Black Panther

Marvel announced last week that not only was a Black Panther movie finally coming, they’d already hired Chadwick Boseman to play him. Which is great news for comic book fans, who’d been begging the studio to make a Black Panther film for years. For those less familiar with the comic book universe, though, that just makes things more confusing. Who is the Black Panther? Why are people so excited about him? And what’s he doing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Good thing those non-comic-geeks have us to explain. Learn all about the Black Panther after the jump.

Black Panther

Who is the Black Panther?

Like so many other iconic comic book characters, the Black Panther was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s. He made his first appearance in an issue of Fantastic Four before headlining his own series, Jungle Action, starting in the 1970s. The Black Panther is considered the first black superhero in mainstream American comics, and he’ll be the first black superhero lead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. (No, the Blade trilogy starring Wesley Snipes doesn’t count — those movies were released by New Line and are not part of the MCU.)

Black Panther

And who is the Black Panther within the Marvel universe?

He is T’Challa, king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. If you want to get real technical about it, Black Panther is a title, not a name — whoever is the ruling leader of the Wakandan Panther Clan is the Black Panther. But for all intents and purposes, it’s his superhero identity just like Captain America is Steve Rogers’ or Iron Man is Tony Stark’s.

As with so many other Marvel heroes, T’Challa’s backstory is full of tragedy. His mother died giving birth to him and he was raised by his father, the king T’Chaka. When T’Challa was a teenager, a Dutch physicist called Klaw came to Wakanda in search of the rare element Vibranium. When T’Chaka refused to hand it over, Klaw had him gunned down right in front of his young son. T’Challa was able to fight back using Klaw’s own weapon against him, shattering Klaw’s hand and earning an enemy for life.

T’Challa went on to study in Europe and America, while his uncle S’yan took over as ruler of Wakanda. Eventually T’Challa returned to undergo the tribal rituals necessary to become the next Black Panther, defeating S’yan to take his rightful place at the throne. As Chieftain, T’Challa was allowed to eat the Heart-Shaped Herb (real creative name there, Marvel), which linked him to the Panther god and granted him superhuman strength, speed, stamina, and senses.

Since then, he’s teamed up with the Fantastic Four, infiltrated the Avengers, joined the Avengers for real, battled the Ku Klux Klan, lost and regained his powers, taken on and then ditched the name Black Leopard, adopted the identities Luke Charles and Mr. Okwondo, fallen in love with singer Monica Lynne, and married and split from the X-Man Storm. Not necessarily in that order. Oh, and he did it all while ruling his kingdom. Well, until his sister Shuri took over in the 2000s.

On the next page, get to know more about the Black Panther and his homeland.

Black Panther

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