Generally speaking, one of the biggest reasons that people have given for the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been its willingness to trust the source material. While other comic book adaptations almost seem to be running away from the comic books that inspired the films (making changes to make them feel less "comic book-y"), the Marvel Cinematic Universe has mostly treated the original comic book material with a good deal of reverence. The latest Marvel hit, Black Panther, is no exception.
Writer/director Ryan Coogler brought to life a brilliant film that was very faithful to the original Marvel comic book series while, of course, still standing on its own. Still, the works of influential Black Panther comic book writers like Don McGregor, Christopher Priest and Reginald Hudlin shined through in the screenplay of the film. At the same time, Coogler also made sure to pay tribute to his own cultural icons at the same time. It's a wonderful mix that results in a great deal of clever references to the past (and present). Here are 15 notable Easter Eggs from Black Panther.
Ryan Coogler, who wrote and directed the film, was born in Oakland, California and his hometown has played a major role in all three of the major motion pictures that he has released so far -- Fruitvale Station, Creed and now Black Panther, which both opens and closes in Oakland. Here, though, Coogler is not simply referencing his own childhood, but looking at the very important connection that Oakland has to the cultural history of Black Panther.
Oakland, you see, was where the Black Panther Party was formed in 1966 (by Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Sherwin Forte, Roggie Forte, Bobby Hutton and Elbert Howard). Newton took an iconic shot of him sitting in a wicker chair that looked like a throne, along with a gun and a spear. That image was the inspiration for an ad for the film featuring Black Panther in his Wakandan throne.
In recent years, one of the most important relationships that Black Panther has had in the comic books has been with his former fellow member of the Illuminati, Namor the Sub-Mariner. The Atlantean king and the Wakandan king were allies for a number of years but their relationship degraded over the years until it finally broke during Avengers vs. X-Men. Namor (then possessed by the Phoenix Force) was outraged at Black Panther for hiding the Avengers in Wakanda, so Namor used his Phoenix powers to flood the nation!
Ever since then, Black Panther vowed revenge and he achieved it during the Avengers storyline, "Time Runs Out." In it, Black Panther tells Namor the same thing that T'Challa tells Klau in the new film - "Every breath you take is mercy from me."
One of the most notable areas where comic book films have trouble referencing comic books is when it comes to the outfits that the characters wear. There simply is not often an easy way to get real life people into some of the costumes that characters wear in the comics. This is not even a matter of respect or reverence to the source material, it's just that things that look cool on a comic book page sometimes look weird in a film.
However, films can sometimes come up with ways to make it work. For instance, we see Erik "Killmonger," the villain of the film, admire an African mask when he robs some Vibranium from a British museum. He then wears the mask (which is like one he wore in the comics) as a lark.
A common area for Easter Eggs in comic book films (and TV shows) is when a character sees alternate designs for their costume. These alternate designs are almost always references to actual comic book characters and/or costumes. For instance, in Iron Man, we get to see James Rhodes' War Machine armor briefly in the film. In the Luke Cage TV series, there is a brief moment where happenstance shows Luke Cage wearing his original costume.
In Black Panther, they go one better. When Shuri shows T'Challa some alternate necklaces, one of them is the look that Black Panther wore in the late 1990s, so it works as an Easter Egg. Then, of course, Killmonger ends up using that necklace later in the film for his costume, so it's an Easter Egg but also functional for the plot of the movie! A neat trick!
A similar area where the film had to adapt the comics to explain stuff that wouldn't normally work was how the film explained Erik Killmonger's name. In the comics, it is just the name he took when he went to school in America. That's a bit of an odd last name for someone to just choose for themselves, though, and the film instead presents it as a nickname (like "Deadpool" in Deadpool, for example).
The movie also references Killmonger's past with the design of his Black Panther costume, which has a leopard print on it, just like Killmonger's pet leopard, Preyy, from when he debuted in Jungle Action #6. By the way, how do you pronounce an extra Y in a name? The world may never know. Of course, this could be a reference to when Black Panther briefly changed his name to Black Leopard.
Yet another example of how difficult it is to adapt certain characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes from characters who were created in a different time, when calling an African character "Man-Ape" would seem like an acceptable idea. Nowadays, of course, you wouldn't name a character that, because it is awful and racist. However, M'Baku is otherwise a strong character, so the film adapted him into the story.
Cleverly, though, they still managed to keep a lot of the design effects of the original character (right down to his ape helmet), just toned down to a point where they evoke the original comic book design without precisely replicating it. It is clearly a very narrow needle for a filmmaker to thread, but Coogler managed to pull it off and M'Baku ended up being a scene-stealer in the film.
After sacrificing himself to save Black Panther's ex-girlfriend, Nakia, Everett Ross proved himself to be someone that could be trusted. This put Black Panther into a difficult position, as he couldn't just let this honorable man die when T'Challa knew that he could save him. He decided to then break from tradition and bring Ross to Wakanda so that he could be treated there. As others have noted, this is not just an outsider, but specifically an outsider who works in the intelligence gathering business!
When Shuri sees the man that she is supposed to help heal, she quips, "Oh great, another broken white boy for me to fix." This, of course, is a clever nod to the end of Captain America: Civil War, where Steve Rogers dropped off Bucky Barnes in Wakanda to be de-programmed after the events of that film.
