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Books to read after Black Panther
Saw Black Panther over the weekend and can’t stop thinking about it? We don’t blame you: In the tradition of director Ryan Coogler’s previous movies (Fruitvale Station and Creed), Black Panther is a heady film with layers of meaning, and it’s already sparking passionate debates among viewers. As star Michael B. Jordan (who plays villain Erik Killmonger) recently told EW, “There’s talks and conversations in the film about identity, culture, history, heritage, love, pain, sorrow, happiness — it’s a lot!”
EW has compiled a list of reading recommendations that tackle similar themes. So if you can't get enough of Black Panther, read on. (Beware: Spoilers from the film lie ahead.)
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Black Panther: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 by Christopher Priest
Black Panther was first created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966 and further developed by Don McGregor’s Jungle Action stories in the 1970s. But the character we know today really came into his own with writer Christopher Priest’s epic run beginning in the late ‘90s. It was Priest who first created many of the film’s supporting characters, from the Dora Milaje to Everett Ross. Viewers intrigued by Black Panther’s political overtones will find a feast in Priest’s run, which creates a complex and thrilling narrative out of T’Challa’s attempts to find the source of political instability in Wakanda while also fighting on behalf of disenfranchised Brooklyn residents. In typical Priest style, the plot is constantly turning new corners to reveal breathtaking master plans — and thanks to the hilarious self-deprecation in Ross’ narration, the reader is carried along in style. —Christian Holub
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Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe
To understand who wrote Black Panther comics and what kind of editorial battles went on behind the scenes, there is no better source than Howe’s exhaustively researched history of Marvel Comics. Howe takes readers from the early 1960s partnerships between Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko through Marvel’s ‘70s psychedelia, the ‘90s bankruptcy, and the publisher's 21st-century rebirth. There are comprehensive details about every character and creator fans could want — including a detailed account of Don McGregor’s battles to get his politically progressive Black Panther stories published in Jungle Action, a strip that had long been used for racist fantasies. —C.H.
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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates took over writing duties for Marvel’s primary Black Panther comic in 2016 and has since spearheaded the character’s creative rejuvenation, writing intriguing stories about a political revolution in Wakanda and expanding the franchise into several spin-off series. But his most relevant work to this list is actually his best-selling 2015 nonfiction book, which, like Coogler’s cinematic take, explores the relationship between black fathers and sons and their responsibilities to each other. —C.H.
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Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay, Alitha Martinez, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Roberto Poggi
Nearly every member of Black Panther’s star-studded cast delivers an exhilarating performance in the movie, but the female characters, in particular, are major scene-stealers. Roxane Gay’s Black Panther spin-off comic offers a good next step for fans since it takes a deep look at the women of Wakanda. The primary protagonists are Aneka and Ayo, two Dora Milaje warriors whose forbidden love threatens to shake up the traditional Wakandan hierarchy, but there are also short stories about the revolutionary mystic Zenzi and the vigilante Kasper Cole (who, like Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, is doomed to live in America while still plagued by memories and dreams of Wakanda). —C.H.
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Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
In some ways, the setting of Okorafor’s Afrofuturist novel couldn’t look more different than Black Panther’s. Instead of Wakanda’s impenetrable technological citadels, protagonist Onyesonwu grows up in a post-apocalyptic African wasteland. Onyesonwu has magical powers and a heroic destiny to end the genocide of her people. The sensibilities are certainly in tune; Okorafor is currently wrapping up a six-issue Marvel digital comic, Black Panther: Long Live the King. —C.H.
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Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr.
Black Panther, first introduced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the pages of Fantastic Four, was the first black superhero to reach a wide audience. But he was also unique for bearing a politically provocative name at a time when the real-life Black Panther Party was organizing against racism and imperialism. This book is the definitive account of the evolution of the Black Panthers’ politics, from their explosive growth in the late ‘60s to their dissolution a few years later. Its power and scope is such that a few months after reading it, activist Alicia Garza co-founded Black Lives Matter. —C.H.
