Black Panther doesn’t hit American movie screens until February 16, 2018, but it’s been one of the most highly anticipated entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever. From the trailers released so far, fans are looking forward to a world of ultra-cool tech, compelling characters, and naturally, loads of high-octane action. The movie focuses on T’Challa, the Black Panther, as he faces the task of uniting his nation and plotting its future course after his father’s death. Wakanda is a hidden African nation with superior technology and vast wealth, and there are competitors for its throne.
It’s not just the novelty of Wakanda — or the fact that it represents the first big-budget superhero movie starring an overwhelmingly Black cast and creative team. As the MCU heads toward Avengers: Infinity War, Wakanda and its superior technology will play an increasingly important role. It’s a big part of the puzzle yet to come.
We’ve scoured the web for rumors, interviews, comic book trivia, and possible plot points for your review as we head into the home stretch, waiting for this exciting release. With a cast that includes Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis, we could be more excited. If you're feeling just as impatient as we are, here are few fun facts you should know before the big day!
15 Black Panther Is A Hereditary Title
The Black Panther is unlike secretive superheroes like Spider-Man or even spoiled billionaires like Tony Stark. He has a country to rule over and protect and a population made up of many different tribes to look after. Black Panther is a hereditary role, but one that T’Challa still has to earn. The tests involve physical strength, mental abilities, and even moral choices. It’s not an easy road, in other words, even if it is one that comes with great riches. When his father T’Chaka dies, as he did in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa has to take up the mantle, prove his worth, and battle his rivals for the throne. Fun Fact: In the comic book world, sister Shuri has taken up the role of Black Panther more than once when T’Challa was incapacitated or otherwise engaged. Captain America even held the title in the Ultimate comic universe.
14 Wakandan Tech
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve already seen Wakandan tech in the MCU going back a long ways. If you followed the comic books, you’d know that Captain America’s Vibranium shield is based on a design given to him by T’Chaka. In the MCU, it was presented to Captain America by Howard Stark, made from a supply provided by the US Army. And those planes that Tony Stark and the Avengers use to jet around the world? Wakanda again. The Wakanda Design Group is the creator of the so-called high tech quinjets. Quinjets, which can reach Mach 2.1, appear frequently in the Avengers and Marvel comics universes, used by Iron Man and even Spider-Man on occasion.
13 Rich And Smart
Tony Stark isn’t the only genius billionaire with father issues on the Marvel payroll. T’Challa and Wakanda owe their riches to daddy T’Chaka. T’Chaka saw the potential that Vibranium could have for his country, so he first hid it from the world, then continued to develop the nation technologically, as he sold bits of the rare metal to outsiders to generate the country’s wealth. By the time T’Challa is old enough to take over, his net worth is said to be about $500 billion. In addition to wielding Wakanda’s vast Vibranium wealth, T’Challa is considered to be one of the smartest superheroes in the Marvel universes. He’s said to have a Ph. D. in physics from Oxford University, and in Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, he argues with Spider-Man over whether he is the seventh or eighth smartest man in the world.
12 The First Mainstream Black Superhero
Marvel’s Black Panther debuted in Fantastic Four #52 in July/August 1966, and appears on the cover. He was the first of a string of Black and African-themed superheroes to make their start in the late 1960s and early 1970s like Luke Cage and Falcon, not coincidentally coinciding with the Civil Rights Movement. He was created by comic legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Fun Fact: Marvel’s Black Panther precedes the Civil Rights Movement of the same name by about two months. In 1972, looking to avoid political controversy, they tried to change the name to Black Leopard, but it didn’t stick. He’s had an active storyline in the comic book world since then. He’s been a part of virtually every superhero team, including the Fantastic Four, where he filled in for both Sue and Reed Richards. He has also bankrolled the Fantastic Four and joined them in missions. He was an honorary X-Man after he married Storm in a huge comic book wedding. (Is that something we’ll see in the future?) He impersonated Daredevil to become one of The Defenders and even served as one of the Heroes for Hire. In other words, there’s a lot of backstory to draw on.
