Interview With Reggie Hudlin
By Koncise an out :)
January 29, 2005 - 13:35
This year, everyone’s holding their breath, the anticipation is thick! Why, well Black Panther is going to be making his move into the BIG league. It’s like that College football player, he’s won the Heisman Trophy and is now stepping into the NFL to light it up.
Panther had that heat under Priest. Critical acclaim was heralded on his run, but it was always on the underground.
So what’s going to be different this time, now Panther priming to make an impact on the Marvel Universe?
Well, let’s talk to the man who’s taking the cat under his wing……..the one Reggie Hudlin!!! First we’ll learn about the man, then what his plans for the King Cat are;
Koncise: OK, Reggie, when it was announced that you were the new Black Panther writer a lot of cats were scratching their heads. So, the spotlights on you right now, to show, why this is a heavy move…….hope you don’t mind, it’s a bright bulb :)
I know you worked on House Party, Boomerang, Ladies Man and Serving Sara, but what was your role on these films?
Reggie Hudlin: I wrote and directed HOUSE PARTY – I had nothing to do with the sequels, by the way, other than cashing a check.
I directed BOOMERANG, THE GREAT WHITE HYPE, LADIES MAN and SERVING SARA. I also wrote and produced BEBE’S KIDS, the first African American animated feature film.
I also produced COSMIC SLOP, a television special, as well as directed one of the segments. I’m currently producing and directing episodes of THE BERNIE MAC SHOW and executive producing THE BOONDOCKS.
I’ve also done music videos, television commercials, all kinds of things.
K: Damn man, you’re a busy cat. We don’t get all those TV show’s in the UK, but they’ve just started showing Bernie Mac.
What are the differences for you with Directing and Writing?
RH: The saying goes “you make a movie three times: when you write it, when you direct it, and when you edit it.” I find that to be true. It’s all storytelling, but each part of the process has its own challenges.
K: All your films have been different, how do you stop yourself telling the same stories?
RH: By not making the same film over and over. That’s not easy in Hollywood, where it’s better for you career-wise to be a “type”…even though I’ve done different styles of comedies, I’m still a comedy “type”…which is limiting as well.
K: Have you got any films you’re working on right now?
RH: I’m developing several different film and television projects right now. Not shooting at the present time, which is great, because I get to spend time with my new baby!
Not the Panther, I mean a real baby.
K: It must be a real happy time in your house right now, wife, new baby, film projects and Black Panther?
RH: I know it’s corny to say “I’m blessed”, but…I’m blessed.
K: Earlier this year, I was hearing a lot about a Graphic Novel, Birth Of A Nation. When I checked the listing, I saw that you co-wrote it. How did this come about?
RH: Aaron and I had been developing different projects for years, and I wanted to do a story about an all-black town seceding from the rest of the country for a while. I pitched it to him, and he loved it. We wrote it very quickly.
K: How did you find co-writing and what was it like working with Aaron McGruder?
RH: It’s fun. We think very much alike so the only real problem was too much material.
K: And how about Kyle Baker, cause he’s a talented cat?
RH: Kyle is a genius. One of the best illustrators in the world, easily. And a hell of a writer, even though he just did illustrations on this project. We were lucky to have him involved.
K: Was Birth Of A Nation your first venture into the world of Comic Book writing?
RH: Yes, but given that I’ve been collecting comics since I could read, it wasn’t a huge leap.
K: Did your screen writing skills help, when it came to writing a comic script?
RH: It’s all storytelling. The more you do it, the easier it is.
K: So what was it that got you interested and convinced you to try your hand at creating comic book stories?
RH: No, I wanted to do comics before I was a filmmaker. Hollywood is full of people who are forced to make large sums of money in the movie and television business because they can’t get a job writing comics for a fraction of the money.
K: Damn, didn’t even know it was like that. This must be a factor in the amount of comic to film transitions we’re seeing right now.
RH: The comic book world is becoming less insular when it comes to working with new talent. Especially talent that has had success in other mediums.
K: We all know that Films and Comics are forms of entertainment, but they both have different voices. For you, what have you found different from writing a screenplay and a comic script?
RH: Films have shots, scenes and the whole film. Comics also have several units of measure – the panel, the page, the issue…and hopefully, the collected trade paperback. You can express more in a shot than you can in a panel, so you need more panels.
Since you’re watching a movie all at once, you can presume people remember who everyone is and what’s going on from scene to scene. But that is not necessarily true from issue to issue, although you don’t want to be too redundant.
I think television is probably more like regular monthly comics than feature films.
K: You mean the fact that with both, you’re waiting for the next instalment and so there is a need to keep the viewer intrigued?
