—by Rob Hansen & Ralph Bristout
Still unfamiliar with the history of Marvel’s game-changing superhero Black Panther? Or just need a quick primer before catching the film? Well, REVOLT’s got you covered with an everything-you-need-to-know comprehensive guide on the king of Wakanda as his hugely-anticipated solo film debut hits theaters. Take note.
Black Panther is the first-ever mainstream black superhero
You’ve heard this before and, for some, it may even be your first actual introduction to the Black Panther character. Still and all, it’s an important start. Before Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Blade, and, for the sake of it, Blankman entered the scene, it was Black Panther who broke through the glass ceiling as the first mainstream black superhero.
The Wakanda-bred king, noble Avenger, and fearsome character’s arrival predates the October 1966 launch of the Black Panther Party, as his debut became official in the No. 52 issue of “Fantastic Four” in July 1966. He’d appear in a few other issues, including 1968’s “Tales of Suspense” with Captain America, but his real storyline flourished in 1973’s “Jungle Action,” where he faces off with some of the villains that are set to appear in the upcoming feature film.
Killmonger is the Cain to Black Panther’s Abel
A man with no enemies is a man with no character. And like the famous saying, Black Panther, real name T’Challa, is a man with a target on his head — and it just so happens to come from multiple scopes. There’s Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (played by Michael B. Jordan in the film), who is a whispered threat in Wakanda. A little background here: Killmonger, real name N’Jadaka, is a violent leader who rose from Central Wakanda after a deadly raid ravishes through the land at the hands of Ulysses Klaue (played by Andy Serkis), better known as Klaw. In this raid, T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, is killed and Klaw’s men rush through the villages, forcing all the young men into slavery.
N’Jadaka eventually escapes and is left displaced without any idea of how to get back to Wakanda. He would travel to the United States, where he adopted his Erik Killmonger name change, and earn a PhD in Engineering and an MBA. Killmonger later finds Black Panther in New York City after the hero joined forces with the Avengers. After explaining the story of his abduction by Klaw, the displacement, and his desire to return to Wakanda, Killmonger returns to the homeland, but little does the Panther know about the latter’s long-brewing hatred toward his family. With his return, Killmonger plots on overthrowing T’Challa as the King of the Wakandas.
Panther is an excellent hunter
During his first appearance in “Fantastic Four” No. 52 in 1966, T’Challa displays an innate understanding of catching prey. Initially appearing as an antagonist, Black Panther invited Marvel’s first family to his advanced city of Wakanda, only to trap them in his Vibranium-laced nation, terrorizing them individually. First, Panther traps Johnny Storm in a flame-dousing chamber, counting on the college student’s hothead temper and “act first, think later” approach to combat. With the Human Torch down, Panther has his army shoot the remaining three with anti-polarity bullets that force the team to split apart. Panther then focuses his attention on Sue Storm.
Tracking the Invisible Woman with his sense of smell, the Wakanda king pounces on Sue before she’s able to use her force field against him, gassing her with a “harmless” sleep toxin. Depending on The Thing to use his strength, a fountain of water had already been affected with a devitalizing fluid to minimize the hero’s power. Successful, Panther moves onto Mister Fantastic, using the leader’s love of Sue Storm to defeat him, locking titanium cuffs onto his rubbery wrists. Panther’s victory over the Fantastic Four proves fruitless as he is later defeated by Wyatt Wingfoot, schoolmate of Johnny Storm, who joined the team on their trip to the African nation.
Wakanda is of most importance to T’Challa
Batman has Gotham City, Superman has Metropolis, and the Black Panther has Wakanda. The king, thrusted into a legacy before he was yet a man, loves and values his nation, its traditions, and the people who look to his rule. The death of his father T’Chaka was much for a young T’Challa. The sudden loss of his father, at the hands of Klaw, and his immediate ascension to the throne was more than a boy could bear. In addition to being the ruling king, the boy also inherited the centuries-spanning title of the Black Panther, Protector of Wakanda.
Respect to the Dora Milaje
Behind every great man is an even greater woman, but for Black Panther, it’s a Wakandan strike force. Sworn to protect the Wakandan throne and its king, the Dora Milaje is an all-female squad of warriors that are truly a force to be reckoned with. More than just the Panther’s bodyguards, this elite group of women carry a society on their backs. They wield incredible power. Historically, they’ve been around for decades, fighting everyone from the Nazis, and Namor, to the Invaders during World War II under the guidance of T’Challa’s grandfather King Azzari the Wise. If you admired the Amazons in Wonder Woman, the Dora Milaje up the ante and set the standard. They. Do. Not. Mess. Around.
T’Challa is one of the smartest minds of the Marvel universe
Along with the minds of Bruce Banner, Peter Parker, Reed Richards, and Tony Stark, T’Challa can hang with the best of them. While he may be forgotten in this category, the Wakandan leader is certainly one of the smartest people in all of the Marvel universe. Protecting his nation’s mound that contains the mystery metal vibranium, T’Challa acquired much of his fortune by revealing its existence to the world. In doing so, T’Challa was able to modernize his homeland while maintaining the secrecy that is his hidden mechanized utopia. An expert on the meteorite-based substance that was used to create Captain America’s iconic shield, T’Challa also studied at universities across both hemispheres. Black Panther’s smarts would allow him to join the Illuminati, a secret society of intellects lead by Iron Man, working to control world-changing catastrophes.
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