Black Panther is only days away from arriving in theaters, but fans are already wild for all the information they can get their hands on ahead of meeting this new cast of characters. While a few already crossed over in Captain America: Civil War (T'Challa, Ayo of the Dora Milaje, Everett Ross) or in Avengers: Age of Ultron (Ulysses Klaue), the rest will be new to fans, specifically Michael B. Jordan's character, Erik Killmonger. So, is Killmonger in the Black Panther comics? What do we need to know about his background when heading in to see the film?
Chadwick Boseman may be the star of this film, but fans have been just as excited about Michael B. Jordan's role in Black Panther as well. The two of them have been paired up on the press tour at points, as well as on the red carpet, making it feel at times like they are co-headliners.
But we already know that Boseman's character is the heir to the throne of Wakanda, and to the position of the Black Panther, protector of his people. Killmonger's position is somewhat more unknown to us, other than that he is the villain to Boseman's hero... and a multilayered one at that.
Killmonger first appeared in the Black Panther comics back in 1973, in the Jungle Action series #6-8. (Jungle Action #5 was the first Black Panther standalone comic, which was actually a reprint of a Panther-centric out of The Avengers #62 from 1969.) So, Killmonger has been around since the beginning of Black Panther's solo adventures.
Killmonger is not his original name. Born in Wakanda, the character was originally named N'Jadaka. But he didn't live there long. When Ulysses Klaue (spelled Klaw in the comics) journeyed to the country, he forced Erik's father to help him in attacking the royal family and conquering Wakanda.
Klaue went down in defeat, and N'Jadaka's father was killed. The family was then exiled to New York City, and N'Jadaka chose the name Erik Killmonger. This explains why when we first see Killmonger in the trailers, he's not in Wakanda, but breaking Ulysses out of custody somewhere in the U.S.
The film version of the character has changed some of these details. Fans assume that he's still a Wakanda exile looking for revenge, but instead of being a genius student at MIT, he's Erik Stevens, a soldier who earned the nickname "Killmonger" from his fellow black-ops soldier in his unit. He's been moved from growing up in Harlem in NYC to Oakland, CA. Most interestingly, the trailers have revealed him to have his own version of the Black Panther suit, which fans have taken to referring to as the "Golden Jaguar" suit.
In the comics, Killmonger eventually gets himself repatriated to Wakanda, where he lies in wait for his chance to take over the country. But the experience of being home radicalizes him further. He becomes obsessed with ridding the country of what white colonialist influences there have been over the decades. When T'Challa leaves for an extended fight on the side of the Avengers, Killmonger seizes the opportunity and stages a coup.
We don't know how much of this original storyline the movie plans on using, though fans are pretty sure Killmonger believes himself to be the rightful ruler of Wakanda and will challenge T'Challa for the throne. Will the Black Panther have to watch his back every time he heads to the U.S. to check in with the Avengers during Infinity War? For that, we'll have to wait and find out.
Black Panther hits theaters on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018.