The death of Chadwick Boseman is a fresh and painful memory just one month after his passing, and in this week's Marvel Comics titles he is being eulogized and remembered by someone who knew him for over 20 years: Black Panther writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Beginning with a Black Panther quote about death and the Wakandan idea of the Land of the Dead from Secret Wars #7, Coates' eulogy of Chadwick Boseman brings up their common ground: Washington, D.C.'s Howard Universe, where they both attended - one year apart.
"I met him leading a protest with my friend Kamilah Forbes to preserve the dignity of Howard's fine arts college," Coates recounts. "What I am saying is that before I knew Chad the artist, I knew Chad the warrior. And he was regal even then. There was something almost otherworldly about Chad - I would listen to him talk and only catch about 60% of what he was actually saying. It took time to realize that this was because Chad was always a few steps ahead of everyone."
Coates went on to become a journalist, while Boseman became an actor. 16 years after they both graduated, their paths entwined when Boseman debuted as Black Panther and Coates began writing Marvel's Black Panther comic book series. Their debut was six days apart - Coates with Black Panther #1 which debuted April 6, then Boseman as Black Panther with April 12's Captain America: Civil War.
"He was perfect. He had T'Challa's royal spirit, the sense that he did not represent merely himself, but a nation," Coates writes. "And this is how I am understanding his death."
"It is personally sad to lose him at such a young age. But for those of us who so needed him right now, in these dark times, those of us who went to war with him, the loss is unthinkable. We simply cannot afford to be without Chad."
In the days since Boseman's sudden passing, tributes, eulogies, and memorials have come from the likes of his co-stars, politicians, sports figures, and even a mural at Disneyland's Downtown Disney in Los Angeles. Recent Marvel Comics have carried a memorial image at the top of its covers, with a plan to continue it through October 14's releases.
As people look for meaning or tasks to do in honor of Boseman, Coates points to the idea of remembrance and inspiration in our own lives going forward
"My recourse is inadequate, but it's all I have to make meaning of this tragedy," Coates writes. "It is the idea of ancestry. It is the notion that when someone like Chad wields their weapons as fiercely as he once did, they are remembered. It is the idea that Chad's wisdom and power are still with us in ancestral form. It is the thought that just as Chad once walked into the City of the Dead and harnessed the energy of those who'd gone before him, so he too may be harnessed, by all those warriors to come."