There are any number of moments from the first six issues of Marvel’s Black Bolt comic book that illustrate how gloriously weird the series is. A king admits under duress that he can’t fry an egg because he’s never had to learn, and that he doesn’t know how to drive a car because, where he comes from, everyone flies. The prison warden—a floating, enfogged entity of gore and gristle and nightmare limbs—screams Penance! Penance! for no apparent reason. There are fistfights lost on purpose, walls that melt inexplicably, and remote controls that kill on command.
Welcome to the imagination of Saladin Ahmed (A.B. 1999), where nothing seems to be what it is, and where everything is in the process of changing into something else.
Ahmed wasn’t trying to get into comics. A few years ago, he had been put in touch with Sana Amanant, then a senior editor at Marvel Comics. Amanant had invited Ahmed to develop a pitch for Marvel, but other projects took precedence and Ahmed’s pitch never materialized.
More recently, a different Marvel editor reached out to Ahmed with a new writing project about a very old and very strange character, an alien king named Black Bolt. Ahmed would be writing a monthly comics title with the same name as the protagonist. This time, he jumped at the chance.
“It really feels like coming home for me as a writer,” Ahmed says. “Before I read much prose, I read comics. The first things I ever wrote as a kid were basically imitations of Marvel comics. So holding that first issue in my hands, that was pretty exciting.”