RH: Not just from episode to episode, but from commercial break to commercial break.
K: What did you like to read as a kid (books & comics)?
RH: Between my brother Warrington’s collection and my own, I’ve got over 50,000 comics, from Marvel and DC to Gold Key and Tower, so I read everything. I’m more discerning today in my comic book reading, but not by much.
I also read a lot of books, from DUNE and LORD OF THE RINGS to THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X and INVISBLE MAN.
K: Do you think these things have influenced or helped you as a writer?
RH: Of course. Everything does.
K: Do you remember what you wanted to do as an adult?
RH: I’m doing it!
K: That’s real inspirational man, show’s cats that dreams are accessible.
OK, now let’s get to the BIGGEST news of 2004. You’re the man given the task of re-launching (the mighty) Black Panther.
RH: Oh yes!
K: So did you pitch this or was it something Marvel came to you about?
RH: I had been talking to Marvel for while about doing something, and became friendly with Axel Alonso, one of their top editors.
One day I was in town so I met him for lunch. He told me it was fate because they were re-launching the character and I had to do it!
K: OK, so when you decided this is what you wanted to do, what artists did you have in mind?
RH: I had met John Romita Jr. a year or so before, and I was so happy because in addition to being a brilliant artist, he was such a nice guy! So I knew I wanted him.
K: How does it feel kicking things off with John Romita Jr?
RH: Like a dream come true.
K: When you got the first pages of art, was it all you expected?
RH: Oh man, I showed it to everyone I knew. I knew this was going to change the game.
K: I’ve seen the stuff in Marvel Previews #16 and the Young Gunz Sketch Book man and that’s REALLY got me excited. So for you to have issues, damn, that must be something else :)
RH: My wife, who could care less about comics, has to look at each page as they come in. Even she gets how beautiful the art is.
K: Was it John’s idea for the new design of Panther’s uniform?
RH: John called me and said he wanted to go back to the classic Kirby look for the uniform. I told him I agreed. That was it.
K: Do you find yourself asking him a lot about designs and looks within the book?
RH: We talked generally in the beginning, but his instincts are so on it doesn’t require supervision. That’s the benefit of working with someone that good.
K: What has been your exposure to the character? Have your read the Jack Kirby, Peter Gillis, Don McGregor or the Priest series’?
RH: I’ve read every incarnation of the Panther.
K: Out of all the stories, which ones have been your favourite?
RH: The feeling I am going for was the electricity I felt when I first read the character when he was introduced in THE FANTASTIC FOUR. I also thought Priest did a great job. I will be building off what he did, what Kirby, McGregor did…everybody’s contribution.
K: You know what’s funny, Brandon Thomas is bringing that first meeting with Panther and The Fantastic Four to the new readers with his first issue of Marvel Age Fantastic Four Tales.
RH: Yeah, I have to pick that up, see how they handle it.
K: When you were reading the old Panther stories, were you thinking to yourself “I’d take the story in that direction” or “that villain would be great for that”?
RH: There were certain ideas that were implied that I will be making explicit in my series.
K: Will you look at the situation that was left over from Priest’s run, with Kilmonger now being the Black Panther?
RH: We’re starting fresh.
K: I can see the sense in that.
Where do you see YOUR Panther stories taking place? Will we be seeing more of Wakanda, or do you have more of a Global outlook?
RH: The first arc is in Wakanda, to establish a sense of place, and the people that the Panther represents. He is a man of the people so to understand him; we need to understand where he comes from.
The second arc goes global. Because he’s also an international player – in every sense of the word.
K: What do you do to get into your creative zone for a story?
Is it different when you’re working on your own property to working on something from a company?
RH: Marvel has given me great creative freedom, so I feel like the character is my own.
As for getting inspired, the Panther is so inspirational, the trick is sorting out which story to tell first!
K: Now, the first arc, this is dealing with Panther’s origin story right?
K: Why did you decide to spread the origin over 6 issues?
RH: There’s a lot to tell! I know people think that long arcs are padded, but I have to tell you, there was a time I thought I might need seven issues. There is a lot of action and information in every issue.
K: That’s good to hear man; I know there were some rumblings on Message Boards about the 6 issue origin. So this should keep all those cats happy.
Can you give us a breakdown of what goodness we’ve got to look forward to?
RH: Well, I’m not giving any story information, but I will say we’ve got different guest artists doing covers, and they are all brilliant. John Romita Jr did issue one, of course, and Esad Ribic did the second issue painting, which is insane. Frank Cho did issue three, which may be my wife’s favourite…at least until I showed her John Cassaday’s issue four, which even made my mom’s head spin.
