Apologies for the delay in the release of our second Before You See The Movie: Black Panther video. That Hashtag Show was able to attend this week’s World Premiere of the film, and its press days. We can assure you that Marvel ups its game with Black Panther. This week we are breaking down the history and motivations of the major supporting characters in the film.
The Black Panther’s Allies & Villains
Most superheroes have a few friends, some sidekicks, a nemesis or two. The Black Panther has
an entire kingdom and when we finally get to see Wakanda in MARVEL’s Black Panther
debuting in theaters on February 16, we’ll get to meet both the allies and the enemies of the
The Royal Family
T’Challa is the son of King T’Chaka and Queen Ramonda. T’Chaka was the previous King Of
Wakanda and previous Black Panther. After his death, both titles passed on to his son T’Challa.
In the comics, Queen Ramonda is actually T’Challa’s stepmother and T’Chaka’s second wife.
It’s not confirmed if the Marvel Cinematic Universe will address this specific part of her
backstory at all but it’s clear that Ramonda is very much revered as the Queen Mother of
Princess Shuri is the youngest member of the royal family but she’s not “T’Challa’s little sister".
She has taken on the mantle of Black Panther before in the comics and also ruled Wakanda at
times when her brother was unable to. During an interview, Chadwick Boseman described Shuri
as the “Tony Stark of Wakanda”, noting that while T’Challa is very intelligent, Shuri is the
technological whiz kid. As we’ve seen in several of the film’s clips and trailers, Shuri is not
above suiting up and entering the fray.
The Dora Milaje (pronounced Ma-la-shay), or “adored ones”, are the king’s personal bodyguards. According to ancient Wakandan tradition, each member of the Dora Milaje were recruited from every Wakandan tribe
not just as protectors of the king but as wives-in- training. However, the Dora Milaje’s role as a
pool of potential matches for the king seems to have become purely ceremonial in modern
times. Danai Gurira, who plays Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje in the upcoming film,
describes the Dora Milaje as “women who have pledged their lives to the throne and to the
security of the kingdom”.
Speaking of security, we now come to W’Kabi, T’Challa’s best friend and second-in- command.
In the film, W’Kabi will serve as the head of security for the Border Tribe, Wakanda’s first line of
In the comics, Zuri was a loyal friend to T’Chaka, the former king and Black Panther. Now in his
older age and in this movie’s iteration, Zuri will be portrayed as the keeper of the Heart-Shaped
Herb, the plant each Black Panther consumes in order to gain enhanced abilities. Director Ryan
Coogler described the character as “the Black Panther’s version of Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
Rounding out this list of allies is Everett K. Ross who was originally conceived as an “audience
surrogate” character. In the MCU, Ross is a member of the CIA and former liaison of its Joint
Counter Terrorism Task Force. From the trailers, it looks like Ross will still be the “audience
surrogate”, asking all the questions MCU newcomers will need to understand Wakanda and its
culture and history.
M’Baku is the leader of Wakanda’s mountain tribe, the Jabari, who oppose T’Challa’s claim to
the throne. M’Baku was originally known in the comics as Man-Ape but the filmmakers have
decided to sidestep that name altogether since according to executive producer, Nate Moore, “Having a black character dress up as an ape, I think there’s a lot of racial implications that don’tsit well, if done wrong.” However, since the character is the leader of a group who worships the gorilla gods, his design takes a lot of inspiration from gorillas including fur scents and a gorilla-like chest plate.
Ulysses Klaue is an arms dealer and smuggler. Introduced in the MCU in Avengers: Age of Ultron, we see that Klaue has access to Wakanda’s valuable vibranium. Played by Andy Serkis, Klaue insists that “El Dorado” is actually in Wakanda and he’s seen it. It’s possible he’s referring to the last Infinity Stone that is still to be introduced in the MCU which many internet theories claim is located in Wakanda, but we’ll have to wait and see about that.
Klaue has allied himself with Erik Killmonger, who has his eye on the throne and all of its secrets. A Wakandan exile, Killmonger became an American black-ops soldier who is also an expert martial artist. From the trailers, we see that Killmonger is one of the champions of the rival tribes T’Challa has to battle during his trials for the right to the Black Panther mantle and the Heart-Shaped Herb. Killmonger also manages to get his hands on his own vibranium suit,
revealing it in a stand-off with the Dora Milaje. Killmonger is poised to be a true threat to T’Challa with just as many villains opposing the new king and his allies.
That’s it for this week and we hope you’ll join us for our next video where we’ll discuss the cultural influences on the fashion and design of Wakanda and also where Black Panther fits into the landscape of Afrofuturism. See you then!