently announced as the writer of the upcoming Black Panther: Man Without fear title replacing Daredevil after Shadowland concludes. Mr. Liss sat down with the Outhouse to talk to us about the new title and what it holds for T'Challa and Hell's Kitchen.
The Outhouse: Most of your past work has been in historical fiction. Why did you start writing comics?
David Liss: I was approached by Bill Rosemann, an editor at Marvel (and editor of BP:TMWF), who was familiar with my work and wanted me to do a one-shot for Marvel's 70th anniversary -- Daring Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special, featuring the Phantom Reporter. I was thrilled with the chance to work in a medium I'd always loved, but I didn't want to learn how to work in an entirely new genre and then never do it again, so I told Bill I'd happily take the job if he would look for more work for me. And he did.
OH: How does researching historical fiction differ from researching comic continuity?
DL: Researching comics continuity is a whole lot more fun. I love that I can lounge around the house, reading comics, and have that count as work.
OH: What are the differences between writing a comic versus writing a novel? Which do you prefer?
DL: I love them both, and I plan to continue to do both, but the most obvious difference is that comics are much more visual. In my fiction, I tend to use dialogue to advance plot and character, but in comics I have to be much more economical with my words and tell stories as much as possible through action. In my prose fiction, I usually can take as much space as I want to tell a story, in comics, I have to tell a story in 22 pages, and that presents certain challenges. On the other hand, prose writing is a pretty solitary business, and I love the collaborative nature of comics.
OH: How did you get the Black Panther: Man Without Fear job?
DL: Bill Rosemann emailed me one weekend and told me he was going to send me something on Monday he wanted me to pitch on. I was very excited, but when I saw Black Panther in the subject line, I have to admit I didn't think I'd be the right guy for the job. I've enjoyed Black Panther stories before, but I knew the current situation in Wakanda was very complicated, and I didn't know I'd be able to do it justice. When I read what they had in mind, however, I immediately changed my mind. I thought the concept was fun and exciting and provided all kinds of interesting possibilities, so I put together a pitch, and everything fell into place.
OH: Have you been a fan of the character for a while, or is this the first time you've really taken a look at the character?
DL: I've read some of the Christopher Priest BP run and enjoyed it, and I'd been following Jonathan Maberry's work with BP, so I was fairly familiar with the character, but I definitely had some catching up to do.
OH: What do you like the best about Black Panther? The least?
DL: I may actually choose the same thing for both answers. I love that Black Panther is a totally awesome, force-of-nature bad ass. He's often written as the nearly unstoppable, imposing figure who swoops in and is ultimately unstoppable, and watching this done well can be very gratifying. On the other hand, he's often written in such a way as to distance him as a character and make him unknowable.
OH: Could you tell readers a little about Black Panther: Man Without Fear?
DL: After the events of Shadowland, Hell's Kitchen is left without a protector, and after DoomWar, T'Challa is asking himself some hard questions, specifically about who he is without being King of Wakanda, Black Panther, and all of the powers that come with those titles. So T'Challa takes on the responsibility of protecting the mean streets of New York to discover how far he can push himself..
OH: How do you feel Black Panther is the man without fear?
DL: No one is really a man without fear unless he's some kind of psycho. I wouldn't really say that Matt Murdock had no fear, but rather, he behaved in a way that suggested fearlessness. That is the responsibility of the protector of Hell's Kitchen -- to show superhuman courage while putting the well-being of the innocent first.
OH: Since Black Panther is taking over Daredevil's numbering and setting, will we be seeing any of Daredevil's supporting cast play a role in Black Panther: Man Without Fear?
DL: You will see some brief appearances by familiar characters almost right away, but the early issues will be dominated by new villains and new supporting characters. T'Challa is now protector of Hell's Kitchen, but he is not the new Daredevil, and we wanted it to be clear that this is its own story with its own characters.
OH: Will Black Panther: Man Without Fear be continuing the dark and noir-like tone of Daredevil or will it be maintaining a more science-fiction element like more recent Black Panther stories?
DL: Noir! We want to tell dark, gritty, morally ambiguous tales in the best tradition of Daredevil. Certainly elements of the Black Panther's life will come in from time to time, but this series is going to focus on the kind of character-driven, street-level stories that we've come to associate with Daredevil.
OH: What sort of villains will be confronting Black Panther during his time in Hell Kitchen? Will they be new or established villains?
