Nearly three years ago, Ryan Coogler took us to the hidden world of Wakanda and inspired millions of people from the black community with Marvel Studio’s first-ever black superhero, Black Panther. Starring the late Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa aka Black Panther, alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Andy Serkis, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, and Martin Freeman, Black Panther received critical acclaim for its cultural significance, strong acting performances, and remarkable background score. Fans and critics particularly appreciated Boseman and Jordan for their memorable acting performance and the parallels drawn between two significant black icons; Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
While Black Panther ushered the superhero movie genre to a new wave of rich African culture, the plan for a sequel was hit by the tragic demise of Chadwick Boseman last year. But nonetheless, Marvel Studios decided to honor the legacy of Boseman and Black Panther by moving ahead with the sequel, albeit with some major changes to the plotline. Though it is quite unfortunate that fans might never witness the original plans, the rich history of Black Panther shall live on in the future. As people across the world are celebrating Black History Month for the black community’s indisposable contribution to arts, history, and various other fields, the icon of Black Panther cannot be pushed aside. Here are the 10 most powerful versions of the superhero that will continue to inspire millions of people for years to come:
The last son of King T’Challa, K’Shamba is the Black Panther from the year 2099. A peak human athlete trained in various African martial arts, K’Shamba relied on an advanced training regimen to boost his prowess instead of ingesting the heart-shaped herb which granted superhuman abilities to his predecessors. In this timeline, Wakanda is attacked by Doctor Doom and his lethal Doom Bots as the supervillain takes over the hidden African nation and forces K’Shamba into hiding. But as a true leader, K’Shamba gathers his forces and drives Doctor Doom and his army back to Latveria. However, it is then revealed that K’Shamba was a puppet set by Doctor Doom himself to rule the nation despite his physical absence.
9. Kevin Cole
A police officer from Harlem, Kevin Cole’s journey to becoming the Black Panther is a harrowing tale inspired by Peter Parker’s superhero tale. A biracial son of a former black police officer and a Jewish woman, Kevin Cole tries to support his mother and pregnant girlfriend with his paltry salary. Wanting to get a promotion, Cole carries out unauthorized drug busts by wearing a hidden Black Panther costume underneath. Unfortunately, his actions attract the attention of a corrupt police officer who tries to ambush him. Nonetheless, Cole escapes unharmed due to the Black Panther costume. However, he fully adopts the costume to fight crime and expose crooked cops in the department. Ultimately, he comes across T’Challa, as well as Erik Killmonger, the King of Wakanda during that period. Killmonger helps Cole by giving him a synthesized version of the heart-shaped herb that grants him superhuman abilities. Later in the comics, Cole adopted the moniker of White Tiger.
The father of T’Chaka, Azzuri is considered to be the most fearsome Black Panther in history. As the Chieftain of Wakanda during the Second World War, Azzuri didn’t believe in diplomacy or taking prisoners. Wielding a pair of scythes, Azzuri’s hostility towards outsiders was known to both American and Nazi soldiers as ruthlessly decapitated or impaled anyone who dared to enter the borders of Wakanda. But nonetheless, he chose to trust Steve Rogers, even going as far as to call him his ‘American friend’. When the Nazi forces tried to attack Wakanda for Vibranium reserves, Azzuri teamed up with Captain America and Gabriel Jones to repel the invaders, including Master Man, Armless Tiger Man, Warrior Woman, and White Gorilla.
Set in an alternate universe of Earth-TRN650, Ngozi is a track athlete who lost her legs in a tragic accident. When T’Challa of that universe is killed by Rhino, Ngozi rises up to the occasion by bonding with a Venom symbiote. Her exemplary prowess gets noticed by the Dora Milaje, and as a result, she becomes the next Black Panther. Already powered by the Venom symbiote, Ngozi also ingests the heart-shaped herb which grants her additional superpowers, thus making her a force to reckon with.
