BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
About the only thing Reggie Hudlin revealed about his new female Black Panther was that "once you read the story [the new Panther being female] is quite logical." As PULSE readers know, several women have been teased as wearing the Panther's costume now, but just who is the actual hero will be revealed in the first arc. Of the characters teased, Hudlin said, "There are obvious choices, and there are ringers, but folks shouldnít be too cocky in dismissing some of the candidates suggested."

THE PULSE: I know a lot of people are curious, after reestablishing the elements that made the Black Panther great just a few years ago, is there a need to reboot the series with a new #1 and a new female Black Panther? So, why is this happening now?

HUDLIN:
Everything fell right. After leaving BET, I had the mental space to concentrate on a more ambitious story, and Dark Reign had the political implications that serve as a perfect springboard for the best Black Panther stories.


After mapping it out, it was such a radical departure that it seemed natural to relaunch the book. As for the new Panther being female, once you read the story itís quite logical.

THE PULSE: The teasers for Who Is The New Black Panther have had tongues wagging, with a lot of people interested in seeing how this turns out. How did you decide which heroines to tease as his potential replacement?

HUDLIN:
There are obvious choices, and there are ringers, but folks shouldnít be too cocky in dismissing some of the candidates suggested.

THE PULSE: I know the new series is greatly affected by events from the Dark Reign. How long did you have to prepare? Did you always know that T'Challa was going to be badly beaten by some of the villains from that tale or was this something sprung upon you?

HUDLIN:
I wanted to have the brutal attack on TíChalla, because it would set a series of extreme actions in motion that would propel stories for the next year. No character in the book remains the same; everyone is forced to change in response to the event. Some roles evolve; some characters die terrible deaths.


THE PULSE: I know you have a great love for this character, so how tough is it to have someone else taking on his mantle, even if it possibly is just for a short time?

HUDLIN:
Itís a joy. The last set of stories were about telling tales I always wanted to see with The Black Panther, now itís about doing something new and adding to the Panther legacy.

THE PULSE: Many are speculating his sister, Shuri should be the ideal candidate for the job, especially since, as a member of the royal family, she's been trained just like T'Challa. What are the odds that she'll be carrying on in his stead?

HUDLIN:
Isnít she a little immature for the job?

THE PULSE: Well in comic book universes, as in soap operas, you never know when something might cause a character to "mature." Some were surprised that Monica Rambeau was one of the ones teased to possibly be The Black Panther. Why do you think she might take on the role?


HUDLIN:
She certainly has feelings for TíChalla; and who knows what are in TíChallaís contingency plans.

THE PULSE: Since T'Challa hasn't died, one would guess he'll be returning to the role of The Black Panther, but how long will his recovery take?

HUDLIN:
Youíll have plenty of time to get to know the new Panther as she undergoes a baptism of fire. The new Black Panther is already so popular I donít think sheís going anywhere.

THE PULSE: How big a role is he going to have while there's a new BP on the prowl? Will he be behind-the-scenes making things happen or will it be more of a silent recovery?

HUDLIN:
T'Challaís state will be an evolving situation. Thatís all I can say.

THE PULSE: Storm has a lot of connections outside of Wakanda, how does she react to what's happened to T'Challa? Does she call in any of her friends to take matters into their own hands as a result?


HUDLIN:
Mess with Stormís family at your peril. This is her husband; sheís going to handle her business. At the same time, sheís not just operating as an individual, or even as an advocacy group, like the X Men. Her husband is a head of state, and that colors her action plan.

THE PULSE: How will what has happened to T'Challa affect his relationship with his bride? One might imagine them growing stronger because of it, but some prideful men aren't willing to let their "women" take care of them when injured ... where does T'Challa fall in this?

HUDLIN:
TíChalla is a real man, and real men can accept help. But ultimately, heís going to handle his business.

THE PULSE: How many parts is the initial arc and, aside from a female Black Panther, what are some of the other things going on that you can tease for our readers?

HUDLIN:
The first story arc is six issues. Besides the Dark Reign villains, youíve got the first appearance of Morlun outside of Spider Man. As a psychic vampire of feeds off of super-powered animal totems, heís a perfect and formidable villain for any Black Panther, let alone a new one on the job.

I have wanted to use him in Black Panther since I wrote him in Marvel Knights Spider Man. Finally the timing was right.

THE PULSE: What's it like to be collaborating with Ken Lashley on this? His preview art looks stunning ....


HUDLIN:
Not just the preview art. Every page sings.

THE PULSE: With the new Black Panther animated series set to make its debut at the New York Comic-Con, are you at all worried potential new comic readers might be confused going to comic shops after seeing it and finding a female Black Panther there?

HUDLIN:
It will be an interesting experiment. I think the trades will continue to sell well, because people will want to read the story they are watching. But even if they pick up the current run, I think they will able to follow it.

THE PULSE: Are there any plans in place to do an "Animated Black Panther" comic series ala the animated ones that DC has created around its cartoon properties?

HUDLIN:
Nothing serious yet.

THE PULSE: What have you enjoyed the most about being a part of the Black Panther animated series?


HUDLIN:
I love actors, and the whole cast is doing such a great job. The humor of the book really comes out when you can hear the words spoken.

THE PULSE: What other projects are you working on?

HUDLIN:
My daughter is in capoeira class right now so sheíll be qualified to be a Black Panther one day. My son is too young but he watches and is already working on his kicks and flips. Iím very proud of my pack of Panthers.




The new Black Panther # 1 is in stores this February.