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Black Panther is leaping into theaters soon, and it looks like one of the most exciting chapters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet. The film might have a lot of ground to cover, however: in over 50 years of comic book history, T'Challa has built up quite an impressive mythology and supporting cast.

If you're eager to learn more about the vast world of Wakanda before Black Panther hits theaters, here's a comprehensive guide to the comic book backstories of the characters in the film.

T'Challa/Black Panther

[Credit: Marvel Studios]
[Credit: Marvel Studios]

T'Challa's life has been a rollercoaster ride. His mother, N'Yami, died while giving birth to him. His father T'Chaka eventually found love again with Ramonda, whom he married. With a loving family by his side and a baby sister on the way, everything seemed to be going well for the future monarch. Their lives changed when T'Chaka was murdered by Klaw, an assassin hired by people looking to benefit from Wakanda's vast resources.

The killing filled T'Challa with rage, and encouraged him to train as hard as he could to take up the Black Panther title. Now, ideally, T'Challa would have become the Black Panther after T'Chaka's demise. Due to his young age, however, his uncle S'Yan took on the responsibility instead. Years later, T'Challa challenged his uncle for the Panther mantle, and won. The young hero consumed the heart-shaped herb, the source of a Black Panther's abilities, which gave him super strength, enhanced agility and superhuman senses.

T'Challa subsequently connected with Bast, the Panther God, and finished the ritual to become Black Panther. T'Challa has faced quite a few hurdles as king of Wakanda, especially due to his interest in modernizing the country's culture. He's a sound leader, however, and has always found a way to do what's best for his kingdom. While he may be involved in controversial manners from time to time, he's a beloved and respected leader.

Erik Killmonger

[Credit: Marvel Studios]
[Credit: Marvel Studios]

Killmonger was born in Wakanda and originally went by the name N'Jadaka. The boy's peaceful life came to an abrupt end when Klaw, looking to invade Wakanda, forced N'Jadaka's father to aid his cause. Klaw was vanquished, but N'Jadaka's father died during battle. After the conflict, the boy and his family were exiled. N'Jadaka moved to the United States, where he changed his name to Erik Killmonger.

He enrolled in M.I.T. and prepared himself both mentally and physically to get revenge on T'Challa. Years later, Erik contacted T'Challa and convinced him to allow him back in Wakanda. Killmonger, furious that the young king had modernized Wakanda, plotted to take the throne. He allied with villains, and got T'Challa's attention by destroying villages.

Black Panther had a hard time dealing with Killmonger & Co., but their plans were ultimately thwarted. T'Challa seemingly killed Killmonger, but as a comic book baddie, his story was not over. He was resurrected by the Mandarin, and continued his mission to overthrow Black Panther. Killmonger's revenge plots have been varied and complex, and he's proven to be a formidable antagonist.

Ramonda

[Credit: Marvel Studios]
[Credit: Marvel Studios]

After T'Chaka's first wife, N'Yami, passed away while giving birth to T'Challa he met Ramonda, a wise young woman from South Africa. The two fell in love and soon married. Ramonda gave birth to T'Challa's half sister, Shuri. Despite not being related by blood, Ramonda took T'Challa in as her own son, and served as his moral compass throughout his life.

Following T'Chaka's death the queen vanished, leading T'Challa to believe she had found a new family. In reality, she had been kidnapped by Anton Pretorius, a ruthless white supremacist who constantly abused her. Years passed, and T'Challa finally learned his mother's true fate. The hero rescued her and returned her safely home. Back in Wakanda, Ramonda resumed her role as Queen Mother, advising her children on their duties as both protectors and rulers.

Shuri

[Credit: Marvel Studios]
[Credit: Marvel Studios]

Shuri is the daughter of King T'Chaka and Queen Ramonda. As mentioned, T'Chaka was killed when T'Challa was still quite young and Shuri hadn't been born yet, so their uncle, S'yan, became the Black Panther for a time. Years after her father's death, Shuri intended to challenge S'yan in combat to become a Black Panther, but T'Challa beat her to the punch.

Her dream of donning the Panther costume almost came true years later, when Doctor Doom put T'Challa in a coma. With the young king out of commission Shuri was poised to become Wakanda's new protector. After beating the trials customary for members of the royal family, she consumed the Heart-Shaped Herb and reached out to the Panther God.

The Panther God sensed that Shuri was jealous of her brother, and prevented her transformation. Fortunately, that wasn't the end of the road for her. Wakanda was eventually attacked by a mystical baddie named Morlun, and Shuri stepped up to protect her homeland. She almost sacrificed herself to revive T'Challa and banish Morlun for good, and her self-sacrifice helped her to become the new Black Panther.

