The history of the Black Panther is the history of Wakanda, which has undergone many revisions over the years. Early stories indicated that the Wakandans were a relatively primitive people, still living in thatch huts and with minimal learning or technology before T'Challa. It was King T'Challa, as Black Panther, who brought Wakanda into the outside world and the outside world to Wakanda, beginning a slow modernization of the country while still respecting traditional tribal values. The people of Wakanda were aware of the Great Vibranium Mound, but had done little to cultivate it. In ancient times, when the Vibranium meteor first crashed to earth, its unprocessed radiation horribly mutated any Wakandans foolish enough to venture too close to it, leading to myths of curses and monsters. [Black Panther (1st series) #8]
This version of history matched with the tale of T'Challa's grandfather, T'Chanda. In this story, Colonel Fritz Klaue of the Third Reich crashed in undeveloped Wakanda during World War II. After being nursed back to health by King T'Chanda and Queen Nanali, he turned on his saviors and rallied Wakandans into a religious fear of his scavenged rifles and weaponry. It was Klaue who embiggened the Panther Spirit, the Wakandans' elder brother of the forest, into a Panther God whom they should fear, with him as the God's avatar. The massive Panther Idol found in Central Wakanda was a creation of Klaue's. T'Chanda fled into the forest after being confronted by Klaue's zealots and accidentally came across the heart-shaped herb to nourish himself. He then killed a panther and wore its totemic fur and claws as the "first" Black Panther. T'Chanda returned to Wakanda and defeated Klaue, driving him off (though the Nazi swore he or his children would return one day for revenge). While Nanali died in Klaue's first barrage, young Prince T'Chaka had already been born. The garb of the Black Panther was hidden away until such a time as it was truly needed, and so two generations later T'Challa would become only the second Black Panther. [Fantastic Four Unlimited #1]
However, subsequent stories have considerably reassessed Wakandan history. When the Egyptian Jackal God Anubis attacked Osiris to steal his Gift of Knowledge, he found that knowledge missing. It had been ferryed out of Egypt by the Panther Goddess Bast, who settled in Africa south of Egypt and brought this knowledge to the people who became Wakanda. [Fantastic Four (1st series) #607-608] Other stories date the foundation of Wakanda back over 10,000 years, before the Sahara was even formed. [Doomwar #1] As a result, Wakanda became a center of learning and development over the millennia that followed. They made technological advances that existed in conjunction with their tribal policies, with multi-shaft siege ballistae in the 5th century A.D. and energy weapons that could disable firearms at a distance by the 19th century. [Black Panther (4th series) #1]
It was also established that the role of the Black Panther was not some new development over the past few generations, but a sacred position dating back centuries and claimed by all kings of Wakanda. These later stories showed that T'Chaka wore the garb of Black Panther during Klaw's attack. [Black Panther (3rd series) #5] Further, the role of Black Panther was indelibly tied to the crown, with "king of Wakanda" and "Black Panther" being used interchangeably from then on. At one point, it was established that T'Chaka was Black Panther in 1941, when America made first contact with Wakanda during World War II. T'Chaka was rightfully distrustful of the other nations' attempts to draw Wakanda into their war. He shared a sample of Vibranium with the United States solely based on the nobility and character of their envoy, a young Captain America. This Vibranium sample was later used to craft Cap's indestructible shield. [Black Panther (3rd series) #30] This encounter was later edited and expanded considerably, replacing T'Chaka with his father, Azzuri the Wise, due to the sliding timescale. [Black Panther / Captain America: Flags of Our Fathers #1-4, Rise of the Black Panther #1]
(As a sidenote, Azzuri the Wise has been inconsistently spelled and depicted over the years. He was first mentioned as T'Challa's grandfather and former owner of King Solomon's Frog. [Black Panther (1st series) #1] Later Asiri the Wise was mentioned, but was active as king in 1892, making him somewhat older than one would expect. [Black Panther (3rd series) #41-42] Finally, in Flags of our Fathers, he was identified as Azzuri, replacing T'Chaka in that story thanks to the sliding timescale, but also replacing T'Chanda from Fantastic Four Unlimited #1 as T'Chaka's father.)
