Spoilers for Black Panther (2018)
Syan: “T’challa, don’t get emotional now.”
T’challa: “Emotional? I’m happy. All my enemies are in one place.” – Black Panther (2010)
Black Panther is shaping up to be one of the biggest superhero movies in years. It has an all-star, majority black cast, an Afrofuturism aesthetic, and Chadwick Boseman reprising his breakout role as the Black Panther. But a hero is often defined by their villains, and there are three main Black Panther villains. Who opposes the King of Wakanda? Let’s find out.
1. Erik Killmonger
Played by Michael B. Jordan
Killmonger: “I’ve waited my entire life for this. The world’s gonna start over. Imma burn it ALL!” – Black Panther (2018)
Erik Killmonger, a domestic terrorist, is one of Black Panther’s greatest foes. Born N’Jadaka, his family was enslaved by the villain Ulysses Klaue. N’Jadaka was forced to mine Vibranium, a nearly indestructible metal and Wakanda’s main export.
Black Panther attacked the smuggling ring, thinking the natives were helping of their own volition. N’Jadaka’s father was killed in the melee and he was exiled. He swore vengeance on Black Panther and changed his name to Erik Killmonger.
Killmonger eventually convinced King T’challa to repatriate him. He stirred up resentment, claiming Black Panther was tainting Wakanda with white colonial attitudes and that they should return to the old ways. Killmonger believed this agenda, and used it as an excuse to conquer Wakanda and kill Black Panther.
Killmonger is Black Panther’s equal in martial arts and has a Ph.D. from M.I.T. He has superhuman strength, speed and durability thanks to the sacred Heart-Shaped Herb. He’s also known to steal Vibranium-based weaponry and has defeated Black Panther many times.
Erik’s origin changed in the 2018 movie. He is an American black-ops soldier nicknamed Killmonger. He is played by Michael B. Jordan of Creed fame and Fant4stic infamy.
2. Ulysses Klaue
Played by Andy Serkis
Klaue: “You know, [runs fingers over burn-scarred skin] it came at great personal cost. It’s worth billions.”
Ultron: [chuckles and wires money] “Now so are you.” – Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ulysses Klaue’s Nazi father told him stories about Wakanda. Needing Vibranium to complete a weapon, he went there and subjugated N’Jadaka’s village in the process. Klaue assassinated King T’Chaka, the contemporary Black Panther, but lost his hand fighting T’Challa.
Klaue replaced his hand with the weapon he created, a sound transducer. This nifty gadget allowed him to turn sound into matter, kind of like a Green Lantern Ring. It also turned Klaue into a being made of living sound. That’s cool, but really weird. He took the name Klaw and became Black Panther’s archenemy.
You might remember Klaue from Avengers: Age of Ultron. He was portrayed as an arms dealer who sold Vibranium to Ultron. He lost an arm for comparing Ultron to Iron Man and has the word “thief” branded on his neck. Yeah, Wakanda really doesn’t like this guy. Klaue is played by Andy Serkis, who I’m pretty sure is made of living CGI.
3. M’Baku the Man-Ape
Played by Winston Duke
[Man-Ape is blasting Black Panther with a sonic weapon he got from Klaw]
Man-Ape: “A pity. You meet your end the same way as your father did. And you are not even the man he was.”
[Black Panther struggles to his feet and advances]
Black Panther: “I am not the same man as my father, M’Baku, for my rage is greater!” – Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes “Panther’s Quest” (Season 1, Episode 11)
Ohhh boy. I should mention that most of these characters were created in the late 60’s. Then, a name like Man-Ape would be acceptable for a savage villain. Not so much anymore.
M’Baku was a member of the Wakandan Royal Militia and widely considered the country’s second best warrior. He grew jaded with T’Challa’s rule and revived the forbidden White Gorilla Cult. He killed a mystical white gorilla to use in a blood rite, devouring its flesh and bathing in the blood. This ritual gave him superhuman strength, speed, and stamina. He also wore the gorilla’s durable skin as armor. The unhinged M’baku took on the name Man-Ape.
Man-Ape led the White Gorilla Cult in an attempt to conquer Wakanda and return it to a tribal state. He failed, despite alliances with various supervillains. While Man-Ape is Black Panther’s enemy, he is willing to fight alongside T’challa against significant threats to Wakanda.
Like Killmonger, Man-Ape’s backstory changes in the 2018 film. He is called M’Baku instead of Man-Ape, doesn’t wear a gorilla’s skin as armor, and he leads an opposing tribe instead of a cult. Winston Duke makes his film debut as M’Baku.
Which Black Panther villain are you most excited for? Leave a comment.