Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Black Panther made his first appearance in Marvel’s Fantastic Four #52, July 1966. Distinctive for being the first African American superhero in mainstream comic books, the hero appeared in a number of Marvel titles before becoming featured with his own storyline in issues 5-24 of Marvel’s Jungle Action series. Starting in January 1977, the character got his own comic book. After all those years, Black Panther finally made his cinematic debut in Captain America: Civil War. With Black Panther’s own film opening nationwide February 16, 2018, fans are abuzz with excitement. But for every powerful Marvel superhero, there needs to be an equally villainous adversary. Erik Killmonger more than fits the bill. With a great last name like Killmonger, how can he be anything but villainous?
Erik Killmonger, AKA N’Jadaka
Created by Don McGregor and Rich Buckler, N’Jadaka first appeared in issues 6-8 of Jungle Action. He went on to appear in various Marvel titles, including, of course, the Black Panther comic. His story is as follows: as a child, N’Jadaka’s parents were enslaved and forced to work by bad guy Ulysses Klaw. When Klaw attempted to overthrow Wakanda, its ruler T’Challa (alias Black Panther) defeated him. Even though his parents were killed, and N’Jadaka, a native of Wakanda was a prisoner of Klaw, N’Jadaka was exiled with the rest of Klaw’s mercenaries. He ended up in America, in New York’s Harlem section, where he eventually took on the name of Erik Killmonger and began plotting revenge for the death of his father. T’Challa allowed him to come home to Wakanda, but Killmonger blamed T’Challa in part for his parents’ death, and while T’Challa was away, attempted to take over. But T’Challa defeated him, retaining his Black Panther title as ruler of Wakanda. Though T’Challa spared his adversary’s life, Erik Killmonger has remained T’Challa’s sworn enemy.
A Match for Black Panther
Killmonger’s powers come from a synthetic version of the heart-shaped herb, a plant mutation formed after a meteorite made out of a substance called Vibranium struck Wakanda, which is also the source of T’Challa’s power. Killmonger’s powers are similar to T’Challa’s, in that he has superhuman strength and stamina, has super-acute senses, speed exceeding 35 miles per hour, extraordinary reflexes, and is a master of martial arts. He also has a brilliant mind and is bilingual. All in all, not only is he a worthy adversary, he strongly believes that his cause if just.
The MCU version of Erik Killmonger
How will Erik Killmonger differ in Marvel’s cinematic universe as opposed to the Marvel Comic creation is unknown at this point? As reported by the actor portraying him in the Black Panther world, Michael B. Jordan, he will be different from the typical superhero villain. Certainly, his desire to defeat T’Challa and rule Wakanda will remain. But how much more of his story from the comics will translate to film? Will Killmonger rule Wakanda for a time as Black Panther? Will he have the same powers as T’Challa? We know he’ll have his own Black Panther suit but will he have a pet leopard and an army of zombies? All of this and more has occurred in the comics. Whether any of these will be part of the movie, we’ll just have to wait to see.