Marvel’s Black Panther has been demanding the attention of moviegoers worldwide ever since the first trailer dropped and showed off a beautiful and eclectic world populated with interesting characters and mythology. One of the most intriguing aspects of the Black Panther movie is its all-star cast consisting of a great number of talented actors including Michael B. Jordan who is playing the ruthless Erik Killmonger. Jordan’s portrayal of the Black Panther villain seems to be fantastic, but Killmonger has seemed to elude much of the cultural zeitgeist brought about by superhero movies.
Despite this, Erik Killmonger is an extremely important part of the Black Panther mythos in the comics. On top of that, he’s a tragic character and is interesting because he brings a serious threat every single time he’s featured in the comics. With abilities that appear to exceed T’Challa’s own and an unrelenting drive to take the throne and run Wakanda the way he sees fit, Killmonger is one of the most dangerous threats Wakanda has ever faced. Audiences deserve to know about the roots of the character so that they can fully appreciate Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of him. With that, here’s 15 things you never knew about Black Panther’s big villain, Killmonger.
WARNING: There are possible spoilers for Black Panther ahead.
15 HE TRIED TO JOIN THE AVENGERS
During Erik Killmonger’s most triumphant venture, he actually managed to beat T’Challa nearly to death and claim the title of Black Panther and King of Wakanda from a defeated T’Challa, but that still wasn’t enough for the vindictive Killmonger. He also tried to take T’Challa’s place on the Avengers.
The worst part is that the Avengers seriously considered it since, by Wakandan law, he had lawfully taken the throne and the mantle of Black Panther. On top of that, somebody with the skill, attributes, and intelligence to defeat T’Challa would be a great help to the team. The Avengers were saved from making a final decision, however, when Deadpool kidnapped Preyy, Killmonger’s pet leopard, and took him back to Wakanda. In Killmonger’s fervor to get him back, he showed that he was not a team player and also became comatose after his body reacted poorly to the Heart Shaped Herb.
14 HE WENT TO THE SAME SCHOOL AS IRON MAN
While he was in the United States, Killmonger decided to better himself in every conceivable way so that he’d be able to take over the country he was once a part of and run it the way he saw fit. In order to do that, he worked hard to learn as much as he could from the best schools in the world. One of those schools was Tony Stark’s alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT.
He did more than attend MIT, however; he excelled there. He graduated with a PhD in Engineering so that he could understand and invent complicated weapons and an MBA so that he could become a master of politics and economics. He did so well that it’s said that he even taught at MIT for a while.
13 HE HELPED CREATE THE WHITE TIGER
People know about Shuri taking over as Black Panther, but there’s a lesser known character who also took the mantle of the Black Panther. After a series of failures to his people, T’Challa retreated into exile and left his council in charge of Wakanda. He found himself in Harlem and befriended a well-intentioned cop named Kasper Cole. Since T’Challa had retired from being Black Panther, he allowed Cole to keep the suit and the name.
However, it was inevitable that Cole would eventually encounter Erik Killmonger. Cole wished to go through the trial to become a legitimate Black Panther, but that meant facing down the recently recovered Killmonger in ritual combat. Killmonger saw this as a chance to make a deal with Cole. He offered him a synthetic Heart Shaped Herb in return for becoming one of his acolytes. And from this point on, the White Tiger was born.
12 HE’S LINKED TO THE MANDARIN
Though Killmonger has pushed Wakanda and Black Panther to their limits, he still puts himself in a tremendous amount of danger and he’s faced death more than once. He actually died after his first run in with T’Challa when he was forced off of a waterfall. This would’ve been the end of Killmonger, but a chance encounter with an Iron Man nemesis ensured that his story was not over.
The Mandarin came across Killmonger’s body and used his rings to revive the warlord. He then partnered with Killmonger to engage a plot to defeat Iron Man, War Machine, and Black Panther. The two got close, with War Machine being captured and T’Challa seemingly killed. But when it was revealed that the T’Challa Killmonger killed was actually an LMD, he and Iron Man were able to surprise the duo and defeat them, returning Killmonger to the land of the dead.
