Premiering in 1966’s Fantastic Four #52, Black Panther was the first black superhero to ever appear in mainstream comics. While he doesn’t hold that title for the screen, Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther will be one of the most important and unique blockbusters to ever come to theaters.
After a show-stealing debut in Captain America: Civil War, King T’Challa's story will be told next February, as audiences are offered a look into the uncanny nation of Wakanda and its mix of modern technology and ancient customs. From everything we’ve heard, Black Panther won’t be anything like a typical superhero film. From its setting to its cast, the film will stand out as a true landmark in tentpole filmmaking.
With a vast history and cast of characters, Black Panther will easily be able to spin out its own franchise, highlighting a world unlike anything we’ve seen before on screen. And if the social media buzz surrounding the movie is any indication, Marvel may be setting itself up for its biggest hit yet.
Despite being in the early days of production, we’ve still learned a lot about the movie. Here’s Every Update You Need To Know.
17 An African Blockbuster
Marvel has grown and expanded its roster of heroes and villains over the years, stretching them out across the world and universe. Still, it can be almost absurd at times how many characters operate out of New York City and other big metropolitan areas in the Western world. As such, it’s a rare treat whenever a comic or hero are based in an entirely different location and culture. Black Panther is certainly the preeminent example of this, thanks to his strong ties to Africa.
Though his nation may be fictional, much of the culture and surrounding areas are quite real. The comic has long served as a window into a place rarely represented in genre media, and Black Panther has allowed generations of people to see themselves in a superhero.
As such, it was heartening to hear that much of the cast would be a largely black cast, and some of the filming would even take place on the continent. We even recently heard the film described as an “African blockbuster,” a phrase that’s likely never been uttered about a Hollywood tentpole.
A story is only as interesting as its settings and characters, and Wakanda and its people look to be truly unique on both fronts.
16 Tribal and Technological
More than just representing the people and culture of Africa, Black Panther’s story is deeply tied to his fictional country of Wakanda. In the comics, Wakanda sits on a vast deposit of the precious metal Vibranium. Left long ago by a meteor strike, the ore is one of the most powerful and rare in the world.
Incorporated both into Black Panther’s suit and Captain America’s shield, vibranium is nearly unbreakable and can absorb vibrations and energy itself. This has not only led to Wakanda being the most technologically advanced society in the world, but also one that has isolated itself from the rest of the world to protect its assets.
This has also led the more tribal culture of its past to seamlessly blend with its more modern technological side, which it developed long before other nations. We don’t know how much of this will factor into the film, but hints show it’ll all be present. Recent concept art teased the techno-tribal hybrid design of Wakanda, and King T’Chaka states in Civil War that the nation has long been separated from the rest of the planet.
Hopefully, the movie will show us a nation that looks like it’s of another world and is far beyond what even Tony Stark has developed.
15 The Story Picks Up After Civil War
Thanks to the character’s lengthy introduction in Civil War, Black Panther won’t be the typical superhero origin story. Naturally, we’ll dive into his past, but much of the movie will focus on the fallout from last year’s big events. For one, T’Challa’s father is dead, so he’ll be spending some of the film in mourning. And to make matters more complicated, his father’s death means he’s now the king of the Wakanda. Rather than see him gain powers for the first time and start fighting crime, T’Challa’s origin will be about him learning to rule and also finding out what it means to hold the mantle of the Black Panther.
Wakanda’s break from isolationism will also have ramifications. The mission in Lagos was one of goodwill, but it led to many deaths. This could convince a number of Wakandas that they should remain closed off from other societies. Others still will likely see it as a call to war. T’Challa will have to contend with all of these factions. In another connection Civil War, however, he’ll have a little help, as Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross is all set to return and bring his surly government man to the new king’s aid.
14 Still Chasing Cars
Even before Civil War premiered, one of the standout moments from the movie was clearly the car/foot chase between Black Panther, Winter Soldier, and Captain America. In the movie, it’s our first introduction to the mysterious cat-themed vigilante. It also shows the skills and raw power of everyone involved. It’s a fascinating action scene, and highlights the agility and cunning of the Panther. Though he gets in plenty of action later on, this whole sequence is basically a trailer for Black Panther.
