Black Panther is one of the fiercest characters to exist in Marvel Comics. Although the hero himself has been unmatched in many of his battles, he would not be as fearsome without the strength of his guards. The Dora Milaje (which means "Adored Ones") entered the Black Panther mythos in the 1990s.
Originating from each of the rival tribes in Wakanda, these women represent the strongest and bravest warriors in Wakanda. Not only do they serve as his personal bodyguards but are also potential queens for their king if he chooses one of them.
Their significance to Black Panther’s story has not gone unnoticed. Fans received their first glimpse at the group’s inclusion into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the character Ayo, sen in Captain America: Civil War at T’Challa’s side, her appearance marked the first on-screen depiction of his guard.
With the release of Black Panther, fans finally witnessed the true power of the Dora Milaje in action. Given their significant to the storyline, we expect to see more of the Dora Milaje in the future MCU movies. In this article, we give an in-depth exploration of this dominant team and their evolution over the years from the comics to the big screen.
Here are 15 Things You Didn't Know About Dora Milaje.
15 Black Panther's Original Guards Were Both Men and Women
Black Panther debuted in Marvel Comics in 1966 as the first superhero of African descent in modern American comics. Introduced in Fantastic Four vol 1 issue #52, he brought with him a rich history of African traditions legends from the fictional land of Wakanda. However, in his early days, he was not under the protection of the Dora Milaje. His guard consisted of both male and female warriors for some time.
In fact, the Dora Milaje did not debut until 1998 in Christopher Priest’s Black Panther "The Client" arc in Vol. 3 issue #1. Only then did readers learn about his newly established all-female guard. Their history has since been retconned and included throughout the history of not only T’Challa but other previous Black Panther title holders as well.
14 Their Establishment Was A Political Move
The coveted title of “Black Panther” held great significance in Wakanda. Not only was the title holder the leader of the Panther tribe but they also ruled over the other tribes in the country. The greatest warriors from these tribes competed tirelessly to try to secure the title for their people.
This competitiveness led to rivalries that even Black Panther could not control.
To bring some form of unity to the Wakandan tribes, the Dora Milaje consisted of 18 women from the rival tribe factions. Their presence served as a symbolic unification of the Wakandan tribes and helped to quell these rivalries. The number of women in Dora Milaje fluctuated based on the needs of the king. During the Civil War storyline, as many as 500 women served in order to protect Wakanda at the time.
13 The Dora Milaje Serve As "Wives in Training"
Though the Dora Milaje served as a symbol of unity, their positions within the kingdom were not merely superficial. The women selected to serve the Black Panther represented the best of each of their tribes. Skilled in various arts of combat and weaponry, they served as the some of the deadliest bodyguards in the entire kingdom. Wherever Black Panther traveled, the Dora Milaje followed nearby. In addition to protecting the king, they also served the roles of “wives-in-training.” Since each member represented one of the rival tribes, any one of them had the potential to be the next queen and represent her tribe on the throne. The members of the Dora Milaje protected not only the reigning king but also their potential future husband.
12 This Tradition Dates Back Many Years in Wakanda's History
Initially, the concept of the Dora Milaje only existed since the 1990s. However, their existence was retconned and included in events that have taken place in Marvel Comics’ past. One such example can be found in the events of Black Panther/Captain America: Flags of Our Fathers comics.
During this storyline, readers witnessed the first time Black Panther and a young Captain America met. However, in this timeframe, King Azzari the Wise, T’Challa’s grandfather, reigned as the current Black Panther. The Dora Milaje stood by his side and fought with them as the heroes battled Nazis during World War II.
After their initial encounter ended with the two heroes fighting, they resolved their differences and worked together to defeat Red Skull and his army, with the Dora Milaje joining as well.
11 T'Challa removed The "Wifely" Duty Requirement
Though they served several Black Panthers in the past, the tradition of the Dora Milaje came to an end briefly. T’Challa chosen to break tradition and found a potential wife outside of the Wakandan tribes. He was engaged to American singer Monica Lynne and began preparations for their wedding. However, due to circumstances in his personal life, he had to call off their engagement expectantly.
