The first trailer for Captain America: Civil War is packed with new details about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Winter Soldier's no longer evil, The Scarlet Witch can now fly, and apparently the government is interested in monitoring the world's superheroes.
Of all characters revealed in the trailer, there's one in particular that comic book stans have been patiently waiting for ever since it was first announced that he'd be making an appearance: The Black Panther.
The Black Panther is one of Marvel's most iconic African superheroes, but there's a lot about him and his role in Civil War that you might not know about. But don't worry, we've got you covered.
T'Challa (the Black Panther) was first introduced in issue #52 of the Fantastic Four as an enigmatic physicist with a genius intellect, super strength, and enhanced senses granted to him by a great Panther Diety. In addition to fighting crime as a costumed superhero, he's also the king of Wakanda, a technologically-advanced, highly-secretive country located somewhere in East Africa.
After the Fantastic Four assist the Black Panther in defeating his arch nemesis Ulysses Klaw, the Panther begins to slowly integrate himself into the adventures of the world's larger community of super teams. Generally speaking, whenever Marvel's heroes need help solving a science-related problem, T'Challa is the person they turn to.
After a brief stints with the Avengers and teams-ups with Spider-Man and Daredevil, in the '70s, the Panther's adventures pitted him against villains like Victor Von Doom and the Ku Klux Klan. In holding with Wakanda tradition, though, The Black Panther tends to wait to get involved in the affairs of other countries for a number of reasons.
In addition to his heritage, the Black Panther's greatest superpowers are his kingdom and his country's resources. In the Marvel universe, Wakanda is known for being peaceful (but extremely isolationist) and never having been successfully invaded by another state. Part of this has to do with the country's location, but it's mostly because of its massive vibranium deposits.
In the comics, vibranium is a nearly-indestructible, energy-absorbing metal that can be used for things like building homes, energy sources, and weapons. It's the same metal that Captain America's shield happens to be made out of.
Because Wakanda holds the world's bulk, the country is considered to be something of a stealth superpower, geopolitically speaking. Rather than trading vibranium with the outside world, Wakanda's rulers have chosen to keep the resource to themselves, opting instead to develop technologies and applications for the metal internally.
Here in the real world, the fates of comic book characters are decided by the companies that own them. Wesley Snipes was very vocal about his attempts to bring T'Challa to the big screen back in the mid-90s, but corporate complications and Snipes' involvement in Blade ultimately ended the project. In the years since then, the Black Panther has made appearances here and there throughout different Marvel productions.
I highly recommend the very good, but ill-fated BET series starring Djimon Hounsou, Kerry Washington, and Jill Scott from 2010.
There are a number of reasons as to why Marvel's finally decided to feature the Black Panther now, the most obvious being Marvel's glaring lack of heroes of color. Up until Age of Ultron, the Avengers' lineup consisted of nothing but white Americans, only one of whom was a woman. The Panther may not be joining the Avengers just yet, but his inclusion in Civil War is setting the scene for a solo film that will likely bring him closer to the World's Mightiest Heroes.
Narratively, though, the reason T'Challa's decided to throw down seems pretty straightforward. In Age of Ultron, the villainous robot Ultron is on a quest to build himself the perfect body.
Naturally, he seeks out the world's most durable metal (vibranium) to make said body, which brings him in contact with Ulysses Klaw (remember him?) In the books, Klaw is notable for being one of the only people to successfully steal from Wakanda and make it out alive.
Seeing as how Wakandan vibranium was almost used to destroy the world thanks to a robot created by Tony Stark, it stands to reason that the Black Panther would have a few things to say to the Avengers.
We wait. Civil War doesn't hit theaters until next May, but in the mean time, there are definitely other things to look forward to. Ta-Nehisi Coates's run as head writer for the Black Panther's solo series launches next Spring and T-Challa's currently flying through space with the Ultimates in a fight to stop the universe from being eaten.
If you really, really need your Black Panther fix right now, though, I kindly suggest you check out the best superhero meme on Twitter right now: Black Respectability Politics Panther: