T’Challa debuted in Marvel comics in 1966, not with a run of the mill superhero origin story, but as the king of an African nation called Wakanda.
In the 50 years since, he’s become an integral part of the Marvel comic book universe as a member of the Avengers, a politician, the husband of an X-Men team leader, and a friend to superheroes all over the world.
T’Challa worked since the age of 13 to make sure his country was a leader in technology, even though he kept Wakanda isolated from the rest of the world.
He’s one of the most educated and scientific-minded characters on Marvel’s pages, and that shows in the depiction of his life in Wakanda, which is coming to the screen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first live action solo movie for Black Panther.
Black Panther made his debut as Marvel’s first Black superhero in a time when Black characters were relegated to roles as thugs or sidekicks, so it is long past time the King got his own big screen story.
Before you catch Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa on the big screen, we’ve got the lowdown on the comic book inspiration for his role with the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About T’Challa.
15 He’s Not The Only Black Panther
T’Challa might be the name most associated with Black Panther in the comics, but he’s not the only one who’s worn the mantle in his lifetime.
While the movies show that T’Challa inherited the title from his father, in the comics, he won the title in a fight from his uncle. T’Challa was actually defeated in combat later by rival Erik Killmonger, though the latter never officially became Black Panther.
New York police officer Kevin Cole designed his own Black Panther costume and pretended to be the hero. Imitation is apparently the sincerest form of flattery for T’Challa as Cole was eventually trained by T’Challa and took up the cause in the United States.
When T’Challa was ill, his little sister Shuri also took up the mantle, something that movie fans hope to see come to pass.
Letitia Wright plays the teen in her live action debut.
14 He Met And Froze His Future Self
Some of the most interesting artifacts are in Wakanda, and they can cause some pretty strange things to happen in the comics.
During the first issues of his original solo series, T’Challa went on a mission to recover King Solomon’s Frogs, brass frogs that were able to interact with both time and space for time travel, and an artifact that was revisited decades later in the third volume of the series. The Frogs pulled T’Challa from the future, allowing him to interact with his future self.
He discovered that this version, from an alternate timeline as a result of the travel, was telepathic and fatally ill. T’Challa of the present placed the future T’Challa in cryogenic stasis to halt the illness temporarily.
Movie fans will remember that T’Challa’s cryogenic chambers have already made an appearance in the MCU when he placed The Winter Soldier in stasis.
13 Thor Rescued Him From A God
Because T’Challa spent a lot of time as an Avenger in the United States, he was away from his native Wakanda for long stretches of time.
During one of those absences, a protest occurred at Avengers Mansion about T’Challa’s U.S. residency. One reporter covering the story demanded that the Black Panther accompany him.
As it turned out, T’Challa recognized the reporter as the Lion God, and agreed to return to Africa with him.
The Lion God, however, didn’t have T’Challa’s (or his people’s) best interest in mind, though. Instead, the Lion God planned to destroy the Panther God, whom granted T’Challa his abilities. He kept T’Challa shackled as his prisoner.
Eventually, the Lion God went up against the Avengers in New York, and it was Thor who defeated him, striking him with a lightning bolt, and getting T’Challa his freedom back.
12 He Joined The Fantastic Four
T’Challa’s biggest team profile is that of his time with the Avengers. They aren’t the only team he’s joined. He and his then-wife Storm briefly joined the Fantastic Four.
Since the Fantastic Four only has four team members, any time a member decides to take a break, or vanishes under mysterious circumstances for that matter, someone they trust is asked to fill in.
T’Challa met the superheroes long before becoming a public superhero himself, and the team’s long standing relationship with the X-Men meant they knew Storm as well.
When Reed Richards and Sue Storm took a vacation while T’Challa and Storm were in New York, the former couple asked the latter if they wouldn’t mind filling in for them. Following their time with the team, T’Challa returned to Wakanda and Storm remained in New York to assist the X-Men.