11 It’s All About The Sci-Fi
There are other elements to the story, but Black Panther is as much of a sci-fi flick as it is a superhero movie or part of the MCU. Expect a heavy dose of uber-cool high tech from airborne ships to weaponry. Chad Boseman has described T’Challa as being both scientist and king. In the comics, he’s a specialist in both biology and physics, and he’s one of the Illuminati — a group of super smart superheroes that also included Tony Stark and Reed Richards. Sister Shuri is the Minister of Technology, and she’s a talented inventor whose gifts the Black Panther often puts to good use, including in his suit. It’s been strongly rumored that she will appear again in Avengers: Infinity War, so Wakandan tech may play an even bigger role in the larger MCU in the future.
10 The Dora Milaje
As the ruler of Wakanda, Black Panther’s personal armed guards are an all-female fighting force called the Dora Milaje. They’re fierce and striking, strong and bald, and they know how to make all that look both kickass and sexy. In the story, the Dora Milaje are recruited from all over Wakanda and come from different ethnic groups. Florence Kasumba briefly appeared in Captain America: Civil War with the Panther in the role of Ayo, one of the Dora Milaje. Not just warriors and skilled marital artists, they are also seen as potential queens of Wakanda. Lupita Nyong'o plays Nakia, described as a “war dog,” and Danai Gurira portrays Okoye, leader of the Dora Milaje.
9 Klaue And Killmonger
Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is getting a lot of attention since the trailers were released. He’s one of T’Challa’s antagonists, a challenger to his rule on the throne of Wakanda, and is described as the Magneto to T’Challa’s Professor Xavier. But if we look back to the comic books, Ulysses Klaue, the son of a Nazi and an unscrupulous arms dealer with a taste for Vibranium — a.k.a Klaw – who emerges as the major villain. The two join forces in the movie, and in fact, the two are also mixed up in the comic book world where T’Challa exiles the Killmonger family for their dealings with Klaw. Andy Serkis played Klaw in Avengers: Age of Ultron and returns in Black Panther. Toward the end of Age of Ultron, Klaw’s arm is severed by Ultron. In the Black Panther trailer, we’ve seen a shot of Klaw firing a sonic cannon that is coming out of a prosthetic hand. That brings his character in line with the comics, where his sonic cannon claw is made from Vibranium he stole from Wakanda.
8 More Enemies: M’Baku
When you’re king of the most technologically and mineral-rich nations on Earth, you can expect to have a lot of enemies. Along with the others, Black Panther will have to face off against M’Baku (a.k.a Man-Ape) played by Winston Duke. He's also known as the White Gorilla, leader of the outlaw White Gorilla Cult, and he gets his supervillain abilities by eating the flesh of white gorillas and bathing in their blood. He has appeared as a recurring arch-enemy of the Black Panther in comics. He's got superhuman strength and speed, and has plotted to overthrown T'Challa and take over the thrown, leading the nation back into a primitive, pre-technology state. In the upcoming movie, he's not known as Man Ape, and they seem to have downplayed that aspect of his comic book persona, but the rivalry with T'Challa is sure to be part of the plot.
Wakanda may be a fictional country on the African continent, but film makers tried to integrate their imaginary nation into the real Africa as it is today — it’s all in the details. In an interview, director Ryan Coogler mentions filming a scene between T’Challa and his father — as a spirit or otherworldly entity, we presume, since he died in Captain America: Civil War. The father and son speak in Xhosa, a Bantu language that is spoken largely in South Africa and Zimbabwe by 8 to 11 million people. Chad Boseman has gone on the record as saying that he deliberately chose an African — as opposed to a European — accent as his character’s voice, presumably one from South Africa. It certainly makes sense, given Wakanda’s history as a secretive, technologically advanced nation untouched by colonialism. It’s the epitome of Afrofuturism, an aesthetic that imagines just such a technologically superior African future. The movie’s designers immersed themselves in Afrofuturism to come up with the high-tech look of Wakanda.
6 Wakandan Mysticism
Wakanda has a long history in comic books, so there is a lot of background to draw on. One of the aspects that has reportedly made it into the movie is the Cult of Bast, the Panther God. The role of Black Panther, which is inherited and earned, is part of the Cult. In one of the trailers released so far, we’ve seen T’Challa standing on a Southern African plain staring into a panther’s eyes — a sure sign that the mystical Cult will be part of the story. In the comic books, Bast appears as his own character, one who often advises T’Challa. Speaking of comic books, that mystical African plain may well be Djalia, an element that writer Ta-Nehisi Coates added in his recent Marvel Black Panther stories. Djalia is a realm that exists outside of standard time and space. Maybe it’s where T’Challa meets up with T’Chaka.