K: Man, can’t believe you’ve just done that to me, now I REALLY want to see this stuff lol
With these cats doing covers, this should be a real hook for indecisive cats to pick up the book.
Did you choose the artists for the covers?
RH: My editor Axel and I made a wish list and then he went about seeing who was available. I met Esad and knew I wanted him to do something – we got along right away. I also met John Cassaday at Comicon in San Diego and approached him too.
K: With covers for the book, do you get to say what you want on them and will we be seeing more of the classic story orientated images?
RH: I made thematic suggestions on what should be on each other, and let them go from there.
K: The funny thing about Panther and his fighting, I was talking to a buddy the other day and he was telling me that Panther was the best fighter in the Marvel Universe. I had no clue about this, so its great that your bring this to the forefront.
RH: The Panthers are a warrior culture. Wakanda is like Viet Nam…meaning the Vietnamese beat the Chinese, the French and the Americans….Wakanda is also one of the tough little countries with a large stockpile of whip ass.
They have thousands of years of military strategies that have been passed down from one generation to the next. So think about how tough you have to be to qualify as the leader of such a culture.
K: I’m glad you’re showing this man. Will we get to see the rite of leadership?
RH: You’ll see an annual challenge, when once a year any member of the kingdom can step in the circle and challenge the king to unarmed combat.
Later on in the series you’ll see other rituals.
K: The fact that you’re using other villains is a great idea. It opens Panther up to the rest of the Marvel Universe. Was this the idea?
RH: Well, on one hand I want the series to be grounded in the real world. On the other hand, I want to also be grounded in the Marvel Universe. I also wanted the Panther to face overwhelming odds.
K: Sounds good man, a good rogue gallery always helps add that next dimension to a character.
Will we still be seeing Hunter a.k.a. White Wolf, Hatut Zeraze ("Dogs of War") and cats like Reverend Dr. Michael Ibn al-hajj Achebe?
RH: Not right away. But sales willing, we’ll have time!
K: Well I’m buying at least 5 of each issue and pimping this book hard, so my fingers are crossed :)
Can you let us in on what’s planned for the second arc?
RH: The Panther goes on a quest which takes him around the world and one where he’ll hang out with several black characters in the Marvel Universe.
K: /b>Panther going on a road trip with Luke Cage sounds crazy fun. What made you go in this direction?
RH: Because it sounds like crazy fun.
K: Are we going to see cats like, Brother Voodoo, Black Goliath, Monica Rambeau a.k.a. Photon, Blade, Falcon (as he already has a relationship with Panther) and Storm in this arc?
RH: I haven’t been able to squeeze in Black Goliath yet, but I’m trying! But everyone else, yes.
K: Did you get inspiration for this, in part, from issue #16 (Local Hero) & 17 (Uptown) of Priest’s run, when a lot of those characters showed up to help Panther defeat Morgan, Cottonmouth, Stiletto and Cockroach?
RH: My interest in such a storyline goes way before that.
K: How far do you have planned out ahead, a year, longer than that?
RH: The first two arcs will take a year. I’ve got ideas beyond that if people really like the book.
K: Now I know a lot of cats will be wondering, have you got any plans to use any of Panther’s supporting cast that Priest established. Cats like Everett K. Ross, Chanté Giovanni Brown a.k.a. Queen Divine Justice, The Dora Milaje, Zuri, W'Kabi, Taku, Omoro or Sgt. Tork
RH: Not everyone on that list, but many of them, like Ross and the Dora Milaje and T’Challa’s royal circle of advisors.
K: That’s good enough for me man :)
How about Kasper Cole as the last we saw of him, he had become a White Tiger?
RH: Not right away.
K: There’s something about Panther and Wakanda that always seemed ambiguous. With Vibranium as their G.D.P and them being the richest African nation (is this all from Vibranium?), why haven’t they done anything to help strengthen Africa as a whole?
Is there any chance any of this may come up in your run?
RH: I clearly establish that Wakanda has all kinds of amazing resources – medical breakthroughs, petroleum deposits they don’t even pump, their technology…all that in addition to the Vibranium.
Wakanda in general takes an isolationist policy towards the rest of the world – but we will also see that they help out on the “down low” – they gave support to the ANC in South Africa, for example.
K: I’m glad to hear this, as it’s the smallest detail that can really enrich a story.
Have there been any restrictions put on you with the stories you’re telling?
RH: Well, it’s Marvel Knights, so it can be edgier than a regular Marvel book, so as long as I don’t cross the line for that category, they’ve given me tremendous freedom. I have no complaints.
K: I’m glad it’s under the Knights banner. So who’s editing the book and how has that chemistry been?
