The Essential Guide to Marvel’s “Black Panther”

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I finally got Paul back in here writing. As a special correspondent of geekdom here in the 'hood, he is the only person I would trust to do this post because #geekery. With a Black director, producer, writer and costume designer, this is the Blackity Black movie of the year and we are all here for it (if you're not, feel free to stage left)! Let's get into it! - Sili So, you’ve seen the trailer for the movie, “Black Panther”. Social media is blowing up about how people are going to be dressing up like they’re going to the wedding in “Coming to America”’s Zamunda for the premiere. The news says pre-ticket sales have been larger than any other previous Marvel film. The only problem is...you don’t know shit about the Black Panther.

Oh sure, you’ve seen some of the Marvel flicks, but you haven’t read 50+ years of comic books (like I have) and don’t have the time to do it before the premiere February 16th. Your FOMO is kicking in hard and you are panicking that your Black card is gonna get seriously checked, if not revoked. Fear not, my ninja. I got you.  Here’s the essential stuff you need to know about the Black Panther before seeing the movie. Cue the academic music. Class is in session…

Basic Blackground

First, go see “Captain America: Civil War”. Just trust me. If you haven’t seen it, it will make things much more difficult for you. Besides, it’s one of the best Marvel movies. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Who is the Black Panther?

You done? Good. Now, as you know, my mans-and-dem, Mr. Chadwick-Jackie Robinson-James Brown-Thurgood Marshall-Boseman’s character, T’Challa, has just witnessed his father, King T’Chaka, die. Consequently, he takes on his father’s role as the King of Wakanda and the Black Panther. [Note: in the comics, King of Wakanda and Black Panther is usually synonymous, but this may not be the case in the flicks]. The Black Panther is the figurehead of the country, the head of the religious sect and the country’s protector. To become Black Panther, you have to undergo a series of trials and/or defeat the previous Black Panther in combat. When you win, you get to ingest a heart shaped herb native to Wakanda that gives you the superpowers of strength, stamina, recuperative abilities and enhanced senses. You also take over the throne of Wakanda.

Although T’Chaka is dead, T’Challa still has his stepmoms, Queen Ramonda (played by the real life queen, Angela Bassett) and his sister Shuri (played by Letitia Wright). From what I understand, in the movie version, Shuri is going to be shown as a technological genius who comes up with T’Challa’s gadgets and technology (like Q in the Bond flicks). In the comics, Shuri was the hot-headed warrior and her elder brother is the technological genius. More importantly, Shuri eventually becomes...the Black Panther! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We don’t know how this will play out in the film version.

Regardless, the Black Panther is no run-of-the mill superhero, who stops bank robbers, purse snatchers and rescues cats from a tree. T’Challa is a KING. He got king problems. He got king issues. He got king resources. He got king money. You best put some ‘spect on his name.

What is Wakanda?

If the country of Zamunda from “Coming to America”, the Klingons from “Star Trek”, the Zulu Nation and Atlantis were to have a baby, it would be Wakanda. Wakanda is an African nation shrouded in mystery. It’s peoples are made up of several different tribes collectively known as the Wakandas. They are historically a warrior people whose country has never been successfully invaded or colonized by the outside world. Consequently, it has the unique distinction of having evolved and developed on its own. They have, until recently, been mostly isolationist in their policies toward the outside world. It should be interesting to see how the filmmakers visualize a world that is completely African, without western influence, yet technologically, a century ahead of the rest of the world, largely due to its repository of Vibranium.  

What is Vibranium?

A meteorite landed in Wakanda thousands[?] of years ago, which brought with it, the precious metal Vibranium.  Vibranium absorbs sound and energy, which makes it nearly indestructible and useful in the development of new, advanced technologies (It’s what Captain America’s shield was made out of). Thus, through their exploration of Vibranium, Wakanda is the most technologically advanced and wealthiest nation in the world. However, again, they keep that on the low-low.

Does Wakanda ban hairstylists?

Okay, with regard to why there are so many sistahs depicted with bald heads, those ladies are known as the Dora Milaje, which translates in Wakandan as “adored ones”. These are the king’s royal guard/special forces/baes-in-training. Wait, what? That’s right, each of the Dora Milaje represent different tribes of the Wakandas who are known as the “wives in training” for the king. It is purely a ceremonious role at this point, so don’t go expecting bathing scenes of his majesty. Don’t get it twisted, these ladies are FIERCE, loyal and dedicated to the throne and Wakanda.  They are led by Okoye, (“The Walking Dead’s” Danai Gurira) and their ranks include super spy and ex-bae of the king, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).

Who are the bad guys?   

You can’t have a good superhero flick without a good villain(s). This movie has two of T’Challa’s greatest: Ulysses Klaw and Eric “Killmonger” N’Jadaka. We already met Ulysses Klaw in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. As presented in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Klaw is a Dutch/South African arms dealer and mercenary who is one of the few people to get into Wakanda and live to tell about it.  Moreover, he stole some Vibranium worth billions of dollars and was physically branded by the Wakandans as a thief.  Ultimately, the evil robot Ultron, takes the Vibranium from him, but was kind enough to deposit billions of dollars into his bank account, before cutting off his left arm for comparing him to a Tony Stark robot.

