If you’re one of millions around the world who already saw Black Panther, you’ve had an introduction to the character M’Baku, brought to life on the big screen for the first time.
Winston Duke stole every scene he was in right out from under the other actors, which is no small feat when you have the likes of Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett in the frame. Everyone wants to know more about his character M’Baku.
The M’Baku of Marvel comics is very different than the M’Baku that recently debuted in live action. He made his comic book debut in 1969 in an issue of The Avengers as one of the many warriors inhabiting Wakanda. Introduced as an antagonist for Wakanda’s king T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman on screen), M’Baku has since had a long history of getting in the king’s way.
M’Baku is very much the kind of character who does things his way, and only his way, which is why he finds himself so often at odds with the royal family. It’s also why he often finds himself working with unsavory characters.
At his core, though, he does love Wakanda and its traditions, which translated to the big screen. Even though they were enemies in the comics, he warned T’Challa when the country would be in danger. That sounds more like a frenemy than a supervillain.
For those who want to learn all they can about Black Panther’s greatest frenemy, we’ve got the 16 Things You Didn’t Know About Black Panther's M’Baku.
16 He And T’Challa Are Related
They might not be related in the normal Earth-616 continuity of Marvel comics, but a universe does exist where M’Baku and T’Challa aren’t just relatives, but brothers.
In Marvel’s Ultimate universe, the comic book characters readers know and love are very different. Black Widow is a traitor, Quicksilver has more than brotherly love for Scarlet Witch, and Captain America masqueraded as Black Panther for a time.
In that universe, Black Panther is also a product of the Weapon X program, though his brother M’Baku is not.
M’Baku was T’Challa’s older brother. When T’Challa suffered a severe injury, failing his Black Panther challenge, their father sent him to Weapon X for experimental help, which turned him into a superhero. M’Baku, jealous and angry that his father didn’t give him the same opportunities, left Wakanda to strike out on his own.
15 Captain America Defeated Him
Black Panther might be the hero who M’Baku tangles with most often in the comics, but he’s not the only one. M’Baku spent quite a bit of time going up against the Avengers as a group while working with other villains.
The Avenger that M’Baku tangled with most seemed to be Captain America. Perhaps this was because he was one of the few Avengers without extraordinary powers, but it also might have been because Black Panther and Captain America developed something of a friendship, crossing over in each others’ stories.
During his second big story arc, M’Baku lured the Avengers into a trap, attempting to get the upper hand for the Lethal Legion and get his revenge on Black Panther. It was Captain America who confronted him -- multiple times -- and eventually took him down, not the Black Panther.
14 He Won’t Be Man-Ape In The MCU
For most of the character’s comic book appearances, M’Baku doesn’t use his given name, but instead his supervillain name of Man-Ape. That won’t be happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
M’Baku is a member of the Jabari tribe in Wakanda, a group that worships an ape god. M’Baku took that a step farther than most when he because a supervillain and began calling himself Man-Ape.
He actually dressed himself up as a white gorilla, the same animal that gave him his superhuman strength.
In the '60s, when he debuted, comic book writers and artists might not have taken into account the racist implications of that look, but creative minds today are more conscious of it, giving M’Baku a more grounded look for the Black Panther movie.
The closest the movie comes is M'Baku donning a gorilla mask for a fight, or Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) referring to him as the "Great Gorilla."
13 He Ruled In T’Challa’s Stead
Though he later became one of T’Challa’s best known antagonists, when M’Baku was first introduced, he was holding a leadership position in Wakanda. While T’Challa was away in the United States working as an Avenger, someone had to rule the country.
In 1969, Marvel Comics hadn’t yet introduced most of T’Challa’s extended family. So, someone like Shuri wouldn’t be left to rule in his stead until the 2000s. Why M’Baku? He was one of the highest ranking members of T’Challa’s royal guard.
Not only did M’Baku have extensive formal military training in Wakanda, but he was also second only to T’Challa in his combat skills. In a country that allowed warriors to challenge leaders to trials by combat in order to gain a position, that meant he was essentially next in line to lead.
M’Baku used his brief time in charge to attempt to usurp the throne.
