Black Panther's Special Forces: Who Are the War Dogs & Dora Milaje?

The Dora Mijae

The Dora Milaje have gotten a lot of media attention and for good reason: fans are incredibly hyped that there’s an elite all-female fighting squad of Black women in the MCU. The women of Wakanda have been featured in fight scene clips that look spectacular (including an epic wig throw). Like the Hatut Zeraze, the Dora Milaje’s history also began with the Christopher Priest comics, but the film has made some modifications to their backstory.

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Priest added the Dora Milaje, which translates to “The Adored Ones,” in his first issue of Black Panther. Their immediate purpose is to be warriors that protect the king at all costs. Their greater purpose was to quell Wakandan in-fighting.

You see, the Dora Milaje also provided a ceremonial function in that they are potential wives for T’Challa. Because they each come from a different tribe in Wakanda, this keeps the peace for any fighting amongst the tribes. At least until T’Challa declares his intent to actually marry one of them. In the comics, intent to marry can be as little as a kiss, which gets T’Challa into trouble.

In an interview, Black Panther producer Nate Moore stated that it was decided this aspect of the Dora Milaje backstory was “a bit creepy,” so instead the filmmakers focused on the strength of these women. With the success of the Wonder Woman film and its presentation of the Amazons, it makes sense that the MCU committed to going this route.

Like the Amazons, the Dora Milaje also have some featured fighters. Danai Gurira of The Walking Dead fame plays Okoye, one of the original Dora Milaje members who first appeared in Priest’s Black Panther (Vol. 3) #1. Okoye knows that while she fights to protect the king, her potential wife role is merely ceremonial, and she accepts it. It will be interesting to see what additional elements are added to her character in the film with the creep factor removed.

Another recognizable name in the Dora Milaje is Ayo, who is played by Florence Kasumba. Ta-Nahesi Coates featured this Dora Milaje member prominently in his run with the Black Panther series, starting with “A Nation Under Our Feet: Part 1.” Ayo rebels against the monarchy because her lover and fellow Dora Milaje member Aneka was about to be put to death. Both Ayo and Aneka renounce the Dora Milaje and the crown and choose to fight for a more representative government.

The updated Dora Milaje can give young girls the inspiration that they can be warriors so strong that they can protect men. They are not only women, but Black women, a group that is already severely underrepresented in the media. This group of woman is a gamechanger in the MCU just like how the film overall is shaping out to be.

Directed by Ryan Coogler from a script he wrote with Joe Robert Cole, Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, Letitia Wright as Shuri, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross, Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue, Winston Duke as M’Baku and Forest Whitaker as Zuri. The film opens Friday nationwide.

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