The Essential Guide to Black Panther

You’ve heard his name, and you’ve probably seen him in action on the big screen. But how well do you really know the mighty Black Panther? Here’s the lowdown before his big solo feature debuts.

Black Panther has gained major popularity recently. But he’s actually been around for decades. Comic legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created him, and he made his debut in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966. He got his first solo book in 1973.

Black Panther was mainstream comics’ first black superhero. He shares a name with the Black Panther Party, but only by coincidence — the comic book actually predates the group by a few months. This will be the first major superhero flick with a mainly black cast.

Black Panther got his powers from a heart-shaped herb found in Wakanda, a fictional African nation and his home country. Consuming it gave him heightened senses, strength, agility, stamina, durability, and healing powers from an ancient Panther God.

Yep. This deity has been with Wakanda since the dawn of time. It’s bonded with the great chieftain of the Wakandan Pantha Clan for centures, according to ancient lore, adorning him or her with the mantle of the Black Panther.

The Black Panther mantle has been passed down many times over the years. But the main hero of the comics and upcoming film is T’Challa, the king of Wakanda. His father and uncle have also taken on the role, as has Shuri, his younger sister.

Black Panther’ suit is made of vibranium, which is the same super-strong (fictional) metal Captain America’s shield is composed of of. It’s virtually impenetrable, meaning Black Panther is bulletproof. And it adds a scare factor to the suit’s built-in claws.

T’Challa has strong connections to the rest of the Marvel Universe. In the comics, he’s been in the Avengers, worked with Daredevil, and even married Storm, an iconic member of the X-Men. He also battled alongside Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War.

After Civil War and his father’s death, T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) became the newly crowned king of Wakanda. When we last saw him, he was harboring the “war criminal” Captain America and his former sidekick Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. the Winter Soldier.

In the new Black Panther movie, not everyone is happy to see the return of King T’Challa. Factions in Wakanda will try to usurp him. One of those rebels is Erik Killmonger, an exiled Wakandan played by Michael B. Jordan.

T’challa has more at his disposal than the power of Black Panther. He has the Dora Milaje — the guardians of Wakanda. They’re an entirely female force including Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Okoye (Danai Gurira). They’re sure to steal the show.

The show doesn’t stop with Black Panther , out February 16. T’Challa will return for Avengers: Infinity War on May 4 — as will the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Stay tuned.