5 T’Challa’s Suit
Letitia Wright plays Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, and as smart as Black Panther is, she’s the real brains in the family. In a brief shot in the trailer, we can see her explaining a new version of his suit to T’Challa. The Black Panther has to train physically for his role, and that training can take years. It includes the usual athletic goals of speed, strength, and agility, along with honing his panther-like senses. He’s a martial artist and an acrobat, and then some. His suit plays the role of augmenting all that genuine physical prowess. The suit is made of Vibranium, the powerful and rare metal that has made Wakanda the tech powerhouse that it is, and includes claws, boots, and other tech. The new suit is black with flashes of purple, which jibes with comic book depictions of the rare metal. If he’s got a new suit, though, what happened to the old one Black Panther was sporting in Civil War? The trailer shows a shot of Michael B. Jordan as T’Challa’s nemesis Erik Killmonger in a similar suit. Did he nab the original Black Panther garb after Civil War? Or is it, as some fans speculate, the Golden Panther suit of comic book fame? We’ll have to wait and see.
4 South Korean Battle Royale
The movie’s big battle scene was reportedly filmed in Busan, South Korea, with several news outlets reporting the story. In the trailers released to date, we’ve seen a few frames from a scene where Klaw chases T’Challa in a car, and the signs they pass by seem to be written in Korean, which backs up the story. According to published reports, one of the Korean production companies involved in the shoot was looking for 150 cars, helicopters, and over 700 people to flesh out the scene. With few details on the story or plot itself so far, we can only speculate on the action that leads T’Challa and Klaw from Wakanda to South Korea. But, from the details we have so far, the chase sounds spectacular!
3 A Long Time Coming
There's been talk about a Black Panther movie as far back as 1992, when Wesley Snipes was said to be touted for the role. In fact, Snipes himself often mentioned the supposed ongoing project in multiple interviews. The movie was in development for about four years, as big films often are, and Stan Lee was said to be unhappy with the script drafts that had been submitted to that point. That’s about when the Blade trilogy was launched. Snipes was still talking about a Black Panther role right until after Blade: Trinity in 2003, but by that point, it was felt he was too closely associated with Blade, another Marvel character. John Singleton was said also to be involved at one point, a director best known for Boyz n the Hood, along with Reginald Hudlin from Django Unchained. Even this time around, Ava DuVernay and F. Gary Gray were also apparently in the running before Ryan Coogler was tapped for the director’s seat.
2 Martin Freeman Returns As Everett K. Ross
British actor Martin Freeman returns as Everett K. Ross, a CIA guy who first appeared in Captain America: Civil War. In that movie, he’s one of the many people hunting down Bucky Barnes (a.k.a The Winter Soldier). Ross ends up with the Avengers after they sideline Baron Zemo. Everett Ross comes directly from the comics, created by Christopher Priest and Kenny Martinez. He first appeared in Ka-Zar Vol. 3, #17 in 1998. The Black Panther movie is said to be based on a combination of Priest’s work during his Marvel Comics stint, along with more recent comics by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze. Martin Freeman has said in interviews that his character, who begins as an uneasy ally of the Panther’s goes on “a strange journey, and enlightening journey to Wakanda”.
1 Black Panther Rules The Living And The Dead
In the comic book world, Black Panther rules both the living and the dead. When each Black Panther dies, he goes to rest in Necropolis, the Wakandan city of the dead. There, they are present in both body and spirit. Whoever becomes the new Black Panther gains the skills and knowledge of those who preceded him. It is Bast who makes Black Panther King of the Dead in the comics, which brings up the intriguing possibility that this may tie into the movie’s plot. Perhaps it also ties into T’Challa’s visit with his father’s spirit. Necropolis has been featured in a few comic book story lines, and we’re wondering if it comes into play in the upcoming movie, or perhaps later on in the MCU.