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Black Panther has enjoyed one of the biggest surges in popularity of any character in recent memory since the record-setting Marvel movie in 2018. Since then, Black Panther has been everywhere, from Marvel movies to T.V. shows to video games. The tragic death of Chadwick Boseman put a damper on the craze as the questions about the franchise and the character’s future was nonstop.
Even with that tragedy, Black Panther has persevered to be just as popular as ever. With the upcoming movie looking to set the bar for solo Marvel movies once again, the Black Panther fever pitch is likely on the rise in short order.
I’ve always thought Black Panther was underrated and underutilized. He always was far more remarkable to me than Thor, yet Thor would get tons of spotlight while Black Panther sat in the background. Once the movie came out, things started to turn around, and Black Panther finally got his due, showcasing one of the more exciting superheroes ever created.
We’ll dive into everything in this Black Panther universe guide, from his origins to where the suit was created. For all things, T’Challa and the world he exists in, read on.
Bottom Line Up Front
Black Panther is one of the most unique superheroes out there. He is the most prominent black superhero of all time and also one of the only superheroes who is a literal king. He has countless unique stories and finds himself part of some of the biggest conflicts in all of Marvel. His impact throughout both the comics and MCU movies is immeasurable, and today, he’s looked at as one of the most important figures in pop culture.
Black Panther Origins
Unlike many superheroes, T’challa isn’t the only one of his kind. He is one of a long line of people to take on the mantle of Black Panther, which is a suit that represents the King and protector of Wakanda. It’s a title that is taken on after a ceremony and essentially makes someone the most crucial figure in the country and is even responsible for all diplomatic titles.
Where Did the Suit Come From?
Wakanda is the most technologically advanced country in the world, but they weren’t always that way. It all started when a meteorite containing Vibranium crashed in Wakanda. Due to fear of the outside world trying to harvest it, King T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father, closed Wakanda off to the world using the Vibranium. It then began to fuel everything in the country and was the primary ingredient in creating the iconic suit.
Black Panther’s Early Life
T’Challa was always destined to be the King of Wakanda and the next Black Panther, but as he was growing up, he was not entirely of that temperament. In fact, he fell in love at an early age with a woman who would go on to become Storm of the X-Men and showed that he wasn’t quite mature enough to take on the responsibility of Black Panther.
After Klaue killed his father, he showed a fierce desire for revenge, which drove him to put his relationship with Storm aside and instead focus on becoming the successor to his father and the next Black Panther.
With his first act as Black Panther in his youngest years, he chose to disband the Hatut Zeraze, a dangerous Wakandan police force led by his adopted brother White Wolf. Ironically, White Wolf was selling off Vibranium around the world and raking in a fortune because of it, and this is the first taste that T’Challa gets of exposing Wakanda to the world. He would go on to embrace the world more as time went on,
How Does T’Challa Become Black Panther?
T’Challa is far from the first Black Panther, and after the tragic death of his father, it was his uncle, S’yan, who took on the mantle before him. He eventually would grow up and take the mantle of Black Panther after defeating many of the strongest Wakandan warriors in ritualistic combat.
As a grown man, T’Challa was now ready to take on the mantle of his uncle and father before him and was named Black Panther and King of Wakanda. The Black Panther name is inherited, but even if you share the bloodline, you can still be challenged by others and have to earn it to attain the position.
In addition to winning in the combat trials, you must also eat an ancient herb that gives you the strength to defend the nation. It’s basically a way to obtain superpowers through your ancestors. In the Black Panther movie, this is shown as somewhat of a spiritual experience, an acid trip, regardless, it’s required to become the next Black Panther. That’s why it’s all the more impactful when Kilmonger consumes it and then has the area burnt to the ground so nobody could succeed him.
From there, T’Challa took Wakanda in directions they had never gone. Instead of closing themselves off from the world, T’Challa is known as the first Black Panther to embrace the bigger world. His first appearance in the comics has him fight and then team up with the Fantastic Four, which is how he eventually gets brought into the larger Marvel world.
How Does Black Panther Join The Avengers?
Black Panther is one of the key members of The Avengers throughout his years as a hero, but initially, he joined The Avengers in order to defeat them from the inside out. It’s not because T’Challa was evil, but rather that he feared for his country.