Of course, recent stories have thrown much into question about the origins of Wakanda and the Panther God. It has been stated that Bast was part of a mixed Egyptian-African pantheon known as the Orisha, who were in fact not Gods at all but heroes who rose to the level of divinity by feeding on the faith of their worshippers. The Originators, indigenous non-humanoid creatures, were driven out of the land that would become Wakanda by the Orisha to make way for humanity. [Black Panther (6th series) #13, Black Panther (1st series) #167] On the other hand, we've also been treated to the presence of the Black Panther of 1,000,000 B.C., a disciple of the Panther God who seems to predate the story of the Orisha. [Marvel Legacy #1]
BIOGRAPHY - page 1
King T'Chaka came of age during a series of tribal wars that threatened the stability of Wakanda. One of the final acts of King Azzuri was to end these wars, establishing lasting peace in the kingdom. The young king T'Chaka fell in love with N'Yami, an orphan of the tribal wars. N'Yami had left Wakanda to study abroad for a time, but returned to her homeland with new ideas for Vibranium. At home in the laboratory, N'Yami drew the attention of the king when her homemade refined Vibranium ringlets were being used to ease the pains of her local countrymen. The king's patronage expanded N'Yami's laboratory and research, allowing her to contemplate Vibranium rockets which would take Wakandan colonists to the stars. Initially reluctant to tie a child to the burden of the throne, N'Yami eventually consented to being Queen of Wakanda due to her love of T'Chaka and their shared vision for the future of their country. She moved to Birnin Zana, the country's capital, also known as Central Wakanda or the Golden City of Bast.
In time, Queen N'Yami became pregnant. However, a Wakandan named M'Demwe held a grudge against T'Chaka and aided Baron Strucker and Hydra in an attack on Wakanda. N'Yami fell ill shortly after the attack, suffering from an auto-immune disease from which there was no cure. A possible strand of hope arose in medical nanites being prepared at Stark Industries, and T'Chaka broke centuries of Wakandan protocol by contacting Howard Stark to trade Vibranium for the life of his queen and heir. Unfortunately, agents of M'Demwe intercepted the Wakandan flyer that traveled to America and shot down the ship with the nanites on board. N'Yami gave birth to a strong son, named T'Challa, but lasted only long enough to hold her son briefly before passing away due to the strain of childbirth and her illness. [Rise of the Black Panther #1, Black Panther (3rd series) #27]
T'Chaka mourned privately for his wife, turning for a time to drink and the company of courtesans or other available Wakandan women. Still, the growth of the young prince T'Challa lightened his burdens, and T'Chaka favored his son highly. When T'Challa was a young child, he accompanied his father on a survey of Wakanda's border lands. The young prince became lost, infuriating T'Chaka that his royal guards and entourage could be so careless. It was a young woman named Ramonda who found the boy, returning him to a grateful king. Ramonda was a South African on walkabout, dwelling on the freedoms being denied her people. In Wakanda she found a king without a queen and a boy without a mother. Ramonda soon earned the hearts of both, becoming Queen Ramonda of Wakanda and the only mother T'Challa ever truly remembered. In time, Ramonda would give birth to a child of her own, providing Wakanda with the princess Shuri. [Rise of the Black Panther #1]
When T'Challa was still quite young and Shuri barely an infant, Ramonda's father died. She and T'Chaka traveled to South Africa for his funeral. Matters of state forced T'Chaka to return to Wakanda ahead of Ramonda. Learning her father was killed at a peaceful protest rally against the white establishment, Ramonda felt the need to take up his banners. She was arrested as well and was “disappeared” into the Afrikaaners' criminal system. Worse, an up-and-coming white politician named Anton Pretorius fell deeply in lust with Ramonda after visiting the jail. He arranged for her release and kept her a prisoner at his private mansion.
T'Chaka naturally searched for his wife, but Pretorius was a minister of communications, and arranged for photos of him raping Ramonda to be discovered by the king's informants. The photos hid his face and the savage nature of the sexual acts, making it appear as if Ramonda had left the king for another lover. Heartbroken, T'Chaka ended any further searches for Ramonda and it became taboo to speak of the queen in Wakanda, especially in the king's presence. T'Challa misinterpreted the silence he received about his mother, and grew up believing she had died and the memory was too painful for his father to discuss. [Marvel Comics Presents (1st series) #37]
[Note: The Rise of the Black Panther series ignored Ramonda's capture in South Africa. It presented a version of Wakandan history where Queen Mother Ramonda never left her husband's land and was present during the attack of Klaw, the regency of S'Yan and the ascension of T'Challa to the throne.]