Ulysses Klaue

[Credit: Marvel Studios]
[Credit: Marvel Studios]

Ulysses Klaue (his last name was eventually changed to "Klaw") became obsessed with Wakanda when he learned that a Black Panther had murdered his ancestor years before. As an adult, Ulysses became an assassin, and he was hired to kill King T'Chaka in case the monarch refused to share Wakanda's resources with the rest of the world.

As expected, the king refused, and Ulysses murdered him right in front of his young son T'Challa. The sadistic mercenary turned his attention to T'Chaka's wife and children, but T'Challa grabbed one of Ulysses' weapons and destroyed the villain's right hand. Klaue retreated but vowed to come back for revenge. The baddie kept his promise, and he returned to Wakanda years later, this time sporting a metal prosthesis that could emit powerful sonic waves.

Fortunately, T'Challa fought him off alongside the Fantastic Four. Klaw was a dedicated fella, though, and his defeat didn't discourage him from pursuing a high-profile criminal career and becoming one of Marvel's most dangerous bad guys.

Okoye

[Credit: Marvel Studios]
[Credit: Marvel Studios]

Shortly after becoming king, T'Challa revived the Dora Milaje guard, a group of skilled soldiers tasked with protecting Wakanda's ruler. Okoye was chosen for the team, and over time, she became one of T'Challa's most trusted allies.

Nakia

[Credit: Marvel Studios]
[Credit: Marvel Studios]

A gifted warrior from an early age, Nakia was chosen by the heads of her tribe to join the Dora Milaje. She proved to be a skilled soldier, and she also started to fall in love with T'Challa. Her love eventually turned into an obsession. Black Panther didn't reciprocate her feelings, however, and their relationship remained strictly professional.

Unfortunately, their working dynamic took an unexpected turn after T'Challa (while possessed by Mephisto) kissed Nakia. This pushed her obsession to new heights, and she kidnapped Black Panther's girlfriend out of jealousy. T'Challa managed to save his partner, and Nakia was shamed away from Wakanda. With nowhere to go, she was captured by a villain known as Achebe.

Achebe tortured her nearly to the point of death, but she was rescued by Erik Killmonger. Through magic, Killmonger restored her body, granting her super strength and great accuracy in the process. Nakia then took on the name "Malice" and became a villain, hellbent on inflicting pain on T'Challa.

Zuri

[Credit: Marvel Studios]
[Credit: Marvel Studios]

In his prime, Zuri was considered one of Wakanda's most formidable warriors. He befriended King T'Chaka and became his closest advisor over time. Together, they fought countless wars. After T'Chaka died, Zuri started to guide T'Challa, and alongside Ramonda became one of the king's most reliable partners. Sadly, the loyal advisor met his end while helping Shuri during Morlun's invasion of Wakanda.

Everett Ross

[Credit: Marvel Studios]
[Credit: Marvel Studios]

Working for the U.S. State Department, Everett Ross was in charge of escorting diplomats around the United States. At one point, he was tasked with looking after T'Challa, who visited from Wakanda to investigate a controversy surrounding a fund. Unsurprisingly, Ross' trip with the Wakandan king wasn't just another escort mission. After a long day of fighting criminals, T'Challa and Ross found themselves fending off Mephisto himself.

Fortunately, the pair walked out of the scuffle alive. After that, Ross and T'Challa adventured together, and Ross helped thwart one of Killmonger's plots to ruin Wakanda. These journeys forged a strong bond between the two. At one point, Black Panther appointed Ross as Regent of Wakanda while he had to go away. Yep, Ross donned the Black Panther costume for some time, and it was as hilarious as you might imagine.

M'Baku

[Credit: Marvel Studios]
[Credit: Marvel Studios]

M'Baku was long considered one of Wakanda's most talented warriors. In fact, he's one of the few individuals who can go toe-toe with T'Challa. Sadly, his devotion to his country didn't extend to its king. M'Baku wasn't happy with T'Challa's forward-thinking mentality. He wanted the nation to return to a more primitive state, and plotted to take the throne for himself.

His plan was set in motion when Black Panther went on a mission with the Avengers. During the king's absence, M'Baku hunted down one of Wakanda's rare white gorillas, killed it and then bathed in his blood and ate its flesh. That granted him super strength, sharper reflexes and enhanced fighting skills.

He took the name "Man-Ape," and challenged Black Panther to a combat trial. M'Baku seemed to have the upper hand for a while, but T'Challa ultimately bested him. M'Baku returned to cause trouble for the hero for years, and even forged the occasional alliance with villains like Purple Man, the Grim Reaper and Doctor Doom.

Now you can impress friends and family with your extensive Black Panther knowledge even before you watch the movie.

Black Panther lands in theaters on February 16, 2018.