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Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze soon won’t be the only ones making Black Panther comics for Marvel. The duo have layered their take on T’Challa (who made his on-screen debut earlier this year in Captain America: Civil War) with fascinating female characters, from the revolutionary leader Zenzi to the elite bodyguards-turned-starcrossed-lovers Ayo and Aneka. Now those women are getting their own spotlight series this November, co-written by award-winning author Roxane Gay and the poet Yona Harvey, Marvel announced at Comic Con on Friday.
The first issue of Women of Wakanda, which is set to launch this November, will feature two different stories. Gay’s will focus on Ayo and Aneka; co-plotted with Coates, it will come out of Black Panther‘s explosive “A Nation Under Our Feet” storyline, which has radically shifted the status quo in Wakanda, the high-tech African country ruled by T’Challa.
Gay already has several projects on her slate: her story collection Difficult Women is due out in January, with the memoir Hunger to follow later in 2017 and a film adaptation of her novel An Untamed State is in the works. But Gay told The New York Times it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“The opportunity to write black women and queer black women into the Marvel universe, there’s no saying no to that,” Gay said.
Harvey’s story in the first issue of Women of Wakanda will focus on Zenzi. Coates recruited her for the project because he thought her poetry would be natural fit for the comic book format, he told the Times.
“I have found that poetry is so correlated with writing comic books,” Coates said. “That’s just so little space, and you have to speak with so much power. I thought she’d be a natural.”
The series seems part and parcel for Marvel’s increasing efforts to diversify both is casts of creators and characters. Many of the most famous Marvel superheroes are no longer white men; Captain America’s shield has been taken up by a black man, a black girl will soon wear the Iron Man armor, the Hulk is Asian-American, and Thor is a woman. Between Coates, Gay, and Harvey, Marvel is also upping its efforts to recruit more diverse writers to script these characters.
“We have to open the door,” Coates told the Times. “It’s not, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if there are more women writers, more women creators in comics?’ That would be nice, but in many ways, it is kind of an imperative.”