Marvel’s Black Panther is about to explode onto screens across the globe, and it has a lot to do with Wakanda. Though King T’Challa will not be the first Black superhero on the big screen, Wakanda will be the first all Black superhero community on the big screen. The country is filled with incredible tales of scientific discovery, fearsome warriors, and true love: stories usually reserved for alabaster skin in worlds that look like ancient Europe.
Though T’Challa’s early cartoons suffered from some ethnocentrism (Africa has major cities and the most technologically advanced country should have a city to match its title), many have gotten the story of Wakanda right over the years. At the press junket for the upcoming Black Panther film, writer and director Ryan Coogler, stated that he took inspiration from multiple series. Here are some of the books that may have inspired the film.
BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA (2016)
Roxane Gay knows that a superhero’s greatness is directly correlated to their supporting team. Consequently, she kicks off he incredibly powerful series Black Panther: World of Wakanda with a quintessential question no one had thought to ask before. What is daily life like for the Dora Milaje? The women who protect the king of Wakanda are also expected to be available for marriage to the king. It is a job that requires total dedication of the mind, body, and soul. The exploration of that life was long overdue, and is a helpful window into the warrior class that shines in the film. Under Gay’s pen and Yona Harvey’s pencils the Dora Milaje come to life in stunning fashion.
BLACK PANTHER AND THE CREW (2017)
A bridge between Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther and World of Wakanda, Black Panther & The Crew features the adventures of Storm and Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Manifold. The best part of the book follows Knight on her beat where she says cool lines like, “Ezra was the fourth person to die in police custody that summer. Autopsy results were slow. Cops were on edge. I kept waiting for Harlem to blow.” The pulpy thriller is well worth a read and Yona Harvey’s art is fantastic. There are no Avengers in the Black Panther film, but the with Avengers: Infinity War around the corner it might be nice to freshen up on how T’Challa plays with others.
BLACK PANTHER #1-3 (2017)
Ta-Nehisi Coates began writing Black Panther in 2017, a couple years after Between the World and Me became a bestseller. In that novel, Coates tell his son about the beauty and horror the world will hold for him as a black man. But in telling T’Challa’s story, Coates explores what it means to be a king, and all its complicated ramifications. After the death of his father, T’Chaka, T’Challa must decide how he will rule and reckon with the parables that were passed on from a previous generation. The Black Panther film picks up right where we left him in Captain America: Civil War. Learn what kind of King T’Challa truly is.
FANTASTIC 4: THE WAY IT BEGAN! (1974)
For those looking to discover T’Challa’s origins, read The Fantastic 4: The Way it Began! Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Fantastic 4 #53 introduces T’Challa, vibranium, and Klaw. Klaw is out to steal as much vibranium as possible so he can begin creating an arsenal of weapons. Black Panther as we know him relies heavily on this original mythos and the film brings the main principles to the big screen. In reading this comic, not only can you brush up on your comic book history, but you also have a perfect excuse to stare at Kirby’s beautiful art.
WHO IS BLACK PANTHER?
Reginald Hudlin is a black filmmaker, best known for writing cult classics like the House Partyfranchise and Bebe’s Kids. In 2005 he began writing the Black Panther comic book with the goal of making T’Challa an unapologetic black man. Hudlin reworks the original Kirby and Lee creation, updating it slightly for new readers. Who is Black Panther can meander on its way to answering its titular question, but the way Rudlin manages themes of colonialism, African diaspora, and black love makes it all worth it.
CHRISTOPHER PRIEST BLACK PANTHER #1-4 (1998)
There’s only one quintessential run of Black Panther. As the first Black man to write T’Challa Christopher Priest had a lot to say about the state of America, the Black community, and the struggle of being a decent ruler. The modern era of the character was defined by Priest, and the film will likely synthesize many of the thematics issues and dynamics that Priest wrote about. There are a host of talented artist that work on the book throughout Priest’s run, but Sall Valluto is by far the best. His work is classic Marvel style imbued with a high gloss finish. Think Kirby meets Jen Bartel. I want to live inside of these pages.