The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s depiction of Wakanda is undoubtedly going to become the definitive take on the secretive nation for many people once Black Panther hits theaters, and that’s understandable. But there is so much more to Wakanda’s rich history in the comics that just won’t fit into the film.
Marvel’s become very good at distilling down the histories of its characters to fit neatly within the MCU, but unlike most of his fellow heroes, the Black Panther and his homeland have been almost entirely off the map. If you want to go into Black Panther knowing a bit more about Wakanda’s canonical history, there are a few key moments from various comics spanning back over 50 years.
Note: Though this isn’t the exact order some of these moments were published over the years, this is still the chronological order in which they all occurred.
T’Challa Establishes Contact With the Outside World
Though it’s fairly common knowledge that T’Challa and the people of Wakanda were first introduced in Fantastic Four #52, it’s worth remembering the specific circumstances of this debut. When T’Challa lures the Fantastic Four into a battle, he’s making the conscious decision to open himself and Wakanda to the world for the first time. What’s more, he does so specifically because he wants to test himself and see whether he’s ready to fight Ulysses Klaw.
It’s significant that T’Challa would essentially enlist the assistance of the outside world in order to handle a deeply personal problem like Klaw, because such a move goes against Wakanda’s tradition of isolationism. But this was the first of many things T’Challa would do to establish that he’s a very different kind of Black Panther then his predecessors—and that he has his own ideas about how best to protect Wakanda.
T’Challa Joins the Avengers and Reveals His True Identity
After becoming acquainted with the Fantastic Four, T’Challa was introduced into the wider world of costumed superheroes. Soon, he found himself being welcomed into the Avengers’ ranks as its newest (and first black) member in Avengers #52. T’Challa’s duties as an Avenger would soon become almost as important as his responsibilities as a king, and the duality of his separate lives would further illustrate the differences between his and his father’s time spent as the Panther.
In addition to pulling T’Challa away from his throne (though he was almost always more than willing to go), his involvement with the American superhero team would eventually lead to him revealing his secret identity to the world, further increasing the amount of attention being paid to Wakanda.
Killmonger Becomes the New Black Panther
After spending a sizable time away from Wakanda, T’Challa returns home to find it under attack from Erik Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan in the film), a would-be usurper who T’Challa is eventually able to defeat. But Killmonger’s initial defeat would drive the villain to return years later with a plan to wreak havoc on Wakanda’s economy and plunge the country into chaos. It’s around this same time that Everett K. Ross and T’Challa begin their longstanding professional relationship and Ross is temporarily appointed to be T’Challa’s regent on the throne.
Killmonger’s challenge to T’Challa’s rule culminates in a traditional ritualistic battle between the two that Killmnger wins, making him the new Black Panther and technically the leader of Wakanda. While a comatose T’Challa wanders through the spirit realm alongside the Moon Knight, Killmonger takes T’Challa’s place in the Avengers, much to the disdain of the other members. In time, T’Challa awakes from his coma and spends time in New York City where he mentors young police officer Kasper Cole.
The US Government Plots to Overthrow Wakanda
In an attempt to gain access to Wakanda’s vibranium, the US government allows Klaw to form a team of supervillains—including Batroc the Leaper, the Black Knight, Radioactive Man, and Rhino—who lead an attack on the African country. The US plans to offer its “assistance” to Wakanda by deploying fleets of Deathlok cyborgs that were intended to become permanent installations, even after Klaw’s team was defeated. T’Challa recognises the ploy for what it is and summarily dismisses the Deathloks with a warning to the US.
Not long after defeating the Deathloks, T’Challa marries Storm and sides with Captain America and those who oppose the Superhuman Registration Act at the centre of the first superhero Civil War.