The Black Panther¡¯s legacy is rich and varied. He was the first-ever black superhero in mainstream comics and has long been considered the greatest and most popular black superhero of all time. And since his first on-screen appearance in ¡°Captain America: Civil War,¡± eight years after the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with ¡°Iron Man¡± (2008), anticipation for Black Panther¡¯s solo debut has reached a fever pitch.

The first reviews have been ecstatic, with many hailing it as a defining cinematic moment. Current tracking estimates that ¡°Black Panther¡± will take in as much as $150 million its opening weekend, and the movie¡¯s advance ticket sales on Fandango are outpacing all previous superhero movies.

With the movie premiering this Friday, here¡¯s everything you need to know before you watch.

Who is the Black Panther?

Chadwick Boseman stars as T¡¯Challa, the king of Wakanda, in ¡°Black Panther.¡± (Marvel Studios)

The Black Panther, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, first appeared in the pages of Marvel Comics in 1966 in ¡°Fantastic Four No. 52.¡± His legend began after he single-handedly defeated the Fantastic Four in their own comic, revealing himself and his technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to the Marvel Comics universe and its fans.

Black Panther¡¯s real name is T¡¯Challa, and he rules Wakanda as king. The mantle of the Black Panther is a hereditary one that passes on within the royal family, but each Panther must go through a series of trials to officially earn the title.

T¡¯Challa ascends to the throne when his father, T¡¯Chaka, is killed. In the comics, T¡¯Chaka is murdered by Klaw, a Dutchman who wants to plunder Wakanda for its rich vibranium resources. (The character also appears in the upcoming movie, played by Andy Serkis, under the name Ulysses Klaue.)

Wakanda is a technologically advanced country that remains isolated from the outside world. (Marvel Studios)

T¡¯Challa, flanked by Nakia (left, played by Lupita Nyong'o) and Okoye (right, played by Danai Gurira). (Marvel Studios)

But in the movie universe, T¡¯Chaka was killed in ¡°Captain America: Civil War,¡± during a terrorist attack orchestrated by Helmut Zemo. The blame is incorrectly pinned on Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier), which leads to T¡¯Challa siding with Tony Stark in the titular ¡°civil war¡± against Captain America. By the end of the movie, however, T¡¯Challa has discovered Zemo¡¯s deception and aids Captain America and the Winter Soldier in escaping from the U.S. government, offering them refuge in Wakanda.

Wakanda is rich in an extremely rare fictional metal, vibranium, that defies the laws of science by absorbing sound waves and vibrations, including kinetic energy. Captain America¡¯s shield is famously made from vibranium. T¡¯Chaka concealed Wakanda from the world in order to protect the highly sought-after resource, selling it off in small amounts to help fund education. As a result, Wakanda¡¯s technology is incredibly advanced.

Powers and abilities

T¡¯Challa gets his superhuman powers from the Heart-Shaped Herb, a Wakandan plant that grants enhanced abilities and links each Black Panther spiritually to the Panther god Bast. These abilities allow him to fight on an equal level with chemically enhanced super-soldiers like Captain America. T¡¯Challa¡¯s combat skills and intelligence, however, are all his own.

Superhuman senses, including ultraviolet vision and scent tracking

Enhanced physical attributes, like strength, speed, endurance, etc.

Master of all forms of unarmed combat

Genius intellect; master strategist and tactician

• Suit is made of vibranium weave, which absorbs the kinetic force of impacts like punches and bullets. It can also redistribute that force and release it as an energy pulse to attack.

• Suit also has cloaking technology that allows it to disappear and appear at will. Manifests from a special necklace.

• Gloves house powerful claws that are strong enough to leave marks on Captain America’s shield. In the comics, these claws are made of “anti-metal,” which can dissolve other metals on contact.

• Boots have vibranium alloy pads that allow T’Challa to leap great heights without injury on landing, walk on water and scale buildings.

Suit is made of vibranium weave, which absorbs the kinetic force of impacts like punches and bullets. It can also redistribute that force and release it as an energy pulse to attack.

Suit also has cloaking technology that allows it to disappear and appear at will. Manifests from a special necklace.

Gloves house powerful claws that are strong enough to leave marks on Captain America’s shield. In the comics, these claws are made of “anti-metal,” which can dissolve other metals on contact.

Boots have vibranium alloy pads that allow T’Challa to leap great heights without injury on landing, walk on water and scale buildings.

Suit is made of vibranium weave, which absorbs the kinetic force of impacts like punches and bullets. It can also redistribute that force and release it as an energy pulse to attack.

Suit also has cloaking technology that allows it to disappear and appear at will. Manifests from a special necklace.

Gloves house powerful claws that are strong enough to leave marks on Captain America’s shield. In the comics, these claws are made of “anti-metal,” which can dissolve other metals on contact.

Boots have vibranium alloy pads that allow T’Challa to leap great heights without injury on landing, walk on water and scale buildings.

The movie¡¯s characters and their relationships

T¡¯Challa/Black Panther

(Chadwick Boseman)

King of Wakanda and the titular hero.

Supporters

Family

Ramonda

(Angela Bassett)

Mother of T¡¯Challa and Shuri. Former queen and now adviser to the king.

Shuri

(Letitia Wright)

T¡¯Challa¡¯s 16-year-old sister. Genius inventor who created the new Panther suit.

Dora Milaje

Nakia

(Lupita Nyong'o)

Wakandan spy tasked with intelligence missions around the world. T¡¯Challa¡¯s former lover.

Okoye

(Danai Gurira)

Leader of the Dora Milaje, an elite, all-female group of warriors. General of the Wakandan armed forces.

Allies

W¡¯Kabi

(Daniel Kaluuya)

T¡¯Challa¡¯s best friend and head of security for the Border Tribe.

Zuri

(Forest Whitaker)

Royal adviser. Keeper of the Heart-Shaped Herb, which gives eaters superhuman strength.

Everett K. Ross

(Martin Freeman)

CIA agent who travels to Wakanda in diplomatic role.

Opposition

Wakandan enemies

Erik ¡°Killmonger¡± Stevens

(Michael B. Jordan)

Wakandan exile, raised in America, who wants to overthrow T¡¯Challa.

M¡¯Baku

(Winston Duke)

Leader of the Jabari, a mountain tribe. Opposes T¡¯Challa¡¯s new way of ruling.

Outsider

Ulysses Klaue

(Andy Serkis)

Black-market arms dealer operating out of South Africa. Allied with Killmonger.

The three comic runs you should know about

(Marvel Comics)

Christopher Priest gave new life to the Black Panther in the ¡¯90s, writing the character as a not-to-be-messed-with man of few words with mysterious political leanings who comes to New York to investigate a murder. CIA agent Everett K. Ross became a major part of Black Panther lore in this series, which also introduced the Black Panther¡¯s elite all-female bodyguards, the Dora Milaje.

(Marvel Comics)

Reginald Hudlin¡¯s run writing Black Panther introduced the world to Wakanda and the country¡¯s vast technological superiority. This story also includes classic Black Panther villain Klaw, and the debut of Shuri, the Black Panther¡¯s younger sister (whom Hudlin created with artist John Romita Jr.). During Hudlin¡¯s tenure, Shuri became the Black Panther after T¡¯Challa was severely injured.

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(Marvel Comics)

Ta-Nehisi Coates is the writer of the current Black Panther series from Marvel Comics. The story focuses on an unfolding revolution that sees some Wakandans begin to question the Black Panther monarchy that has ruled Wakanda for generations.

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Sources: Post research. Illustrations by Shelly Tan. Photos courtesy of Marvel Studios. Comic book art courtesy of Marvel Comics.

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