It looks as if dogs aren’t the only ones who love chasing cars, because the new film will see Panther once again hopping across vehicles during a high-speed chase. We’ve known for awhile the movie would shoot in South Korea, but a recent set video showed us that location would serve as the scene for another chance to see Panther sink his claws into the roof of a car.
It’s not clear whether this will be repurposed as somewhere in Wakanda, or if the Panther will be globetrotting in the film, but if it’s half as good as the chase from Civil War, it’ll be well worth it.
13 The Winter Soldier May Return
Marvel has a fine line to walk with Black Panther. On the one hand, it’s clear that whatever happens in the movie will impact the MCU, given Wakanda’s technological weight and T’Challa’s connection to the Avengers. It’s also the last movie we’ll see before Infinity War, meaning Marvel are likely to set up the event in some small way. Still, they’ve been smart in the past to know when a movie should connect and when it should stand on its own. With Black Panther, there’s a whole new world to explore, and Marvel would be wise to keep the story as focused on T’Challa and Wakanda as possible.
That said, we know some familiar faces will be popping up and a major one is actually in Wakanda at the moment. Civil War ended with the Winter Soldier on ice and Cap telling T’Challa that it may create political friction for the country given his fugitive status. Therefore, we could see Bucky play into the movie, or even his presence serve as the reason Ross shows up.
Things could go either way, but here’s hoping Bucky stays on ice until at least the tag of the film. This will allow him to show up for Infinity War, but not step on anyone’s toes during Black Panther.
12 Klaue Is Back
Though we didn’t meet Black Panther until Civil War, many thought the character would show up in Age of Ultron. After all, a big chunk of the film involves the hunt for Vibranium. It also mentions Wakanda and takes a trip to Africa. The biggest connection, however, came in the form of Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue. In the comics, Klaue is a South African mercenary, arms dealer, and one of T’Challa’s greatest foes. In fact, he actually killed King T’Chaka.
The MCU are diminishing his role a bit, but he’ll still be turning up in the new movie. He doesn’t look to be the main villain, but we can expect Serkis to return in the future, given his rising star. We may even see the seeds sown for the character’s more supervillainous form, Klaw. In the comics, he eventually gains control over sound; a handy weapon to use against a Vibranium-wielding hero. Though his bizarre speaker cone hand will likely never appear in the MCU, we could see him gaining powers at some point.
11 An All-Star Cast
Aside from Serkis and Boseman, the cast of Black Panther may just be the greatest one Marvel has ever assembled. Not only is it astonishing that a massive blockbuster and superhero film will feature a predominantly black cast, the talent assembled is a mix of some of Hollywood’s greatest performers and some of the industry’s biggest rising stars. Angela Bassett will portray T’Challa’s mother, a prominent figure in the comics. Forest Whitaker will be jumping from Star Wars to Marvel to play T’Challa’s uncle and advisor Zuri.
The rest of the cast will be rounded out by Sterling K. Brown, Letitia Wright, Michael B. Jordan, The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o, and Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya. Marvel’s name alone would have made this film a hit, but the unique world and stellar cast could make it the studio’s biggest solo film yet. While some mystery remains about a few of the characters, we’ve learned the identities of a number of them, which we’ll dive into more below.
10 Killmonger: Was Murder Merchant Taken?
Hopefully, Jessica Jones will someday meet Erik Killmonger so she can make a quip about his name. Of course, to do that, he’ll have to survive the movie, a tough feat for any Marvel villain. We hope he does, however, because the part will be played by Michael B. Jordan, and he’s an actor Marvel should want to hang onto for awhile.
In the movie, Killmonger will likely serve as the main villain. As is the Marvel way, he’s basically the evil version of T’Challa. He’s a genius, having studied at M.I.T., and a skilled warrior, possessing enhanced strength and senses. Hopefully, however, Marvel will make him captivating enough that we sympathize with him. He will likely lead a faction that opposes T’Challa’s rule, and the right balance could make his views seem just as rational as T’Challa’s.
He’s also got connections to Klaue, who is more or less responsible for Killmonger’s life being ruined and father being killed.
