Reginald Hudlin is one of the most successful creators of film and television of the last twenty-five years. He leapt to prominence by writing and directing 1990’s House Party, an intelligent and hilarious film about African American teenage life, following that with, among other films, Boomerang, widely regarded as Eddy Murphy’s finest performance, and the acerbic satire The Great Whyte Hype.
In television, Hudlin created Cosmic Slop, and wrote for and produced Bebe’s Kids, one of the few animated series ever to focus on African characters in the US. He also helped launch Everybody Hates Chris, The Boondocks, and The Bernie Mac Show. He’s directed for many series, including The Office and Modern Family.
During three years as President of Entertainment for the American network Black Entertainment Television or BET, Hudlin, according to his website, “created 17 of the top 20 rated shows in the history of the network including the award-winning KEYSHIA COLE: THE WAY IT IS; AMERICAN GANGSTER; and SUNDAY BEST.”
The recipient of awards and widespread critical acclaim, Hudlin also co-authored the satirical and highly lauded graphic novel Birth of a Nation about East St. Louis seceding from the United States.
It’s Hudlin’s love of and work in comics that are the focus of this episode of MF GALAXY. Hudlin reputedly owns more than 50,000 comics, and while he was heading entertainment for all of BET, Hudlin somehow managed to write Black Panther for Marvel Comics.
Black Panther is the story of T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation Wakanda, a country that throughout history was never conquered and achieved an unparalleled height of technology. Shockingly enough, Black Panther was created back in the early 1960s not by Richard Wright, George Schuyler, Charles Saunders or Octavia Butler, but by two of the giants of modern superhero comics, the Jewish-American creative geniuses Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, ironically just a few years before the birth of the Black Panther Party.
Under Hudlin’s creative control, Black Panther continued to combine martial arts, spy thrills, science fiction and mysticism, but more than ever a critique of American politics, an Africentric perspective, and a magnificent re-imagining of some of Marvel’s few African characters such as Luke Cage and Brother Voodoo.
Reginald Hudlin spoke with me by telephone from his home in Los Angeles on December 30, 2010. We discussed:
Why comic characters such as Blade could sustain three movies and hundreds of millions of box office dollars, but never be successful as comic books
Which has created better African characters: Hollywood, or American comic books?
The pioneering breakthrough of Milestone Comics and its dramatic conclusion
Hudlin’s approach to creating the Black Panther animated series and to rebooting Black Panther as a comic book
What the Black Panther has in common with George W. Bush
The danger of writing comics about comics, and
Hudlin’s reaction to attacks from rabid comic fans accusing him of racism for his work on Black Panther.
This episode’s conversation is from the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. Reginald Hudlin spoke with me by telephone from his home in Los Angeles on December 30, 2010. Along the way, Hudlin uses the acronym “IP,” meaning “intellectual property,” such as characters, settings, and stories. At one point in our conversation, I misidentified the Juggernaut as the Rhino, but Hudlin didn’t call me out.
PLEASE USE THE SHARE BAR AT THE END OF THIS POST
The following material is exclusive to the patrons-only extended edition of MF GALAXY. You’ll hear Reginald Hudlin discuss:
- Why some fans attacked him for marrying Black Panther to the X-Men character Storm
- Audience and studio reactions against the sexualisation of African male characters
- Why Hudlin downplayed his signature humour for his run on Black Panther
- Hudlin’s re-imagining of Brother Voodoo and Luke Cage, and the relationship between Cage and Black Panther
- Hudlin’s favourite African comics and animation creators such as Kyle Baker, Christopher Priest, Denys Cowan, and his comments on the late, great writer Dwayne McDuffie, recorded just 44 days before his death
- The bigoted backlash against the Muslim Batman in the Batman Incorporated world, and the casting of Idris Elba in the movie Thor
- Hudlin’s own resilience in the face of attacks from former friends and colleagues, including following his very public split with Boondocks animated series co-creator Aaron McGruder who attacked him again and again
- Hudlin’s philosophy for success
allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen>