To preserve clarity, except when using exact quotes, this history will refer to Christopher Priest consistently by his current name. He was born Christopher James Owsley, and many of his comic book credits prior to 1993 used the name Jim Owsley. Many comic book professionals who first met him pre-1993 still call him Jim to this day, but he has repeatedly asked to be credited as Christopher Priest.
At the time he legally changed his name, it drew the attention of the British science fiction writer Christopher Priest (best known as author of The Prestige). When news of the name change reached the British author, he complained to Interzone magazine: “If Jim must use a pseudonym, why doesn’t he pick a really silly one, like, say, ‘Harlan Ellison’?” It is perhaps due to the confusion between the two authors’ names that the comics writer frequently has had his comics credits listed as simply “Priest” and has published prose works on Amazon as “James Priest”.
Christopher Priest was born in 1961 and grew up in Queens, New York, raised alongside his sister by their single mother. He has vividly recalled how at the age of eight his mother bought him the first comic book he can recall reading: an issue of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen in which Jimmy became a pirate. He also recalled at the age of nine his mother bought one of the issues of Amazing Spider-Man in which Spider-Man’s friend Harry Osborn dealt with drug addiction (Amazing Spider-Man #96-98). Priest was struck at how Marvel Comics’ heroes lived in what Stan Lee called “the world outside your window”. Whereas Jimmy Olsen lived in the fictional city of Metropolis, Spider-Man was – like Priest – a native of Queens. Then to, just as Peter Parker struggled with a low income, so did Priest’s family.
At the age of seventeen Priest was preparing applications for an internship. He had intended to become a lawyer, so he sent out five applications to law firms, but when he learned Marvel Comics was seeking an intern he sent an application to them as well. Priest was the only applicant for the Marvel internship who was applying as a writer, rather than an artist, but he came with a copy of a comic book he had written and drawn himself then published as his senior year project at the New York School of Media Arts where he had studied. Because he had demonstrated experience with publishing his own comic, Priest won the internship. From the internship he segued into an editorial position at Marvel Comics, working as an assistant editor for Paul Laikin on Crazy Magazine (a black and white humor magazine modeled after MAD Magazine).
In the period around 1978, when Jim Shooter became editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, the company had recurring difficulties with issues falling behind schedule, resulting in numerous fill-ins or last-minute efforts by the staff in the Marvel Bullpen to get late issues ready for publication. Such efforts could often be detected due to creative credits attributed to D. Hands (Diverse Hands) or M. Hands (Many Hands). Priest would join other staffers in such efforts, which required editors to have practical talents such as inking and lettering. Although Shooter had specifically demolished Marvel’s practice of writers editing their own work, he did encourage Marvel’s editors to take assignments for other editors. Looking back on this, Priest appreciated that Shooter “wanted editors to experience what freelancers experienced,” believing it made him a better editor.
Priest still had some hope of becoming a comic book artist, but when artist Joe Rubinstein examined his work he declared, “That’s not drawing. I heard you’re a writer. Why don’t you stick to writing?” Priest put his efforts into writing as Jim Shooter personally put in time to help hone his craft. Shooter also sent Priest for tutoring from Stan Lee, who took out pages of Jack Kirby’s art to explain the process of comics storytelling. Priest’s earliest known writing credit in Crazy Magazine (as Chris James) appeared in issue #65 (1980), in which Priest rescripted Jack Kirby’s story “The Creatures in the Volcano” (from Journey into Mystery #51, 1959), turning the story of alien invaders into a comedy, with a self-deprecating introduction, calling it “a frightening, yet badly written story.” Priest scripted several stories like this in his years with Crazy Magazine, frequently using old Jack Kirby stories such as the famous “Fin Fang Foom” (in Crazy Magazine #73). In 1980, Larry Hama became editor of Crazy Magazine. Upon learning Priest had been earning $25 a month, Hama raised his salary to $400 a month. Hama became a pivotal mentor to Priest as in a business where most staff were white – neither of them were white. “Never let the white man take advantage of you,” Hama once advised Priest. As Hama’s office absorbed the line of Conan the Barbarian titles Priest assumed additional editorial duties, while Crazy Magazine finally sputtered out in 1983.
Priest continued to write scripts for Jim Shooter, some of which were purchased as inventory stories. Few of them saw print. (Priest was somewhat chagrined when two Iron Man inventory stories he sold in the early 1980s saw the light of day in 1993’s Marvel Super-Heroes #13.) Among the projects he worked on was a Captain America graphic novel which Shooter sent back to him for revisions fifteen times. “He was brutal,” Priest recalled. The graphic novel has not been published to this day.
Priest finally produced a script for an inventory story featuring the Falcon. It was handed off to a newcomer artist named Paul Smith. When Smith’s pages arrived in Marvel’s offices, it electrified the staff. Many in editorial gushed over Smith’s artwork, and he wound up earning the job of artist for Chris Claremont’s X-Men. Unfortunately for Priest, the pages had none of his script, so he remained an undiscovered talent. Still, Smith’s art proved enough of an incentive for Shooter to commission a four-issue Falcon limited series. By the time it saw print in late 1983, comic book readers had already seen Paul Smith’s debut in X-Men.
To illustrate the remaining three issues, Marvel brought in artist Mark D. Bright (as his initials are M. D. Bright, he is frequently nicknamed “Doc” Bright). This became the first of many projects on which Priest and Bright would collaborate for more than 30 years. Despite their frequent collaborations, Priest has maintained in his reminiscences that their relationship was always somewhat combative. (They would eventually learn how to exploit that tension in Quantum & Woody.) Shooter later assigned Priest to Power Man & Iron Fist (forcing him on editor Dennis O’Neil), with Bright joining Priest again. The series would eventually be cancelled by Shooter due to a scarcity of resources needed to launch Shooter’s (ultimately unsuccessful) New Universe titles in 1986.
When Christopher Priest attained the status of full editor at Marvel Comics, he became the first black man to hold such a title with the company, but Priest did not realize this himself until years later. “Even I do not know who the first black artist was … the fact that neither DC nor Marvel seem to know or even care disturbs me that much more.” Shooter was keen to assign books to Priest, but the other Marvel editors were unwilling to cut any of their titles loose. The only openings were on the Spider-Man franchise which Danny Fingeroth had vacated, so Priest was given the ongoing titles Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man, the soon-to-launch Web of Spider-Man, and the reprint series Marvel Tales. “As the new kid,” Priest recalled, “I absolutely should not have been given Spider-Man… but Shooter ultimately found himself in the position of either having to force somebody to take the line, or give it to the new kid.”
In each of his recollections on his time as Spider-Man’s editor, Priest has not minced words: “If I had it to do over again, I never would have accepted the appointment as editor of the Spider-Man franchise. I made a lot of mistakes. I hurt a lot of people. I lost a lot of friends.”
Priest had seemingly inherited a plum assignment; the Spider-Man titles had recently introduced a black and white costume with mysterious alien origins for the hero; Spider-Man was dating the morally-grey Black Cat; and a new villain called the Hobgoblin had all of fandom following the clues in the hope of learning his true identity. All three of the ongoing titles were written by editors: Tom DeFalco (Amazing), Al Milgrom (Spectacular) and Louise Simonson (Web). In retrospect, Priest thought it was Shooter’s hope that the three editors would need little interference from Priest and would help ease him into the post. All the same, DeFalco was Marvel’s executive editor, the right-hand man to Jim Shooter. “It was criminally stupid to have a 22-year-old neophyte editor edit his own boss,” Priest realized in retrospect.
Priest looked to Jim Shooter for the example of how an editor should operate. Just as Shooter had been tough on him, Priest believed he had to be tough on the Spider-Man staff. “He encouraged me to turn the screws on the talent the way he did,” Priest recalled. “The problem, though, was Shooter was the EIC. He could get away with being a bastard because he held the keys to the kingdom. All I held was the key to the men’s room.” Staff nicknamed Priest “Little Shooter”.
Priest wanted each Spider-Man title to feature different themes around the hero. Eventually, he had: Amazing Spider-Man by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, the original Spider-Man comic which usually featured the hero in his traditional blue & red costume and battling colorful super villains; Spectacular Spider-Man by Peter David and Rich Buckler, which featured a strong “urban crime” theme in stories such as the notable “Death of Jean DeWolff” and featured the hero in his black and white costume; and Web of Spider-Man by David Michelinie and Marc Silvestri, in which Peter Parker would journey to international locales on news assignments.
During Priest’s tenure in the Spider-Man office he helped launch the careers of artists Kyle Baker, Mark Beachum, and Marc Silvestri, plus writers Len Kaminski and Peter David, all of whom went on to significant careers in the comics industry. At the same time, in forming the Spider-Man comics to fit his creative vision, Priest injured existing talent. He regretted ejecting Al Milgrom from Spectacular Spider-Man in favor of Peter David: “I handled that in equally clumsy manner, alienating Al, who had been a friend and mentor.”
Priest’s greatest conflict came on Amazing Spider-Man. “Amazing Spider-Man truly earned the title in those days,” Priest insisted. Yet he was concerned about Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, whose work was frequently arriving late, resulting in publishing fill-in stories, which Jim Shooter would then complain over. Priest believed DeFalco’s workload as executive editor was interfering with his ability to finish his scripts. DeFalco and Frenz claimed in issue #35 of the magazine Back Issue that they were not late and were, in fact, consistently ahead of schedule. Of the 19 issues of Amazing Spider-Man for which Christopher Priest is listed as editor (#264-282), Tom DeFalco only missed contributing three scripts; however, Ron Frenz missed drawing seven issues, more than a third from that timeframe.
Priest has said that he fired Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz from Amazing Spider-Man so that he could create a new series for them which would publish fewer than 12 issues per year. Tom DeFalco alleged in Back Issue that he was fired because Priest wanted to write the series himself. What both men agree on is that this action ended their friendship. Priest thought he had made this move with Jim Shooter’s support, but Shooter expressed shock at the news. Priest reflected, “The horror of it was I’d alienated Shooter, my mentor, and alienated DeFalco, one of my best friends in the business. Over the years I’d moved so far away from the rest of the staff, I had no sure allies there. And now I had no idea who was telling me the truth and who was lying and what was what.”
At the same time the fallout from this decision was registering, David Michelinie had written a Web of Spider-Man story centered on the IRA and the then-contemporary “Problems” in Ireland. Marvel’s offices received a bomb threat which emptied out their building; although there was no bomb, the threat was linked to the use of the IRA in Web of Spider-Man. Priest lost his job as editor over this, but by then had become so disenchanted that when Shooter fired him he replied, “Thank you.” Shooter concluded in his blunt manner: “His tenure as an editor was a train wreck.” Priest was given “a lucrative exclusive contract” and began freelance writing for Marvel, helping to provide fill-ins on the Spider-Man titles and becoming the regular writer of Conan the King. Jim Salicrup became the new Spider-Man franchise editor. It is unclear how much influence Priest had over the Spider-Man titles after his departure; for instance, Priest commissioned the story “Kraven’s Last Hunt” by J. M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck, but it began publication eleven months after Priest’s last editorial credit.
Priest’s most successful freelance writing during this period was a one-shot comic, Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, which was edited by Ann Nocenti of the X-Men office rather than the Spider-Man office. Priest took the assignment because he was eager to prove to his fellow writers that he “could compete with them.” Mark Bright joined Priest for a story set in East Germany (then divided by the Berlin Wall) where Peter Parker became entangled in a Cold War spy plot. In Reading Comics, Douglas Wolk wrote: “the point of its fight scenes and spy clichés is putting Spider-Man in a situation that’s a moral quandary for him and wouldn’t be for anyone else: an international intrigue that everyone tells him he should stay out of because he’s out of his league. He can’t — because of the power-and-responsibility thing — and his doing what his ethical code obligates him to do at every turn ends up making matters far worse.” According to Priest, “The *point* of the story was This Is The World Peter Lives In. And stepping out of that world is impossible and potentially lethal.”
The one-shot also featured the death of long-time Spider-Man supporting character Ned Leeds, a reporter for the Daily Bugle, who was assassinated in Berlin off-panel. This led directly into Amazing Spider-Man #289, in which Peter David wrote a story that revealed the dead reporter had been the mysterious Hobgoblin. Priest has maintained that the decision to make Ned the Hobgoblin did not come from him. (Jim Salicrup was the credited editor; Priest’s last credit was published seven months prior.) In 2009, Glen Greenberg authored “When Hobby met Spidey: A History of the Hobgoblin” in Back Issue #35. Roger Stern, John Romita Jr., Jim Shooter, Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz and Peter David all shared accounts of their participation in the Hobgoblin story. At the time, Christopher Priest was not active in the comics industry and declined to participate. Greenberg inserted various sections from Priest’s online editorial “Oswald: Why I Never Talk About Spider-Man”. However, Stern, Shooter, DeFalco, Frenz, and David all disagreed with his recollections on various matters.
Tom DeFalco claims that he had intended the Hobgoblin to be Richard Fisk (the son of the Kingpin) but didn’t share that with Priest. When Priest demanded to know the Hobgoblin’s identity, DeFalco claimed it was Ned Leeds. DeFalco began running subplots which planted clues toward Leeds being the Hobgoblin; he said that when he tried to include clues pointing to Richard Fisk, Priest ordered those scenes removed as they seemed irrelevant – as Priest supposedly did not know Leeds was a red herring. However, Priest believes that he and DeFalco decided together that Ned Leeds would be a red herring. Peter David claims Priest told him to make Leeds the Hobgoblin “to piss off DeFalco.” Priest told fans he learned Ned Leeds was the Hobgoblin “when you did– when I read it in a comic book.” Peter David told Back Issue he didn’t want the Hobgoblin to be Ned Leeds but had been told it was time to reveal the villain’s identity and had a paucity of viable suspects. Even 20 years later, the creators interviewed by Back Issue remained quite passionate on the subject; DeFalco would spend decades informing upset fans that the outcome was Priest’s fault.
At the same time this drama was playing out in the Spider-Man office, Jim Shooter’s tenure abruptly ended with his firing in 1987. Tom DeFalco assumed the role of editor-in-chief, and as Priest’s writing opportunities faded, he assumed his former friend had a hand in it. By the time of his last assignment in 1989, Priest had hardly any friends left at the company. One of the few was editor Gregory Wright who eulogized him saying: “Owsley suffered the same fate as anyone who cared too much about doing the job from the heart. He was labeled trouble by those who didn’t get it.”
In 1988, Dwayne McDuffie began working for Marvel Comics as an assistant editor. He recalled being introduced to another staffer on his first day: “As he shook my hand, he joked, ‘I hope we don’t got ourselves another Owsley, here!’ Everybody laughed. I laughed too. I took the remark as a good-natured, ‘I hope we didn’t just hire another office screw-up.’ At the time, I didn’t know Owsley or his work, nor was I aware that he was black.”
THE DISTINGUISHED COMPETITION
Priest’s former Power Man and Iron Fist editor Dennis O’Neil had taken an editorial post at DC Comics and began giving Priest work on titles such as The Unknown Soldier and Green Lantern stories in Action Comics Weekly. After some promising Batman fill-ins O’Neil briefly considered Priest as a regular Batman writer but had to nix those plans when Marv Wolfman asked to write it. Freelance writing gradually took a backseat to Priest’s new full-time occupation: bus driving.
Priest was brought back to full-time comics work in 1990 by DC editor Mike Gold, who was trying to increase diversity amongst DC Comics’ staff. Priest agreed to accept the post, but continued driving a bus, driving one on his way to DC’s offices in the morning and back home at the end of the day. Priest’s interest in working at DC was deflated when he learned DC editors were not allowed to pick up income as freelance writers. “Without the freelance, it was impossible to make ends meet, so I had to continue driving the bus part-time while working at DC.” He took over a series of titles licensed from the roleplaying game group TSR, overseeing Spelljammer and Dragonlance.
Early in his time at DC, Priest was sought out by 29-year-old artist Joe Quesada, who was trying to break into the industry. Impressed by Quesada’s portfolio, Priest could only offer him an assignment drawing a cover for Spelljammer. Eager to impress, Quesada returned the next day with the finished cover art. While Priest was trying to interest his office mates in Quesada’s art (to no avail), Spelljammer’s regular artist Mike Collins telephoned Priest from England, got into an argument, and quit the series. Returning to Quesada in the lobby, Priest offered him the newly opened spot on Spelljammer. “Remember: you are the luckiest man in comics,” Priest commanded.
Priest later helped relaunch the DC super-hero the Ray in a four-issue limited series and brought in Quesada as the artist. The success of the Ray turned Quesada into a popular artist. Priest encouraged Quesada to imbue his own qualities into the hero, as the young hero (modeled after Spider-Man) had relationship woes, just as Quesada was experiencing in his personal life. “You are the Ray,” Priest insisted. Priest also edited Impact, a franchise of super-heroes licensed from Archie Comics. With writers Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, Priest hoped to reinvigorate the characters, but DC ultimately chose not to renew the license and let Impact end.
Artist Denys Cowan introduced Priest to filmmaker Reginald Hudlin. Although best known for directing comedies, Hudlin was interested in bringing Marvel’s super-hero Luke Cage to the big screen. Priest laboured on a screenplay with Hudlin and liaised with Stan Lee in Hollywood, but the project was never filmed. When Luke Cage became a television series 2016, it had nothing to do with Priest or Hudlin.
Cowan also brought Priest into meetings with Dwayne McDuffie, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle. The five men together laid the groundwork for what would become known as Milestone Media, an attempt to create a line of super-hero comics where almost every hero was black. It was while hashing out these ideas that he officially changed his name from Owsley to Christopher Priest. McDuffie recalled his reaction: “I told him that was fine, I had changed my name to Isaac Asimov. Hey, I thought he was kidding.” As a gimmick Priest sent out death notices and an obituary for Jim Owsley to his colleagues in comics. It was an appropriate change of name; he literally was a Priest, registered in the Baptist denomination. “I was raised extremely conservative and extremely orthodox Pauline Apostolic. We weren’t even allowed to breathe. And we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all Baptists were going to hell. My old pastor is horrified that I’m a Baptist now.”
Priest’s contributions to Milestone included developing the hero Icon, an extraterrestrial who had assumed the form of a black man and developed a conservative outlook reminiscent of Booker T. Washington. But as their work continued, Priest became embroiled in an argument with the other four founders. To defuse the tension, Priest finally opted to bow out of Milestone prior to its launch. Priest had been prepared to serve as Milestone’s editorial liaison to DC Comics as they would publish Milestone’s titles. In his absence, McDuffie assumed the editorial position. It would be many years until McDuffie acknowledged Priest’s foundational role in Milestone.
At the same time as he fell out with the Milestone founders, Priest also had marital woes to address. He stepped down from his role as editor in the hopes of saving his marriage – but he ended up divorced. He resumed freelance writing for DC Comics, becoming the writer of The Ray when it became an ongoing series. He became the writer of Justice League Task Force, a spin-off series from Justice League, in which the Martian Manhunter led a team of younger heroes (including the Ray) who were meant to be an auxiliary force to the actual League. Priest seemed to delight in the title’s “second-stringer” status, transforming it into an eclectic series wholly unlike the Justice League. He also teamed with Italian artist Sal Velluto for the first time.
When Shaquille O’Neal starred in the 1997 theatrical film Steel – based on the DC series about engineer John Henry Irons who donned armor to emulate his hero Superman – DC enlisted Priest as the title’s new writer, concerned that as they expected additional scrutiny on the series it should have a black writer. This teamed Priest with Denys Cowan and happily allowed them to mend broken bridges from developing Milestone. Again, Priest found enjoyment in being given an “imitation” version of a popular DC property; he likened his approach on Steel to that of the film Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, with Steel as the one sane man in world which was a twisted, satirical take on the Superman mythos. Priest and Cowan based their interpretation of John Henry Irons on their friend Dwayne McDuffie.
However, Priest was growing increasingly jaded with writing super-hero comics. Frequently he found himself on titles lying on the verge of cancellation; no one at DC was offering him the actual Superman or the actual Justice League. He launched his first creator-owned work at DC with XERO, a series in which a black celebrity would disguise himself as a white man in his costumed career. Priest was passionate about the series, but when his colorist depicted black background characters in a scene meant to be inhabited by only white men, his enthusiasm dipped. On the limited series Total Justice, an action figure tie-in, he attempted to write a character beat for the Flash by depriving the hero of his powers and depicting him crestfallen when his fellow heroes could outpace him. But the artist seemed not to understand the intent of the scene. “It was yet another scene from yet another comic drawn from yet another script that I worked my *butt* off on, that I wholly invested myself in and committed to, and was later handed off to an artist who seemed only interested in his page rate.”
THE WORLD’S WORST SUPER-HERO TEAM
In 1996, Valiant Comics had been acquired by the video game developer Acclaim. Their new editor-in-chief Fabian Nicieza wanted to expand the company’s line of super-hero titles. He was interested in a “buddy team” series similar to Power Man & Iron Fist, so he sought out Priest. Priest was not familiar with Nicieza and initially hesitated, but his friends from Impact, Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, vouched for him. After understanding what Nicieza wanted, Priest insisted on bringing in his Power Man & Iron Fist artist, Mark Bright, luring him away from Milestone’s Icon. As with Power Man & Iron Fist, the two lead characters would be a black man and a white man and there would be a strong emphasis on comedy. But it was Bright who made the concept gel: he was tired of seeing black comedy relief characters matched with white straight men. Why not reverse those tropes? For this reason, the resulting series Quantum & Woody would pointedly credit its creators as “Mark Bright and Christopher Priest”, rather than vice-versa.
Priest and Bright poured much of their personal clashes into the character dynamics. Quantum and Woody would be heroes who were forced to work with each other but could barely stand being in the same room together. The straight man, Quantum, was based in part on Eriq La Salle’s character Dr. Peter Benton on television’s ER – a no-nonsense and inflexible man who took his work very seriously. By contrast, Woody was based on actor Woody Harrelson’s roles in the films White Men Can’t Jump and Money Train. Woody was a loudmouth character, a troll, a trash-talker. Woody would take great joy in needling Quantum’s ego.
After nearly 20 years in the comics industry, Quantum & Woody made Christopher Priest a popular creator for the first time. Priest took to the internet and engaged in one-on-one conversations with fans using newsgroups. Wizard magazine, then the most popular fan publication, wrote glowing reviews of Quantum & Woody; Priest and Bright even created original Quantum & Woody short stories for Wizard. The character of the goat – a stray goat which Woody dressed up in a cape and mask for what was intended as a single panel gag – gifted the series with its own mascot. Acclaim sold “The Goat Inaction Figure” (an non-articulate figure fabricated in a time when action figures proudly boasted the number of “points of articulation” on their packaging), the goat continued to appear as a background in Quantum & Woody, and it starred in his own one-shot. Priest recalled one occasion where Acclaim sponsored him at a book signing and supplied a live goat dressed like the character. “It was pretty wild,” Priest recalled.
Priest and Bright also attracted a certain amount of notoriety for a sequence in Quantum & Woody #4, a story appropriately titled “Noogie”. Within the story, characters make use of the n-word but replaced it with “noogie” for comedic effect. The issue opened with the series leads addressing the readers to explain why they couldn’t use the n-word in their book, a similar device as the “Dr. Jiveturkey” introduction to Crazy Magazine’s “Blackstones”. Fans assumed there had been behind-the-scenes controversy which prevented Priest from using the actual n-word, but as Priest explained on Usenet, “I’d never intended to actually use the word in the book” (Priest did print the uncensored word in XERO #8). But for all his kidding, Priest poured his own experiences into the scenes where a young Quantum hears the word for the first time, as he explained in an interview.
Quantum & Woody brought recognition to Priest’s name but the book itself was only a modest sales success. Increasingly, Priest’s name became the subject of what fandom dubbed “the Priest Curse”. Supposedly Priest’s presence as a writer on any given series could lead to the book being cancelled, as had happened with assignments such as Hawkman, Steel, and Justice League Task Force. When Acclaim’s entire line of comic books went on hiatus in late 1998, one fan on Usenet quipped, “Wow, the Priest curse is impressive in its scope.”
This reputation would continue to dog Priest into Black Panther until he eventually weaponized it for comedic effect in Deadpool. Priest wrote extensively on his website about the Priest Curse and explained the circumstances surrounding the titles he wrote which were cancelled. “If a book fails, I’m the guy taking it in the neck. Not the artist, who may have been wrong for the project or who may have been ignoring my scripts. Not the editor, who typically made the bad creative decisions (and nearly always over my loud objection). Me.”
While writing for DC and Acclaim, Priest was surprised to find that the door to Marvel Comics had been reopened; Tom DeFalco had left the position of editor-in-chief in 1994, and by 1998 Bob Harras was editor-in-chief. Mark Waid was leaving the series Ka-Zar and nominated Priest as his successor. Priest found it to be a mixed experience, only writing four issues before editor Matt Idelson took him off the series. In his final issue, Priest introduced a new character who he had made long-term plans for: hotshot lawyer Everett K. Ross. At the same time, he brought in the Black Panther as a special guest star. It was the first time Priest had written the Black Panther – and mere months later, another door at Marvel Comics opened for him: his one-time discovery Joe Quesada had been partnered with Jimmy Palmiotti as the heads of a new Marvel imprint with unprecedented autonomy from the rest of the publishing group. Their label was called Marvel Knights.