Black Panther made his critically-praised entrance in the MCU with Captain America: Civil War, but his debut left fans a bit confused. Early on in the film, King T'Chaka and his son, T'Challa, attended a UN meeting to sign the Sokovia Accords. Unfortunately, the building had been rigged with a bomb by Zemo, and the subsequent explosion killed T'Chaka, leaving the kingdom of Wakanda to his dutiful son. T'Challa vowed to get revenge on his father's killer, and he wasted no time in becoming Black Panther.
Seeing the character suited up for the very first time on screen was a dream come true for many, but it raised an important question: When did T'Challa have time to acquire the Black Panther mantle? In the comics, the signature black outfit isn't thrown around lightly; only the king of Wakanda can sport it. So did that mean that King T'Chaka carried around a suit that would coincidentally fit his son? Or did T'Challa had one ready for himself in case of any tragic event like the one that transpired at the UN meeting?
For a while, it seemed like T'Challa's convenient transformation was just pat of the make-believe aspect of the superhero universe. Surprisingly, that wasn't the case. As it turns out, #TChalla was already the Black Panther by the time Civil War came around.
T'Challa Has Had The Black Panther Powers For Almost A Decade
To get people ready for Black Panther's solo film, #Marvel released a prelude comic book. The story offered some much-needed background on T'Challa and Wakanda, but it takes place eight years in the past, specifically, right when Tony Stark revealed himself as Iron Man at the end of the eponymous movie.
The comic goes on to establish an interesting detail: T'Challa is already the wearer of the Black Panther mantle. That means that, by the time we're introduced to him in #CivilWar, he's been jumping around in the snazzy suit for eight years, which validates a lot of what we saw him do in Cap's third adventure. He was able to go to-to-toe with the likes of Steve Rogers, the Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, and even withstood Black Widow's stingers. He might have been aided by the properties of the heart-shaped herb, but those physical feats still need a whole lot of training, which we now know he had.
It's surprising to see how, in the comic book story, T'Chaka renounced the Black Panther mantle in favor of his royal duties. As mentioned, the comics have a pretty strong rule about the king of Wakanda being the only individual with the right to wear the costume. The change in the mythology runs the risk of irking some longtime fans, but I'm glad the #MCU is somewhat easing Wakanda's usually practices. Admittedly, that's ultimately a minor detail, but it's more realistic for the active king to pass on part of his duties to someone else if he feels that someone is more competent.
Does This Revelation Lessens T'Challa's Heroic Journey In 'Black Panther'?
Most standalone superhero films are meant to be a journey of discovery for their protagonists. We get to see the heroes grow and evolve as both a person and as crime-fighters. Seeing how the 'Black Panther' prelude comic book already showed us T'Challa's early years as #Wakanda's protector, though, it's clear that the hero's standalone film won't explore that part of his life, at least not in detail.
Some fans may feel like the film skipping over that time period is a big missed opportunity for the story, but that's not necessarily the case.
#RyanCoogler's story is so promising because it will explore T'Challa as he tackles something he wasn't ready to do: Being king. Yes, he's had his powers for the better part of a decade, and he's able to take a punch like no one else, but nothing could have prepared him to be in charge of an entire country, especially one as advanced as Wakanda. That's a great psychological exploration to go on, one that will probably leave us satisfied, even if the traditional superhero origin story isn't explored.
Black Panther will be protecting Wakanda from Ulysses Klaue and Erik Killmonger on the big screen on February 16, 2018.
What do you think about the revelation that T'Challa has been Black Panther for almost a decade? Do you think that will come into play in the film? Let me know in the comments!