College life in Pittsburgh

Pitt poet drew on students’ experiences with catcalling, mansplaining for ‘World of Wakanda’ story

“It’s important enough that this story is being handled by a woman. To add some sweetness onto that, it’s from a black woman.”

Ronnell Perry has her comic signed by Yona Harvey and said "It’s important enough that this story is being handled by a woman. To add some sweetness onto that, it’s from a black woman.”

Ronnell Perry has her comic signed by Yona Harvey and said "It’s important enough that this story is being handled by a woman. To add some sweetness onto that, it’s from a black woman.”

Aaron Warnick for The Incline

A steady stream of fans climbed the stairs to Phantom in the Attic in Oakland on Wednesday evening to get a signed copy of Marvel’s newest comic Black Panther: World of Wakanda #1.  

The comic, a companion to the Black Panther series, features a 10-page second story about Zenzi, a Nigandan militant that has the power to reveal deep emotions, written by poet Yona Harvey, an assistant professor at Pitt and author of Hemming the Water.

Ronnell Perry, an enthusiastic patron of Phantom of the Attic, was giddy about the opportunity to meet Harvey and bring home Wakanda, both for herself and to share with her niece.

“I’m excited to see what kind of viewpoints she can bring to the Black Panther,” she said. “First off, it’s important enough that this story is being handled by a woman. To add some sweetness onto that, it’s from a black woman.”

Perry also said: “After the election, I just needed to come see a wonderful woman doing something positive.”

Poet Yona Harvey, an assistant professor at Pitt, signs comic books at Phantom in the Attic on Wednesday. She wrote a 10-page second story about Zenzi for "Black Panther: World of Wakanda #1."

Poet Yona Harvey, an assistant professor at Pitt, signs comic books at Phantom in the Attic on Wednesday. She wrote a 10-page second story about Zenzi for "Black Panther: World of Wakanda #1."

Aaron Warnick for The Incline

Harvey was approached by her friend and Black Panther series writer Ta-Nehisi Coates to write the Zenzi story. Citing her poetry, Coates said Harvey would “be a natural,” The New York Times reported.

“Not to be cliche, but it’s a dream come true,” Harvey told The Incline on Wednesday night.

While Harvey says that her students are “pokerfaced” on her writing in a comic book, she drew on them for perspective.

“I’ve had so many students write about things like mansplaining or being catcalled. I thought about those tensions and experiences that women have and how I could incorporate those into the story,” she said.

Yona Harvey signs "Black Panther: World of Wakanda" for which she wrote a 10-page second story about Zenzi.

Yona Harvey signs "Black Panther: World of Wakanda" for which she wrote a 10-page second story about Zenzi.

Aaron Warnick for The Incline

For Wakanda, she joins Roxane Gay, feminist writer and associate professor at Purdue, who, in July, was tapped to be Marvel’s first black woman to lead a series. The Wakanda and Zenzi story were hotly anticipated for featuring black female protagonists and for the inclusion of black female writers and illustrators.

While Harvey admitted she felt the “press, not stress” of working on deadline for Marvel, she embraced the opportunity to be a writer for young black girls.

“It’s a good pressure. You want to write the best the best story that you can write. It makes me better and improves the work,” she said “I hope that they see that I see them. And I’m channeling that energy. There are important narrative details that come out in stories when they are written by people of color.”

Perry is hopeful that Harvey will be able to continue to write for Marvel.

“I can’t wait to see what other stories she gets to bring to the page,” Perry said. “It’s good to see a woman’s point of view with these stories. For so many years these stories have only been told by men.”

Phantom sold out two hours after the event began.

 

Want some more? Explore other College life in Pittsburgh stories.

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