The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 18th and newest movie, Black Panther, has got the critics roaring with praise. The advance ticket sales have outpaced all other superhero movies to date, according to Fandango. While this is a good indicator of the enthusiasm people have for this movie, some of you might be asking, “Just who is this Black Panther and why should I care?” Well, you should care, and here are just a few reasons why. Welcome to the deep-dive.
Here are 7 things you should know about the Black Panther
1. Black Panther’s debut
Created by comic book legends Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, the Black Panther made his first appearance in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966. This predates other early African-American superheroes like the Falcon (debuting in 1969), Green Lantern John Stewart (1971) and Luke Cage (1972), making him the first superhero of African descent in mainstream American comic books.
2. Hail to the king
T’Challa is just the latest in a long line of warrior-kings from the fictitious nation of Wakanda. The Black Panther is the ceremonial mantle given to the head of the royal family after passing a number of trials.
3. Wakanda place is this?
The country of Wakanda is reclusive, yet highly technologically advanced, thanks to being the Earth’s sole resource of vibranium. This vibration-absorbing metal crashed to Earth in the form of a meteorite in the distant past. Vibranium is so highly valued early kings knew to conceal its and Wakanda’s very existence from the outside world to prevent invasion from neighboring countries and exploitation from the West.
4. He’s a team player
Black Panther joined the Avengers in issue #52 (1968) but he’s also made his way across the Marvel Universe and has been affiliated with the Fantastic Four, the Defenders, the Fantastic Force, the Illuminati and the Ultimates.
5. Girl power!
T’Challa’s personal bodyguards are the Dora Milaje (or, “adored ones”), women recruited from every tribe of Wakanda. In addition to protection, they are also considered a pool of superior women to serve as potential queens for an unmarried king.
6. He was married to the X-Men’s Storm
On a walkabout after officially earning the Black Panther title, T’Challa met and fell in love with a young thief, Ororo, in Cairo, Egypt. Ororo went on to become Storm of the X-Men. Years after going their separate ways, Black Panther and Storm are reunited. After a series of adventures, they get married. But after a diplomatic tour, serious injuries, a war with Namor the Sub-Mariner, a brief stint in the Fantastic Four (taking over for a vacationing Reed & Sue Richards), an alien invasion and the return of the Phoenix Force pulling the couple in different directions, T’Challa surprises Storm with the announcement that their marriage has been annulled.
7. Wesley Snipes, Black Panther?
Years and years before Chadwick Boseman gave us our first look at the cinematic Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, actor Wesley Snipes was hard at work trying to bring T’Challa to the big screen. Snipes faced a number of difficulties with studio executives. When they weren’t thinking he wanted to make a movie about the 1960s civil rights group the Black Panther Party, they were worried superhero movies were no guarantee of financial success back in the ’90s. (Especially when starring lesser-known characters.) After years of struggle, the project was scrapped. But Snipes was able to get Marvel behind the successful Blade movie franchise, which he believes is responsible for the huge success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe today.
Essential Black Panther Reading:
Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther (2006), Written by Reginald Hudlin and drawn by (fan favorite) John Romita Jr., this is a great jumping-on point that illustrates everything cool about Black Panther and Wakanda. If you don’t want to pick up a graphic novel, there’s also an episodic, semi-animated version of this story you can watch (Marvel Knights: Black Panther). Both come highly recommended.
Marvel’s Black Panther film comes out Feb. 16, 2018.
All images courtesy of Marvel.