11 He Fought The Klan
T’Challa’s first solo stories didn’t appear in his own comic book, but in a Marvel anthology series called Jungle Action. His first story arc over the course of several issues is known as Marvel’s first graphic novel, but his second story also gave him a big milestone: his enemy was the embodiment of racism in the U.S.-- the Ku Klux Klan.
The story ran through most of 1976, and was quite controversial for the time.
Getting the story to print was difficult for the comic book team, but it proved incredibly popular with university students.
In the story, T’Challa travelled to Georgia in his civilian guise to investigate the death of his girlfriend’s sister. While in the southern state, he was targeted by members of the Klan, kidnapped, and placed on a burning cross. Escaping their clutches, he later publicly confronted their leader, exposing his identity to the community.
10 His Father Raised Him
A lot of Marvel heroes and villains have daddy issues thanks to absentee fathers, but not T’Challa. T’Challa spent most of his formative years in the company of his father.
T’Challa’s mother was N’Yami, but you’d be hard pressed to find a lot about her in Marvel Comics. She died in childbirth and T’Challa’s father T’Chaka married his second wife Ramonda not long after.
Ramonda became the Queen of Wakanda as a result, and she gave T’Challa a younger sister in Shuri. T’Challa believed that his stepmother left the family because she disappeared. For years, he thought she abandoned them, but it turned out, she was kidnapped during a protest by a white supremacist.
While T’Challa learned how to lead a country from his father, Ramonda was kept imprisoned and tortured.
9 His Name Is Luke Charles
T’Challa might be the ruler of a nation, but as a young man, he used an alias to avoid the attention that came with being royalty.
T’Challa attended school in both the United States and England, but he enrolled using the name Luke Charles.
While in school, he excelled in both academics and athletics thanks to his background in the technology-rich Wakanda where he also trained to become the Black Panther.
He wasn’t the only one from Wakanda using an alias, though. His childhood best friend B’Tumba attended school with him so that he wouldn’t be alone.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, members of Wakanda’s Dora Milaje also spend time out in the world under different names. Wakanda, as an isolated nation, allows members who are trained in subterfuge (read: spies) to travel and report back about what’s going on in the rest of the world.
8 He Disbanded Wakanda’s Secret Police
When T’Challa became King of Wakanda, he had a lot to live up to, but he made his people proud by disbanding the country’s secret police.
The Hatut Zeraze were an institution in Wakanda. The job of these secret police was, essentially, to the shady things the rest of Wakanda’s royal family and military leaders couldn’t.
They were like the spies no country wants to admit they have on the payroll. T’Challa decided he didn’t want to rule a country that employed a group to carry out assassinations around the world.
Of course, when T’Challa got rid of the group, he also got rid of his adopted brother Hunter, who was a member. Hunter continued to lead the Hatut Zeraze even after they were officially disbanded and became T’Challa’s sometimes enemy, the White Wolf. The group became mercenaries.
7 Vibranium Made Him Rich
Though Tony Stark might be known as the richest man in the MCU to movie fans, in the comics, T’Challa is even wealthier than Iron Man. His country also happens to be one of the wealthiest in the world thanks to the metal known as vibranium.
Long time Marvel fans will remember that vibranium is the same substance used to make Captain America’s shield, Ultron’s body, and Nick Fury’s special cube on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Vibranium only occurs naturally in Wakanda.
In the comics, vibranium ended up in Wakanda as the result of a meteorite crash. The mound was then protected by the leaders of the nation from outside sources wanting to exploit it.
T’Challa sold small amounts to scientists around the world to help build wealth to aid his own country’s progress, but also to allow science to progress all over the globe.
6 Call Him Doctor T’Challa
There’s been a lot of talk about T’Challa’s little sister Shuri being a genius in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but T’Challa’s no slouch either.
While attending university courses under an alias, T’Challa studied Engineering, Political Science, Economics, and Psychology. He even went as far as earning his PhD in Physics while attending Oxford.
This means that there are plenty of fans out there who cannot wait to see him finally interact with Dr. Bruce Banner on the big screen.
T’Challa is also credited for the creation of a field called Shadow Physics. We don’t know a lot about the (fictional) science, but what we do know is that it allowed him to advance his work with vibranium.
