Comics
Published July 22, 2022

Every Character Who Has Been the Black Panther

Learn about the long legacy of the legendary Black Panther!

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The legendary Black Panther may have graced the comic book world in FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #52 in 1966, but the legacy of the mantle stretches back for ages. Each person who took on the responsibility dedicated their life as the protector and leader of Wakanda and, in later times, the universe. And of course, there were those who deviated and used the position for their own selfish reasons. Let’s sink our Vibranium claws into the histories of various Black Panthers, from the main Marvel Universe to alternate ones!

[RELATEDBlack Panther: The Origin]

T’Challa meets with a long line of Black Panthers in NEW AVENGERS (2013) #18.
T’Challa meets with a long line of Black Panthers in NEW AVENGERS (2013) #18.

EARTH-616

PREDECESSORS

The first person to ever don the title of “Black Panther” was Black Panther 1,000,000 BC. First appearing in MARVEL LEGACY (2017) #1 as part of the Panther Tribe, he unlocked the secrets of a Vibranium meteor that fell to Earth. He also partnered with supernatural beings on the Stone Age Avengers and began the long and continuous line of Black Panthers. (The “818” version of this Black Panther wasn’t as fortunate since he was killed by the Black Skull in AVENGERS #50). The next prominent Black Panther was Bashenga, the warrior shaman. He unified the five tribes, making him the first King of Wakanda and the second Black Panther. According to Wakandan history, Bast the Panther God gifted him with secret knowledge. He also had a cool spear named after him and according to MARAUDERS (2019) #13, created the historic sword Skybreaker. Not to be outdone was Nehanda, the first Queen of Wakanda. She was the ruler of Wakanda during the Middle Ages and part of the A. D. 1000 Avengers. T’Challa, who we’ll get to later, called on her for counsel, along with other former Panthers, in BLACK PANTHER (2016) #14.

Nehanda, first Queen of Wakanda, in BLACK PANTHER (2016) #14.
Nehanda, first Queen of Wakanda, in BLACK PANTHER (2016) #14.

SUCCESSORS

Azzuri the Wise ruled Wakanda during World War II. He met representatives from both sides of the war—Fritz Klaue and Captain America, the latter of who he fought with in CAPTAIN AMERICA/BLACK PANTHER: FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (2010). He was also the father of two future Black Panthers, T’Chaka and S’Yan.

The eldest of the two, T’Chaka would eventually inherit the throne and received help from S’Yan, who acted as his royal adviser. He adopted a child, Hunter, and had three biological children: T’Challa, Jakarra, and Shuri. He was also responsible for instituting Wakanda’s policy of isolationism.

S'Yan never wanted to rule over Wakanda but only agreed to after his older brother was assassinated by Ulysses Klaue, the son of Fritz Klaue, in RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER (2018) #1. He would return to an advisory role after T’Challa, his nephew, obtained the title when he came of age. T'Challa would go on to become the most well-known, and current, Black Panther. He’s an Avenger (continuing the tradition from his ancestors), was once married to the Queen Regent of Arakko, Storm, and was indirectly responsible for the creation of the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda, which he is now the emperor of. What a busy guy!

When T’Challa became incapacitated, such as being put into a coma by Doctor Doom in BLACK PANTHER (2009) #1, his younger sister, Shuri, stepped in. Noted as one of the smartest minds in the Marvel Universe and a genius inventor, she temporarily became the Black Panther while her brother recovered. This moment created two avatars of Bast for the first time in Wakandan history.

However, not all who have worn the panther habit have been part of the royal family. Kevin “Kasper” Cole “borrowed” a Black Panther suit in BLACK PANTHER (1998) #50 to increase his chances of being promoted from a narcotics officer to a detective. He would later stop pretending to be the Black Panther and become his own hero, the White Tiger. The opposite side of the coin was N’Jadaka, better known as Erik Killmonger. He challenged and bested T’Challa in a duel, thus making him king and the new Black Panther. His reign would be cut short when Monica Rambeau (as Spectrum) killed him during T’Challa’s mission to reclaim Wakanda in BLACK PANTHER (2005) #38.

T’Challa takes his place as the Black Panther in RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER (2018) #2.
T’Challa takes his place as the Black Panther in RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER (2018) #2.