In the oversized one-shot that helped launch Marvel's current "Marvel Legacy" event, writer Jason Aaron took us one million years into the past to see the Avengers of that era, which basically consisted of Odin, Agamotto (who later willed the powerful Eye of Agamotto to the Sorcerer Supreme) and the original versions of a number of Marvel characters whose powers get passed down over time, namely Ghost Rider, Phoenix, Starbrand, Iron Fist and, of course, Black Panther.
Before this amazing reveal, however, the first Black Panther that we knew about came during Jack Kirby's late 1970s Black Panther run. His name was Bashenga. In the film, tribute is paid to this character by having Mount Bashenga (where Vibranium is mined and Shuri has her lab) named after him.
Perhaps the film's breakout character (in a film that was packed to the brim in possible breakout characters, since the casting was absolutely amazing) was T'Challa's younger sister, Shuri, who is his tech expert. She delivers his gadgets to him in her lab like a younger, but more intense version of Q from the James Bond films.
However brilliant she may be, though, she is still a teenage girl. We see her youth at full display a number of times in the film with her cultural references, like when she makes fun of T'Challa's ceremonial sandals by evoking a Vine that went viral a few years back when a teen filmed a cop and remarked on the cop's stodgy police-issued footwear with "What are those?!"
Another clever pop culture reference that Shuri makes in the film is when she debuts new footwear for Black Panther to wear into battle (following her making fun of his sandals). The shoes are lined with vibranium to make them absorb sound and impact (something that was introduced during Christopher Priest's run on Black Panther, when T'Challa first began wearing Vibranium-woven clothes). This leads to Shuri calling them (tongue firmly in cheek) "sneakers."
They are also self-lacing shoes, which Shuri notes that she was inspired to do after seeing a film that their father made them watch when they were kids because it was one of his favorite films. She, of course, was referring to the self-lacing Nike sneakers that Michael J. Fox's character wears in Back to the Future, Part II. It's a nice tribute to her late father.
As noted earlier, it was an intentional move by Coogler to have the opening of the film take place in Oakland, where the Black Panther Party was formed. However, at the same time, having the film begin in a flashback to 1992 allowed Coogler to also pay tribute to a major hip hop group that embraced the culture of the Black Panther Party, perhaps more than another group of the era.
Public Enemy became famous for their powerful, politically charged lyrics and their distinct, Black Panther Party-influenced look. In the film, N'Jobu's apartment in Oakland has a Public Enemy poster on the wall. You can easily see connections between N'Jobu's view of the world and the famous Public Eenmy album title, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
One of the most stunning visual sequences in the film came in the final battle of the movie, where the Wakanda Army (remaining loyal to Killmonger) are trying to kill T'Challa while the Dora Milaje (still loyal to T'Challa) battle against their fellow Wakandans. The army unleashes a bit of a secret weapon, Vibranium-armored rhinos!
While it's a stunning spectacle in the film, it amazingly enough actually evokes a classic Black Panther storyline from the comic books. In the original "Panther's Rage" story arc from Jungle Action (which provided the basic framework for the film's story arc, right down to Killmonger throwing T'Challa from a waterfall in both stories), Black Panther actually does wrestle a rhino in Jungle Action #9 (by Don McGregor, Gil Kane and Klaus Janson) just like he does in the film!
Ryan Coogler is on a major streak, with all three of his films being either critically-acclaimed films or box office bonanzas (or both). He does not forget his film community, though. Barry Jenkins, director of last year's Academy Award winner for Best Film, Moonlight, told the Village Voice that he wanted opinions on his rough cut of the film, and "Within 18 hours ,I had Terence Nance, Justin Simien, Kahlil Joseph, Radha Blank, Ryan Coogler — who came down from the Bay while he was working on his Black Panther script — and several other young directors. All these people just showed up on a free afternoon to give me feedback.”
Jenkins' next film stars T'Challa actor, Chadwick Boseman. Coogler, meanwhile, used Alex Hibbert (who played the young version of Chiron in Moonlight) in the closing scene of Black Panther, as the boy who asked Black Panther, "Who are you?"
A clear theme throughout Black Panther is the importance of fathers on their sons' lives, with Killonger killing hundreds of people just to find a way to get back to Wakanda to see his father's legacy become a reality and T'Challa struggling with the fact that the father that he spent his life idolizing was an imperfect person.
Coogler cleverly paid homage to this father/son connection through his use of flashbacks. In the 1992 scenes in the film. T'Chaka is played by Atandwa Kani. The older version of T'Chaka, meanwhile, is played by John Kani (the famous South African actor who debuted the role in Captain America: Civil War). The two men are, of course, father and son. Oddly enough, Forest Whitaker's younger self is played by Denzel Whitaker, who is not related to the Oscar-winning actor, but has played his younger self in another film before this one!
After Shuri's reference to Bucky arriving in Wakanda at the end of Captain America: Civil War, it should not come as too much of a surprise that the Post-Credits sequence in the film revealed that Bucky is not only still in Wakanda, but that he has been cured of his brainwashing. This is, of course, mostly just set-up for Avengers: Infinity War (where trailers show Bucky fighting alongside the Wakandans against the invading forces of Thanos).
However, the Wakandan children calling Bucky "White Wolf" is a comic book reference to Hunter, a young boy whose parents died in a plane crash in Wakanda. He was adopted by T'Chaka and raised with T'Challa. Hunter became the White Wolf, the head of T'Chaka's violent secret police. T'Challa disbanded the secret police when he became King, so White Wolf left Wakanda and became a mercenary. However, he remains loyal to his adopted brother.