Black History Month 2011: Christopher Priest

February 16th, 2011 by | Tags: , ,

art by dan fraga

Christopher Priest
Selected Works: The Crew, Black Panther, Captain America & The Falcon Vol. 2: Brothers And Keepers

I find myself less and less interested in who was the first to do something. Milestones are nice, and arriving is undeniably important… but it’s not very interesting, is it? Who cares who was first, if the person who was first was wack? Being first doesn’t mean much if that’s where your accomplishments stopped.

Christopher Priest was a handful of firsts. At the very least, he was the first black editor at Marvel and DC, and he may well have been the first black writer at Marvel. He’s had a long career, having gone from Marvel to DC to Valiant to DC to Marvel and out over the course of what, somewhere around thirty years? It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any new comics product from Priest, and as near as I can tell, he’s retired.

Priest managed to be first and good. He wrote a couple of classics while he was at Marvel, edited and wrote a gang of good ones at DC, and I’m pretty sure that his runs on books like Black Panther are generally regarded fondly. More than that, Priest has range. His Spider-Man vs Wolverine is a good book, and perfectly in line with the cape comics of the day. Quantum & Woody is a screwball comedy. Black Panther veered from political intrigue to Kirby homage to Avengers-style action. The Crew was street level spy slash crime comics.

Priest is a consummate writer. While he has a few quirks I’m not particularly fond of, he’s done some genuinely impressive work in a variety of genres and with a number of different gimmicks. He redefined Black Panther forever in his five years on the book, and I still say that The Crew is the best book Marvel ever cancelled. Priest earned his place in history.

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12 comments to “Black History Month 2011: Christopher Priest”

  1. I wish you could put up more scans from when Kasper was the Black Panther (or from the Crew). He was a really good character, and sadly has never found his place in the Marvel Universe since the Crew was canceled. I always liked to think he was working in the Initiative, to earn a pay check being a super-hero, so he could support his child and girlfriend. Besides him being on the cover of Avengers: Initiative #1, he’s not been seen since.

    Also, as for Priest – what I’d like to know is where he is now. I wish he’d come back to comics. I recently re-read a lot of the Black Panther issues I have – and the quality and sophistication of those issues was just stunning.

    I even emailed Bob Almond, the inker on Black Panther – and he said he hasn’t heard from Priest in a long time either. His website is dead and decaying from all appearances. He was able to write so many good comics – but Priest left because, as he described it, he couldn’t stand being sent back to the ghetto time after time. They wanted him to do a Falcon Mini-series, which he obviously didn’t have anything against the Falcon – but I think he deeply disliked being pigeon-holed as a black writer who could only write black characters. I wish he’d come back to comics.

  2. I miss Priest’s work as well. Quantum and Woody was one of my all time favorite books. It’s a shame that he thought he worked in the ghetto of the industry. I always thought it was an interesting niche, and a wonderful escape from the run-of-the-mill superhero fare you normally see. He may have had a small following, but he had a small, LOYAL following.

    Oh, well. I hope he’s doing something he actually enjoys.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree about The Crew. It being canceled makes me wonder if comic fans have any taste whatsoever.

  4. @Kyle King:

    That was on the retailers not the fans. The book was so under-ordered that it was canceled before the first issue even hit the stands.

  5. Marvel not releasing the full run of Priest’s run on Panther is a felony. Like most people – hell, like Priest himself at first – I viewed Panther as pure particles of anti-interesting until I read the first trade of Priest’s series. If Sentry was a failed attempt to do a Marvel Universe Superman, Priest’s run on Panther was a Marvel Universe Batman done right.

    Didn’t really care for Hudlin’s run, though, because he wrote Wakanda as being so far ahead of everybody else that it was impossible to understand how Klaw could have managed to ever get close enough to T’Chaka to inconvenience him, much less kill him.

  6. Was there anything that Priest wrote in the turn of the century aside from Deadpool that didn’t work out? I figure he could’ve made that title work if the status quo hadn’t kept changing every issue. For the record, the idea of a post-[i]Seinfeld[/i] setup with Wade, Titania and Constrictor could have worked out well.

    BTW, look for [i]Solar: Hell On Earth[/i]. Four-issue miniseries dealing with Solar and his apparent divinity. Also, Turok whisks Woody away after convincing him that he’s a pizza deliveryman.

  7. Black Panther wasn’t just smart, action-packed, and funny – it also helped sell my wife on superheroes. In a just world, Priest’s BP run wouldn’t just be collected, it’d still be ongoing.

  8. I have to disagree about Spidey v. Wolverine–it was much more thoughtful and ethically conflicted than the Marvel stuff at the time. I was a big Marvel fan and that comic blew MY MIND when it came out. I had never read something with that level of moral confusion. It brought a heavier game to Spider-Man and had real repercussions in the rest of the storylines going on, and gave thoughtful consideration to a very real question: how can killer-anti-heroes like Wolverine even exist next to good-guy heroes like Spider-Man? Does that even work?

    I really hope that Priest isn’t retired. He’s too good.

  9. @Patchworkearth: I wouldn’t mind Priest’s Panther not being ongoing if The Crew had gotten to continue.

  10. My feelings about Priest’s work are well known already and it is a CRIME that his Black Panther run from pre-Hudlin has not been totally collected.

    But I concur with Prodigal, The Crew was a great book but you know…mostly ethnic heroes (or at least ones with ethnic connections) = no audience to most retailers…. 🙂

    Quantum and Woody was Deadpool today before Joe Kelly and Nicenza got ahold of him…

    Yeah I said it…. 🙂

  11. Priest’s run on Black Panther was one of the books that brought me back to comics, and that’s speaking as a suburban white dude who had absolutely no connection to the character, I just thought it was that damn good. For a long time he was by far my favorite writer in comics, I even tracked down his run on Justice League Task Force for crying out loud. I really hope he does some more comics in the future.

  12. Priest gave a great two-part interview to Dollar Bin early last year I think where he discusses a comic project that he is shopping now.



    In the interview, he called the Spidey/Wolverine book his best work. That’s more incentive for me to track it down along with Quantum and Woody.