Black Panther is out next week.
There are obviously spoilers here, but not for the main plot. Something for a checklist, maybe, but including post-credit scenes…
The movie draws heavily from the comic book, especially Christopher Priest‘s run on the title from the late nineties into the early noughties. Portraying Wakanda as an isolationist nation, yet riven by its own divisions, politics and challenges, and totally misunderstood by the rest of the world. And with Everett Ross as the outside’s eyes into that world, though he plays much less of a role as the reader/viewers’ eyes in the movie, we get our own personal our by the Wakandans themselves. But everything from history and worship of Bast, Shuri who will become the Black Panther and Queen of Wakanda, the ancestral realm of Djalia, and a whole lot of Kirbyesque design (though not as much as Thor Ragnarok) show the comic book influences on the movie.
A number of comic book creators are credited, principally Stan Lee and Jack Kirby but I was also able to note Christopher Priest, Don McGregor, Gene Colan, Joe Quesada and Reginald Hudlin. There were several more.
The only movie it may be helpful to watch before Black Panther is Captain America: Civil War which introduces both T’Challa as the Black Panther but also his father, King T’Chaka of Wakanda. It sets up the idea of royal lineage, the country Wakanda’s role in the world, and the technology they have at their disposal to care for Bucky Barnes – and keep him safe. There are multiple references made to the events of the film, but they are all explained, it isn’t necessary, It just might be fun. You could also, if you wanted, read the Black Panther Prelude comic which ties the events of Wakanda further into Marvel Cinematic Universe history, to the first Iron Man movie.
When Everett Ross is injured and taken into the care of Wakanda, T’Challa’s sister, Princess Shuri, describes him as “another white boy” beinbg taken into her care. As the Infinity War Prelude comic showed us, that is referring to the other such in her care, Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, who Wakanda took care of at the end of Civil War.
Bucky Barnes appears again at the end of the movie, seemingly cured of the Winter Soldier brainwashing, just in time for Infinity War. The children refer to him as “White Wolf”.
White Wolf was the name of a character created by Priest. Hunter was an orphan whose parents died in a plane crash and ad[poted by T’Chaka. As a white man growing up in Wakanda, he suffered prejudice from his fellow Wakandans, but was one of its greatest defenders. He was jealous of T’challa’s claim to the throne and ran the country’s secret police, where he became known as the White Wolf. He was then exiled by T’Challa. Some aspects of his role in that storyline is taken by Erik Killmonger, played by Michael Jordan, in the movie.
But could Bucky Barnes’ new identity in Avengers: Infinity War be White Wolf now?
Killmonger’s American name is given in press as Erik Stevens. However I am positive that the two times it is said aloud, it was “Erik Stephenson”. And Eric Stephenson is the publisher of Image Comics. But back in the day, he used to write Wolverine, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four comics. Can anyone check me on this?
Stan Lee is credited as a “thirsty gambler” and appears in the casino fight scene, taking T’Challa’s winning chips away from him, when he gets distracted by the appearance of Ulysses Klaw. “I’ll just keep these safe for you” was the line, I think, with one of Martin Freeman’s trademark sideways glances.
As to a nod to real-world references, Oakland, California, home to Wakandan spies, is also the home of the Black Panther political movement.
And talking of references…