11 T’CHALLA HAS NEVER DEFEATED HIM IN SINGLE COMBAT
Killmonger has provided the ultimate challenge to Black Panther. Many supervillains claim to be physical matches for their respective superheroes. But there aren’t many villains who the heroes simply cannot overcome by themselves. That’s what Erik Killmonger has been for T’Challa.
Every time they fight, Killmonger’s might proves to be superior. The only way Black Panther ever wins is with the help of his allies or people that Killmonger has wronged. In their first encounter, Killmonger threw T’Challa off of a waterfall to his supposed death during one bout and had him clearly defeated during their second bout. In their second encounter, Killmonger destroyed an LMD of T’Challa. In their third encounter, Killmonger beat T’Challa within an inch of his life. And in their fourth and final encounter, Killmonger had T’Challa defeated and would’ve killed him if it wasn’t for the interference of Monica Rambeau.
10 ERIK KILLMONGER IS NOT HIS REAL NAME
Believe it or not, his surname is not actually Killmonger. Erik Killmonger was actually born N’Jadaka in Wakanda. However, when he was taken from Wakanda and forced to live in the United States, he harbored quite a bit of anger for T’Chaka, the royal family, and Wakanda. This anger prompted him to shed his given name and adopt the identity of Erik Killmonger.
In the Black Panther movie, Erik Killmonger isn’t his name either. His name is actually Erik Stevens, but his reputation and efficiency as a black ops soldier earned him the nickname Killmonger. It’s unknown if this version of the character ever possessed the name N’adaka or if Erik Stevens is actually his given name. The answer will surely be revealed when the movie releases.
9 HE DUELED WITH DEADPOOL
Deadpool is a character that has found himself involved with something in almost every corner of the Marvel Universe. Whether he’s engaging in a war with Carnage; attempting to assassinate Phil Coulson; competing with Thanos for the affection of Lady Death, or killing the entire Marvel Universe, Deadpool gets around.
He even managed to find his way into Wakanda during Killmonger’s reign as Black Panther and King of Wakanda. Deadpool got himself caught up with Killmonger and the Avengers when the Black Panther villain Reverend Achebe hired Deadpool to kill Killmonger so that T’Challa could become the king again and Achebe could be the one who defeats T’Challa instead of Killmonger. The two fought to a standstill until Everett Ross broke it up. The story was just a bit of good fun with Killmonger berating the Avengers and Deadpool referring to his foe as KillPanther.
8 A VILLAGE WAS NAMED AFTER HIM
If Erik Killmonger was such a bad guy, then why did a village decide to rename itself after him? Before he was Erik Killmonger, he was N’Jadaka, a perfectly normal Wakandan boy. That all changed when Ulysses Klaue invaded Wakanda and killed N’Jadaka’s parents in his wake. Klaue was driven out, but not before he took N’Jadaka and others from their village and forced them into slavery.
Upon N’Jadaka’s return as Erik Killmonger he was, understandably, angry at the royal family for allowing this tragedy to befall himself and his family. However, he harbored no anger for the village he was from. He quickly took charge of the village upon his return and used his resourcefulness and genius intellect to supply it with advanced technology and weapons. This made the previously inconsequential village into a force to be reckoned with and, as a thank you, they renamed to N’Jadaka village.
7 HE HAS A PET
As ferocious as Erik Killmonger is, you wouldn’t generally think of him as a cat lover. However, Killmonger has a fittingly massive pet leopard named Preyy who remains by his side through thick and thin. And because this is comics, Preyy’s physical attributes are beyond that of a normal leopard, making him even more dangerous than a regular big cat.
Preyy is an extremely loyal partner to Killmonger. He assisted him in many of his fights without even receiving orders; he helped him battle Black Panther on more than one occasion. He stuck with Killmonger throughout all of his journeys; Preyy was even going to join the Avengers along with him, meaning that a cat would’ve officially been an Avenger. Even in death, Preyy remains loyal. He demonstrated visible grief when Killmonger died and was right there by his master’s side again when Killmonger was resurrected.
6 HE’S NEVER APPEARED ON SCREEN...EVER
Marvel’s Black Panther will mark the first time that the ferocious Erik Killmonger appears on screen. There have actually been numerous instances where T’Challa has appeared on screen in animated form. He’s starred in the BET animated series Black Panther and featured in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, and Iron Man: Armored Adventures.