As the young prince of Wakanda, T'Challa studied in the royal court and learned about warfare from Zuri, T'Chaka's best friend and warrior among warriors in Wakanda. He had a less cordial relationship with his step-brother Hunter, however. Twelve years his senior, the white child that T'Chaka named Hunter was a foundling, the only survivor of a plane crash from before even the king's marriage to N'Yami. T'Chaka took Hunter into his home and raised the boy as his own, and so Hunter knew of no life but Wakanda. When T'Challa was born, however, as a royal prince of the blood he became the focus of T'Chaka's parenting and was rightful king under Wakandan law. Hunter felt cast aside and bitter towards T'Challa, but was a loyal son of T'Chaka and Wakanda. When he came of age, Hunter assumed control of the Hatut Zeraze, the Dogs of War, who served as Wakanda's secret police. Calling himself the White Wolf, Hunter performed acts of espionage, sabotage, kidnapping, torture and murder in the name of Wakanda. The young prince T'Challa once came across the Dogs of War torturing a man, and Hunter merely told him that King T'Chaka deliberately did not know many things done in the name of Wakanda. [Black Panther (3rd series) #5]
T'Challa was at his father's side when Ulysses Klaw came to Wakanda in search of Vibranium. Klaw first presented himself as an ivory hunter and tried to bargain for the Vibranium. [Black Panther (3rd series) #4-5] When that failed, he turned to violence. His mercenary soldiers opened fire, gunning down the Wakandan warriors and tribesmen. King T'Chaka was caught in the blast and died on the field before his son's eyes. T'Challa struck one of Klaw's mercenaries from behind and confiscated his sonic cannon. Using the cannon, the young prince-turned-king drove Klaw's mercenaries into retreat. He blasted Klaw personally, causing the poacher's weapon to explode and destroy his hand. The king was dead. Long live the king. [Fantastic Four (1st series) #53]
[Note: In a different telling of events from Black Panther (4th series) #3, Klaw was an assassin hired to kill T'Chaka at a hotel hosting the Bilderberg Conference in Switzerland. Klaw considered it a personal vendetta since one of his ancestors had been killed trying to invade Wakanda in the 19th century. After breaking into the king's hotel room, some shrapnel from the explosion apparently killed T'Challa's younger brother before Klaw shot and killed T'Chaka as well. Young T'Challa drove off Klaw with his own gun before the assassin could murder the queen, pregnant with Shuri. This version of events was highly contradictory to previous stories, and has since been discarded.]
After the death of the king, T'Chaka's brother S'Yan became Black Panther and acting regent of Wakanda until T'Challa came of age. [Black Panther (4th series) #2] As an early teen, T'Challa went on walkabout from Wakanda, observing much of the rest of Africa on his travels at street level. In a marketplace, he saw a man named Claude de Ruyter chase an African girl with white hair who had stolen his camera. Later, T'Challa crossed paths with de Ruyter hunting the girl in the jungle, and protected her. Her name was Ororo, and T'Challa brought her back to the den of child thieves run in the woods by a Wakandan expatriate known only as "Teacher."
T'Challa and Ororo were quite smitten with each other, and the young prince stayed in the camp for several days. T'Challa marveled at Ororo's growing mutant ability to control the weather, and learned her history as the daughter of a princess to Kenya who married an American photojournalist, only to be orphaned in Cairo. Claude de Ruyter and his brother Andreas came searching for them, hoping to ransom the prince of Wakanda and bend the "wind rider" to their will. Teacher was killed along with most of his camp, but T'Challa and Ororo survived their attackers. [Storm (2nd series) #1-6] They traveled together for a time as T'Challa's walkabout continued. However, T'Challa's hatred for Klaw and his escape still burned within him. He eventually left Ororo behind, intent on returning to Wakanda and claiming the responsibilities of his royal blood. [Black Panther (3rd series) #26, Black Panther (4th series) #14]
[Note: The first meeting between T'Challa and Ororo was originally presented in Marvel Team-Up (1st series) #100, although in slightly different context. They still met on their individual walkabouts through Africa, and encountered a man named de Ruyter, but there was no den of thieves and other details changed between the tellings.]