Writer Roxane Gay on ‘World of Wakanda,’ Feminism and Comic Books

Earlier this summer, Marvel announced that feminist writer Roxane Gay will team up with poet Yona Harvey to write World of Wakanda, a spin-off of Ta-Nahisi Coates’ Black Panther.

The series revolves around ‘Dora Milaje’ warriors Ayo and Aneka, who rebel together and fall in love. Gay, a best-selling author known for works such as Bad Feminist, An Untamed State and Hunger, is Marvel’s first black female lead writer. An acclaimed writer,  Gay was kind enough to share some insights with Heroic Girls about transitioning from feminist novels to the world of comics and superheroes.

black-panther-world-of-wakanda1Heroic Girls: Ta-Nahisi Coates told The New York Times that he recruited you and Yona Harvey personally to write Ayo and Aneka in an effort to “have diversity both on the page and on the payroll.” With Coates’ backing in the Marvel world, how much creative freedom are you given with these already established characters in the Wakandan universe?

Roxane Gay: Yona is actually writing a comic based on the character Zenzi, while I am writing Ayo and Aneka. I have been given pretty much all the creative freedom to write these characters and their story. The primary constraint is keeping in line with Marvel continuity which is a new writing challenge for me — but nothing that affects what I am trying to do with these women.

HG: Comics are a very collaborative medium compared to novels. How has it been working with so many people on a creative project?

RG: The most challenging part is keeping track of all the moving parts. There is my writing and the artist and the letterer and the colorist and my editors and the continuity and it’s overwhelming to be in the middle of it all. Deadlines have new meaning, that’s for sure. 

HG: As a champion for representation and inclusiveness in terms of feminism, how do you plan on incorporating this mission into the story and characters?

RG: I don’t have a specific plan for that. My feminism is as much a part of who I am and my writing so it will be a part of how I write the story. If I do my job well, you will see it without being overwhelmed by it.

HG: Which comics would you say are your biggest influences as you write this story?

RG: I am new fan of comics so I don’t have any influences yet. I have enjoyed the Saga series very much and certainly, I take a lot of guidance from Ta-Nehisi’s Black Panther run. Most of my influence comes from my favorite books.

HG: You’ve got a few months of experience working on comics under your belt now. If you could create your own comic, what would the hero be like?

RG: Heh, more like a few weeks. I just turned in my first script and am now working on the second. My hero would be a woman who is crafty and dark and full of heart if you know her well enough. She would be able to fly and wouldn’t wear a costume. She’d be someone I’d want to be friends or lovers with, I’m not quite sure which.

World of Wakanda is set to release this November. You can find Roxane Gay on Twitter @rgay.