DL: Why choose? The first arc will feature a new villain, Vlad the Impaler, but this is Hell's Kitchen, and it's only a matter of time before some of its well-established bad guys cross paths with the neighborhood guardian.
OH: Black Panther has actually established a personal life in New York before. Do you plan on incorporating any of his past times in New York into Black Panther: Man Without Fear?
DL: No, we are starting fresh. He has a new secret identity, and he will be building a new life from scratch. We talked about the old identity, Luke Charles, but we thought using that name would be inviting confusion with Luke Cage. Also, T'Challa is not advertising his presence in New York even to members of the hero community with whom he is already friendly, so starting from scratched seemed to make more sense.
OH: Will characters from his personal life, such as Storm, or characters from his past time in New York, such as Kasper Cole, be playing any role in Black Panther: Man Without Fear?
DL: Storm will appear in the first issue, but in order to do what he has to, T'Challa understands he needs to be alone right now. He is married to an amazingly powerful woman, and he can't effectively test himself if she is around to rescue him whenever he gets into trouble. As for other figures from his past, we'll have to see what the future holds.
OH: How will the events of Doomwar factor into Black Panther: Man Without Fear?
DL: Primarily as background and context. DoomWar explains why T'Challa felt the need to get away and learn more about himself, but he will not be grappling with Doctor Doom in this series -- at least I don't have any plans for him to do so any time soon.
OH: Wakanda has been left in a pretty unstable state after DoomWar. Will T'Challa be playing any role in the rebuilding of his nation?
DL: Not in the near term. Again, we'll see what the future holds, but this book is about Hell's Kitchen and T'Challa's new role there.
OH: Have you coordinated Black Panther: Man Without Fear with Jonathan Maberry, who's going to be writing about Shuri, the other Black Panther, during your run with T'Challa?
DL: Not officially, but Jonathan and I are friends, and we've talked about our respective series. There is no plan right now for the two story lines to actively overlap, but it would be fun to do a crossover at some point.
OH: How long do you plan on writing Black Panther: Man Without Fear? Do you have a definitive end to this story in mind?
DL: I know a lot of fans consider this a fake replacement. I've seen comments on some sites that Daredevil will be back in six months. I only know what I've been told: this is the new status quo. I have not been asked to write any kind of end to T'Challa's stay in Hell's Kitchen, or even to plan for it. The first arc I'm writing is an establishing arc. T'Challa is just getting started. As for my plans, I love the concept of this book, and I love the milieu, so I plan to keep on writing this for as long as Marvel lets me.
OH: If you had to convince readers to read Black Panther: Man Without Fear in twenty words or less, what would you tell them? (bonus points if you do it as a haiku!)
DL: Version 1: Dramatic, character-driven story-telling, uncertain conclusions, noir goodness, awesome art.
The Man Without Fear
Stalks the Streets of Hell's Kitchen
Villains, now beware!
Mr Liss was also gracious enough to answer a round of Outhouse Lightning Questions.
OH: Favorite season and why?
DL: Autumn. I live in south Texas where summers last eight or nine months. For us, the weather getting cool has the same effect as the weather getting warm in places that have long and brutal winters.
OH: Texas Hold-Em or Five Card Stud?
DL: Five card stud. Hold-em makes for good spectacle, but five-card stud is a man's game.
OH: Favorite President and why?
DL: I'd have to say Roosevelt. He was by no means perfect, but his administration launched the only sustained period in American history in which market forces and bleak, unrestrained capitalism did not drive every part of the public sector.
OH: Best Avengers line up?
DL: I'm a traditionalist. I'd go with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, the Black Panther and then, because I'm also an iconoclast, throw in Rocket Raccoon.
OH: If there's any one character you could choose to write, which one would it be?
DL: Hawkeye. He's so versatile, has so much potential, and faces the limits of having no powers.
OH: What are your thoughts on 3-D movies?
DL: No one has figured out yet how to use 3-d in a way that furthers the actual story-telling. Right now it simply used for the wow-factor, and is therefore utterly trivial. When the movie is made that actually uses 3-d to advance plot, character or the overall story-telling experience, then I'll be excited.
OH: If the Revolutionary War was decided by a one on one cage fight between the British and Americans, who would you pick for the American side?
DL: Alexander Hamilton. Tough, smart, and courage under fire.
OH: Best comic not written by David Liss?
DL: Sweet Tooth.
Black Panther: Man Without Fear #513 will begin in November.
Written or Contributed by: Christian Hoffer