Top 10 Easter Eggs from Black Panther You May Have Missed (Part I)
Black Panther was released this past weekend after weeks of hype as the “Best Marvel Movie Ever” and lived up to that hype both critically, from what the audiences thought and in terms of the box office (coming in as the second biggest Marvel movie opening at the North American Box Office with over $201 million dollars). While the movie was mostly removed from the rest of the MCU in terms of the people in it, which makes sense as Wakanda is mostly removed from the rest of the world (at least at the start of the movie), the film was still rife with easter eggs for comic book/MCU heads who paid close attention to the movie and the other MCU films or comic books. So, let’s take a look at the top 20 Easter Eggs from Marvel’s new superstar, Black Panther and his first movie ever! Part one (1-10), at least!
10. Killmonger’s Mask
Black Panther introduces the character of Erik Stevens/Killmonger first as a child in Oakland who witnesses what appears to be a spaceship that’s leaving the scene after his father was murdered but later as an adult that’s perusing the African masks at a museum in London. He’s as smart as he is physically intimidating, schooling the museum staff on the masks and how they really ended up in London. One mask, in particular, catches his eye beyond the mask that’s made from Wakandan vibranium and that’s the mask that he wears while freeing his associate/partner in crime Ulysses Klaue from the custody of the CIA’s Everett Ross (as well as his cousin in T’Challa/Black Panther). Those who have read the comics may recognize that mask as a similar mask as to what he wears in the comics, and that’s no coincidence as the large, hair-covered mask that Killmonger said he was “feeling” was designed to match the mask from two different comic book designs. The first comes from Christopher Priest’s well-known run and the second is the battle that Killmonger waged against Black Panther way back in Black Panther #37.
The reality of Black Panther as a comic book character is that he was created by white comic book writers/artists during a period that is now known as Black Exploitation. Because of that, it’s often hard to adapt characters from that time into films as they weren’t necessarily as sensitive to the feelings of people of different races as they are now. A perfect example of that is how Marvel handled the character of The Ancient One from Dr. Strange, who was a textbook Asian Stereotype back when he originally appeared (different from Black Exploitation, but you get the idea). Marvel avoided that by winking towards the original character in the film but replacing him with a Celtic woman with a shaved head. One of Black Panther’s biggest enemies in the comics is the character known as Man-Ape. Considering the negative connotation that black people have with being compared to monkeys or apes, the people at the MCU, or rather the writer/Director Ryan Coogler, obviously wanted to distance themselves from that while also including the character in the film and doing a similar nod. Because Man-Ape wore a gorilla suit in the comics, they included that as the animal that M’Baku’s tribe wore (as compared to the Black Panther’s importance for T’Challa’s ruling Tribe). Beyond that, M’Baku rocks a gorilla-mask of sorts and appears towards the end of the film to help T’Challa and company overcome a coup attempt while also laying seeds for M’Baku to become a villain in subsequent films.
8. Stan Lee
Some people really dislike the Stan Lee cameos in each film, mostly those that feel like Lee stole a lot of the credit from Jack Kirby, especially. However, that’s all been sorted in court by Kirby’s family and Lee has done a great job lately of giving Kirby credit (although he was sort of hogging the credit for himself in years past, which is really between him and Kirby). It’s hard, though, to not like Stan Lee as he’s clearly a genius that’s a modern day Shakespeare in terms of what he’s been able to do. It’s great to see that he’s lived long enough to get beyond the near bankruptcy that Marvel had in the 90’s and see the love and respect that the MCU has received in recent years. Lee has had a cameo in nearly every Marvel related movie both in the MCU and outside of it. In Black Panther, Lee isn’t a citizen of Wakanda (which’d be both strange and hilarious) but rather works at a casino in South Korea, with which T’Challa makes a bet on a game of roulette. It’s all for show, as T’Challa clearly doesn’t need the money, but it’s a funny moment in a film that’s filled with entertaining moments and at least a step up from his strip club DJ gig in Deadpool.