9 M’Baku: Another Political Rival
Killmonger and Klaue won’t be the only villains T’Challa has to contend with in the movie. Though we don’t yet know how he’ll be presented, Winston Duke of Person of Interest has been cast in the film as M’Baku. In the comics, he goes by the name Man-Ape and wears a costume to match. We have a hard time believing that a name that silly and potentially offensive will be used on screen, however. Instead, M’Baku will likely be set up as yet another political rival for T’Challa.
There’s a good chance he’ll work alongside Killmonger, possibly as his second-in-command. That said, it would be interesting to see the new king have to contend with a number of different political factions, all lead by sympathetic rogues. Just because M’Baku is an outright villain in the comics, doesn’t mean he’ll hold the same role in the movie. After all, Marvel have proven time and time again that they’re perfectly comfortable changing the origins of smaller characters to fit the larger narrative.
8 Ryan Coogler Is The Perfect Director
Aside from the incredible cast, the crew of the film will be something to behold. Leading them all is Ryan Coogler. Already a rising star thanks to his work on Fruitvale Station, his direction on Creed made him one of Hollywood’s next big things.
He wasn’t the first choice to helm Black Panther, however. Following her work on Selma, Ava DuVernay seemed like the best choice to tackle the film. While she was definitely interested, things ultimately didn’t work out. Instead, she’ll be helming A Wrinkle in Time for Disney, with Coogler taking lead on Black Panther. If Coogler was a big name before, he’ll be a titan following working with Marvel on what’s shaping up to be a massive hit. And for what it’s worth, DuVernay is over the moon about Coogler handling the project.
When asked for her thoughts on Coogler, she was emphatic with her support: “I mean, perfect for Ryan Coogler, a great friend of mine. He’s already killing it. Every time I talk to him I’m just blown away by some of the things that they’re talking about... I’m already in line actually; I’m not here, I’m in line for Black Panther already – so excited for it.”
7 There Will Be Flashbacks
One of the core aspects of Black Panther’s backstory that we’re still in the dark about is his intellect. In the comics, he’s one of the Marvel’s most intelligent characters, often working alongside other geniuses like Reed Richards and Tony Stark. Given the technological nature of Wakanda, many of the royalty have gifted minds, and education in science and technology is a big part of their upbringing. We’re assuming this will play into the films, but we haven’t had more than hints yet.
One clue is a recent report that the movie will feature flashbacks to T’Challa’s schooling abroad. In the comics, he spends big chunks of time in America and Europe studying to supplement his already considerable Wakandan education. Mostly focusing on biology, T’Challa’s schooling is a key part of his past. Hopefully, these reports point towards this plotline and we’ll get to see another aspect of T’Challa’s evolution.
6 Black Panther Is No Avenger
Black Panther may have fought alongside some of the Avengers in Civil War, and he’s done the same in the comics. But thugh he'll no doubt be involved with the fight against Thanos next year, he’s actually very different from the other heroes we’ve met so far. For one thing, he’s not exactly what you’d call a superhero. Sure, he has a costume and persona, but it’s less about fighting crime and more about serving as an emblem for and protector of his own people. T’Challa is a warrior and king above all else, and the new movie will focus on this facet.
We’ve also heard from Boseman that his character will be more of an antihero. That is certainly true in the comics. Though he’s always on the side of good, he’s not above breaking perceived rules and following his own path. Again, it’s all down to his loyalties. He represents Wakanda above all else, and whatever he deems is best for his nation will dictate his actions.
5 Better Representation
To say Black Panther will be a big deal is a bit of an understatement. Still, the cast and crew are all well-aware they're making something truly special in the realm of big budget films; a black superhero finally getting such a huge spotlight. While we’ve seen War Machine and Falcon rise to prominence in the MCU, and Luke Cage was fairly groundbreaking for TV, Black Panther will offer a huge portion of moviegoers a chance to see themselves as the hero of a fantastical story, something that’s still quite rare for black audiences.
