After nearly fifty years, the iconic Marvel hero Black Panther finally took to the big screen in his own solo movie, bringing the rich mythology of Wakanda and a strong supporting cast with him. As one of the few successful early Marvel titles to go this long without adaptation, Black Panther is truly something that fans have been waiting a lifetime for.
However, because the hero has only made guest appearances in various animated series and a stunning live-action debut in Civil War previous to the movie, many people probably aren’t as familiar with the world of Black Panther as they are with most of the other Marvel characters who they’ve come to know so well.
Because of this, we’ll be bringing you up to speed with everything you need to know about the movie’s villain, Erik Killmonger. As one of Black Panther’s most deadly enemies, Killmonger is a constant rival, challenging T’Challa on every level.
For die-hard Black Panther fans, Killmonger is seen as the Panther’s true arch-rival, and it's time to take a look at why this is.
With that said, here are the 15 Things You Didn't Know About Black Panther's Killmonger.
15 He Once Successfully Became the Black Panther
The movies show that Killmonger has his own, slightly golden version of the Black Panther suit. Not only did this happen in the comics, but Killmonger actually successfully became the Panther after seizing control of the country with the help of Everett Ross.
He even tried to take over T’Challa’s status as a member of the Avengers after taking on the mantle of Black Panther, but he had a reaction to the herb that he needed to consume to complete a ritual.
It turned out that the herb was poisonous to all but the royal bloodline of Wakanda.
Though it would have been easy to allow him to die, T’Challa helped to cleanse the poison from his system, allowing Killmonger to recover while still holding his status over Wakanda.
14 He Has a Child Who Also Swears Revenge on Black Panther
After T’Challa reclaimed his position as King of Wakanda, as well as the mantle of Black Panther, Killmonger sought control of the neighboring country of Niganda.
Taking total control of a nearby country would, after all, allow him a permanent position from which to keep his eye on the Wakandan throne. This action led, naturally, to a fight between Black Panther and Killmonger. During the battle, Killmonger was defeated by Monica Rambeau.
In the past, Rambeau has taken the Captain Marvel name, and has also gone by the alias Photon. In this story, she had previously been captured and imprisoned by Killmonger before breaking free and destroying him.
At the end of the story, Killmonger’s young son swears revenge on the Black Panther, just as Killmonger had done after the death of his own father, and much like T’Challa himself had done after his father’s death as well.
13 He Hates Klaw Almost As Much as Black Panther
Although in Black Panther we saw Killmonger team up with Ulysses Klaw, that’s a departure from the source material in some ways. In the comics, Killmonger’s father was forced into working as a mercenary for Klaw, which eventually ended his life.
While Killmonger placed much of his hatred toward the Wakandan royal bloodline, Klaw was the one directly responsible for his father’s death.
After losing his father and being exiled to America, Killmonger vowed revenge against both Black Panther and Klaw.
He held both T'Challa and Klaw accountable for the tragedy.
Though, Black Panther appeared to show some semblance of guilt, even though he was not truly responsible, Klaw has never seemed to show much of any guilt over the event at all.
12 He Framed Iron Man and War Machine for the Murder of Black Panther
During a point in T’Challa’s rule, his fellow Avengers Tony Stark and James Rhodes came to visit Wakanda, only for Rhodes to be taken captive by Madam Slay. Killmonger, meanwhile, fought Black Panther and even appeared to have ended his life.
He blamed the death of Black Panther on the outsiders, Iron Man and War Machine, who represented everything of the war-profiteering world outside Wakanda that Killmonger believed to be such a threat to the Wakandan way of life.
Killmonger rallied citizens against Iron Man and War Machine, convincing them that these heroes had caused the death of the king. Of course, Black Panther returned to thwart Killmonger’s plans, revealing that his death had been faked via an LMD.
Black Panther fought and defeated Killmonger, then saw to it that his Avenger allies were set free.
11 He Created a Synthetic Version of the Herb That Gives Black Panther His Powers
Determined to be T’Challa’s equal in every way, Killmonger found a way to give himself the abilities of the Black Panther so that he could prove himself a better fit for the position.
As he could not obtain the herb naturally, Killmonger put his genius-level intellect to use.
He created a synthetic version of the herb that traditionally gives the Black Panther their powers and used it on himself so that he could truly stand toe-to-toe with T’Challa.
This is something that could have been borrowed for the movie. However, though a story could have been used that saw Killmonger reproduce an artificial version the herb in the film, this didn't end up happening on-screen. Instead, he was able to use the natural herb.
10 T’Challa Once Saved His Life
Despite their extreme hatred for one another, Killmonger once found his life in T’Challa’s hands. Poisoned by the herb, Killmonger was dying and there was nothing that he could do to stop it, not even with all of his skill.
The herb that he had taken was poisonous to all but Wakanda’s royal bloodline. At this time, Killmonger had even successfully become a leader of Wakanda, totally taking it over and even becoming the Black Panther.
This made it all the more tragic for him, but also all the more frustrating for T’Challa. Letting Killmonger die would have been easy and would have allowed him to take back the Black Panther title, but he instead chose to save his enemy’s life, though things were not much different between the two of them after this heroic effort.
9 He Formed An Alliance With White Tiger
After awakening from a coma and reclaiming his then-successful position as a major leader in Wakanda, Killmonger went to New York to seek an alliance with Kasper Cole, who was using the Black Panther alias at the time.
Killmonger offered to help Cole save his kidnapped son so that Cole would owe him a favor. His one condition would be that Cole would have to drop the Black Panther moniker and take up the White Tiger identity instead.
He even gave Cole a synthetic version of the Black Panther herb, much like the one that Killmonger himself used.