7. Back to the Future
There’s a moment in Black Panther in which his 16-year-old scene-stealing little sister, Shuri, drops a Vine joke about the sandals that T’Challa is wearing (“WHAT ARE THOOOOOSE?!?”), but that’s not the only footwear related Easter Egg as apparently T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, was a gigantic fan of 1985’s Back to the Future. His love for the film, combined with the advanced technology of Wakanda, allowed them to craft shoes that were a lot like the shoes from Back to the Future II. In that film, Marty receives a pair of Nike’s from Doc in the future (in the hopes that he’ll resemble his son enough to stop Biff’s son from essentially roping him into a robbery) that have automatic laces. Sneakerheads have long dreamed of a reality where they’ll be able to rock those shoes (and were able to buy some for charity a few years ago, each pair ended up going for something in the six-figure range) and apparently Wakanda has made that dream (a consistent) reality, as long as you’re the Black Panther. While trying on his new suit, T’Challa notices the new shoes that his sister/new technology supervisor notes resembles shoes from an “American movie”. Beyond that, later on the children of T’Chaka mention that their father used to be a huge fan of the Back to the Future films, basically hammering home the point that Black Panther is rocking vibranium versions of the shoes everyone wants.
6. The Gold Necklace
In the comic books, Black Panther rocks a black and gold color scheme that some fans missed when T’Challa debuted with his black and silver get up in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. One thing that we didn’t see in that film was exactly how he got into his suit, although it was implied that he put it on piece by piece when he removed his helmet after being detained by the police after he chased Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier and he was being chased by both Captain America and Falcon. When the trailer for his solo film hit the scene, Marvel fans dissected each bit of it and presumed that his suit would get an upgrade from his sister, Shuri (who was referred to as the smartest person in the MCU thus far by Director/Writer Ryan Coogler), and that that upgrade would end up as a suit that came out of his necklace. However, people were a tad bit disappointed when they noted that that necklace was yet again, silver. However, the gold necklace did end up getting it’s due, but instead of being the suit of Black Panther it ended up as the suit that his enemy and cousin, Killmonger, was wearing. Beyond just the color scheme the suit was a spitting image of the one in the comics and perhaps the most true to the comic book look of any MCU property thus far outside of some of Iron Man’s suits.
5. Shuri Fixes “Another White Boy”
It’s been said that Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross is the new Agent Coulson of the MCU as he’s a government agent that ends up in multiple films, tying them all together (except Ross is an agent of the CIA as opposed to Coulson’s SHIELD, which has really taken a back seat in the MCU as the writers of the films aren’t required to watch the television shows, a major complaint of fans of series like Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil or The Punisher most recently). First appearing in the same film that introduced Black Panther, Ross ends up taking a bullet for T’Challa’s love interest in Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia and is taken to Wakanda to be healed after much discussion about bringing a government agent into Wakanda (as up until that point Wakanda had hidden it’s technological advancements from the rest of the world. When he’s taken to Wakanda he’s given to T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, who responds that she has yet another “White Boy” to fix. The other “White Boy” is a reference to The Winter Soldier, who decided to be put back under suspended animation or cryogenic freezing until people found a way to delete the part of his brain that HYDRA put there to activate his hypnosis. That scene plays off in the after-credit scene where Winter Soldier thanks Shuri for fixing him, as well, meaning that the Winter Soldier is free of any fear that a baddie will be able to say certain words to control him, which explains why he’s running alongside Captain America in the Avengers: Infinity War trailer and also means that he’s free to pick up the shield and become Captain America should Chris Evan’s Steve Rogers not survive the next two Avengers films/his contract renewal negotiations.
