Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ka-Pow! Pitt Prof Flips from Poetry to Comics

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ka-Pow! Pitt Prof Flips from Poetry to Comics

Article excerpt

In her Regent Square home, Yona Harvey occasionally awakens from a dream with an idea for a poem.

This year, her subconscious journeys led to Wakanda, a mythical technologically advanced place ruled by the Black Panther, a Marvel Comics character created in 1966. Over the summer, the University of Pittsburgh professor created a 10-page origin story for Zenzi, a revolutionary leader who appears in a Black Panther spinoff, "World of Wakanda."

At 8 p.m. Saturday, Ms. Harvey will read her poetry and the Alexey Kruglov-Jaak Soor Quartet will perform at the City of Asylum's Alphabet City tent on Sampsonia Way on the North Side. The event is free, but reservations are required at

She and feminist author Roxane Gay are the the first black women to write for Marvel Comics. In July, when Marvel announced that two white men would write an origin story about a black female Iron Man, social media exploded with protests.

Ms. Harvey's visits to imaginary Wakanda began in June when author Ta-nehisi Coates, a Howard University classmate and contributing editor to The Atlantic Monthly, asked if she was interested in writing for Marvel.

"The big exciting thing is that there is a woman at the center of the story. I think just that alone is going to make it have a big impact for young women. When I was growing up, the women were the girlfriend. They weren't the protagonist," the 42-year-old poet said during a conversation in her tidy office on the Cathedral of Learning's fourth floor.

Zenzi is a complicated woman, Ms. Harvey said. "She has a lot of motives for what she does." Mr. Coates, who also has written for Marvel, offered helpful suggestions.

"He is very supportive. It's a total collaboration. He'll send me a text or a bit of art. …

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