Ta-Nehisi Coates Archives | Robot 6 | The Comics Culture Blog

Comics A.M. | Ta-Nehisi Coates among Book Critics award finalists

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Awards | Adding to a list of recent honors that includes a National Book Award and a MacArthur “genius grant,” author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates has been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for his acclaimed memoir Between the World and Me. Coates is collaborating with artist Brian Stelfreeze on Marvel’s new Black Panther series, which debuts in April. [The New York Times]

Creators | Comics-industry pundit Rob Salkowitz looks at the resurgence of interest in Jack Kirby, who has posthumously received credit (and pay) for the work he created over the years for Marvel Comics: “For decades, the story of how everyone made a fortune off the work of this visionary creator except for Kirby himself – who until his final days toiled to eke out financial security for his family – stood as one of the most egregious injustices in an industry distinguished by its ill-treatment of creative talent. Now, as we approach his centenary in 2017, the man that Stan Lee nicknamed ‘King of the Comics’ is finally starting to get his due in the wider world of art, culture and commerce.” [Forbes]

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Comics A.M. | Ta-Nehisi Coates wins National Book Award

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Awards | Journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who’ll write Marvel’s new Black Panther series, has won the National Book Award for nonfiction for his acclaimed memoir Between the World and Me; he was awarded a prestigious MacArthur “genius grant” in September. Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona was shortlisted for the National Book Award for young people’s literature, making the 23-year-old cartoonist the youngest finalist ever. However, Neal Shusterman won in that category for his novel Challenger Deep. [The New York Times]

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Ta-Nehisi Coates wins prestigious MacArthur ‘genius grant’

Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates, announced just last week as the writer of Marvel’s new Black Panther comic, is one of 24 people selected as 2015 fellows of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Commonly referred to as a “genius grant,” the prestigious award comes with a $625,000 cash prize distributed quarterly over five years, with no strings attached.

“When I first got the call from the MacArthur Foundation, I was ecstatic,” Coates, author of the bestselling Between the World and Me, says in the video below, “and then I was deeply, deeply honored. We labor in the dark, y’know. If anybody even reads what I’m doing, that’s a great day.”

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Comics A.M. | Meet the son of the real-life Jughead

Art by Bob Montana

Art by Bob Montana

Comics | In possibly the most awesome local-news profile ever, Jeff Linehan of Boxford, Massachusetts, talks about what it’s like to be the son of Jughead: His father, Richard “Skinny” Linehan, was a classmate of Archie creator Bob Montana, and the original model for ol’ Needlenose. The elder Linehan was a classmate of Montana’s at Haverhill High, and Montana is known to have drawn several of the characters from people he knew there. The interview is promoting an upcoming show of Archie memorabilia that will include a screening of the documentary Archie’s Betty, which looks at the real-life inspirations for the Riverdale gang. [Tri-Town Transcript]

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Comics A.M. | Roz Chast wins $250,000 Heinz Award

Roz Chast

Roz Chast

Awards | Cartoonist Roz Chast is one of six recipients of this year’s Heinz Awards, which recognize “exceptional Americans, for their creativity and determination in finding solutions to critical issues.” The honor comes with an $250,000 cash prize. “‘Floored’ does not begin to describe it,” says the author of the acclaimed graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? “I don’t think I’ve fully absorbed it yet.” [The Washington Post]

Political cartoons | In a radio interview, Afghan political cartoonist Habib Rahman Habib talks about his work. [NPR]

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Quote of the day #2 | ‘The quintessential mutants of America were black’

My son is 10 and a romantic, as all 10-year-olds surely have the right to be. How then do I speak to him of this world’s masterminds who render you a supporting actor in your own story? How do I speak of the Sentinels whose eyes melt history, until the world forgets that in 1962, the quintessential mutants of America were black?

—from a New York Times op-ed piece on Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class by Atlantic contributor Ta-Nehisi Coates. In the piece, Coates praises the film as “the most thrilling movie of the summer…narratively lean, beautifully acted and, at all the right moments, visually stunning” — and at the same time finds the makeup of the film’s mutant heroes and anti-heroes an unintentionally revealing glimpse into the American psyche. “Here is a period piece for our postracial times — in the era of Ella Baker and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the most powerful adversaries of spectacular apartheid are a team of enlightened white dudes.”

Coates elaborates on both points, and more besides, on his blog. “It is easily one of my top five comic book movies ever, and significantly better than any of the other X-movies to date,” he writes, even after comparing it unfavorably to the racially homogeneous but racially aware Mad Men and calling it “a period piece blind to its own period.” He also offers a quick take on the pros and cons of the film’s treatment of women, a point examined in depth by The Mary Sue’s Susana Polo.

Elsewhere on the “sociopolitical examinations of the latest X-movie” beat, ThinkProgress’ Matthew Yglesias agrees with a point of Polo’s and argues (twice) that Magneto’s out-and-proud Brotherhood of Mutants has a far more appealing message than Xavier’s accommodationist group; Ezra Klein disagrees, pointing out that Magneto’s agenda is a supremacist one, and wondering if the real dividing line between rival mutant camps would be one between those who could profit monetarily from their abilities (eg. Storm selling her rainmaking services to agribusiness conglomerates and drought-stricken nations) and those who couldn’t; and Adam Serwer connects the film with Avatar‘s enlightened-colonizer-goes-native storyline as “another example of the way the quest for racial innocence so permeates American culture that it’s almost unrecognizable.”

Quote of the day #2 | “Comics are the literature of outcasts”

“Comics are so often seen as the province of white geeky nerds. But, more broadly, comics are the literature of outcasts, of pariahs, of Jews, of gays, of blacks. It’s really no mistake that we saw ourselves in Doom, Magneto or Rogue.”

The Atlantic‘s Ta-Nehisi Coates on the influence of superhero comics on hip-hop culture and marginalized people in general. “I tell you [Jim Shooter’s writing in Secret Wars] was Faulkner to me,” he says. “I’m 35 years old, and I’m still walking around saying to myself, ‘The Beyonder himself is close at hand…'”

Straight for the “ugh” | Vintage anti-Irish cartoons

"The Irish Frankenstein" by Matt Morgan

"The Irish Frankenstein" by Matt Morgan

As part of a series of posts on the racial attitudes that drove the United States into the Civil War, blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates has posted a small but powerful gallery of 19th-century anti-Irish cartoons and illustrations. As gorgeously drawn — by the all-time-great political cartoonist Thomas Nast in some cases — as they are jaw-droppingly benighted, they’re posted by Coates to demonstrate the ease with which today’s interested readers can access primary documents rather than relying on the potentially biased work of interpreters. Another silver lining: Given the total assimilation of Irish Americans, they’re proof that even the most stridently held prejudices can fall before their twin opponents truth and time.


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