The Black Panther becomes the Most Dangerous Man Alive this September, and then in November? He’s going to be pushed to the limit, as he comes up against The Kingpin, the most powerful crime lord in the Marvel Universe. As revealed at yesterday’s Marvel Next Big Thing panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2011, writer David Liss and artist Shawn Martinbrough will be bringing T’Challa and Wilson Fisk on a collision course. Along for the ride? Lady Bullseye, Typhoid Mary, and lots and lots of ninjas.
To find out more about the arc – and where Black Panther is when he heads into issue #525 – we chatted with Liss, and found out there’s still a few surprises along the way:
MTV Geek: So David, you’re several arcs into Black Panther now… Do you feel like you’re still getting your footing with the character, or do you have a handle on T’Challa now?
David Liss: I've definitely got it. In many ways, T'Challa's arc has been my arc. When we started, we were both a little uncertain in our new surroundings and we had to figure out how to work with our new skill set. Now he's the most dangeous man alive, and I've learned how to write a script in a lot less time.
Geek: Similarly, what’s your feeling about T’Challa going into the vs. Kingpin arc? He came to Hell’s Kitchen a lost man; where is he right when #525 starts?
DL: I was being a little glib with the previous question, but I was also being serious. T'Challa had to figure out how to adjust to having no Panther powers and no vibranium tech over the course of our first story. It was an arc in which he began unsteady and uncertain, but he ended up understanding who he was. In our current Fear Itself tie in, readers are going to see a much more confident T'Challa. He's someone who is proud, confident, morally certain and ready to take on anything that gets between him and what's right. There's never been a better time for him to take on Wilson Fisk.
Geek: On the flip side of the coin, we haven’t seen a lot of Kingpin since the end of Shadowland… What’s the fat man been up to?
DL: Consolidating his power and other high-level bad guy stuff. This isn't the old Kingpin of extortion, racketeering and prostitution. He's now an international player, gathering his power on a grand scale. As you'll see in this arc, he's up to big and bad things, and they are going to put him in direct conflict with T'Challa.
Geek: The title changed from “Black Panther: Man Without Fear” to “Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive…” I’m sure we’ll find out more in the .1 issue, but why the change? What makes T’Challa deadlier than ever?
DL: He is incredibly smart, skilled, determined and proud. He will never accept defeat. He can see every angle of the problem and figure out how to beat you before you even knew he was your enemy. And because he has no super-powers, he's also easy to underestimate. All of these things together make him someone you really don't want to mess with.
Geek: There have been a ton of Kingpin stories – no pun intended. What makes this one unique? And what brings Kingpin up against Black Panther?
DL: I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that it's not simply a matter of Wilson Fisk being bad and T'Challa being the designated good guy. These two characters are going to be in direct conflict with stakes that mean something. Neither of them can afford to lose, and one of them is going to have to. There will be no reset button. Someone is going to get hurt.
Geek: I’m curious about the relationship between Kingpin, Lady Bullseye, and Typhoid Mary. Other than “trusted lieutenants,” they all have their own unique agendas, usually. Do those come into play in this arc?
DL: I see them as secondary characters here, more as manifestation of the Kingpin's will, but you never know where a cool subplot will pop up. Lady Bullseye and Typhoid Mary are both such great characters, and I look forward to using them to full advantage.
Geek: You’re working with Shawn Martinbrough on this arc, what can you tell us about his work (if you’ve seen any of it yet, of course)?
DL: I certainly know his work, and I think he's perfect for the story, but I haven't seen any of the art for this arc yet. But I can't wait. I know it is going to be amazing.
Geek: One of the fun things about The Hand is that they usually show up in overwhelming numbers… What’s your take on them? And Black Panther is usually the man with the plan… How do you plan for thousands of ninjas jumping out at you on a rooftop all at once?
DL: If you're Black Panther and you know what's going to get thrown about you, then you work the inevitable to your advantage. That's the fun of this story -- getting to see how one man with no special abilities takes on impossible odds and does so with confidence and the knowledge that he at least has a decent chance.
Geek: Beyond the above characters, are we going to see any guest stars? Villains or Heroes in this arc? There’s certainly a few that come to mind, given the characters…
DL: Yes, but -- again -- I'm going to let things unfold naturally. In our first arc, T'Challa was determined to go it alone to prove he could. Well, he's done that and he may be proud, but he's not stupid. He's not taking on the Hand alone. He'll get help from some quarters that won't surprise you and some that you might not see coming.
Geek: Lastly, what can’t you wait for people to see in this arc?
DL: I can't wait for people to see why Black Panther is the Most Dangerous Man Alive. I know there are some fans who complained that without his powers and his technology, T'Challa is just a shadow of the man he once was. Don't believe it No one will be saying that after this story.
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