He decided to reinstate the group with specific changes to their duties.
In the past, the Dora Milaje were expected to fulfill all responsibilities of a wife, including... pleasing their king. However, T’Challa changed this tradition for his group. Instead, he treated the women more as daughters than potential wives. Though he loves the women, he did not have plans to have any sort of physical relationship with any of them.
10 Okoye introduced a secret language to the Dora Milaje
Though 18 members of the group existed, Marvel Comics only spotlighted a few of the members over the years. One such member, Okoye, debuted in the 1990s with the introduction of the group. She worked as the valet for Black Panther at the time.
Okoye came from the J’Kuwali tribe of Wakanda and served in the most traditional sense in the Dora Milaje. Though prepared to be a concubine to the king, as the tradition dictated, the change to a more sisterly role never became an issue for her. In addition, she chose to only speak in the Hausa dialect when addressing Black Panther.
This language became the standard for members of the Dora Milaje, used only to talk to the king or other members of the Dora Milaje.
9 Nakia's Obsession With T'Challa Made Her A Villian
Nakia, on the other hand, never accepted her limited role as part of the Dora Milaje. Early on, she developed a crush on T’Challa and wanted to act on her feelings for him.
Hailing from the Q'Noma Valley of Wakanda, she debuted alongside Okoye in the 1990s. Over time, her feelings for her king grew until, one day, her crush turned into an obsession. While under the influence of Mephisto in Black Panther vol 3 issue #3, T’Challa kissed Nakia. Her feelings for him turned to unbridled jealousy as she attempted to kill his then-fiancée Monica Lynne and lied about her death.
Disgusted by her actions, Black Panther banished her from the group and his kingdom.
After leaving, she was tortured by his enemy, Achebe, for some time. Later she was rescued by another enemy, Eric Killmonger, who trained her to be his protégé, the new villain Malice.
8 Two Dora Milaje, Ayo and Aneka, fell in love
Aneka served as the trainer for the Dora Milaje to prepare them for the Doomwar. However, her time with the group was cut short due to her activities outside of the tribe. Back in her village, a noted chieftain regularly victimized the women in the community. Unable to stomach his crimes any longer, she killed him. She was ceremoniously stripped of her title with the group and arrested for her crimes.
Her fellow Dora Milaje member Ayo tried to speak up on her behalf at her trial, but she remained sentenced to death. The two women loved each other profoundly and were romantically involved. Ayo could not bear to see her love wrongly imprisoned.
Ayo freed Aneka from capture, and they escaped together.
As they were both exiled from the Dora Milaje, they formed the elite warrior group the Midnight Angels.
7 The Midnight Angels Helped Deadpool Take Down Doctor Doom
Despite being formally removed from the Dora Milaje, the Midnight Angels remained a close ally to both Black Panther and the people of Wakanda. During the events of the 5-issue Doomwar comics, Doctor Doom managed to steal all of the Vibranium from Wakanda.
Unable to recover the resources, Black Panther decided to hire the group of vigilantes to assist Deadpool in his mission. They officially debuted in Marvel Comics in Doomwar vol 1, issue #5. Since Doom had control over any items containing Vibranium, the elite group created armor that did not contain the valuable metal.
Led by Teela, the head of the Midnight Angels, the team helped in the battle against the villain at the Symkarian and Latverian. Though tasked with killing Doom, along with Deadpool, the team assisted in defeating him without shedding any blood.
6 Queen Divine Justice Didn't Know About Her Wakandan Heritage
Queen Divine Justice, aka Chante Giovanni Brown, came from the outlawed Jabari tribe. Known for worshipping the White Gorilla, her tribe became the main rivals for the Panther tribe to claim the Black Panther title. Their best warrior, Man-Ape, was considered the second strongest warrior in the country next to Black Panther.
The conflict between the two tribes led to her parents being killed in their fight for power.
