With the success of the “core” Avengers movies (we’re now up to 10 and counting because, yeah, The Hulk does actually count), it’s no surprise that Marvel continues to expand its comics universe on the big screen. Guardians of the Galaxy, once considered a little-known comic outpost for the geeky few, was a huge crossover MCU hit. Studio chief and self-professed Fanboy Kevin Feige, in what now appears to be a visionary move, had already planned to follow up on that less-than-assured success (if you say you were a huge GOTG fan before the movie came out, sorry, but we’re not buying it) with the first Ant-Man movie. Ant-Man, too, was a hit and we are now looking at multiple sequels for both of those franchises along with a continuing stream of more classic Avengers flicks.
But what about some of the major Marvel characters we haven’t seen yet? Who’s next in the never-ending parade of MCU releases? Enter Black Panther. That’s right, T’Challa himself, one-time enemy and then ally of the Fantastic Four and eventual Avenger, has entered the fray.
We take a look below at some of the cool surprises and lesser-known facts about the newest Avenger ahead of his initial appearance in Captain America: Civil War. We might as well get used to him now as actor Chadwick Boseman has already signed a five-picture deal with Marvel.
10 Black Panther Is the First MCU “Secret” Superhero
Black Panther’s appearance will be the first time we encounter a superhero in the MCU who has a secret identity. Which is pretty weird, when you think about it, as it sometimes seems like every superhero has a secret identity. But everyone knows who the original Avengers are. It’s not like Tony Stark tries to hide the fact that he’s Iron Man. In fact, as we all know, he absolutely embraces it. Captain America is a well-known national hero. We mean, c’mon, Thor’s a God. He doesn’t have to hide who he is. But Black Panther is a little bit different. His alter-ego, T’Challa, is the king of the African country of Wakanda. This is a country that stayed a secret for years while protecting their store of Vibranium so there’s already a national propensity for tight lips. When he finally does step out onto the world stage, according to actor Boseman, it’s as a national leader on a diplomatic mission. Not exactly the right time to also reveal himself as a Vibranium-suit wearing vigilante.
9 The First Black Superhero
It may seem ridiculous to moviegoers and fans nowadays, but Black Panther was the very first black superhero in mainstream comics, originally appearing in a Fantastic Four comic in 1966. We know that doesn’t seem like a very big deal to audiences who have Nick Fury, Storm, Blade, War Machine, Falcon and even Will Smith’s whacked-out Hancock to cheer on. But Black Panther pre-dates them all by quite a few years. In fact, he’ll be celebrating his 50th anniversary next spring when Captain America: Civil War opens.
We don’t think that’s a coincidence, by the way. At any rate, the original African superhero has been busy in the comics and animated worlds for all these years - it’s about time he made it to a live action flick.
8 A Black Panther Easter Egg in Iron Man 2 We All Missed
Half of the fun in the MCU universe is hunting for Easter Eggs. The directors and producers know this and are constantly trying to outdo themselves with fun little nuggets for obsessed fans to find. Here’s one that posited a Black Panther appearance long before that idea became a reality and made nerds like us happy.
In the movie, during a scene at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, there’s a bank of computer screens with a giant map that shows the location of seven Avenger-related people or objects. Some of them were about Captain America and The Hulk but one of the locations on the map was the Black Panther’s location in Africa. Not many people noticed this one until director John Favreau confirmed it an interview during the film’s Blu-ray release.
7 Three Black Panther Easter Eggs in Avengers: Age of Ultron
As if the Iron Man 2 easter egg wasn’t enough, there are three references to the Black Panther story line in the most recent Avengers flick, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Black Panther bad guy Ulysses Klaw makes his first MCU appearance in Ultron (played by the awesomely unrecognizable Andy Serkis). In another, Dr. David Banner refers to Wakanda, which we all know is the home country of the Panther. And in the creepiest scene of the movie, Scarlet Witch reveals to Iron Man a vision of all of the Avengers lying dead and dying. One of the bodies we see appears to show the mask and claws of Black Panther. We guess Marvel really, really wanted to make sure the Fanboys got the word out that the long-rumored movie really is coming.
6 Chadwick Boseman Reveals Details about His “Catsuit”
In a recent interview, the actor revealed a few details about his Black Panther suit. For one, the mask has very limited peripheral vision; something we’ve always thought would be a problem for a lot of masked vigilantes. Boseman says the vision is “gritty” and “tinted” so we expect some cool visuals from inside the mask. He also discussed the morph-ability of the suit, as Vibranium can change shape and form, absorb attacks and is very strong in its own right (hence Captain America’s indestructible shield). We even know for sure now that Black Panther does have his claws, even if we didn’t see them in the first Civil War trailer. Boseman told us so.