12 He Will Return In Avengers: Infinity War
Audience members who can’t get enough of M’Baku won’t have to wait too long to see him again. Instead of waiting to hear about a release date for a second Black Panther film, fans will get to see him again in just a few months.
Avengers: Infinity War is the next big Marvel movie to hit theaters. The movie is so big that it unites many heroes from the franchise who haven’t yet met in one epic showdown with the villain Thanos.
Trailers for the movie have already demonstrated that some of the action will be back in Black Panther’s home of Wakanda.
Most of the cast will return for the fight. Just how Winston Duke’s M’Baku will be involved remains to be seen, but we know he’ll play a role in the events of the movie.
11 He Won’t Work With Racist Villains
In many comic book stories, when a villain starts working with a more powerful villain, they put up with a lot of abuse just to achieve their goal. M’Baku didn’t.
In the '70s and '80s, M’Baku popped up in comics as a member of the Lethal Legion. Though he was a supervillain in his own right, he was more like a henchman for the Grim Reaper during his time with the Legion. The Reaper, however, didn’t exactly take kindly to modified humans.
He especially took issue with the likes of Vision, a synthetic human whom he considered to be lesser. Eventually, M’Baku and other villains working with the Reaper had enough of his constant barrage of hate towards anyone who didn’t fit his idea of the perfect human specimen. They left his team in the middle of a fight, leaving him to clean up his own mess.
10 He Belonged To The Pan African Congress
Before Civil War broke out on the page, those in power in the Marvel Comics universe attempted to figure out how to react to the Superhero Registration Act -- and that meant leaders all over the world familiarized themselves with it.
The Act required those heroes who worked as vigilantes and hid their identities from the public to register with their government and no longer keep their identity a secret. On the one hand, it would give the government more control over the damages. Then on the other, it meant that no one who had special abilities could be anonymous anymore.
On the African continent, tribal leaders met to discuss the ramifications of the act in a Pan African Congress.
M’Baku attended as the leader of the Jabari tribe, despite his usual villain status. Unfortunately, none of the leaders could agree on a course of action before the events of Civil War unfolded.
9 His Strength Comes From A Gorilla
M’Baku is a powerful warrior without any mystical help. With military training thanks to his time in Wakanda’s royal militia, he knows how to hold his own in a fight against even the Black Panther. To give himself an edge though, he took one outlawed step further.
In Wakanda, a group of White Gorillas were protected animals. It was illegal for anyone to kill them. As a member of the Jabari tribe, M’Baku had quite the affinity for gorillas, but that didn’t stop him from making the decision to complete a ritual that involved killing one of the animals, bathing in its blood, and eating its meat.
The act gave him the strength and stamina of the gorilla, but it also made him an outlaw in his own country.
8 T’Challa Banished Him From Wakanda
Following M’Baku’s first major story arc, T’Challa believed that his former enemy was dead. M’Baku previously broke Wakandan laws by killing a White Gorilla and trying to take over the country in the King’s absence. A Panther statue fell on him, and T’Challa left him for dead.
M’Baku, however, wasn’t dead, but left Wakanda for America to bide his time, find a group of villains to work with, and find another way to take on T’Challa.
He decided to kidnap T’Challa’s American girlfriend to lure his enemy into a trap.
In the end, the Avengers came to Black Panther’s aid during the fight, and T’Challa didn’t give his enemy a second chance. He banished him from Wakanda. There was no promise of imprisonment if he returned either, but an order of execution.
7 T’Challa Invited Him To His Wedding
Though M’Baku is often an antagonist for T’Challa, the two can set aside their differences for celebrations. In fact, T’Challa invited M’Baku to his wedding to X-Man Storm.
T’Challa previously broke off engagements to other women in the comics, and it seemed the King of Wakanda would never find his queen. One storyline revealed that he and Ororo Munroe met as children, and they reconnected years later. When the duo married, it was a star studded affair.
Amongst guests at the wedding were members of the Avengers and X-Men, including the likes of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Spider-Man. M’Baku thought he wouldn’t receive an invite to the event, but he did. He actually spent time at the reception nearly getting into a fight with Spider-Man while Jessica and Luke watched them.
6 He Became King
M’Baku might not have had his chance to take over Wakanda in the comics, but he did get the chance in animation. For The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, he became King as he worked with the villain Klaw.