The initial offer comes from Captain America, a character that T’Challa greatly respected, and of course, he took the offer and became one of the longest-running Avengers out there. The real reason he joined the Avengers came during an incident in New York City when Achebe launched a mass shooting attack during a gathering to celebrate Black Panther. Achebe calls Black Panther out for going against his ideals and basically for kneeling to the white man and being a background hero in The Avengers while the white heroes stand at the front.
Honestly, this was pretty on the nose as it was very much an early critique of the Black Panther character, but T’Challa balks at it and instead reveals the reason for joining The Avengers was so he could spy on them and if they got out of line, eliminate them. Captain America heard the statement from Black Panther and didn’t kick him out but instead understood that T’Challa was doing everything in his power to protect Wakanda from any force that might try to steal what they have.
This was a bit of a shock to long-time Black Panther fans who never really saw the ruthless side of Black Panther. He’s always been one of the most prickly Avengers out there, often taking tons of work to gain his trust, but we’ve never seen anything prior to this event that was plain sinister in its design. This introduced the character as someone far smarter than initially realized and showed he was as cunning a leader as any in The Avengers.
Black Panther’s Adult Life
As the leader of Wakanda and a valued member of The Avengers, it’s pretty easy to see the strain that would come from trying to multitask. Although he begins in Wakanda, after meeting The Fantastic Four, he is brought to the United States and begins to meet characters from the larger world.
He would go on to team up with The Avengers and the X-Men and become one of the more present characters in the Marvel universe. In one notable instance, he found himself in New York City, where he met one of the other prominent Black heroes in the Marvel Universe, Luke Cage. The two became quick admirers of each other, and T’Challa even hired him to be his personal bodyguard for a short time.
Black Panther also rekindled his love life during this time, finding his childhood love Storm again. The two began a long romance that would see them rule over Wakanda together until the relationship ultimately fell out, breeding a deep hatred between them.
Other Black Panthers
Like I said earlier, T’Challa is far from the only Black Panther ever to exist, and in the comics and movies, other characters don the Black Panther mantle as well.
Bashing- Bashenga is spoken of as a legend amongst the Wakandan people. He was the head of the Panther Tribe, who united all the tribes in the land and formed Wakanda as a united country. He was the first man to take on the mantle of Black Panther, and his powers were given to him by the Panther Goddess Bass.
Shuri- T’Challa’s sister and all-around scientific genius. Shuri was not born to take the mantle of Black Panther but finds herself thrown into it when T’Challa falls into a coma after fighting Doctor Doom. She takes the suit and becomes the Queen of Wakanda in the process. During this time, she inherits the spirit of the Panther Goddess as well, giving her all the powers that T’Challa possessed.
S’Yan- S’yan gets the first crack at being Black Panther following the death of his brother T’Chaka. He is very reluctant to take the responsibility of ruling, though, and is simply a stop-gap for T’Challa while he matures. He does the job quite well despite his reluctance and becomes known as one of the most successful rulers the nation has ever had. He is fiercely loyal to his family and Wakanda and happily turns over the Black Panther suit to T’Challa, once again taking his side as an advisor, serving him as he served his brother.
Erik Killmonger- If you’ve seen the marvel movie, you know that Erik Killmonger is pining for that throne in Wakanda, and just like in the film, in the comics, he gets it as well. After defeating T’Challa in the combat trial and seemingly killing him in the process, he takes the suit and becomes the new King of Wakanda. Unfortunately for him, in the comics, he doesn’t take to the heart-shaped herb well because he is not of the royal bloodline.
He meets somewhat of an anticlimactic end in the comics as it’s not his nemesis T’Challa that kills him, but Monica Rambeau, the second Captain Marvel. In his short time as ruler, both in the movie and the comics, Killmonger is much more aggressive as a King and plans to take on the world’s militaries and claim dominion over the modern world. He wants to protect all the black people around the globe that have been oppressed and makes for a villain with an understandable motive, which drives people towards his cause.
T’Chaka- T’Chaka is T’Chala’s father and is responsible for separating the country of Wakanda from the rest of the world. His fears of the outside world are well confirmed when the villain Claue attempts to extract Vibranium for weapons. He is killed by Klaue in the process and drives the idea of isolationism into the country even harder, with the nation becoming xenophobic. T’Chaka’s fate is a bit different in the movie Captain America: Civil War, where he is killed by a terrorist attack by The Winter Soldier.
