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VOICE OVER: Rudolph Strong
How much do you know about Black Panther? For this list, we'll be looking at some interesting tidbits about this superb superhero, charting his history from his comics inception, to his cinematic debut and beyond. Our countdown includes He First Appeared in a “Fantastic Four” Story, T'Challa Has a PhD in Physics, Daredevil Had Him Watch Over Hell's Kitchen, Wesley Snipes Was Almost Black Panther, and more!

#20: He First Appeared in a “Fantastic Four” Story

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Before getting a groundbreaking comic series of his own, Black Panther’s debut came in an issue of Marvel’s first family back in 1966. The story arc sees the Fantastic Four being gifted a fancy flying aircraft along with an invitation to Wakanda. Upon arrival, the superhero team is attacked by Black Panther and his forces, the proper greeting for Marvel heroes. It turns out though that Black Panther, now revealed as King T’Challa, was merely testing their might, before recruiting them to assist him in defending Wakanda from the villainous Ulysses Klaw. This story arc continued in the subsequent issue and beyond, but it would be another decade before Black Panther got his own eponymous series.

#19: His Creators

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Seeing as they also created the Fantastic Four, it’s no surprise that Marvel legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby can also be attributed to the inception of Black Panther. However, both generally disagreed over who ultimately first conceived the character. This isn’t too surprising, seeing as the two geniuses often butted heads behind the scenes. They both claimed Black Panther stemmed from their desire to be more inclusive with superhero representation, especially considering Marvel’s growing black audience and staff. Wherever the truth lies, it’s clear that Lee and Kirby set the groundwork for one of the most legendary superheroes of all time.

#18: Coal Tiger

Speaking of the character’s creation, did you know that he was very nearly not called “Black Panther?” Indeed, Kirby’s original concept art for the superhero had him labeled as “Coal Tiger,” which definitely isn’t as marketable, to say the least. The “Black Panther” name ultimately came from a pulp adventure story wherein the hero had a black panther companion. Interestingly enough, Kirby’s original Coal Tiger would appear in a 1992 “Avengers” comic as an alternate-universe T’Challa from Earth-355. His costume looks a little like comics-Wolverine by way of Doctor Strange, but it’s still interesting to see what might’ve been.

#17: T’Challa Has a PhD in Physics

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Most people think of Black Panther as being a highly athletic and agile superhero, but you shouldn’t sleep on his genius-level intellect. T’Challa is highly skilled in the field of engineering, creating rudimentary teleportation devices and even weapons that can best Vibranium. But hands down, T’Challa’s greatest area of expertise is physics. In his youth, T’Challa traveled to America and Europe to study the outside world, albeit incognito so no one would know he was a Wakandan prince. Along the way, he earned a PhD in physics from Oxford University, putting his knowledge to use by creating the quantum-field of Shadow Physics to track Vibranium. So if he has a PhD, does that make him Dr. Black Panther?

#16: The Dora Milaje

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With the advent of the movies, every self-respecting MCU fan knows Wakanda’s kickass group of female warriors known as the Dora Milaje. While the group may seem integral to Wakanda’s dynamic now, many will be surprised to learn that they didn’t appear in “Black Panther” comics until well into its run. Indeed, it was as recently as “Black Panther” Vol. 3 #1 in 1998 that the Dora Milaje debuted. A couple of the “Black Panther” movies’ most notable characters, Nakia and Okoye, spearheaded the Dora Milaje in the comics when T’Challa had them reinstated. However, Nakia is much different on the page, becoming obsessed with T’Challa and ultimately donning the supervillain moniker Malice.

#15: Powerful Enemies

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Though Black Panther’s power set may not be as flashy and bombastic as other superheroes, he’s actually proven himself to contend with and even defeat some of Marvel’s greatest villains. In addition to grappling with the Fantastic Four, Black Panther’s also single-handedly bested baddies like the demon Mephisto and even Doctor Doom. This is largely due to his advanced intellect and being able to apply it in battle as one of the world’s best hand-to-hand fighters. He’s often been compared to Captain America physically and to Batman in terms of smarts and resources, so it’s no wonder why Black Panther is such a force to be reckoned with.

