Black Panther first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 (written by Stan Lee, illustrated by Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott and Stan Goldberg) way back in 1966. He was the first black superhero in mainstream comics and has received his own comic series in 1977 with Black Panther #1 (writing and artwork by Jack Kirby and others). He has become quite a prominent superhero in the Marvel Universe and has appeared in several TV shows and films, both animated and live-action. But who is the man behind the Black Panther mask and where did he come from?
As told in Fantastic Four #53 (written by Stan Lee with artwork by Jack Kirby), T’Challa took up the mantle of Black Panther after his father, T’Chaka, was murdered by Ulysses Klaw, an explorer eager to take Wakanda’s most precious resource: vibranium. T’Challa dedicated his life to his education and the development of his skills and strength in order to become the King Wakanda needed. That’s the Black Panther we’ve come to know over the last few decades and that’s who we’re set to see in the upcoming Black Panther film (directed by Ryan Coogler). If you’re already intrigued and you want to know more about the king of Wakanda, read on and we’ll show you everything you need to know about the Panther and the man.
15. THE NATION OF WAKANDA
T’Challa is the ruler of the isolated African nation of Wakanda, vaguely located to the North East of Africa. The first thing you should know about Wakanda is that it’s way ahead of the rest of the world in regards to science and technology, but being isolationists, they’re hesitant to share any of it with the rest of the world. In fact, until recently, their interactions with the rest of the world were generally limited to the trade of coal, diamonds, uranium and their most precious resource: vibranium.
As with any nation, there are various divides within Wakanda. For example, there are several Wakandan tribes, eighteen in total, such as the Jabari and the J’Kuwali though they are all led by a single government seated in the capital, Birnin Zana. There are also several religions in Wakanda and several cults such as the cult of the Panther, the White Gorilla Cult and Lion Cult to name a few. It is the Black Panther’s duty to keep them all united.
Vibranium exists in two forms on Earth. The most common (if you can call it that) is the vibranium found in Wakanda. The substance appeared in Wakanda after a meteor landed there generations ago and over the years has made Wakanda extremely wealthy. What makes the substance unique is its ability to absorb all vibrations as well as kinetic energy. Vibranium also has mutagenic properties.
Those caught in its radiation, both flora and fauna, tend to mutate, which is actually why the heart-shaped herb gives Black Panther some of his power. An isotope of Vibranium, Anti-Metal, is found in Antarctica, in the Savage Land. It also crash-landed on Earth several thousands of years ago but unlike the Wakandan variety, it doesn’t absorb vibrations; instead, it creates them at a specific frequency, enabling it to liquefy other metals, hence the name.
13. THE ROYAL FAMILY
T’Chaka left several children behind. Aside from T’Challa, there’s Jakarra and Shuri. T’Chaka had Jakarra with his second wife and he had Shuri with his third wife, Ramonda. Jakarra went on to become a vibranium-warped monster after growing envious of his brother’s place as king. Shuri has always wanted the mantle of the Black Panther and after being trained by T’Challa himself, she got her chance to don the suit in Black Panther Vol 5 #5 (written by Reginald Hudlin, art by Ken Lashley and Paul Mounts) when T’Challa’s soul was trapped in limbo.
When T’Chaka died, it was S’Yan, his brother, who took on the title of king and Black Panther. When T’Challa came and proved himself worthy of the title, S’Yan gladly stepped down from the throne. He continued to aid T’Challa as an adviser but perished during the “Doomwar” storyline in attempt to save Ramonda’s life.
12. MARRIED TO STORM
For a time, T’Challa was married to Storm, who he had met long ago. Their marriage came in the midst of the “Civil War” storyline and brought both sides together for one peaceful day in Black Panther Vol 4 #18 (written by Reginald Hudlin, illustrated by Scot Eaton, Kaare Andrews and others). Storm acted as Wakanda’s queen and for years they were seen as a power couple, symbolic of many things, including the union of both humanity and mutantkind.
Unfortunately, that all changed when their duties and allegiances came into question after the Phoenix Force returned to Earth in the “Avengers Vs. X-Men” story arc. Black Panther annulled their marriage in Avengers Vs. X-Men #9 (written by Jason Aaron, art by Adam Kubert and others) after the destruction of Wakanda, though the two remained good friends in the aftermath.
