Black History Month 20: Priesthood

February 20th, 2008 by | Tags: , , , , ,

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art from marvel comics’s black panther and the crew. art by a kubert and jh williams iii, respectively.
I don’t do black music, I don’t do white music
–Eminem, “Who Knew”

Who is Christopher Priest?

Some would say that Priest is your favorite writer’s favorite writer.

Others would say that Priest was the first black editor at both Marvel and DC, in that order. He edited Spider-Man, hired Peter David, had an interesting run on Power Man & Iron Fist (which is practically the patron comic of this site, huh?), and was the source of no end of racial tension at ’80s era Marvel through no fault of his own. At DC, he wrote The Ray and served as liason for Milestone Comics. He had stints filling in on JLA, and wrote his own JLA series. He wrote Quantum & Woody at Acclaim and had a few ill-received series at Marvel after that. Excepting Black Panther, of course.

Black Panther is probably the book that most people love Priest for. He managed to successfully weave action with political intrigue, Kirby-esque plots, superheroic cameos, and romance into one cohesive whole. It wasn’t a perfect run, far from it, but Priest was never afraid to try new things over the course of his five year run. Whether it was reconciling the Kirby-era Panther with the new modern one or revealing that Panther originally joined the Avengers to spy on them, Priest was throwing out ideas at a rapid pace and hitting on almost every single one.

He’s been kind of pigeonholed as a “black writer,” but Priest is the kind of writer who could write a killer Batman or Amanda Waller book. He knows plots and he knows how to work continuity. It’s a shame that people wanted him to fit into a little box, because he can do so much.

After the last of his Marvel work dried up, Priest took a break from comics. I say “took a break” because I want him to come back.

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6 comments to “Black History Month 20: Priesthood”

  1. One of the best writers in the business, and almost constantly let down by poor artwork. I read some of the articles on his website, and it’s amazing how much work he put into his stories, from the meticulous research to crafting the plot. Black Panther worked on so many different levels, and never treated its readers like idiots. It’s a crime that a writer of his skill can’t get work, and a tragedy that he never got to write Daredevil.

  2. No one can do non-linear storytelling like Priest can. It makes me so sad that he’s not doing as much work at the big two as I would love for him to do.

  3. I loved his Captain America and the Falcon. I didn’t know he was black until I came here one day from MGK. And I can really agree with all of the sentiments expressed, particularly the artwork one. Those first few issues of Cap & Falcon were just confusing as all heck to read because of the art.

  4. When I first got into comics as a grown-up in 1996, Priest was being pimped a lot by Dave Van Domelen (who I knew from the Transformers fan community) and other Usenet stalwarts. I started reading his work with either his first issue of STEEL or QUANTUM AND WOODY, and with a few accidental misses on one-shots I think I’ve bought everything he’s done for Marvel, DC or Acclaim since then. I don’t know if he’s my FAVORITE writer, but he’s certainly neck-and-neck with Morrison. Reading his site really depressed me, though; it seems like through most of his career (certainly his post-name-change career) he was the victim not so much of racism or politics as bad luck, bad timing and being too smart for the audience. (One could make an argument that what happened with THE CREW was partly racism, or that it was just a clash over marketing ideas)

    I STILL think that, if he’d been given one of the X-Men casts in ’04 instead of Austen, he could’ve taken off and been the next big thing instead of being chased away by Bart Sears and fan apathy. And like you I really, really want him back.

  5. Yeah – Priest is an awsome writer! I also hope he comes back. After the Crew and Captain America and the Falcon where canceled – there was talk of him doing a Falcon solo series. But I think he didn’t like the idea of doing yet another black character. I think he termed it “being sent back to the gheto”

    If there was any character he would have been good at – it would have been Iron Man. Tony Stark guest-starred in a few Black Panther issues – and I think the political/superhero style would have worked perfectly for ol’ shellhead. But, I think Priest put it this way – he didn’t have a hook, like making Iron Man secretary of defence or something like that.

    It’s a real shame he hasn’t come back to comics yet. I sure hope it doesn’t stay that way.

    And you’re absolutely right – he shouldn’t be pigonholed like he was.

  6. I liked The Crew, but I still think he went a little too all over the place as far as non-linear storytelling. Still, it’s a great read if you sit down with the whole thing, but month to month…

    He had a nice run on Deadpool, with his first and last issues poking fun at himself.