This introduction varies from the comics somewhat. In the comics, Klaw is the descendent of a man who tried to invade and annex Wakanda in the 19th century. He was...unsuccessful when he met the then Black Panther of Wakanda. The rest of Klaw’s origin is conflicting, confusing and quite frankly irrelevant to this movie. All you have to know is that in the comics, Klaw killed T’Chaka when T’Challa was a boy and T’Challa immediately took off his arm. They got beef.

Speaking of beef, Killmonger in the comics is from a family exiled from Wakanda after working with Klaw to steal Vibranium. Killmonger, whose real name is N’Jadaka, is raised in the U.S. and later returns to claim the throne from T’Challa when they both grow up. So he challenges T’Challa...and beats him. Repeatedly. I don’t want to say anymore, for fear that it will give too much away from the film. Suffice it to say, Killmonger is T’Challa’s arch-nemesis.

How does this movie fit in with the rest of the Marvel movies?

As you should know from watching “Captain America: Civil War”, T’Challa has just become the King of Wakanda and has returned to claim his throne. We don’t know yet if Captain America and Bucky are still hiding out in Wakanda as fugitives from international justice, or if Falcon, Ant-Man and Hawkeye (the rest of team Cap) have joined them. What we do know is that the Black Panther and Wakanda will feature prominently in the next Avengers film, “Avengers: Infinity War”.

If you have been following the MCU, you should already have a general idea what this is all about.  If you have been living on an island by yourself with no internets, then you should know that each of the Marvel movies has been part of a tapestry ultimately introducing us to characters that will have a part to play in the machinations of a galactic hooligan called Thanos. Thanos is collecting 6 objects of power called Infinity Stones that collectively, when placed onto a gauntlet called...well, the Infinity Gauntlet -- form the ultimate power in our universe (that is actually NOT an exaggeration).

So far in the Marvel films to date, we have seen the Tesseract (the Space Stone from “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Avengers”), the Aether (the Reality Stone from “Thor: The Dark World”), the gem in the Necklace of the Eye of Agamotto (The Time Stone from “Dr. Strange”) The Orb (the Power Stone from “Guardians of the Galaxy”) and Loki’s Sceptre (The Mind Stone in “Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”).  Notice the what the letters I have placed in bold of the items above? See what they spell? You still with me? Good. That leaves one stone still not discovered. One stone whose MCU name will likely start with “H”.  

Which stone would you expect to find in a movie about a country with badass warrior women, cool outfits and wealth to make King Solomon blush? That’s right, the Soul Stone!!! No, seriously, that is the last stone missing, per the comics. In the more contemporary comics, Thanos is a power mad alien from Titan who wreaks bloody murder across the galaxy in search of the stones with the help of his henchmen, the “Black Order” (just a name, no relation).  What happens when an intergalactic conqueror comes to a small country on Earth that has never been conquered?  I guess we will find out!

Why is the fam getting so hype for this movie?

Now you KNOW how people finna turn up for this movie premiere, right? Dashiki and African jewelry sales increased by about 1000% percent after the initial Black Panther trailer was released (that’s a fake figure, but probably not inaccurate). There are literal Black Panther premiere parties being thrown in cities all over the country on February, 15th and 16th.  But why is the fam getting so hype?  [Sigh] Where do I start?

Let’s start with #RepresentationMatters. When I was a kid, there were no A-list, top tier, so-well-known-they-had-their-own lunch box, cartoon and movie, type superheroes -- that looked like me. Having characters that children look up to, relate to and thus, be inspired to emulate, knowing, “I can be great too”, is important. I mean, let’s be real. Barack isn’t in office anymore and wanting to be POTUS one day doesn’t hold the prestige it once did.

The Black Panther has been around since 1966 and is the first mainstream Black superhero. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby several months before the latter formed Black Panther Political Party.  Lee and Kirby were the creators of most of the what we know as the Marvel Universe. Stan Lee went for subtle commentary on race relations with the references to MLK and Malcolm X in the personas of Professor X and Magneto in “X-Men” in 1963.  But with the Black Panther, there was clearly no subtext. He was Black, strong, smart, rich, noble, proud and a king.  The Black Panther is unique, not just among other Black superheroes, but all superheroes. In the Marvel universe, he is known as being as intelligent as Reed Richards, has more money than Tony Stark and is capable of beating Captain America in combat. This brother is BAAAAADD.

The Black Panther has been around as long as most of the major, A-List, well known and marketed Marvel superheroes of today, (i.e., Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men, etc.), yet, many people were first introduced to him in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War”. But what an introduction (I personally watch that movie by fast forwarding to the scene-stealing Black Panther scenes).

The Black Panther and Wakanda represent a glimpse at the fantasies many of us have of a new and different world.  A world where the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and subsequent colonization of Africa never occurred. A world where the “N-word” never existed. A Zamunda with a purpose and an edge. A world where WE ARE WAKANDA.

P.Dubs - Special Correspondent of Geekdbom Master Jedi, Paul White-Davis, is an attorney by day and a special correspondent of geekdom by night. And not just because he has a full collection of dol…errr, action figures and comic books.