11. THE RIGHT TO BE BLACK PANTHER
If it wasn’t clear to you already, the title of Black Panther is more than just the name of T’Challa’s alter-ego. If they prove themselves worthy of the honor, anyone can be the Black Panther and ruler of Wakanda. The Black Panther is the chieftain of the Panther Clan, the dominant tribe of Wakanda. T’Challa earned the right to be the Black Panther by defeating his uncle, who inherited the throne from his brother, T’Chaka. It was no easy feat. T’Challa studied and trained for years before earning it.
T’Challa’s half-sister, Suri, coveted the title as well and T’Challa gladly trained her to become worthy of it. Over the years, Black Panther has been challenged multiple times by those he once called family and by old enemies. His half brother, Jakarra tried to overthrow him and was stopped. Erik Killmonger tried to overthrow him but was swiftly defeated. Clearly, while technically any Wakandan can rule, there is a lot they must be prepared to face.
10. THE DORA MILAJE
The women in the Dora Milaje (the “adored ones”) are recruited from every tribe in Wakanda, chosen for being superior to others. They act as bodyguards to the king as well as potential wives in training. While this ancient tradition had been abolished, T’Challa reinstated it in order to quell civil unrest. His original recruits were Nakia and Okoye, though he viewed them more as daughters than wives-in-training.
Over time the Dora Milaje has grown and has defended the Black Panther and Wakanda well. A great display of their skill was in Doomwar #2 (written by Jonathan Maberry, illustrated by Scot Eton and others) when they took on an army of Wakandans outnumbering them a thousand to one. Their allegiance is to Wakanda, first and foremost. This was shown in New Avengers Vol 3 #12 (written by Jonathan Hickman, art by Mike Deodato and Frank Martin) when they betrayed T’Challa, thinking that he had betrayed his nation.
9. THE BLACK PANTHER SUIT
That sleek black panther outfit is more than just a fearsome symbol. It’s lined with vibranium, making it incredibly durable and capable of absorbing immense force. Take, for instance, when he fought Iron Fist in Black Panther Vol 3 #39 (written by Christopher Priest, illustrated by Sal Velluto and more) and he was able to shake off his opponent’s chi-powered punches. Of course, there isn’t just one suit.
In the beginning, Black Panther’s suit was a simple ceremonial outfit. From Black Panther Vol 3 #1 (written by Christopher Priest, art by Mark Texeira and others) onward, vibranium was introduced into his clothing. For particularly troublesome foes, T’Challa will don the Thrice-Blessed Armor which functions quite similarly to the Iron Man suit with one distinction: the Thrice-Blessed Armor has been enhanced with magic.
8. BAST, THE PANTHER GOD
For thousands of years, the Wakandans have worshipped the Panther God, Bast. It was Bast who gave Bashenga, an ancient Wakandan chieftain, the abilities and power to become the first Black Panther. She has aided every Black Panther since. It was said that the heart-shaped herb that gave the Black Panthers their power was a gift from Bast and connects her to them all.
If a Black Panther does not continue to prove him or herself worthy, Bast is not hesitant to take their power away from them, as she did with T’Challa in Black Panther Vol 2 #4 (written by Peter B. Gillis, artwork by Denys Cowan and more) when she judged that he had not done enough to protect those around him. He had to admit his faults and promise that he would dedicate himself to the protection of the people.
7. HE’S HIGHLY INTELLIGENT
After the death of his father, T’Challa spared no expense for his education. He did all he could to become worthy of the power of the Black Panther. He studied in both America and in Europe and eventually earned a Ph.D in Physics from Oxford University. He also created the field of Shadow Physics by combining mystic arts with science, he’s fluent in several languages and he’s a genius in the fields of engineering, psychology and economics.
For this reason, he was invited to join the Illuminati, a gathering of the greatest superhero minds on Earth. While he initially refused their offer, he was compelled to join them much later in order to stave off the destruction of the planet in New Avengers Vol 3 #1 (written by Jonathan Hickman, art by Steve Epting and more).
6. HIS ROLE AS KING
It’s no simple thing ruling Wakanda as the Black Panther. As king, he must unite the tribes, ensure economic prosperity, technological advancement and lead his nation in times of war. As Black Panther, he serves as the high priest of the Panther clan alongside being a famous superhero fighting with the Avengers. Though he did admit later on that he had initially joined them as a spy so he could see for himself if they were a threat to Wakanda. It’s no wonder then that he went so far as to completely abandon it for a time in Black Panther Vol 3 #49 (written by Christopher Priest, illustrated by Sal Velluto and others).