Under the guise as the granddaughter of one of T’Challa’s warriors, she moved to Chicago without knowing her true heritage. Once Nakia lost her spot with the Dora Milaje, Queen Divine Justice became the next candidate to take her place. In fact, Black Panther came to Chicago personally to invite her to take her place in his guard and bring further resolve to the two tribes’ conflict.
5 T'Challa attacked Queen Divine Justice
Queen Divine Justice’s time living in a platonic position in the Dora Milaje soon left her vulnerable to seek affection elsewhere. During her time in the post, she fell in love with Vibraxas. In order to pursue her interest in him, she kept the truth of her Dora Milaje position a secret. Once revealed, a new battle ensued between the Jabari and the Panther Tribe.
Instigated by attacks from a revived Man-Ape, Black Panther fell into a state of hallucinations and despair. He attempted to wipe out the Jabari tribe in a fit of anger, including almost killing Queen Divine after Justice mistaking her for Magneto. After realizing his grave error, he freed her to pursue a life with Vibraxas and gave up his powers as king.
With the council now in charge of his tribe, Black Panther left for New York to reflect on his life.
4 They Learned Specialized Techniques To Battle Doctor Doom
The Dora Milaje became involved in the battle against Doctor Doom during the events of the Dark Reign arc. However, their first encounter with Doctor Doom turned out detrimental to the team. After two members of the group died in battle, the women became heartbroken and suffered due to the loss.
At the time, T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, held the title of Black Panther after a failed assassination attempt on her brother failed. She decided to better prepare them for the battle with a more specialized fighting technique. Focused on countering Doom’s technology and magical abilities, the Dora Milaje prepared for their inevitable rematch against the villain.
Armed with enhanced armor and improved fighting techniques, Shuri and her warriors were ready to face their enemy once again.
3 They Left T'Challa For Queen Shuri During The Infinity Wars
The Dora Milaje lived to serve the king of Wakanda with no hesitation. They dedicated their lives to Black Panther and the protection of Wakanda. Though a few members have been removed from their position, most of the warriors maintained their membership in the group. However, their dedication to their king wavered during the events of the Infinity War storyline.
In New Avengers vol 3 issue #12, the Dora Milaje questioned why Black Panther had not come to the assistance of Wakanda during the battle. Unbeknownst to them, his mission with the Illuminati required secrecy from even his own people. However, after claiming his focus on Necropolis and the fight there were deemed more important, they broke their spears in defiance of their king.
His sister, Queen Shuri, then banished him from the kingdom and took the Dora Milaje under her watch instead.
2 Their Concubine History Was Removed From The Black Panther Movie
The introduction of Ayo into the MCU in Captain America: Civil War led many fans to believe that the full Dora Milaje would finally make their onscreen debut. Though fans loved the idea of these elite warriors being included in the Black Panther mythos, some were hesitant given their unsettling history.
Though, in the comics, T’Challa did not indulge in the concubine aspect of the group, this tradition still sullied the otherwise revered group of women. We reported earlier this year that Black Panther director Ryan Coogler decided against including this sour part of their history in the new movie.
Producer Nate Moore shared explained that the concubine element was “… part of the original Christopher Priest run where they were all betrothed which we felt wasn’t necessary to tell the story of the Dora and in a way we all kind of rejected as being a little creepy.”
1 Ayo and Okoye's relationship was deleted from Black Panther
The romance between members Ayo and Aneka became the focus of the World of Wakanda comic book series. Written by Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey, the series explored their first meeting and their lives together as former members of the team. A similar relationship almost formed in the Black Panther movie between Ayo and Okoye.
Screencrush reported that “in the rough cut of this Black Panther scene, we see [Danai] Gurira’s Okoye and [Florence] Kasumba’s Ayo swaying rhythmically back in formation with the rest of their team. Okoye eyes Ayo flirtatiously for a long time as the camera pans in on them. Eventually, she says, appreciatively and appraisingly, ‘You look good.’ Ayo responds in kind. Okoye grins and replies, ‘I know.’”
Unfortunately, the scene never made it into the film and was cut entirely. Hopefully, their relationship will be introduced and explored in future MCU films.
Do you have any other Dora Milaje to share from Black Panther? Let us know in the comments!