Captain America: Civil War--Who is Black Panther?
The King of Wakanda
The Black Panther--an iconic superhero first introduced to the Marvel comic universe in 1966--is set to appear in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. While longtime fans are sure to be excited for this beloved character's film debut, others may not understand the hype building up around his appearance. To better acquaint you with Black Panther's background and his upcoming film adaptation, we've compiled everything you need to know about this fascinating crime fighter.
For a quick glance at Black Panther, check out our video exploring the character's origins and background.
A Little Historical Background
The Black Panther was created by none other than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the brilliant creative minds who brought to life some of Marvel's most iconic superheroes, such as the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Incredible Hulk. The character is the first black superhero to ever appear in mainstream American comics.
Contrary to popular belief, Black Panther's creation predated the founding of the Black Panther Party, having been introduced in the Fantastic Four in July 1966, three months before the organization's formation.
Who is the Black Panther?
Comics: The Black Panther's real name is T'challa, and he's the warrior king of a fictional African nation known as Wakanda. He's a part of a long lineage of royalty, serving as the heir to the Wakandan throne and the Black Panther mantle, a title given only to the chief of the Wakandan Panther tribe. The pressure of these two roles is a constant burden that weighs down on T'challa in all of his adventures.
Movie: The Black Panther's background in Captain America: Civil War appears to be similar to his comic book incarnation. Portrayed by actor Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up, Draft Day), T'challa is the prince of Wakanda and only recently became the Black Panther.
Powers and Abilities of the Wakandan King
Comics: T'challa is a powerful fighter with superhuman-like strength, stamina, agility, speed, healing, and reflexes he gained from a special herb designed to enhance his senses. His abilities are further amplified by a mystical connection with the panther god of Wakanda. T'challa is also a gifted scientist with a Ph.D in Physics from Oxford, and is frequently cited as one of the smartest characters in the Marvel universe.
Movie: It's unclear how powerful the film version of the Black Panther is or if he obtained his powers the same way the original comic book character did.
Wakanda: The Black Panther's Homeland
Comics: Wakanda is a secluded nation in Africa that remained virtually untouched by imperialism during the early 20th century. It retains the roots of its traditional African tribal culture while embracing modern technology, cultivating a reputation as one of the world's most technologically advanced nations. This is all thanks to the nation's deposit of vibranium, a rare metal Wakanda used to secure its power and develop advanced technology. Marvel fans might recognize this metal, as it's the same material used to create Captain America's shield.
Movie: Wakanda already exists in the Marvel cinematic universe, having been mentioned in Avengers: Age of Ultron. At one point in the film, Captain America states that Tony Stark’s father was the last person to successfully escape Wakanda with a sample of vibranium. The nation was also referenced in Iron Man II when it appeared on Nick Fury's computer screen as a hot spot monitored by S.H.I.E.L.D.
The Origin Story
Comics: When T'challa was a child, his father T'chaka ruled over Wakanda and acted as the Black Panther. However, this came to an end after adventurer Ulysses Klaw invaded Wakanda to seize a supply of vibranium, which resulted in T'chaka's death and the loss of Klaw's hand. His father's death put T'challa in line as the next king of Wakanda. However, his elders insisted that he wait and earn the right to the throne and the mantle of the Black Panther. Throughout T'challa's formative years and onward, avenging the death of his father became his primary motivation.
Movie: It's unclear what the status of T'challa's father is during the events of Captain America: Civil War. It appears that T'challa is still the Prince of Wakanda, which could mean that his father is still alive. However, that still begs the question: how did T'challa become the Black Panther before ascending the throne? It's also unclear if T'challa holds any animosity towards the movie version of Klaw, who was played by Andy Serkis in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
A Test of Might: The Black Panther vs. Fantastic 4
Comics: After passing a series of trials, T'challa earned the right to become the Black Panther. His first order of business was to avenge his father by defeating Klaw, but before he could do so, he needed to know whether or not he was strong enough to defeat his nemesis. To test himself, T'challa sent an invitation to the Fantastic Four, requesting they visit his kingdom in Wakanda. Upon their arrival, T'challa attacked the team as the Black Panther and attempted to neutralize them. However, the battle ended in a stalemate. T'challa then revealed that he and the Black Panther are one in the same; the two parties made amends and decided to help each other's causes.
Movie: It's clear this Black Panther won't be testing his abilities against the Fantastic Four, as the rights to that superhero team are currently owned by Fox. However, this narrative beat could remain in Civil War, but with a different set of heroes. Or better yet, Black Panther could be using the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man to test his own abilities.
Seeking Vengeance: The Black Panther vs. Klaw
Comics: Soon after explaining his motivations to the Fantastic Four, T'challa was attacked by Klaw, who came to Wakanda seeking vengeance for the hand he lost many years prior. The two fought, and T'challa eventually emerged victorious. With the conflict driving his motivations finally over, T'challa decided it was time to use his abilities to help mankind.
Movie: It's unclear if T'challa harbors any desire to seek vengeance against Klaw in the Marvel cinematic universe. Early footage of Captain America: Civil War has predominantly shown T'challa in pursuit of Bucky Barnes (a.k.a Winter Soldier). This has us wondering if his animosity has been transferred over to Bucky for a similar crime committed in the past. Given Bucky's career as the Winter Soldier, it's possible one of T'challa's loved ones could've been killed by Bucky at some point. Maybe it's T'challa's father? We'll see.
The Wakandan Avenger
Comics: Following his encounter with Klaw, T'challa went on to become a member of the Avengers. His teammates believed he had joined the Avengers to help them defend the world from evil, but in truth, T'challa only affiliated himself with the team to spy on them. His highest priority as the King of Wakanda has always been to defend its land and its people, so it was logical that he joined the Avengers to better understand their intentions and abilities.
Movie: T'challa is not yet an official member of the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. However, he has sided with Tony Stark's team of heroes in the film's conflict. Whether or not T'challa becomes a full-fledged Avenger during the film's events has yet to be confirmed.
The Black Panther's Impact and Legacy
Because Black Panther was the first black superhero to ever appear in mainstream American comics, the character has become a historical icon within the medium. At the time of his debut in 1966, his origins and background went against the dominant cultural stereotypes of African people, creating a depiction of race that--while somewhat dated nowadays--stood out as a powerful gesture to comic book readers of the time. His debut even paved the way for more black superheroes in comics, such as Marvel's Luke Cage and the Falcon, and DC's John Stewart and Bronze Tiger. Though somewhat underutilized over the years, the Black Panther's upcoming appearance in Captain America: Civil War is nonetheless an exciting opportunity to bring the character back into the spotlight.