We’re officially less than six months away from the release of the 13th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War. A direct continuation of Avengers: Age of Ultron, as well as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the film is a quasi-adaptation of Mark Millar’s 2006-2007 Civil War crossover event, in which the Marvel universe was split down the middle over the newly instituted Superhero Registration Act. The government-mandated ordinance restricted the freedoms of costumed heroes, calling for them to reveal their identities to the public and operate under official regulations and government oversight. The film version will deviate somewhat from the source material of course—since none of the current MCU superheroes have secret identities—though the story’s central conflict will remain intact.
Much of the hype around the film has been focused on the MCU introduction of a certain web-slinging hero, but Civil War will also feature the long-awaited live-action debut of T’Challa, aka Black Panther, who will be played by Get On Up star Chadwick Boseman. His long overdue inclusion in Marvel’s shared universe will eventually lead to a solo movie for the character, due out in February of 2018. With that, let’s take a look at 10 Things You Should Know About Black Panther.
Black Panther was the first black superhero in mainstream comics
T’Challa made his comic book debut in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966), where he put himself to the test by attacking and defeating Marvel’s first family. His initial appearance, though predated by characters like Marvel’s Gabe Jones and Dell Comics’ Lobo, cemented Black Panther’s place as the first super-powered hero in the medium’s mainstream history. DC Comics’ first black superhero, John Stewart (the second Green Lantern), wasn’t introduced until nearly five years later. Black Panther’s first big-screen outing in Civil War will be a cause for celebration, as 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the character.
It’s worth mentioning that Black Panther has no connection with the revolutionist political organization of the same name, though the latter was founded only three months after T’Challa made his debut. In fact, in an effort to further distance the character from the Black Panther Party, Marvel changed his name to Black Leopard for a brief period in 1972.
Panther’s Rage is considered Marvel’s first graphic novel
Black Panther went on to serve as an Avenger for a spell, and after a few years of guest-starring roles in the Daredevil and Fantastic Four series, he was finally given his first starring role in July of 1973 with Jungle Action #5. Shortly after, former proofreader Don McGregor took over as head writer of the series. “The company had nothing even close to such diversity at that time,” McGregor says. “I was appalled that Marvel was printing these blond jungle gods and goddesses saving the natives stories, and I mentioned that. I said if they were going to do a jungle strip, they should have a black character as the hero.”
McGregor’s self-contained story arcs quickly gained notoriety, and were counted among comics’ most acclaimed titles at the time. The trail-blazing approach to the first arc of the series, “Panther’s Rage,” was later recognized by Comics Bulletin publisher Jason Sackss as being Marvel’s first graphic novel, a storytelling method that didn’t truly come into prominence until writers like Will Eisner and Frank Miller came along. In 2010, Comics Bulletin ranked McGregor’s Black Panther run third on its list of “Top 10 1970s Marvels.”
Black Panther is a title given to the leader of the Panther Tribe of Wakanda
While some mistakenly assume that Black Panther is simply T’Challa’s superhero moniker, it’s actually an earned ceremonial title given to the chieftain of the Panther Clan, the ruling tribe in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Thanks to a meteorite crashing during the reign of T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, Wakanda has come to be known as the world’s primary source of vibranium—the metal from which Captain America’s shield is constructed. Fearing the inevitable attempts by outsiders to exploit the country for this rare resource, T’Chaka chose to isolate Wakanda from the outside world. He and his son went on to transform the nation into one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet, thanks in no small part to the highly valuable vibranium deposits at their disposal.
T’Challa trained for years to become the Black Panther/King of Wakanda after his father was murdered by Ulysses Klaw (who we met in Age of Ultron). Upon earning the Black Panther mantle, T’Challa donned the vibranium-weave suit and sought to instill long-lasting peace and prosperity to his nation.
He’s essentially the perfect hero
As far as non-super-powered heroes go, T’Challa is essentially flawless. When he won the title of Black Panther, he was permitted to consume the heart-shaped herb, a vibranium-mutated plant that gifted him enhanced senses and Super-Soldier-level physical attributes—speed, strength, stamina, agility, etc. Capable of seeing in complete darkness, T’Challa has thousands of smells memorized (so he can actually hunt and track prey like the animal he’s named after), and he just so happens to be a world-class hand-to-hand combatant. An expert gymnast and martial artist, he has studied and mastered just about every known fighting style in the world.
But, of course, his most impressive attribute is his remarkable mind. T’Challa has a genius-level intellect, and has been acknowledged one of the eight smartest people on the planet on several occasions in the comics. With a Ph.D. in Physics from Oxford University, T’Challa is a highly skilled scientist and inventor, as well as a brilliant tactician and strategist. He’s also the immeasurably wealthy king of one of the most advanced nations on earth, but whatever.
He has a Batman-like tendency of defeating enemies far more powerful than him
If the black suit, pointy ears, and personal characteristics didn’t already remind you of the Dark Knight, Black Panther’s fighting record should ring some familiar bells. In hand-to-hand combat, he’s more than held his own against Marvel heavyweights like Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. He’s single-handedly taken down various superhero teams like the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, and has even bested the likes of Doctor Doom and Mephisto, villains whose power levels far surpass T’Challa’s. Through rigorous preparation and well-placed strategy, however, Black Panther has managed to defeat them all.
Many are quick to label the lesser-known Moon Knight as the Marvel equivalent of DC’s Batman, but Black Panther may be a more apt comparison. An insanely wealthy man trained to the peak physical levels of human capabilities, Black Panther’s greatest skill is his ability to outwit his opponents. Marvel’s official website puts it plainly: “He is a master planner who always thinks several steps ahead and will go to extreme measures to achieve his goals.” Remind you of anyone?
Black Panther married Storm of the X-Men, but their marriage didn’t last
T’Challa and Ororo Monroe (Storm) have had various aspects of their histories retconned over the years, but one of the most significant changes came in 2006, when Marvel announced that the pair would be marrying one another. A 1980 short story by legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont had established that the two had crossed paths when they were young, but the retconning went so far as to depict the two adolescents falling in love and losing their virginities to one another while T’Challa was on a walkabout rite of passage. Having never stopped loving one another, the two were married in a Wakandan ceremony attended by most of Marvel’s big names (including both Captain America and Iron Man, despite the fact that the Civil War storyline was just kicking into high gear).
For a time, all was well with Marvel’s newest power couple. The two landed on the same side of the Civil War conflict, and even filled in for Reed and Sue Richards on the Fantastic Four for a spell, but a long-lasting love was not to be. In a highly-controversial move, their marriage was annulled in 2012, with many speculating that the move had more to do with Marvel’s movie plans for Black Panther rather than the characters themselves. Sound reasoning, considering that if Black Panther came to be directly associated with a love interest that the studio didn’t have the rights to, fans would likely feel let down by a movie adaptation.
Wesley Snipes almost played him in a movie
A live-action adaptation of Black Panther has been in some stage of development since 1992, a time when Snipes’ career was on a serious hot streak. Having burst on the scene in the hit comedy Major League three years prior, Snipes was riding high off the success of his starring roles in New Jack City, Jungle Fever, and White Men Can’t Jump. The following year, after the release of Demolition Man, the then-31 year old actor confirmed that he was attached to play T’Challa. “We have a wide-open field for comic book characters on the big screen and we’ve yet to have a major black comic book hero on the screen,” Snipes said at the time. “Especially the Black Panther, which is such a rich, interesting life. It’s a dream come true to originate something that nobody’s ever seen before.”
Snipes reportedly pushed for years for the film to receive an official green light, even after he signed on to play another Marvel character, Blade. Rumors of his involvement in the project still linger, with some even speculating that his Marvel meeting a few months back had more to do with Black Panther than a potential Blade return. Now 53, Snipes is still a bit young to play the patriarchal T’Chaka (a role Ernie Hudson was linked to a few months back), though perhaps a juicy villain role could be in the cards for him.
Star Chadwick Boseman got a late start in the acting game
A Black Panther film has been on Marvel Studios’ production slate since 2007, but the rumor mill was kicked into high gear in the fall of 2013 when Marvel president Kevin Feige confirmed that the project was “absolutely in development.” After roughly a year of speculation over who would land the coveted role, Chadwick Boseman, a rumored front-runner from the start, was confirmed to be playing T’Challa at an event in Los Angeles.
Boseman graduated from the British American Acting Academy and Howard University with the initial intention of a life behind the scenes. He worked for years as a drama instructor in Harlem, though he bounced back and forth between New York and L.A. for acting auditions. Just when Boseman was considering giving up acting entirely in order to focus full-time on a career as a playwright and stage director, he was selected to star in the 2013 Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, the film that truly launched his career.
Boseman is very realistic about what the role will do for his career
Boseman’s starring turn in 42 led directly into roles in Draft Day and the James Brown biopic, Get On Up, the latter of which earned him critical acclaim and no doubt helped him land Black Panther. Many felt that Boseman’s electric performance as the founding father of funk was overlooked during awards season, though the actor didn’t seem too bothered by the snub. “When it comes down to it, I’d rather have an action figure than a Golden Globe,” he said, choosing to remain focused on the task at hand.
In a few short weeks, Boseman turns 39, making him one of the older stars in Marvel’s ever-growing crop of actors. He’s been locked down for the foreseeable future (having signed a five picture deal with the studio) so he’ll clearly have a major part to play in the bigger MCU picture. Hopefully, Boseman’s run as the King of Wakanda will lead to continued success for the actor down the road, like it has for countless other Marvel stars.
Before Civil War drops, you can catch Boseman starring in Alex Proyas’ Gods of Egypt, alongside Gerard Butler and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, due out next April.
His Civil War role may have changed with Spider-Man’s addition to the MCU
Along with last year’s Black Panther solo film announcement came the news that the character would make his initial debut in Captain America: Civil War. Kevin Feige has confirmed that T’Challa will have a major role in the film, explaining his pre-solo movie introduction away with a need for a character with no prior allegiances to bring a fresh, outside perspective to the conflict. Fans familiar with the comic know that it’s Spider-Man that is caught between the two factions of the war—initially siding with Iron Man before coming around to Captain America’s way of thinking—but Marvel did not have the rights to the web-slinger until two months before shooting began on the film. Many had assumed that Black Panther would essentially be taking on Spider-Man’s ‘caught between two worlds’ role; the physical representative of the story’s moral dilemma.
Rumors from this past summer have called that assumption into question, but with Spidey seemingly playing a more prominent role than originally believed, anything is possible. Looks like we’ll just have to continue playing the guessing game until the trailer drops in December.
Black Panther is truly one of the best superheroes under the Marvel banner, and his arrival on the big screen has been a long time coming. Not simply a great character, T’Challa’s inclusion in the MCU represents an opportunity for the studio to take their brand to the next level, creating a far-reaching conflict that spans the entire globe while taking audiences on new, exciting adventures in the Marvel world. Black Panther will undoubtedly become a front-and-center hero for the studio in the years to come, an exciting prospect for comic fans everywhere.
How excited are you for the Wakandan King’s first big-screen outing? What do you think his role will be in the Civil War conflict? How awesome was the opening credits sequence for his animated series on BET? Be sure to sound off in the comments below.
Captain America: Civil War arrives in theaters on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange on November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.