4. Rhino Wrestling
Rhino’s are relatively closely related to elephants, and most of us have seen movies in which elephants are used in war (namely in the Lord of the Rings films or Alexander). That’s because war elephants are a real thing that were mainly used in both India and Africa, while war Rhinos aren’t a real thing mainly because they’re too small to actually ride and aren’t as domesticatable as elephants are. However, Black Panther shows Rhinos as much larger than they actually are (about the size of an elephant) and so they’re perfect for both riding and using in battles that consider guns to be “primitive” and thus rely on spears, shields and swords combined with the wits, strength and fighting ability of those on the battlefield. The Rhino’s are a callback to the first Black Panther story ever (in the Jungle Action comic books), titled ‘Panther’s Rage’, the story shows Panther fighting Erik Killmonger as well as a rhino. As other Eggs have shown, Coogler and company clearly wanted to pay homage to the books with their film and they did it perhaps better than any Marvel movie to date. That means great things for future Black Panther films if they’re able to re-sign Coogler to a deal. Considering the over $200 million that Black Panther made in it’s first weekend, I’m thinking that that won’t be that difficult to do.
3. Mount Bashenga
While it sounds a lot like Bazinga!, Mount Bashenga is referenced as where Black Panther’s scene-stealing sister, Shuri, makes her home. Bashenga is a name from the comics that only the biggest Black Panther fans will remember as it was the name of the first King of Wakanda, who was also the first to be blessed with the powers of the Black Panther by a goddess named Bast. Bast essentially needed someone on earth, about one million years ago, to protect mankind from other “mad gods” and essentially selected the King Bashenga to do so. The comics do a full origin story of Bashenga if you’re interested in reading more but it has a lot to do with the mythology of the people of Wakanda and also of the Vibranium that ends up in Wakanda as well. Whether or not the mountain is named after Bashenga or is just an homage to that storyline is yet to be revealed, but it does seem like that Coogler and company have more than enough mythology and potential storylines set up that they won’t need to delve into that, per se, but considering how popular Black Panther now is (he’s not only the biggest opening for an origin story in the MCU, he’s the biggest non-Avengers (2012) opening in the MCU ever) he essentially could have multiple spin-off or anthology films in his own little universe, so, perhaps we’ll end up seeing the story of King Bashenga in the near future!
2. Klaue Gets His… Claw
Ever since 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, we’ve been waiting to see Ulysses Klaue’s… Claw! For those not in the know about the production of Black Panther, essentially Black Panther was supposed to be released last year in the same spot/at the same time as Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is why Spider-Man basically only had a cameo in Captain America: Civil War. Because Marvel Studios only finalized the deal with Sony Studios to essentially share Spider-Man in the MCU (after the failure that was Amazing Spider-Man 2) during the production of Civil War. So, initially we weren’t supposed to wait this long to see Klaue, who is one of the more major Black Panther baddies out there as his sound technology wreaks havoc with Panther’s vibranium. So, seeing his arm cannon was a long-time coming and also pretty awesome as it was extremely powerful. In the end it didn’t save Klaue, who ended up getting killed by his own partner in crime Killmonger. It did seem sort of anti-climatic but at the same time that’s what was so great about it as it really came out of left field during the film and broke away from the general ideas you have as a moviegoer. Either way, the arm cannon has a long history in the comics and was set up during Age of Ultron after Ultron accidentally removed his arm below the elbow after Klaue mentioned that Ultron spoke a lot like Tony Stark. A callback and a comic book Easter Egg? That’s like a gift from the nerd gods!
1. Death by Waterfall
When Killmonger appears on the scene in Wakanda to challenge T’Challa to a fight (which would determine the king of Wakanda per Wakandan law), he ends up defeating T’Challa and throwing him over a waterfall, in a move that seemingly kills T’Challa (until he’s resurrected or saved by his sister Shuri’s amazing technology and a liquified heart-shaped herb after a friendly and allied tribe plucks him from the water). This scene is pulled directly from the comics, albeit in a different way. In the comics, the fully Jeri-curled Killmonger defeats T’Challa in full Black Panther get-up, while Killmonger exclaims “Your line of descent ends with you, and you’ll take nothing from me ever again!”. That sounds a lot like the plot of the film, as well, as Killmonger is attempted to gain revenge for something the same way that he is in the film. The film portrays Killmonger as a sympathetic villain (perhaps the most sympathetic since Thor’s Loki) that has had everything taken from him by T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka. The fact that the movie is so faithful to the books is really a great sign for future Black Panther films, especially since they haven’t even begun to really scratch the surface when it comes to the characters history.