Black Panther, king of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda, made his mighty cinematic debut in Captain America: Civil War. T’Challa (to use his real name) is now stepping out to be the hero in his very own highly-anticipated solo film, starring an impressive cast that includes Chadwick Boseman as the titular character and Creed’s Michael B. Jordan as the villain Erik Killmonger. Director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station) has promised fans a fresh film that will stick close to its comic book roots and African culture.
Plot details revealed earlier this week confirmed that the film will follow Black Panther in his efforts to save Wakanda from being overthrown by two of his foes who are threatening his leadership. We do know that at least one of the villains is his long-time nemesis Erik Killmonger, who wants to return Wakanda to its ancient ways.
In short, Killmonger is a major threat, being a powerful warrior and strategic genius in politics and economics, who will stop at nothing to have the kingdom of Wakanda for his own. He’s an expert fighter and both a physical and mental match for his nemesis, the Black Panther. Let’s dig a bit deeper into Erik Killmonger’s comic book roots and figure out exactly what Black Panther will be up against.
Major Story Arcs
Killmonger first appeared in the book Jungle Action Vol. 2 #6 in 1973. A native of Wakanda, he was born under the name N’Jadaka. Ulysses Klaw, a physicist and Nazi war criminal trying to steal Wakanda’s vibranium resource (who met in Avengers: Age of Ultron), forced Killmonger’s father to join his mercenaries to attack Wakanda.
When Klaw was ultimately defeated, Killmonger’s father died and his family was exiled to a small village by T’Challa. During his time in exile, Killmonger trained hard to become powerful warrior and genius within the tech realm by studying at M.I.T. While attending M.I.T., his carnal hatred for both Klaw and T’Challa grew into complete rage. After he received his PhD in Engineering, he eventually contacted King T’Challa and was repatriated back to Wakanda, settling in a village that would later change its name to N’Jadaka Village in his honor.
Erik then took advantage of Black Panther’s frequent absences in America with the Avengers to stage a coup d’état. Killmonger dedicated his time to the overthrow of T’Challa’s government. He ravaged several villages to attract the Black Panther’s attention. When confronted by T’Challa, Killmonger dismissed the African Prince, having T’Challa fight against his leopard Preyy, White Gorilla, Sombre and King Cadaver. In his continuous efforts to take Wakanda, T’Challa eventually killed Killmonger… or so he thought.
Turns out, Killmonger’s body was taken by Mandarin who then resurrected him back to form with his special rings. In Wakanda, a warehouse containing Stark Industries’ energy hologram crystallography equipment was destroyed, which brought Iron Man to town and got Rhodey kidnapped by Madame Slay. Tony Stark and T’Challa staged a body double scenario in which everyone thought Black Panther was dead at the hands of Killmonger. After the fake funeral, Killmonger took the Black Panther mantle for himself. Meanwhile T’Challa and Tony Stark snuck back into his home, and a battle ensued. As the heroes gained the upper hand, Madame Slay revealed she was holding Rhodey captive. Iron Man set off a cyclotron and rescued Rhodey, while Black Panther killed Killmonger once again, leaving a bag of bones behind… or so he thought.
Again, Killmonger was resurrected, this time with another plan to takeover the throne. With the absence of T’Challa, Everett Ross was appointed temporary regent of the country. Killmonger tried to usurp the leadership by exploiting the economy. He challenged T’Challa to the leadership ritual of combat and, surprisingly, Killmonger defeated Black Panther on his own, earning the crown. He remained ruler of Wakanda for some time and even attempted to join the Avengers in T’Challa’s place. However, when he consumed the Heart-Shaped Herb that was his right as king, his body reacted badly, leaving him in a coma. Apparently the herb is poisonous to those who are not of the royal bloodline.
Spanning over a total of 46 issues, Black Panther had a hell of a time trying to get rid of this guy. Killmonger’s powers and abilities were a match for T’Challa, making him almost impossible to defeat.
Powers and Abilities
Along with being a highly-trained warrior, Killmonger synthetically modified the Heart-Shaped Herb and used it to his advantage, gaining superhuman-like abilities:
- Senses – He can see in total darkness, can determine if a person is lying by their body odor, can track specific scents up to many miles away, can hear much more than the average human, and of course can smell fear
- Strength – The special herb enhanced his physical strength to the pinnacle of human perfection without actually being superhuman. He can allegedly lift up to 800 lbs. . Erik Killmonger is a tremendously huge and powerful man, with strength and speed capable of defeating even the enhanced Black Panther
- Durability – He is almost immune to illness and heals very quickly if he is injured. The lack of toxins in his muscular body allow him to never become fatigued making him almost impossible to beat in a fight
- Warrior – He is fully trained in MMA combat styles to the highest capacity possible, making him an even match for Black Panther
- Leader – a revolutionary leader, well-known to all Wakandans, and even supported by some. His revolutionary charisma, mastery of politics and economics, and tactical planning makes him one of Black Panther’s greatest foes
- Genius – He can invent various devices with special properties when needed. He has a PhD in Engineering and an MBA from M.I.T. His engineering abilities allow him to be able to invent and create advanced weaponry that rivals his enemies.
Weaponry and Equipment
Killmonger has access to some seriously strange equipment that he often uses to his advantage while in battle with Black Panther:
- Preyy – a fully trained spotted leopard that fights alongside of Killmonger
- Armor – his uniform is studded with spikes that inject poisons into his opponents. His wristbands contain an energy blaster and communication devices.
- Heart-Shaped Herb – Killmonger genetically engineered a synthetic version of the herb that he takes often. The original herb is used to give Black Panther his powers.
- Altar of Resurrection – as noted above, he has been killed many times but his supporters are able to bring him back using ancient Wakandan magic
- Dead Regiments – he can create zombie-like soldiers using the Altar of Resurrection and uses them when he needs an army to assist him in battle.
- Blades – he uses various types of knives, machetes, and spears in battle.
Now that you know a bit more about Killmonger, it should be clear that he is a great villain to include in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, promising to give Boseman’s hero a run for his money using both his strength and his intellect. While Marvel movies are often criticized for having weak villains, hopefully Jordan will present an antagonist who is just as rich and interesting a character as T’Challa himself.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming following July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2– May 3, 2019; and as-yet-untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.