POCKET DIMENSION

What do you do when the Fantastic Four and the Avengers sacrifice themselves to defeat Onslaught? According to Franklin Richards, build a pocket universe to save them! This universe also led to the creation of new heroes in HEROES REBORN: REMNANTS (2000) #1. Alias T’Dogo, he took up the mantle of Black Panther to fight crime, but because the title was outlawed in Wakanda, he creatively worked around it. Hence, “Panther Cub.”

AMONG THE STARS

Emperor N’Jadaka (not the Killmonger we know from Earth) ruled the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda and acted as its Black Panther for most of BLACK PANTHER (2018). He was a warrior hero whom the emperor at the time feared would take the throne from him. Well, call the emperor a psychic because that was exactly what N’Jadaka did. How, you ask? He bonded with a symbiote who also despised the emperor, making them the perfect team to unseat a ruler. (Until BLACK PANTHER #25 when they were defeated by Earth’s T’Challa.)

N’Jadaka bonded with an alien symbiote in BLACK PANTHER (2018) #19.
N’Jadaka bonded with an alien symbiote in BLACK PANTHER (2018) #19.

OTHER UNIVERSES

FOUR KIDS AND A TRAITOR

As with most Marvel heroes—and villains—there are alternate universe iterations, and the Black Panther is no different.

In BLACK PANTHER 2099 (2004) #1, a man named K’Shamba goes from an honorary member of the Wakandan council to the leader of the resistance during a Latverian takeover.  Because of his resilience, an elder leader gave K’Shamba the mask of the Black Panther. With him at the helm, Wakanda was able to send Doctor Doom’s forces back to Latveria. Or were they truly gone? Unbeknownst to everyone, K’Shamba was a pawn to Doom, making him the indirect ruler of Wakanda.

In some of these universes, the next generation continues the legacy, such as the sons and daughter of Black Panther and Storm. Azari of Earth-555326 was raised by Iron Man in a world where the Avengers fell to Ultron. He had the abilities from the heart-shaped herb and electrokinesis. His Earth-10943 counterpart, Azari T’Challa, had similar abilities and was the member of the Next Avengers, a group consisting of the children of the Avengers. Like father, like son. (You can catch Azari T’Challa in AVENGERS (2010) #1 and issue #6.)

Azari and the Next Avengers in AVENGERS (2010) #6.
Azari and the Next Avengers in AVENGERS (2010) #6.

T'Chaka II of Earth-1119, like T’Dogo, also took some liberties with his moniker, simply going by Panther. He was recruited by the Exiles—during an ambush by Klaw—in EXILES (2009) #1 and was a bit of a flirt plus super talkative, unlike his father.

There was a glimpse of a Sky Panther too, who looked like the spitting image of Storm. In AVENGERS ACADEMY (2010) #12, Finesse replicated the hero’s martial arts skills, noting that she didn’t “exist yet.” It was unknown whether Sky Panther was from Earth-616 or another universe’s future.

FAMILIAR FACES

Emperor N’Jadaka wasn’t the only person with a Black Panther-symbiote combo. In VENOMVERSE: WAR STORIES (2017) #1, Ngozi was a track star from Nigeria whose career ended after a bus accident. Her life changed when a symbiote bonded to her and transformed her into a grasshopper-esque being. As Venom, she trained with the Dora Milaje, later proving her worth in becoming the next Black Panther after the original’s tragic death. Ororo Monroe is famously known as an X-Man, but did you know she was Black Panther in an alternate universe? On Earth-161, Storm was split into a de-aged version of herself and an energy form that maintained all of her adult memories. (This Storm appeared in 2010’s X-MEN FOREVER 2 #5 but check out the entire series!) This pure energy version, with help from a Stark-built panther suit, became the Ghost Panther, striking fear into all her enemies.

Lastly, in the Ultimate universe, Captain America briefly wore the panther habit, but it was more to help out a friend than to become the next Black Panther. He was mentoring and training T’Challa to become part of the Ultimates. When he learned of T'Challa’s past and that he longed to see his father again, Cap took his place while he returned to Wakanda in ULTIMATE CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL (2008) #1.

Ngozi rises as the new Black Panther in VENOMVERSE: WAR STORIES (2017) #1.
Ngozi rises as the new Black Panther in VENOMVERSE: WAR STORIES (2017) #1.

All comics mentioned are available to check out and read on Marvel Unlimited!

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