Black Panther has been the biggest smash hit for Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2012's game-changing The Avengers. Much like The Avengers comics prior to Iron Man, Black Panther isn't a title that most of the movie-going audience was overly familiar with ahead of seeing the film. If those fans do decide to go back and pick up some of the comics, they're in for a surprise. The world of the Black Panther movie vs. the comics is quite different.
This isn't the first time Black Panther has undergone a serious reinvention from the original story. Over decades, the character has been reinvented by countless writers. The 1970s version was a political statement tucked inside a comic. The 1990s version was Marvel's Batman equivalent, with the cat ears shrunk down to match the bat ears silhouette. The 2005 version saw T'Challa not only gain half-sister Shuri for the first time, but get heavily involved with The X-Men and take over The Fantastic Four.
This decade has seen Black Panther return to his political roots with stories by Ta-Nahisi Coates and Roxane Gay. But even this is not the version that made it onto the screen. Let's run down the five biggest changes from page to screen.
1. T'Challa's Been Aged Up
One of the first major decisions by Marvel came before Black Panther was formally put into production: casting 39-year-old Chadwick Boseman in Civil War. In the comics, T'Challa is a decade younger, if not Peter Parker's age when he takes the throne. Parts of the movie actually make more sense with a younger T'Challa, especially the part about not being ready. When you're pushing the latter side of 35, "studying all your life" is 20+ years. When you're 17, "studying all your life" is more like five.
But aging T'Challa up makes the fact that he's surrounded by women work better. Had the role gone to a 17-year-old, the presence of women all around him would have felt more like a child being parented. With T'Challa comfortable in his manhood in his 30s, everyone feels like equals.
2. Klaue's Wakandan Heist
Some of the changes with Klaue's story came prior to this film as well, including the changing of his name spelling from "Klaw." In the comics, the arm cannon is a feature Ulysses has had since 1992, as he originally lost the arm during the Wakandan invasion.
Klaue's Wakandan attack in '92 wasn't just a heist, either. It was full-scale invasion attempt of the country. He was beaten back and just managed to grab some Vibranium on the way out.
3. Erik Stevens Wasn't Born In Oakland
Speaking of Klaue's attack, Prince N'Jobu's participation in it is also totally changed from the comics. In the comics, he lives in Wakanda, not Oakland. He's forced to help Klaue, who takes his wife and N'Jadaka captive. When the invasion fails, N'Jobu is killed in the retreat. T'Chaka, believing his brother sold them out, exiles the family.
Klaue leaves with the widow and kid in tow, now homeless. They resettle not in Oakland, but Harlem, where N'Jadaka renames himself Erik Killmonger (it's not a nickname given to him) and vows revenge.
4. The Jabari Mountain Tribe
In the film, M'Baku rescues T'Challa after his fall, keeps him alive packed in snow, and allows his family to revive him with the Heart-Shaped Herb. He then brings his army to ride to the rescue when the Dora Milaje is losing to the Border Tribe.
In the comics, *none* of this happens. T'Challa goes over the waterfall, but then drags himself to safety, finds a way back to his family, and defeats Killmonger all by himself. The mountain tribe stays stubbornly on their mountain, with no interest in helping or making alliances at all.
5. Nakia's Disinterest In Marriage
In the film, T'Challa is the one in love with Nakia. She likes him well enough, maybe even loves him, but she has a calling. From the sound of it, said calling is being Wakanda's answer to James Bond. I don't know about you, but if I had the choice between being Jane Bond or marrying a King... I'd be Jane Bond.
This is completely reversed from the comics. Remember, T'Challa is supposed to be a whole lot younger, and not really interested in settling down. Nakia, on the other hand, is determined to marry him and become Queen of Wakanda, to the point of plotting to kill other women he's slept with. She eventually becomes exiled for this, and T'Challa goes on to marry Storm. (Yes, Storm, as in The X-Men's Storm, who the MCU will get the rights to when the merger between FOX and Disney closes. Sorry, Lupita.)