However, none of these instances have featured Erik Killmonger. In virtually every instance, T’Challa has faced off against Ulysses Klaue. While Klaue has been Black Panther’s most persistent foe, he has not pushed him to the limits that Killmonger has, so the fact that he hasn’t opposed T’Challa on screen is mind boggling. But we’re fortunate that an actor of the caliber of Michael B. Jordan is finally bringing Killmonger’s unrelenting force to the screen.
5 HE IS ACTUALLY FROM WAKANDA
Though Killmonger was introduced as an American citizen when readers first met him, he immediately identified himself to T’Challa as someone who hailed from Wakanda. In the comics, Killmonger grew up in Harlem and in the Black Panther movie, he’s from Oakland. During one of T’Challa’s trips to the United States, Killmonger identified him as the son of T’Chaka, found him, and told him his origin.
When Killmonger was a child, Ulysses Klaue attacked Wakanda and killed king T’Chaka. Before he was driven out, he took a number of slaves with him, Killmonger being one of them. He eventually escaped to the United States but not before developing a hatred for the royal family for being weak enough to allow Klaue to invade and cause so much damage.
4 HE HAS BEEN KING OF WAKANDA
Erik Killmonger has been a truly terrifying adversary to T’Challa because of his success rate. The best villains usually either succeed in their plans or force the hero to go past a point of no return in order to stop him or her. Think of the Joker from The Dark Knight. Not only did he succeed in turning Gotham’s White Knight, Harvey Dent, into the twisted Two-Face, but he forced Batman to make a decision he couldn’t return from by taking the blame for Dent’s death.
Killmonger has absolutely done this for T’Challa. All of his crusades against the Black Panther and Wakanda came uncomfortably close to succeeding and, in one instance, his plan actually succeeded. Killmonger managed to beat T’Challa within an inch of his life and claim the title of Black Panther and king of Wakanda. And his reign actually lasted for a while.
3 HE CONQUERED A NATION
People with Erik Killmonger’s talents are hard to contain. Not only is Killmonger incredibly strong and well trained, but he also possesses an incredible intellect. He went through a great deal of schooling while he was in the United States. He has a doctorate in Engineering and an MBA from MIT but one thing he gained from them that can’t be quantified is cunning. Killmonger is devious enough to manipulate the global stock market to try and bankrupt Wakanda.
With intelligence like this, it isn’t hard to imagine Killmonger taking over a country, which is exactly what he did to Wakanda’s neighboring country, Niganda. Killmonger incited a revolution by fighting for the Nigandan people and then using his newfound renown to become the leader of the entire country. Of course he then used this new country to start a war with Wakanda.
2 HE HAS A ZOMBIE ARMY
When Erik Killmonger returned to Wakanda, he made sure to use every tool that he had access to in order to increase his chances of successfully taking over his heavily defensed home country. As Wakanda is a place with a perfect blend of science and mysticism, there are numerous areas where mystical power can be found and Killmonger managed to find one such area upon his return to Wakanda.
After venturing into the forbidden Land of Chilling Mist, Killmonger found the Altar of Resurrection which drew its power from an ancient, powerful meteor. With access to the altar, Killmonger was able to grant powers to a number of his followers and his link to the altar has allowed him to be resurrected on multiple occasions. He has also used the altar to create an army of zombie-like soldiers called the Death Regiment.
1 HE WAS KILLED BY AN ORPHAN BOY
Black Panther and Erik Killmonger have had a number of legendary duels. Every single one of their fights has come down to the wire in some way and, in battles like those, every advantage counts. In T’Challa’s case, one of his advantages was a little orphan boy with a heart of fire.
During Killmonger’s first attempt at overthrowing Wakanda, he battled T’Challa twice in ritual combat. The first bout ended with Killmonger throwing the king off of the waterfalls to his assumed death in an iconic Black Panther panel. The second fight ended in nearly the same fashion, with Killmonger gaining the upper hand on T’Challa once again. But Killmonger was defeated in the end when a child that he orphaned during his reign of terror on Wakanda intervened and knocked a startled Killmonger off of the waterfall to his actual death.