When Shuri took the throne, T’Challa was also given a new role as King of the Dead. In this role, he rules over the necropolis and the dead Black Panthers beneath Wakanda. It was a role Bast bestowed upon him in order to save Wakanda from the catastrophe the future shall bring.
5. HE BEAT THE FANTASTIC FOUR AND DOCTOR DOOM
In his first appearance, Black Panther took on the Fantastic Four after inviting them to Wakanda. He took them on individually and managed to defeat every single one. The reason why he did this was to test them and see if they would make suitable allies for his attack on Klaw. As impressive a feat as that was, it wasn’t as impressive as his battle against Doctor Doom in Doomwar #6 (written by Jonathan Maberry, illustrated by Scot Eaton and more) when he sacrificed the bulk of Wakanda’s vibranium in order to stop Doom’s assault on the world.
With the push of a button and his expertise in shadow physics, he defeated an immensely powerful Doctor Doom, even after he got into a fist fight with him, without the Black Panther armor. That’s the kind of power and skill T’Challa is capable of.
Erik Killmonger was once known as N’Jadaka. His father had been forced into working for Ulysses Klaue and after the latter murdered king T’Chaka and fled, N’Jadaka’s family was exiled from Wakanda by T’Challa. He found himself in Harlem, New York and quickly developed a burning hatred for the new Black Panther, dedicating his life to vengeance. He changed his name to Erik Killmonger and proved to be an incredibly intelligent foe in America.
Eventually he was released from exile and invited to return to Wakanda where a village, N’Jadaka Village, was renamed after him. When the opportunity arose, he tried to murder T’Challa but of course failed and was killed. That wasn’t the end of him, however, as he was later revived by the Mandarin and would go on to create a synthetic form of the heart-shaped herb, making Black Panther’s powers readily available for anyone and everyone.
3. ULYSSES KLAW
Klaw (the Anglicization of “Klaue”) has had a long history with the Black Panther. Ulysses was an assassin, hired to assassinate T’Chaka when the latter refused to negotiate with those at the Bildeberg Conference. He succeeded but suffered irreparable damage to his hand thanks to T’Challa. He was fitted with a claw-like prosthesis with a sonic weapon built into it. Ten years later he led an assault on Wakanda but was forced to flee. This time, he fled into his sonic converter device, which turned him into living sound in Fantastic Four #53 (written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby).
He has appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron (directed by Joss Whedon), in which he’s played by the talented Andy Serkis. He’s set to appear in the upcoming Black Panther film (directed by Ryan Coogler) but whether or not we’ll see him turned into living sound remains uncertain.
2. EVERETT K. ROSS
Black Panther first met Ross when the latter was assigned to escort him through New York City in Black Panther Vol 3 #1 (written by Christopher Priest, artwork by Mark Texeria and more). Over the years he has become a close associate of T’Challa. He was there when Killmonger attempted to take over Wakanda and he was there when Mephisto attempted to take T’Challa’s soul. He’s become somewhat of an expert on Wakanda, knowledge which has led to his position as adviser and liaison between Wakandans and the likes of the NSA and S.H.I.E.L.D.
He appeared in Captain America: Civil War (directed by Joe and Anthony Russo) played by Martin Freeman, though his connection to Black Panther has not yet been established. We can definitely expect some sort of a relationship to form in the upcoming Black Panther film.
1. T’CHALLA IS A TEAM PLAYER (WHEN HE WANTS TO BE)
Because of his skills and his position, Black Panther has been associated with several groups, including the Avengers, the Illuminati, the Fantastic Four and the Defenders. That being said, he’s not usually much of a team player unless a situation is absolutely dire. That’s usually because of his duties as Wakanda’s king as well as his duty as the Black Panther.
For example, it was shown in New Avengers Vol 3 #1 that he’d initially refused to join the Illuminati, certain that it would collapse on itself. He also admitted in Black Panther Vol 3 #8 that he joined the Avengers in order to spy on them and assess them as potential threats to Wakanda. He serves Wakanda first, that much is clear. As attached as he has become to the heroes of the rest of the world, he will not let his preferences or friendships get in the way of his duty, which is often why he works alone.
What else do you know or WANT to know about Black Panther? Let us know in the comments!
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