While Cole agreed to the name change and the boost in power, he used those new powers to track his son down and save him on his own so that he would avoid having to always be indebted to Kilmonger for saving his son.
8 He Blames T’Challa For His Father’s Death
When Killmonger’s father was pressured into working with the villain Ulysses Klaw, it was an uneasy alliance that wound up leading to the end of his life.
After Klaw fled the country, T’Challa ordered for the family to be exiled, planting the seeds for Killmonger’s deep hatred for the Wakandan King, which would last the rest of his life. He believed that it was weakness on the part of former king T’Chaka that led to allowing his parents to even be killed in the first place.
Even as he studied in the States and earned a PhD in Engineering from MIT, Killmonger did everything with the thought of one day returning to Wakanda and seeking vengeance.
The death of his father and his own banishment from his native country were the first two— of many— reasons that Killmonger would find for hating Black Panther.
7 He Has Never Appeared Before in Live Action or Animation
One of the most surprising and exciting things about Killmonger ahead of the movie is the fact that the character has never really appeared before outside of the comics.
While Black Panther has appeared in many cartoons over the years, making his live-action debut in Civil War, his bitter rival has never really followed him into those waters.
Killmonger never even appeared in the Black Panther motion comic miniseries that was released along with Astonishing X-Men and Iron Man: Extremis as a part of the Marvel Knights brand.
Currently, the only other appearance by Killmonger outside of the movie is in the Lego Marvel games.
He has appeared in both Lego Marvel’s Avengers and Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, and is a playable character in both. He has also appeared in the iOS game Marvel: Future Fight.
6 He Had an Alliance and a Romantic Relationship With Villainess Madam Slay
After a brief stint under the Mandarin’s control, Killmonger returned to his lover, Madam Slay. As another longtime Black Panther villain, Madam Slay’s primary ability was to command leopards, which she used to slaughter leopard poachers.
This drew her into combat with Black Panther. She and Killmonger naturally bonded over their mutual hatred for T’Challa, as well as their motives, as they both believed themselves to stand for their country and their people.
During her first encounter with Black Panther, Madam Slay successfully captured him, though he found a way to break free. With her powers and cunning abilities, mixed with Killmonger’s tactical mind, the two of them form a deadly duo that always finds a way to make life difficult for the King of Wakanda.
5 He Believes Wakanda is Infected by “White Colonialist” Influence
Part of the allure of Wakanda is that it is a thriving African nation that has never been colonized. For Killmonger, though, that has never been anything but an illusion.
While Wakanda itself might not be colonized, Killmonger believes that the influence has spread deeply through the nation and its cities.
He thinks that this is due largely to T’Challa’s frequent international adventures with the Avengers.
For both Killmonger and Madam Slay, their goals have always been returning Wakanda to its former glory and its ancient ways, before the technical revolution and long before they started dealing natural resources like Vibranium to the rest of the world.
Killmonger, like Black Panther, went to school outside Wakanda, but he developed a different, more exclusionary view of the rest of the world, having seen enough to believe that the rest of the globe cannot be trusted.
4 He’s a Perfect Match for Black Panther in Both Skill and Intellect
Even though Killmonger does not always have the herb that gives him the power of the Black Panther, he is a perfect rival for T’Challa in virtually every other way.
His physical prowess is akin to an Olympic athlete. He has a genius intellect that he regularly uses in coming up with his schemes to infiltrate and even invade Wakanda in order to prove his claim to the throne.
Like T’Challa, he has lived and studied in the US, though he was banished there and showed contempt for the arrogance of the outside world. Both he and T'Challa were set on their current path by the loss of their father.
There are so many parallels between the two of them that they should have been great allies, but instead they were affected by these events in their lives in completely different ways.
3 He Has Died Before
Easily the most shocking thing that has happened to Erik Killmonger would have to be his death. Obviously, it was not permanent. If anything, death is a sort of rite of passage for characters in the Marvel Universe.
It’s something that they all go through at some point or another. In this case, Killmonger was repatriated back to Wakanda after finishing his degree at MIT.
He settled in a small village, which would change its name to N’Jadaka Village in his honor.
Seeing that Black Panther frequently abandoned his post to go on international adventures with the Avengers, Killmonger saw the opportunity to stage a coup in the hero’s absence. He sided with Baron Macabre, but his efforts were futile and he was defeated.
2 He Studied in America and Graduated from MIT
Much like T’Challa himself, Killmonger spent his much of his formative years at school in the US, rather than in Wakanda. Born under the name N’Jadaka, his father was pressured into working for mercenary Ulysses Klaw, which led to his father’s life ending and his whole family being exiled from Wakanda.
His family wound up in New York, in Harlem, where Killmonger grew up nursing a hatred for Black Panther.
That didn’t stop him from focusing on his studies, though. Killmonger has a genius level intellect, which he proved early on by pursuing his college education at MIT. Even when he graduated, his ultimate goal was avenging his father, which he believed Black Panther to be responsible for.
1 He Was Resurrected by The Mandarin
After Killmonger’s death, his body was claimed by none other than The Mandarin. The ancient villain used the power of his ten rings to restore Killmonger to life, so that he would be indebted to his savior.
After coming back, Killmonger immediately reunited with Madam Slay and sought to restore Wakanda to its ancient ways, as had always been their plan.
Naturally, Black Panther and Killmonger wound up clashing again.
When Killmonger was defeated on that occasion, though, The Mandarin revoked his ring and Killmonger immediately returned to an inanimate skeleton.
Later, Killmonger would be resurrected once again by his loyal followers who believed in his cause to restore Wakanda. This resurrection would last much longer and he would continue to do battle with Black Panther again and again.
Can you think of any other interesting facts about Black Panther's Killmonger? Sound off in the comments and let us know!