A short take on how Ta-Nehisi Coates envisions a team of women special forces in the comic book Black Panther.
Written by Howard Rambsy II
Read by Kassandra Timm.
In 2016, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Brian Stelfreeze began their run as the creators of the comic book Black Panther. They produced exciting storylines and visuals featuring T’Challa and the people of Wakanda.
In 2022, when the film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was released, it was clear that the screenwriter and director Ryan Coogler had been paying close attention to some of the innovations that Coates and Stelfreeze had made with the Dora Milaje.
You’re listening to Remarkable Receptions – a podcast about popular and critical responses to African American novels.
The Dora Milaje are the team of women special forces who protect Wakanda and serve as the bodyguards for Black Panther. They are a kind of secret service.
The Dora Milaje first appeared in 1998. They were created by comic writer Christopher Priest. The Dora Milaje were modeled in part on the Dahomey Amazons, the women warriors for the Kingdom of Dahomey. Early on in the comic book, the Dora Milaje, also known as the adored ones, mainly served the interests of Black Panther.
In 2016, Coates made crucial alterations to the storylines of the women. Coates offered a narrative where two of the Dora Milaje chose to rebel and separate themselves from the historical roles of the group and no longer simply serve as a protector of T’Challa. Coates re-introduced a group of the Dora Milaje known as the Midnight Angels, who wore new, high-tech suits created by Stelfreeeze.
As Coates envisions them, the Midnight Angels forgo their roles as primarily bodyguards of Black Panther. They instead seek to move Wakanda beyond solely a monarchy and develop a more democratic nation.
In 2018, when the first Black Panther film was released, Coogler gave the Dora Milaje more prominent roles than they had from their earliest appearances in the comic book. Perhaps Coogler was emulating the version of the group conceived of by Coates and Stelfreeze?
In 2022, it was even more evident that Coogler had in fact closely studied the new, improved versions of the women warriors. Scenes in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever present the Dora Milaje as the Midnight Angels as they wear their new combat suits, which had been introduced by Coates and Stelfreeze in 2016.
The processes of a director reading and viewing the Midnight Angels in the pages of a comic book and then showcasing them in a major film constitutes a remarkable reception.
This episode was written by Howard Rambsy. The episode was edited by Elizabeth Cali.
This podcast, Remarkable Receptions, is part of the Black Literature Network, a joint project from African American literary studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. The project was made possible by the generous support of the Mellon Foundation. For more information, visit blacklitnetwork.org.