For those of you who have seen Black Panther, (repeatedly), and have been wondering where many of the characters came from, but are too afraid to ask, we're here to help. Consider this Wakanda 101, and the following reading/movie list your syllabus. You can read or watch in any order, the goal here is for you to get more background on what the source material was for the Black Panther movie. Enjoy!
Panther’s Rage - 1973-1976 (McGregor, various artists)
This 19-part series written by Don McGregor was the first time Black Panther was taken seriously as a lead character, and it introduced other characters that we still see today, including Klaw and Killmonger. Not all of the characters stand the test of time, (i.e. "Man-Ape”) but it does hold a significant role in Black Panther’s history, and parts of the run are touched upon (and updated) in the movie.
Captain America: Civil War - 2016
In this third movie in Marvel's Captain America series in the MCU, you get to meet Chadwick Boseman for the first time as the King of Wakanda, T’Challa. You also meet his father T’Chaka, played by celebrated South African actor and activist John Kani, while getting a glimpse of Wakanda, as well. Not to mention Wakandan tech, as you see the first Black Panther suit in action.
Avenger's: Age of Ultron - 2015
This second Avengers movie is important because it’s the first time we meet Andy Serkis as Ullyses Klaue, and we also get to see Vibranium, Wakanda’s most powerful resource, up close.
Black Panther World of Wakanda -2016 (Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxanne Gay, Alitha Martinez, Afua Richardson)
Written by Roxanne Gay, this comic book series spinoff of Ta -Nehisi Coates’ wildly popular Black Panther series, gives us a modern update to the Dora Milaje. They are updated from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original interpretation of them as the “wives” of the King and seem to be the source material for the Dora Milaje shown in the movie.
This run also explores the relationship between Ayo (played by Florence Kasumba in the movie) and Aneka, a character not featured in the film. The comic book fans that lamented the lack of LGBTQ representation were referring to their relationship.
Marvel Comics Presents Vol 1 #144 -1989 (Ann Nocenti, Rick Leonardi)
We first meet Ramonda, (played by Angela Bassett in the movie) the woman who raised T’Challa, in the story "Panther's Quest (Part 2) - Forgotten Corpses" within this collected volume. However, she has been written about quite a bit by Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin, Roxanne Gay, and many others. Ta-Nehisi Coates explored her role as Queen Mother more extensively in his run of the comic as well.
Black Panther Vol 4 #2 - 2005 (Reginald Hudlin, John Romita Jr.)
This is the first time we meet T’Challa’s stepsister Shuri (played by Letitia Wright in the movie), a character created by writer/filmmaker Reginald Hudlin. In fact eventually Shuri becomes Black Panther herself in Hudlin’s Black Panther Vol 5 #5, and is later defeated by the Cabal, which puts her in stasis at the beginning of Ta-Nehisi Coates' run on the series.
Ka-Zar Vol. 3, #17 - 1998 (Christopher Priest, Kenny Martinez)
Everett K. Ross (played by Martin Freeman in the movie) makes his first appearance here. He would then play a major role in the Christopher Priest run, most notably the 35-issue run of Black Panther Vol. 3 (1998). Interestingly enough, Priest has stated in interviews that he created Ross to be the “audience’s surrogate." By telling T’Challa’s story through Ross’ perspective and creating a white protagonist, Priest made Black Panther more palatable to the predominantly white male comic book audience of the time, and ultimately easier for Marvel to sell.
Rise of the Black Panther #1 - 2018 (Ta-Nehisi Coates, Evan Narcisse, Paul Renaurd, Brian Stelfreeze)
In the very first issue of this series, released just once month before the movie, writers Evan Narcisse delivers a fleshed out story of N’Yami, T’Challa’s birth mother. She was a chief scientist and felt a LOT like Nakiya’s character in the movie. A woman in love with a King, but having her own purpose and focus in life, that she was afraid she might have to give up. Her death was actually written about before we ever got to know her by Christopher Priest in Black Panther Vol 3 #27, 2001
Black Panther Vol #1 - 1998 (Christopher Priest, Mark Texiera, Vince Evans)
In this series, alternately known as Black Panther: The Client, we meet several characters that are seen in the movie -- however, they're portrayed a bit differently. Zuri, for instance, is part of the King's guard and is not a priest as Forest Whitaker portrays him in the film. Quiet as it's kept, he admonished T'Challa at one point for marrying Storm, because he felt Photon (Monica Rambeau) was a more fitting companion for the King.
We also meet both Okoye, (played by Danai Gurira) and Nakiya (played by Luptia Nyong'O) as Dora Milaje. Again a slight difference in the movie, as Nakiya is actually a Hatut Zeraze or War Dog spy in the film. It's also explained that each Dora is from a different tribe in the kingdom, as a gesture of good will and to keep the peace. Costumer Ruth Carter made sure that she represented this aspect of the film as well.
Jungle Action Vol 2 6 - 1973 (Don McGregor, Rich Buckler)
In this comic we first meet Erik Killmonger (a.k.a. - N'Djaka) and his story is a bit different than in the movie. Here, his father (not related to T'Chaka) was forced to work for Ulysses Klaw (spelling changed for MCU). When Klaw was forced out of Wakanda, T'Challa exiled N'djaka and his family as well. The family moved to Harlem, NY and Erik was raised in the American school system. He grew up to attend MIT and also to hate T'Challa and his family for what was done to him and returned to Wakanda years later to seek his revenge.
Fantastic Four #52 - 1966 (Stan Lee, Jack Kirby)
In this comic we find out how the Black Panther gets his powers. They come from a plant, which is literally called “the heart shaped herb,” a plant that mutated when it came in contact with Vibranium and has the ability to give a body (that does not reject it) almost superhuman strength, speed, and endurance. In the movie, the herb and its rituals are used extensively.
EXTRA CREDIT: Kimoyo Beads (Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreze)
In Black Panther Vol. 6 #1 (Coates, Stelfreze) we are introduced to the technological marvel that are Kimoyo Beads. The beads are a form of communication, audio/visual, and archival technology that each have a special purpose.
- Prime Bead: The prime bead is like a medical bracelet with AI. It contains the wearers entire medical history and they receive it at birth.
- Audio/Video Bead: Just like it sounds, this bead is an audio visual interface and provides remote access to the Wakandan database. I believe we see both Okoye and Shuri use these beads in the movie. They can receive and send broadcasts anywhere, and can interface with nearby screens. (Remember when Shuri swiped Killmonger’s image from her wrist to the wall in her lab?)
- Communication Bead: This is kind of like sending text messages between beads. Wakandans have a form of sign language that represents letters and phrases to send messages.
Kimoyo Beads can be customized for any use and any situation. (Remember when they plugged Ross’ bullet hole with one?)