6. Black Panther 1,000,000 BC
The first Black Panther from 1,000,000 BC, he is considered to have unlocked the secrets of Vibranium and become the Chieftain of Wakanda. A skilled warrior, the first Black Panther is one of the few mortals who managed to impress Odin. As a member of the Stone Age Avengers, this Black Panther teamed up with Odin, Firehair, Agamotto, the first Iron Fist, Starbrand, and the first Ghost Rider to fight the Celestial named Fallen. Not to mention, this Black Panther was also worthy enough to wield Mjolnir.
The father of T’Challa, King T’Chaka was quite different from the previous Black Panther, Azzuri, in a lot of ways. While T’Chaka always emphasized celebrating the rich and vibrant culture of Wakanda, he also focused on technological advancements which made Wakanda a modern-day marvel. As the King of Wakanda, T’Chaka was known for his diplomacy and leadership skills, which ensured a long reign of peace and harmony till the arrival of Ulysses S. Klaw. Like previous Black Panthers, T’Chaka was also a skilled warrior imbued with superhuman reflexes, strength, and senses by ingesting the heart-shaped herb.
4. Erik Killmonger
The arch-nemesis of King T’Challa, Erik Killmonger’s story in the comics is slightly different from the one shown in Black Panther (2018). But nonetheless, Killmonger has been the ruler of Wakanda for some time. Despite his radical views, he is often considered to be a revolutionary leader with able leadership skills. Having survived a harsh childhood, Killmonger quickly became a survivalist with a cunning mind which often leads to clashes with T’Challa. Despite not being from the royal lineage, Killmonger was able to retain the powers granted by the heart-shaped herb, though the ingestion led to a coma at first. In the comics, Killmonger has also been resurrected numerous times by the ancient Wakandan magic which in turn makes him stronger over time. He has also bonded with a symbiote on a few occasions, which grants him abilities like shape-shifting, energy siphoning, and regeneration.
3. MCU T’Challa
First making his appearance in Captain America: Civil War, MCU’s T’Challa starred in Black Panther, Infinity War, and Endgame. Portrayed by the late Chadwick Boseman, this version of T’Challa is one of the strongest versions of Black Panther to date. Having risen up to the occasion after the death of King T’Chaka, MCU’s T’Challa is a skilled leader and diplomat who opened the borders of Wakanda to alleviate poverty and other alarming issues with futuristic Wakandan technology and vast wealth. He was also able to hold his ground against the feral army of Proxima Midnight in Infinity War for a very long time, which speaks volumes about his strength levels.
If you thought MCU’s Shuri was amazing, wait till you meet the version from the comics. While it has already been established that Shuri is a genius inventor, she is also a tenacious warrior which made her a suitable replacement for T’Challa in the comics. Apart from all the powers granted by the heart-shaped herb, Shuri also possesses supernatural powers like Necromancy, Animorphism, Animal Empathy, and Realm Empowerment. As a result, she is also known as the Queen of the Undead, making her a fierce and deadly Black Panther.
While MCU’s T’Challa was definitely powerful, the version from the comics is an entirely different beast. As the King of Wakanda, T’Challa has the ability to draw all the knowledge, strength, and every experience from every previous Black Panther. Apart from the abilities granted by the heart-shaped herb, T’Challa is also known as the ‘King of the Dead’ since he has mastered necromancy and the ability to construct weapons from spiritual energy. As Black Panther, T’Challa also has a psychic connection with the Panther Goddess Bast. As a result, he can teleport to various places at will using Bast’s powers. T’Challa is also a genius inventor and tactician with a Ph.D. degree from Oxford University. He was also able to create an entirely new and dangerous discipline named ‘Shadow Physics’ which allows him to track Vibranium at a quantum level and create weapons that are effective against the indestructible metal. His exposure to Galactus’ mind granted him the ability of hyper-cosmic awareness which helps him to have visions about the multiverse and in some cases, the future itself.