Today's Marvel Comics include a tribute to actor Chadwick Boseman written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author, journalist, and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient who currently writes Marvel's Black Panther and Captain America comics. Boseman, who died in August at age 43 from colon cancer, played T'Challa, the hero called Black Panther and king of the kingdom of Wakanda, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Appropriate then that Coates begins his piece with a quote from T'Challa: "Death is just a different kind of journey…to the land that I am king of," from Secret Wars #7 by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic, published in November 2015. Here's the rest of the tribute piece:
"In the Black Panther mythos, T'Challa often retreats to his City of the Dead, where all the previous kings and queens of Wakanda have been buried. There, T'Challa finds wisdom and counsel from his ancestors who have gone before. It was in such a city, almost 25 years ago, that I met Chadwick 'Chad' Boseman. Our City of the Dead was Howard University, a place where we felt our ancestors — Kwame Ture, Donny Hathaway, Zora Neale Hurston — walked with us. The word 'ancestor' is key here. It was not simply that Howard had produced 'notable' or 'accomplished' alumni; it was that it had produced warriors, men and women who'd spent their lives employing their chosen weaponry in the very same war that both Chad and myself, by virtue of color, felt ourselves drafted into. Like T'Challa in his own City of the Dead, we were so inculcated with their spirit that we felt we had a responsibility to do much the same. So it would not have been enough for Chad to become a leading man in Hollywood. His art would have to somehow advance the ancestral war for justice.
"Not that Chad needed much urging. I met him leading a protest with my friend Kamilah Forbes to preserve the dignity of Howard's fine arts college. What I am saying is that before I knew Chad the artist, I knew Chad the warrior. And he was regal even then. There was something almost otherworldly about Chad — I would listen to him talk and only catch about 60 percent of what he was actually saying. It took time to realize that this was because Chad was always a few steps ahead of everyone.
"I got to watch him through the years — advancing out of student theater, on to TV and film, and then finally cast as T'Challa. He was perfect. He had T'Challa's royal spirit, the sense that he did not represent merely himself, but a nation. And this is how I am understanding his death. It is personally sad to lose him at such a young age. But for those of us who so needed him right now, in these dark times, those of us who went to war with him, the loss is unthinkable. We simply cannot afford to be without Chad. My recourse is inadequate, but it's all I have to make meaning of this tragedy. It is the idea of ancestry. It is the notion that when someone like Chad wields their weapons as fiercely as he once did, they are remembered. It is the idea that Chad's wisdom and power are still with us in ancestral form. It is the thought that just as Chad once walked into the City of the Dead and harnessed the energy of those who'd gone before him, so he too may be harnessed, by all those warriors to come."
Artwork by Black Panther artist Brian Stelfreeze accompanies the tribute. It depicts Boseman as T'Challa giving the famous "Wakanda forever" salute. The tribute is found in all of this week's Marvel Comics releases.