#14: Black Panther in Animation

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Though Black Panther’s only been depicted in live-action relatively recently, the character actually has a longstanding history on the animated side of things. Back in the ‘90s when it seemed like every major superhero had their own animated series, “Black Panther” made his TV debut on “Fantastic Four,” wherein he was voiced by legendary character actor Keith David. From there, Black Panther also made varied appearances in the likes of “X-Men: The Animated Series,” “Iron Man: Armored Adventures,” “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and “Avengers Assemble.” Most notably, however, was his self-titled series on BET where he was voiced by Djimon Hounsou, who plays Korath in the MCU.

#13: Quinjet Designer

One of the most famous flying vehicles in all of comics, the Quinjet is the signature mode of transportation for the Avengers. While you’d be forgiven for thinking that Tony Stark, aka Iron Man had something to do with its creation, it was actually the Wakanda Design Group, spearheaded by T’Challa himself, that put the first one together. This is hardly surprising, seeing as Wakanda is the most technologically advanced country in the Marvel universe. Of course, the MCU’s Wakanda was still a secret society during the first two phases, so S.H.I.E.L.D. is initially presented as the Quinjet’s progenitors. But 2018’s “Black Panther” shows Wakanda as having an arguably superior aircraft in the Royal Talon Fighter.

#12: Daredevil Had Him Watch Over Hell’s Kitchen

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Black Panther is intrinsically known as fighting for the nation of Wakanda. Even when he’s international, he still tends to handle world-changing threats. So it’s interesting to note that he once downsized by operating within the Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. Famously the stomping grounds for Daredevil, Hell’s Kitchen was at one point put under the protection of Black Panther when both heroes needed to rediscover their place in the world. While there, T’Challa fought villains like Vlad the Impaler and Kraven the Hunter. He even at one point rejoined the Avengers. Still, this story arc was never meant to last, as T’Challa eventually returned to Wakanda.

#11: A Real-Life Enemy

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Most people will know Captain America fought Adolf Hitler in his very first issue back in 1941, but did you know Black Panther literally went up against the KKK? Before he got his own series, Black Panther headlined several issues of “Jungle Action” back in the mid ‘70s. One comic arc sees him go up against none other than the real-life hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. It’s pretty on-the-nose stuff, but is also fairly emblematic of the era’s relationship with comics and American history. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t a very popular run, especially in the Marvel offices.

#10: Several Superhero Teams

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We’ve already mentioned that Black Panther’s been a member of the Avengers - heck, almost every Marvel hero has at some point - but his penchant for being a team player doesn’t stop there. In addition to fighting alongside the Fantastic Four, Black Panther’s also aided the X-Men and been a member of offshoot teams like Fantastic Force, the Mighty Avengers and the New Avengers. Given his genius-level intelligence, he’s also served as a member of the highly secretive Illuminati. Though Black Panther will likely always be generalized as a solo hero, it’s clear that he remains a team player both within and outside of Wakanda.

#9: Alternate MCU Actors

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Of course, no one could have played T’Challa better than the late, great Chadwick Boseman, but it’s always interesting to think about what might’ve been. Reportedly, many actors were at one point considered for the role before going on to appear in the MCU in other parts. These include “Thor: The Dark World’s” Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, the aforementioned “Guardians of the Galaxy” actor Djimon Hounsou, and even Falcon himself, Anthony Mackie. There’s also another famous actor who tried to get a “Black Panther” off the ground before the MCU existed, but that’s a story for another entry. While we’re more than pleased Marvel kept these other actors in mind, Boseman was clearly the perfect choice.

#8: Marvel’s First Graphic Novel

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Though comic books have always included multi-issue arcs, they weren’t always so streamlined and self-contained as to represent one singular, insular story. That all changed when the medium broke through in the ‘80s with titles like “Watchmen” and “The Dark Knight Returns.” However, the “Panther’s Rage” thirteen-issue storyline is often credited with being one of the first graphic novels, not to mention the first of Marvel’s. Part of “Jungle Action” and preceding Black Panther’s dealings with the KKK, “Panther’s Rage” was universally acclaimed, with one critic lauding it for getting to the “heart of the African nation of Wakanda.” It just goes to show that Black Panther has always had terrific writers, and it certainly doesn’t hurt having an equally terrific character to work with.

