Writer Roxane Gay revealed on Twitter yesterday that her Marvel series Black Panther: World of Wakanda, has been cancelled by the publisher. The move comes only a few weeks after Marvel cancelled another Black Panther title, “Black Panther & the Crew”, after releasing only two issues.
Sadly, the series was cancelled but I hope to revisit the characters. https://t.co/7kieeBWdQy
— roxane gay (@rgay) June 12, 2017
Gay was due to leave the book with issue #5, and Marvel has confirmed that the series will end with issue #6, which means that Gay and co-writer Yona Harvey will be able to wrap up their story arc before the title ends. The series was created in the wake of Marvel’s critical and sales success following the relaunching of the “Black Panther” title under writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Brian Stelfreeze. With Coates acting as the architect of the Black Panther line of titles, Marvel first announced World of Wakanda as the first spin-off to capitalize on the heightened profile of T’Challa, king of the African nation.
World of Wakanda was notable not just for being the first Marvel comic to be written by African-American women, but also for featuring LGBTQ characters as protagonists, and female ones at that. The series was a critical success, however sales and pre-orders were not encouraging. Still, it’s odd that the series was cancelled before the release of a trade collection. Increasing numbers of readers, especially ones new to comics without a tradition of buying single issues, are waiting for trades, so often it makes sense to see how collected editions that contain complete storylines sell.
Another factor that has raised some eyebrows is the previous cancellation of “Black Panther & the Crew.” Though no one could accuse that title or World of Wakanda of breaking any sales records, the fact that both were cancelled so quickly, and that they were part of Marvel’s highest-profile attempt yet to court African-American readers and creators, has caused some commentators to wonder if Marvel is getting cold feet about diversifying its line. Or wonder if they were ever really serious about it in the first place.
It also can’t be ignored that the revolution of World of Wakanda‘s cancellation happens just 48 hours after the release of the teaser trailer for “Marvel’s Black Panther” film adaptation, which generated 89 million views in the first 24 hours after its release and is Marvel’s third most-watched trailer content. With T’Challa’s profile being the highest its ever been after this big screen debut and new franchise, its clear there is an audience hungry to see more African-Americans represented in the world of super-heroes. So, the question then becomes why Marvel seems so unwilling to give these series a chance to find their footing, and how exactly they plan to capitalize on the heightened level of exposure their character is now enjoying.
All of this also begs the question, what about the main “Black Panther” title? Critically revered, and notable for bringing the acclaimed and brilliant Coates to comics, the title initially sold very well, but has seen sales fall off since. Did the spin-off titles dilute the appeal of the main title? Was Marvel too quick to jump on a hit? Or would Black Panther and the complex and compelling world Coates designed for the character (which is rumoured to be the basis for much of the film) eventually have supported a new sub-franchise given time? We’ll never know now, but these moves have people asking if Marvel’s getting ready to move “Black Panther” in a whole new direction in time for the film’s release. And sadly, the quick cancellation of these two high-profile titles also has some wondering why Marvel seems unwilling to give titles created by and featuring African-Americans time to find an audience. That may be more perception than truth, but perception has its own power.