RH: Axel Alonso has been a dream to work with. It’s so hard to find a good executive who helps the creative process, and knows how to work the system to get you what you need. There is no way this book would exist if not for him.
K: Sounds like you’re in good hands, he’s got a load of great books under his eye.
So when do we get our hands on the new series?
RH: February, that’s Black History Month.
K: That’s big; you’re coming out in Black History Month. Was that your idea?
RH: No, but love it!
K: Black Panther is, at 62 issues, the longest running solo book for a black character. He was Marvels first black character and other than Orin C Evan’s Lion Man (who was featured in the 1947 All Negro Comics, only one issue was ever published), who came out via the independent route, Black Panther was the first black character from the major companies.
Did this put more pressure on you at all?
RH: Nope. The pressure of pleasing myself is greater than any outside force.
K: What would you say to anyone that says that Black Panther is only a black book?
RH: Well, if they think Eddie Murphy and Denzel Washington only make movies for black audiences, and R&B, rock and roll, hip hop and jazz are only for black listeners, then it would only follow that they wouldn’t be interested in the book.
K: Now, this really irritates me, cause no one says that Spider-man or Superman are white books. So why make the distinction when a black character is involved.
RH: Hey, if they want to short-change themselves go right ahead. It’s been great to have the support of great writers like Warren Ellis and Mark Millar, who, as far as I know, are not black. Mark posted a wonderful review of the book on his website.
K: Yeah, I saw the thread, Mark thought the book was GREAT. When I was at Chi Town, I asked Bendis if Black Panther would be in New Avengers. Not to spoil anything for that book, but he did tell me that he’d read your first few issues and I’d be VERY happy :)
Are there any plans in place to reach out to cats that would buy this book, but may not know about it or go to comic shops?
RH: That’s the biggest challenge – to connect to readers who have never picked up a comic before. We’re doing a lot of press in a variety of mediums, so hopefully the word will get out.
It’s a book designed to appeal to first timers as well as long time fans, so we hope we can expand the comic book market.
K: I’m hoping fans from all demographics get on this and with all the promotion, we can see this in the number one sales spot :)
If Black Panther had a soundtrack, what would it be?
RH: Fela Kuti, Public Enemy, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masakela, Ali Faka Toure, Jay Z, James Brown, Bobby McFerrin, Cannonball Adderly, Marcus Miller, Duke Ellington.
K: That’s flava man, I’d buy that joint straight.
OK, is there anything else you’d like to mention in regards to Panther?
RH: I really want to know what readers think, so please send letters – online or snail mail, doesn’t matter. Speak up!
K: Oh, nearly forgot. During Priest’s run, he mentioned that if he could get an Annual approved, he’d do a Gadget Inventory. Where he’d breakdown all of Panther’s gadgets, like his Kimo card, etc. Is there any chance you’d do something like this, maybe as bonus material for the Hardcover (my fingers are crossed for this)?
RH: Hmmmm, interesting…let me think about it….
K: Man, you jus keep on saying the right things lol
I was looking forward to this series for the longest while. And after this, damn man, I want it to be February tomorrow lol
RH: Me too!
K: Are there any other Marvel characters you’d like to write?
RH: After I turned my first six issues, they offered me pretty much whatever interests me. I picked one and I’m writing now….
K: Do you know when you’ll be able to come talk to us about this book?
RH: I’ll tell you now. It’s Spider Man. I’ll be writing “Marvel Knights” Spider Man starting this year.
K: Yo, man, Reggie…that’s HUGE man!!!
This should really help Black Panther too, cause once cats feel you with this, they go run to pick up BP……but I’m sure they’ll be reading already :)
How about other company characters?
RH: Sure. I’m a big fan of the Milestone line of books from the 90’s. I’d like to revive them.
K: Well Static Shocks got his own cartoon series and I hear it’s popular, so you never know man
Do you still plan to write more independent books, like Birth Of A Nation?
RH: Absolutely. I have another graphic novel in the works now.
K: And will we be seeing you at any Conventions this year, to promote all these books?
Cause I’m flying out to at least two man :)
RH: I always go to the San Diego Comicon. Now that I’ve got books out I might do more.
K: Well, looks like I’ll see you there man, I’m being dragged to the Napa Valley anyway lol
Well Reggie, this has been real big and I appreciate you taking time out to do this interview man. We’ll have to do this again after the first arc :)
Koncise: I know there have been several Black Panther pieces already, but I hope everyone found this interesting.
I have to give a BIG thanks again to Reggie for taking time out to do this. Axel Alonso, good looking out, man. I definitely can’t forget my peoples, Sarah & Daz White and Matt Adler, for a load of proof reading and editing.
Check Reggie Hudlin's site.
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