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Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L. Womack
Womack's definitive, authoritative treatment of Afrofuturism — a cultural aesthetic that combines fantasy and sci-fi elements with Afrocentrism — is easily read as a primer for a genre that Black Panther has helped bring into the mainstream. But Womack infuses the book with elements of memoir and cultural criticism, too, making a personal and emotional argument for Afrofuturism's vitality. —David Canfield
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The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
The centerpiece scenes of Black Panther revolve around martial contests for the Wakandan throne, as all the country’s constituent tribes and claimants are offered a chance to compete for the title of king. Protagonist Yeine Darr is given a similar opportunity in this novel when she is summoned from her tribe to compete for the throne of Sky, the celestial city that floats above the rest of the world. Palace politics abound, and as Yeine grows accustomed to the power games, she realizes, like T’Challa, that the throne in question is built on exploitation and exclusion. She must untangle questions of her own ancestry and inheritance as she is drawn into a struggle for a different kind of world. —C.H.
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Black Panther Epic Collection: Panther's Rage by Don McGregor, Rich Buckler, Billy Graham
This is where Killmonger comes from. McGregor and artist Rich Buckler introduced the bare-chested villain in the very first issue of their epic 13-part story line, which would go on to pit T’Challa against the Ku Klux Klan. “Panther’s Rage” set the standard by which all following landmark Panther stories would be judged. —C.H.
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Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
Protagonist Tan-Tan finds herself in a similar position as the young Killmonger when her father’s violent actions result in her exile in a strange place far from home. In her case, it’s the jungle planet New Half-Way Tree, the wild and primitive counterpart to her home planet Toussaint. In a world populated by creatures from Caribbean folklore, Tan-Tan fashions herself into the Robber Queen, who dresses in black, quotes poetry, and steals from the rich. In so doing, she finds a way to confront her own traumatic past and forge a new path for herself and her world. —C.H.
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Living for the City by Donna Jean Murch
The Oakland, California of Murch's deep dive into the origins of the Black Panther Party is a nexus of remarkable cultural change, fueled by an influx of Southern migrants who came together, empowered. Murch veers away from familiar narratives and easy characterizations, instead painting compelling portraits of activists and students who mobilized for a chance at a better life. —D.C.
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New Avengers, Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting
This spring, just a few months after Black Panther’s solo big-screen debut, Marvel fans will get the chance to see him team up with the rest of the Avengers to take on Thanos in Infinity War. This series offers a great bridge between the two movies. Although technically an Avengers comic, T’Challa is the book’s heart and soul. Things kick off when he uncovers a titanic crisis among parallel realities, and his tense “cold war” with the Atlantean Prince Namor grounds the series in fascinating interpersonal drama. As the crisis escalates to threaten Wakanda and everything else, this comic also provides the source for one of T’Challa’s most badass lines in the movie: “Every breath you take is mercy from me.” —C.H.
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The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James
The San Domingo Revolution, as recounted with bracing immediacy in C.L.R. James' The Black Jacobins, ought to ring familiar to Black Panther viewers. This impassioned history traces the decade-long Haitian Revolution which inspired movements across Africa and Cuba. It centers on Toussaint L'Ouverture, an enslaved person who was barely literate yet emerged as a folk hero through sheer tenacity. His is an inspiring, groundbreaking story. —D.C.
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Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield by Jeremy Scahill
In order to understand why Killmonger’s attempted revolution goes so sour, it’s important to pay attention when Everett Ross runs through his backstory — particularly when he notes that Killmonger earned his stripes as a JSOC operative. That acronym stands for Joint Special Operations Command, and it designates the elite soldiers who have served as the vanguard for the United States’ War on Terror over the past two decades. In a war with few borders and even fewer rules, these soldiers have performed targeted killings and kidnappings across the globe. Scahill’s in-depth investigative reporting on their methods certainly help illustrate why Killmonger brings so much violence with him to Wakanda. —C.H.
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Black Panther: The Official Movie Special
This book has everything for fans dying to know more about how Coogler’s Black Panther movie came together behind the scenes, from concept art for Wakanda to interviews with stars like Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o, among others. —C.H.