5 Boseman Thinks Black Panther Could Beat Captain America
OK, maybe he didn’t quite call out Chris Evans, but Boseman did say in a radio interview that he had to back his own character in any fight between the two. We already know Cap and Panther are on opposite sides in Civil War. So it would be pretty awesome to see how this one would turn out; both heroes rely upon the same source, Vibranium, for a lot of their powers. It might be like The Avengers version of the irresistible force meeting the immoveable object. Before we get too excited about that potential matchup, however, he also stated we should not expect to see that Battle Royale occur anytime soon. We can only hope that the actor is engaging in some misdirection.
4 Animated Black Panthers Are A Dime A Dozen
Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Black Panther may be the first live-action movies starring the superhero, but Marvel animation has certainly gone to the well with his character many times. In fact, every actor who has voiced the Panther is more famous for something else, an honor Chadwick Boseman is sure to overcome with his five-picture deal with Marvel. The first animated Black Panther was Keith David in the 1994 Fantastic Four cartoon series. David, of course, is better known for just about everything else he’s ever done (and he’s done a lot - he has 254 credits on IMDB) including The Thing, Community, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and even Fanboy fave The Cape.
Next up was the inimitable Taye Diggs, who has voiced Black Panther a few times (The Super Hero Squad Show and the Black Panther animated mini-series) but is really known for the movie Chicago and recurring roles in Ally McBeal and Will & Grace, among other credits. Also making the list is Djimon Hounsou (Black Panther primetime animated series, 2010), most famous for, if not Gladiator, then being a male model when he was younger. There are other guys but you get the drift. Boseman’s going to be famous for being the Black Panther, if Marvel has their way.
3 He Was Originally A Bad Guy (Sort-Of)
Black Panther first showed up in the Fantastic Four comic issue number 52. Somewhat surprisingly to us now, the Panther was originally a bad guy. You see, in the Marvel ‘verse, arch-villains have a tendency to crop up just about anywhere at any time. It makes sense; we wouldn’t need all those Avengers, X-Men and Fantastics otherwise… Anyway, all-time baddie Ulysses Klaw (or just Klaw if you’re into the whole brevity thing) killed Black Panther’s father in an attempt to steal the Vibranium that gives his family their superpower.
And if Vibranium sounds familiar it should; it’s the same stuff that Cap’s shield is made out of. Vowing revenge, the young Black Panther trained to become a superhero who could defeat Klaw. Years later he invites the Fantastic Four to his homeland in order to test himself against them before heading out on his mission of revenge. Once he manages to individually beat the Four, he lets them all go, apologizes and they all become fast friends. The Fantastic Four then help him with Klaw and he helps them with other villains like Psycho-Man. You remember him, right? Not. Don’t be too hard on Black Panther’s original actions against the Fantastic Four, though. Shifting and splitting apart alliances is just the way it goes in Marvel-land, as Captain America: Civil War will make all too clear.
2 Black Panther’s Motivation in Captain America: Civil War
We already know that Panther is not on Cap’s side in Civil War. But what exactly is he trying to accomplish? Well, since we know Cap has gone rogue on the Avengers in order to protect his best friend Bucky (i.e. The Winter Soldier), then it stands to reason that Black Panther is part of the group trying to bring Cap and Bucky to justice. His very (very) brief appearances in the first Civil War trailer sure seem to confirm that, as we see a split-second of a chase scene involving Bucky, Captain America and Black Panther. We also get a brief glimpse of Black Panther taking Bucky down with a mean scissor kick. Will this mission continue in the first Black Panther movie? Or will he get focus on a serious showdown with Klaw?
1 Who Will Direct Black Panther?
At the moment the smart money is on Creed director Ryan Coogler. This seems like a pretty smart choice as Coogler is a super-hot commodity following the recent success of Creed (which he also wrote). Since Creed is a boxing movie, we imagine Coogler would bring his action-helming experience to what we’re sure will be some pretty intense fight scenes in Black Panther, no matter who the superhero is facing off against. Recent reports state that Coogler had initially declined Marvel’s offer but has changed his mind after wrapping Creed. It’s early yet and these things have a way of changing but Coogler is the definite front-runner.