Comics writer, filmmaker, and publisher David Walker, best known for his work on such Black superhero/adventure series as Luke Cage, Cyborg, Naomi and Bitter Root, is teaming with artist Marcus Kwame Anderson to produce The Black Panther Party: A Graphic History, which will be published by Ten Speed Press in January 2021.
Organized by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in Oakland in 1966, the Black Panther Party was founded in response to police brutality and focused its early and later efforts on monitoring police activity in Black neighborhoods in Oakland. The group incorporated a number of influences under a Black Power/Black Nationalist philosophy that included the works of Malcolm X, anti-imperialist political ideology, and community-based self-defense efforts that included armed patrols to monitor the police. Over time, the BPP became well known for its Black Power rhetoric as well as for its community-based social programs and revolutionary art. Along with other Black civil rights and Black liberation organizations in the 1970s, the BPP was targeted by the FBI under the notorious COINTELPRO program.
Walker is also the author of The Life Of Frederick Douglass (with art by Damon Smyth and Marissa Louise), published by Ten Speed in 2019. Walker said the roots of the BPP history began while working on the Douglass graphic bio, although he was focused on producing a graphic biography of Fred Hampton, a Black Panther Party leader murdered by the Chicago police in 1969.
“I pitched Ten Speed about the Hampton biography, but they wanted a full history of the Black Panther Party. I eventually realized that I needed to tell the whole story of the BPP to be able to tell Fred Hampton’s story,” Walker told PW.
Walker acknowledged the timeliness of the book, although he said, “it wasn’t planned that it would be released at this time, and I wish it wasn’t so relevant.” The book will look into the roots of the BPP as well as at such key figures as Seale, Newton, and Emory Douglas, the BPP minister of culture who was noted for his revolutionary artwork and posters in the BPP newspaper. And the book will include the legacy of murdered Panther leader Hampton.
The artist, Marcus Kwame Anderson, was chosen because of “a very versatile style. We could approach a serious topic with a more cartoony style, though his work on this book is a little more serious than his other work," Walker explained.
Walker said he received the art pages of the Hampton murder from Anderson about the same time the George Floyd video went public. “I couldn’t even look at them they were so raw,” he said. “I told Kwame that I’m sorry you have to draw this right now but it’s important for people to understand this. This makes me feel that we’ve done something important,” Walker said.