M’Baku challenged King T’Chaka for the right to rule the country.
During their trial by combat, M’Baku not only beat the king, but killed him. As M’Baku took over the country, T’Chaka’s son T’Challa left, donning the Black Panther habit, and working to fight the villains taking over.
M’Baku’s work with Klaw involved stripping Wakanda of its vibranium resources. He had it mined with the intention of selling it to Hydra to make himself and Klaw wealthy. Eventually, Black Panther and Captain America stopped him.
5 He Has A Twitter Emoji
Prior to the debut of the movie in theaters, many of the main characters received twitter emojis thanks to a partnership between Marvel Studios and the social media site. All fans had to do was place a hashtag before a character name in their tweets to see it. #MBaku didn’t initially have one.
Characters like T’Challa, Shuri, Nakia, and Okoye, who appear in most of the big action sequences in the movie, all had their own twitter emojis to coincide with social media chatter. As fans flocked to social media following screenings, they were disappointed to find that M’Baku, who was such a scene stealer, didn’t have one.
Winston Duke, who played the character in the movie for his and M’Baku’s feature film debut, announced the addition of the emoji himself. Once he did, his character made the list of top trending topics -- for several hours.
4 A DC Actor Auditioned For The Role
Black Panther marks the first big screen venture for Winston Duke, who went on several callbacks following his initial audition for M’Baku. He wasn’t the only comic book movie actor who vied for the part though.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II also auditioned for the role of M’Baku, and the actor must be very interested in antagonist roles right now.
Though M’Baku isn’t the villain of the movie, he is a super villain in the comics, and Abdul-Mateen ended up landing another supervillain role in a DC property not long after. He’s appearing as Black Manta in Aquaman -- also that character’s big screen debut.
It might have been fate for Duke, though, who was involved in a club at Yale University that was started by Angela Bassett (Queen Ramonda) where he starred in a play written by John Kani (King T’Chaka), and saw The Avengers with Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia).
3 He Is A Vegetarian
He might have consumed gorilla meat in the comics, but on the big screen, M’Baku is all about the fruits and vegetables.
In the movie, M’Baku has a moment where he jokes about feeding people to his children before revealing his people are vegetarians. While many in the audience thought that line was simply played for laughs, Winston Duke revealed in interviews that M’Baku really is a vegetarian. It makes the character seem like quite the gentle giant, even though he can be quite intimidating.
It does make fans ask a few questions about the Jabari tribe, though. If they’re vegetarians, why exactly were they sending fisherman to the river? Why are they wearing gorilla pelts in their scenes? Hopefully, we’ll learn more in future installments of the Black Panther movies.
2 His Chants Were Winston Duke’s Idea
M’Baku’s original Man-Ape of the comics is viewed by many today as a racist caricature. Winston Duke had a different take on the character. He believed that since Wakanda had never been colonized, its people wouldn't take shame from things outsiders would associate with them.
Instead, they would take pride in the gorillas that they loved so much. That thought led to him to pitch an idea for his character.
When M’Baku and the Jabari tribe first emerge in Wakanda, they announce their presence by making grunting and barking noises like a chant. Writers modeled that technique after gorillas announcing their presence. Duke took that idea a step further for a later scene in the movie.
It was his idea to have the chant become a response to outsiders speaking without permission. In the wild, gorillas will make loud noises and beat their chests to get others to back down.
1 He Speaks Differently Than Wakandans
In the comics, residents of Wakanda have their own distinct language. That makes sense with the country being isolated from the rest of the world. In the Black Panther movie, that’s not exactly the case. Speech patterns and language still played an important role in characterization.
Those characters who live in Wakanda proper -- T’Challa, Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, etc. -- speak with an influence from South Africa. The South African language Xhosa is even used as the language of the people. M’Baku and his Jabari people, away from the city centers in their own isolated mountain home, speak differently.
Winston Duke explained in interviews that he studied Nigerian languages to influence his speech. He specifically focused on Igbo, which served to differentiate him from the rest of the main cast. Though his character didn’t speak Igbo in the movie, he utilized the rhythm of the language to inform his accent.
Did you learn anything knew about Black Panther's M’Baku? Or were you already an M’Baku expert? Let us know if we missed anything fans should know in the comments!
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