Nehanda- Nehanda gets a feature in the A.D. 1000’s version of The Avengers. The background here is that Thor had formed a version of The Avengers back in time, and Nehanda was the representative of Black Panther at the time. She doesn’t get a ton of time in the comics, but one notable appearance she makes is when T’Challa uses his King of the Dead abilities to summon her.
Black Panther 1,000,000 B.C.- Another blast from the past, this Black Panther takes place far in the past and is part of a version of The Avengers that has prehistoric versions of Iron Fist and even Ghost Rider.
Chanda- Chanda is T’Challa’s grandfather and was the Black Panther who ruled over Wakanda during world war two. Unfortunately, this was the first interaction between Wakanda and the nazi general named Fritz Klaue, who would go on to have the son who would kill T’Chaka. He would attempt to sway Chanda into bringing Vibranium and their culture into the greater world. Chanda was peaceful and known as one of the most good-natured Kings they ever had. His relationship with Klaue’s father led to the beginning of T’Challa and his whole inspiration for becoming Black Panther.
Black Panther Powers
Black Panther is one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe, and it’s partly thanks to his incredibly powerful suit.
Superhuman Sense- After connecting with the unknown Panther Deity, T”Challa gained the ability of super sense. He’s able to smell prey from any distance, memorizes the feeling certain people have when they approach him, and also has superhuman hearing, so it’s almost impossible to get the jump on him.
King of The Dead- As if Black Panther wasn’t strong enough already, after he connects with a Panth Goddess following a fight with Doctor Doom, he gains the power and knowledge of all of the Black Panthers that came before him. This imbibes him with unmatched strength and intelligence.
Control the Undead- This is where Black Panther gets a bit murky for me. I get that he needs to protect his people, and that’s his number one priority, but necromancy? He walks a fine line between psychotic and heroic, which this is one of those times. With his powers as the King of the Dead, he can raise an army of the undead and summon spirits. He can also summon their weapons in battle, making him all the more dangerous.
Immunity to Magic- This power comes in handy once the weirder side of the Marvel world starts to peak its head. This makes him a dangerous combatant against anyone in Dr. Strange’s universe and makes him immune to attacks from those who rely on magic for their powers, such as Scarlet Witch or Dr. Doom.
Hand-to-Hand Combat Master- Although there are tons of superheroes in the world of Marvel, none are on the same level as T’Challa when it comes to fighting close range. He’s incredibly fast, athletic, and, most of all-powerful. With Vibranium Claws that rival the power of Wolverine, he can also rip through steel, armor, and any other weapon that comes up against him.
Kinetic Absorption- The Black Panther suit is pretty much on par with Iron Man regarding how much it upgrades Black Panther’s power. Using the suit, he can absorb any force that hits him. This includes bullets, explosions, or any close-range attack. After absorption, he can redirect the energy into a fierce blast. This power essentially turns him into a magic user and can attack with energy in all forms, including powering up his own melee attacks.
Energy Dagger- Due to his suit being an essential Super Computer, Black Panther can summon an Energy Dagger at any time that does immense damage against his enemies. He can also summon a spear to throw as well.
Best Black Panther Teamups
Black Panther may have started as a loner, but after joining The Avengers, he has become one of the most consistently appearing characters in the comics. He has had tons of team-ups with some of the most popular superheroes around.
While Black Panther teams up with Captain America a lot because they are both in The Avengers, the two have a history that goes back way before they even met. It turns out Captain America first met Black Panther when Chanda wore the suit. This gave Cap a look into what Wakanda was all about, so when he finally met T’Challa, the respect he had for Chanda followed suit. One of their best team-ups came in the Battle of Wakanda, which showed the two leading the forces of The Avengers and the Wakandan army in an epic showdown against Thanos in the movie Avengers: Infinity War.
As two of the more prominent black heroes, it was important to see the two, who come from vastly different backgrounds, get to team up in a meaningful way. When they first meet, Luke Cage is essentially meeting his idol. He comes across T’Challa after his security job goes haywire, leaving him without a job. Because T’Challa was partially responsible, he offered him a job as his bodyguard. From there, the two begin a friendship and admiration for each other despite their differences. One is a wrongfully convicted ex-con, and the other a king, yet they understand each other. Their adventures together take a turn for the bizarre at times, with one memorable moment being them fighting vampires in New Orleans together.