#7: Oscar-Winning Movie

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Speaking of accolades, the first ever “Black Panther” movie in 2018 broke new ground on multiple fronts. Not only was it a landmark cultural event, but it became one of the highest-grossing films of all time. On the awards side of things, it became the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, proving the genre’s increased cultural presence in the 21st century. While it didn’t win the top prize, it did become the first Oscar-winning movie in the MCU, snagging not one, not two, but three golden statuettes, in the categories of Best Costume Design, Production Design, and Original Score for Ludwig Göransson. Let’s just hope that all future superhero films can follow in “Black Panther’s” example.

#6: He Married Storm

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Black Panther and Storm of the X-Men are easily two of the most prominent black superheroes in comic books, full stop. So you gotta know that their union would result in one legendary power couple. T’Challa and Ororo Munroe actually had quite the romance in their youth, but his princely duties ultimately kept them apart. Years later, T’Challa finally reconnected with Ororo and reunited her with long-lost family in Africa. They married soon after in what has to be one of the most beautiful ceremonies in all of comics. However, a conflict between the Avengers and X-Men saw the husband and wife put in direct conflict with one another. This ultimately led to the High Priest of Wakanda annulling their marriage.

#5: Chadwick Boseman’s African Accent

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Though T’Challa in the comics got a foreign education as mentioned earlier, Chadwick Boseman insisted on going a different direction by giving the character a strictly African accent. To clarify, many African nations were unjustly colonized by European imperialists, meaning any ruler was thus given a European education that directly affected their accents, particularly in diplomatic circles. Boseman however wanted to refute that notion and reflect Wakanda’s world prominence by donning what was ultimately constructed to be the Wakandan accent. By doing so, Boseman subtly managed to convey that one doesn’t need to adopt the ways of another person’s culture to be a well-rounded individual and leader.

#4: Wesley Snipes Was Almost Black Panther

Aside from Chadwick Boseman, obviously, no one else came closer to playing T’Challa than ‘90s icon Wesley Snipes. Back in 1992, Snipes announced his intention of getting a “Black Panther” movie made with him playing the title hero. However, despite the various levels of involvement with producers, screenwriters and director John Singleton, the project languished in development hell for well over a decade. Thankfully, Snipes was able to star in the first successful Marvel movie anyway, playing another landmark black hero, Blade. Even after three “Blade” movies, Snipes continued to push for “Black Panther.” However, three years spent in prison for tax evasion and the advent of the MCU effectively closed his “Black Panther” window for good.

#3: Shuri Has Become the Black Panther

While T’Challa is most-associated with the moniker, a number of names have assumed Black Panther duties, especially seeing as it’s technically a title passed on through generations. The most notable comics instance came in the form of T’Challa’s sister Shuri. Though a technological genius regardless, Shuri got her chance to fulfill her dream as Black Panther when T’Challa became comatose. The panther goddess Bast initially rejected Shuri for being too covetous of T’Challa’s mantle, but Shuri subsequently proved herself by protecting Wakanda from the villainous Morlun. Though unconfirmed as of this writing, it’s been heavily implied that Shuri will assume the identity in the MCU sequel, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

#2: Black Panther Predates the Black Panther Party

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A common misconception is that Marvel’s Black Panther was named after the political organization of the same name that was prominent in the 1960s. Though both officially formed in 1966, the character actually debuted just three months earlier. Granted, the party’s black panther logo was lifted from the preceding Lowndes County Freedom Organization, but neither that nor the character actually had any influence on the other’s creation. That said, it wasn’t long before people started connecting the two with one another. Marvel’s superhero was even rebranded as “Black Leopard” in a 1972 “Fantastic Four” issue, but the name didn’t stick.

#1: The First Black Superhero in Mainstream Comics

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We’ve spoken at length about how groundbreaking the first “Black Panther” movie was in 2018. So it’s only fitting that the character was equally as groundbreaking when he debuted over fifty years earlier. Granted, there were certainly some black comic book heroes beforehand, but none had superpowers and none really captured the cultural zeitgeist quite like Black Panther. There were some from the likes of Atlas Comics, Dell Comics, and even Marvel Comics in the form of Gabe Jones, the latter of whom debuted in the series “Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos” in 1963. But there’s clearly a reason Black Panther struck a chord with so many audiences, from his design, to his backstory, to his truly captivating characterization. In short: Wakanda forever.