He actually figured out how to track the metal on a quantum level, create weapons to use against it, and made himself a teleportation device.
5 He Discovered Daredevil’s Identity
Daredevil and the Black Panther would frequently team up over the years after meeting early on in the Daredevil series run. That first meeting did more than form a team-up, though, as T’Challa learned Daredevil’s secret identity fairly quickly.
While working with the Avengers in New York, police officers mistook Black Panther for Daredevil in the middle of the night. Daredevil, suffering from a recent illness, needed to be treated before he died.
Black Panther agreed to find him to let him know, but after following the hero and assisting him in a fight, Black Panther learned his identity by accident.
The villain of the issue-- Starr Saxon-- had already deduced Daredevil’s identity and held Karen Page hostage in Matt Murdock’s apartment.
It was Saxon who outed Matt when he didn’t know that Black Panther was observing the fight.
Matt would trust T’Challa to take his place as Daredevil decades later.
4 He’s A Master Tracker
Thanks to the abilities granted to him by his status as Black Panther, T’Challa isn’t just a genius inventing new scientific fields, a politician finding ways to help his people, or a great fighter. He also has many of the same abilities as a literal Black Panther.
Early appearances in the comics revealed T’Challa to be light on his feet and as agile as a cat. He also had no problem seeing in the dark, even preferring the dark to the light.
While cats aren’t typically known for being trackers (that reputation seems to go to bloodhounds), panthers in particular have an excellent sense of smell, allowing them to track their prey.
T’Challa used his Black Panther abilities and honed them to make himself a master tracker and hunter. He’s actually memorized the scene of thousands of animals, giving him an edge in wild environments.
3 He Bankrolls The X-Men
Mutantes Sans Frontieres was created by some prominent members of the X-Men as a way to protect the rights of mutants all over the world.
The charitable organization, called Mutants Without Borders in English, was initially the idea of Beast and organized by Archangel’s Worthington Industries in San Francisco.
Because it’s a charitable group, the mutants who worked with it did things like feed people at soup kitchens. Since those early days though, it’s changed.
The group also funds the X-Men, the team most often fighting for mutant rights and peaceful coexistence with humans.
Storm revealed in Astonishing X-Men that the team got its funds from the charity, and not only that, but the person funding the charity was now T’Challa.
If you’re keeping track, that means T’Challa is a king, an Avenger, a member of the Fantastic Four, and the man behind the X-Men.
2 He’s A Coverguy
Since he’s both royalty and a superhero, T’Challa is no stranger to public scrutiny. Luckily for him, the public loves him.
According to an issue of Totally Awesome Hulk, over the course of his time in the comics, T’Challa has the honor of being two different magazines’ “coverguy” many times.
Those cover stories come with a couple of distinguishing honors as well. He’s been People’s most attractive man alive six times. He’s also been named Time’s Person of the Year twice.
The actor playing T’Challa in the live action Black Panther movie, Chadwick Boseman, also has the honor of gracing the cover of Time in the real world.. It marks the first time a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie has snagged the cover feature of the magazine over the course of the last decade.
1 He Debuted In The Fantastic Four
Though many of T’Challa’s solo adventures occurred in Jungle Action anthologies, his debut didn’t occur in the same series. Instead, T’Challa made his debut alongside Marvel’s first family-- the Fantastic Four.
Just like the Inhumans and many other heroes who would go on to get solo titles, T’Challa first appeared as an antagonist for the Fantastic Four in the 1960s due to a misunderstanding. In issue 52, the king of Wakanda invited the foursome to his home, but to their surprise, he attacked them.
It wasn’t actually T’Challa’s intention to make the group his enemy, though.
Instead, he wanted to test himself to make sure he was ready to take on Klaw, the man responsible for the death of his father. Once he bested the four, he explained his goal, and they became friends and allies.
Did you learn something new about the leader of Wakanda? Or are you already a Black Panther expert? Let us know what else fans should know about T’Challa in the comments!
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