Before he ever took the suit of Black Panther and responsibility as King of Wakanda, T’Challa was in love with a Wakandan girl who would become Storm of the X-Men. Years later, the two would rekindle and start a romance that would see the two of them rule together as well as travel to the ends of the galaxy to fight some of the most dangerous beings in the universe. As fierce as their love was, the end of it was just as rough and saw Storm try to kill T’Challa at one point.
Black Panther’s Cultural Impact
Black Panther is the only black superhero to get any attention in my lifetime. I’ve seen countless heroes have their pop culture booms, but only Black Panther felt like an event on a global level. The Black Panther movie came at a time when racial tensions were very high, and the result at the box office was booming.
Suddenly, Black Panther Halloween costumes were everywhere, and people were clamoring for him to have a video game (which still hasn’t happened) and more appearances for the character. What makes it so crazy is that Black Panther has been around since 1966; he’s just been one of the most ignored characters in the Marvel Universe.
Now, Black Panther 2 is on the horizon and will likely relight that fire for Black Panther, but without Chadwick Boseman manning the suit, it might not be the same cultural phenomenon I saw the first time around.
Differences Between the Black Panther Movie and Comics
The Black Panther movie stuck to the comics pretty closely, but a few things change heavily from the games.
In the movie, T’Challa is grieving the death of his father from the events of Captain America: Civil War, where The Winter Soldier killed him after he was mind controlled by Baron Zemo. In the comics, though, T’Chaka is killed by Klaue, who T’Challa fights in the Black Panther movie because he tries to smuggle vibranium weapons out of his country with Erik Killmonger.
This is a sizable difference in motivation for Black Panther, but overall it worked pretty well and helped introduce Erik Killmonger in a pretty organic way.
One big thing that changes is the identity of the White Wolf in the movies and comics. In the comics, his name is Hunter, and he’s the leader of a dangerous, secret police force that T’Challa has to disband. In the movies, White Wolf is The Winter Soldier, and he ends up in Wakanda after T’Challa promises to heal him following their epic fight in Captain America: Civil War. There is a chance that the second movie elaborates on Winter Soldier’s role in Wakanda more as the show Falcon and The Winter Soldier had the Dora Milaje show up to help Bucky and Sam at one point, but that’s just speculation for now.
In the movie, Erik Killmonger consumes the sacred herb and then burns the entire area to the ground so that nobody can take power other than him. After that, he takes over and fights a huge war against T’Challa that ends in T’challa killing him.
In the comics, though, he goes into a coma following him ingesting the herb. Although he recovers to fight in the war against T’Challa, he’s killed off by Monica Rambeau in one of the more anticlimactic endings for an iconic comic book villain.
Is T’Challa Alive in the Comics?
Well, in the comics, T’Challa has died several times, including once killed by Killmonger. The issue is whether he will stay dead or not. Due to Chadwick Boseman dying in real life, the character of T’Challa has been a hot topic as to whether or not he will be killed off for good.
T’Challa is a character that has lasted for almost 60 years, and these days, he holds the same weight as Steve Rogers or Tony Stark, so to kill him off in the comics is a pretty heavy topic. The movie Black Panther: Wakanda forever is coming soon, and it’s here we will learn the fate of T’Challa in the movies, and fate may follow him in the comics as well, so we’re in a bit of a wait-and-see mode right now.
FAQ about Black Panther Universe
Question: Can T’Challa die?
Answer: Although he’s one of the strongest superheroes in Marvel, he’s died several times in the comics, only to be revived several times. He’s also been snapped out of existence by Thanos and killed by Erik Killmonger in the movies, so he is not immortal.
Question: Will Shuri be the next Black Panther?
Answer: In the comics, Shuri takes up the suit of Black Panther when T’Challa is knocked out of action, so I assume she will be the one wearing the suit in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Question: Does Black Panther have a brother?
Answer: Yes, he has a brother named Hunter, although he’s an adopted brother and far more violent of a character than T’Challa
Black Panther might’ve taken a big hit with the loss of Chadwick Boseman, but the character remains as popular as ever, and I’m extremely hyped to see what’s to come with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and beyond.
For more inspiration, check out our full guide on the best Black Panther merch here!