The neutron-bomb explosive success of the movie Black Panther is making black history right before our eyes and has taken on a life of its own that will be ingrained in the fabrics of culture and the arts for future generations. Under the tip of this enormous iceberg have been hundreds of behind-the-scene contributors carrying on this legendary media project in their own ways.
One is Mississippi native and University of Mississippi graduate Jesse J. Holland, who has been assigned by comic book magnate Marvel to write the official novel of the comic book hero sensation. For Holland, it was a very easy decision to accept the offer, having been an avid reader of the “Black Panther” comic books since his childhood.
“I was lucky enough that Marvel came to me and asked me if I wanted to write this novel,” Holland told theClarion Ledger. “I didn’t pitch it to them. I said, ‘Of course! As long as I’ve been reading “Black Panther,” I would love to do this,’ so that’s how I got to do it.”
Holland’s novel reeducates the public on the origin of T’Challa, the original “Black Panther” who was first introduced by Marvel Comics back in 1966, but he also updates accounts for the present day.
Holland, 46, now based in Bowie, Maryland, became immersed with a cluster of comic booksuper heroes such as the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, the Justice League and of course the “Black Panther,” starting at about 5 years old, thanks to his father getting him started. After graduating from Ole Miss, he took on his “day job” as a race and ethnicity reporter for Associated Press, but started redirecting his specialty of writing toward other endeavors.
“I started writing my own comic books when I was smaller,” Holland said. “When it came time to go to college, I decided I needed a major that would help me write, and the one thing you do in journalism every day is you write. I got lucky enough that after all these years ofwritingjournalism, when I started writing books people remembered that I liked comic books.”
Holland’s most accomplished specialty projects became the publishing of the book “Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington,” in 2007, followed by “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House.” chronicling the lives of the slaves who lived in the White House and about the 10 of the first 12 Presidents of the United States the owned slaves.
Holland was finishing his second history book when he was contacted by an editor from Disney Lucas Film Press. Discovering that he was a Star Wars fan, the editor asked Holland to write a book about Stormtrooper Finn, the black lead character who was featured in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Holland gleefully accepted.Afterwards, Marvel asked him to write “Who is the Black Panther.”
To note historically, Holly Springs, Mississippi is also the birthplace of Ida B. Wells Barnett (1862-1931), the highly decorated journalist, columnist, newspaper publisher, civil rights activist and feminist, known for her courageous work with “The Red Record,” which kept account of all the lynching of blacks in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She went on to become a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
Holland also teaches creative nonfiction in the Masters of Fine Art in Creative Nonfiction program at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland. While at Ole Miss, he was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and took on many duties. They included being a reporter and editor with The Daily Mississippian, hosting a show on the campus radio station. He was very familiar with being on the campus, often accompanying his mother while she was pursuing and acquiring her Master’s Degree in English at the school.
Holland revisits Oxford as often as possible, usually, at the same time, also visiting his parents in nearby Holly Springs. He plans to continue writing, both for the AP and publishing his own novels.
Editor’s note: Jesse Holland’s “Who is the Black Panther?” is in bookstores now.
Sources:Clarion Ledger, The National Press Club, University of Mississippi