Coogler has also made it clear that this will be a powerful movie for female characters as well. From the cast list alone, we can see just as many talented women as men are going to appear in the movie. Coogler said even more than that, however; they will factor into the culture of the movie’s setting. Wakanda is a nation based around a Panther Goddess, and the most skilled warriors who are designated to protect the king are an elite female guard. Add in T’Challa’s mother and sister, and women will play a vital role in the society and plot of the film.
4 The Dora Milaje
Known as “The Adored Ones,” the Dora Milaje are the elite guard of Wakanda. They protect the king with their lives, and are the nation’s most skilled warriors. The idea is already a unique one in the comics, but will further accent the movie’s focus on representation that sets it apart from the MCU movies that came before. We met the Dora Milaje briefly in Civil War, where T’Challa’s bodyguard Ayo was played by Florence Kasumba. She’ll be reprising her role in Black Panther, but there’s no word if her lover Aneka will appear. In the comics, they've recently been given a powerful arc and a book of their own thanks to the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The other two prominent members of the Dora Milaje from the comics are Okoye and Nakia. In the movie, Nakia will be played by Lupita Nyong’o, who will get the rare chance to perform stunts and tackle a more physical role. Okoye, meanwhile, will be played by Danai Gurira, who’s no stranger to portraying a powerful warrior thanks to her work on The Walking Dead.
Thanks to set photos and videos, we’ve already been treated to some glimpses of the Dora Milaje in action, and we know they’ll be key to the plot. Hopefully, a proper picture of the crew will be released soon, which will surely break the Internet.
3 Shuri, the Second Black Panther
Even more prominent than the Dora Milaje in the world of Wakanda is Shuri. The sister of T’Challa, Shuri is a powerful warrior and gifted leader. She also took control on the country following T’Challa’s absence and even donned the mantle of the Panther. Her arc in the comics as the Black Panther was an exciting one, and fans are hoping she’ll eventually take up the mantle alongside her brother on film.
For now, she’ll likely be serving a smaller, though still important, role in the film. It was recently confirmed that Letitia Wright’s role in the movie will be playing Shuri, giving the fan-favorite character a strong, up-and-coming performer. There’s no word on how exactly Shuri will factor into the plot or if we’ll see her outside of the Black Panther franchise, but comic fans will be eager to see her at least show her fighting prowess on screen.
She also has a bloody history with the Black Order, so it’s entirely possible she’ll appear in Infinity War to help fight them off.
2 Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Comics Will Inspire The Film
As stated previously, Ta-Nehisi Coates' time writing for Black Panther has expanded the role of the Dora Milaje. He’s also brought T’Challa back to his roots and explored the political unrest in Wakanda. Given his background as a journalist and his powerful writing in books like Between the World and Me, his ability to craft a compelling Black Panther story is hardly surprising. But with the close proximity of his tenure on the book to the development of the movie, many have wondered how much his take on the character will play into the film.
Though he won’t have anything personal to do with the production of the movie, Coogler has stated his work will influence the film. “But what he’s doing with Panther is just incredible. You can really see his background as a poet in some of the dialogue. And what Brian Stelfreeze is doing with the visuals in that book. And some of the questions that it’s asking. It’s just inspiring for [co-screenwriter] Joe Robert Cole and myself.”
1 We May See Previous Black Panthers
The passing of mantles in comics is a tale as old as the medium. Both heroes and villains regularly bequeath their names and personas to other characters—though they’re just as often stolen. The Black Panther, however, is more of a title than anything. Following the ruler of Wakanda, the Black Panther is a costume, name, and set of abilities that are passed from one protector to another. In the comics, this has not only been used to explore the Panthers of different eras, but T’Challa has regularly communicated with his predecessors.
The MCU has potentially altered this a bit, as King T’Chaka certainly didn’t look like someone who was running around a s a combatant. Likewise, T’Challa seemed to already be operating as the Black Panther. So though the title of ruler and that of the Panther may be separate in the movies, we may still see past versions of the warrior, according to Boseman. “There is definitely more of his origin in ‘Black Panther.’ You’re going to learn about Wakanda, its culture, its traditions, the past. You can go through all the comic books and know that there’s more Panthers that have existed in the past – that’s origin.”
What are you most excited to see when Black Panther premieres? Let us know in the comments.