If you’ve seen Black Panther, than you don’t need us to tell you that it’s awesome and one of the best Marvel movies to date — and if you don’t agree, that’s totally cool too! Discussions of Black Panther’s quality aside, it’s true that Ryan Coogler’s film marks an interesting turning point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only is the film an important piece of representation that will almost certainly pave the way for more diverse blockbusters in the years ahead, it’s also the last film Marvel will put out before they start blowing up their shared universe with Infinity War and Avengers 4 in 2019.
It’s surprising then to find so few actual connections to the larger Marvel Universe in Black Panther. Normally, these movies are loaded with Easter eggs that call attention to other parts of the shared universe, but Black Panther only throws in a few. That being said, there are still a number of cool hidden details in the film if you look hard enough. Here are the best ones we were able to spot, but let us know in the comments if there are any we missed that you feel are worth mentioning.
17. Oakland’s Significance
While most of Black Panther is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, the very real city of Oakland, California figures heavily, with the film’s opening scene set there. We learn later that Oakland is the birth place of the film’s main villain, Erik Stevens, but its significance goes well beyond this detail. Oakland is director Ryan Coogler’s hometown and served as the setting for the earliest collaboration between himself and Michael B. Jordan, the 2013 film Fruitvale Station. In addition, Oakland is also the birthplace of the Black Panther political party, which was founded in 1966, just weeks after the Marvel character made his debut.
16. Public Enemy
Branching off the previous point, Ryan Coogler also makes sure to imbue Oakland with a sense of place that ties in not only the history of the Black Panther (both the hero and the political party) but also the larger cultural landscape as well. We don’t get to learn much about N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) before he is killed in the opening scene, but there is a pretty significant Easter egg hiding in his apartment in the form of a Public Enemy poster. Although the hip hop group formed in Long Island, New York, they had a close connection with the Black Panther Party, with their lyrics and clothing explicitly highlighting their affiliation (even their backup dancers wore leather jackets and hats affiliated with the Black Panthers!).
15. Killmonger’s Mask
Though he eventually opts for a Black Panther suit of his own, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens’ initial costume is easily one of the film’s most striking. The tribal mask that Erik picks up in London has connections to Wakanda, but also to Marvel Comics. It turns out that the mask is a throwback to two different comic designs.
The first is Mephisto, as the mask bears a striking resemblance to the demon who made such a memorable appearance in Christopher Priest’s run on the Black Panther comics. The second (and more obvious) connection is to Killmonger himself, as the mask resembles the one he wore in his battle with T’Challa in Black Panther #37.
14. M’Baku’s Comics Origins
In a movie already overflowing with fantastic characters, Winston Duke’s M’Baku gets overshadowed a bit but does a great job with the familiar rival-turned-ally arc. M’Baku is clearly a physical force to be reckoned with but what you may not have realized is that his comic counterpart is even more powerful — and a lot more problematic. See, M’Baku is actually Man-Ape, the leader of a rival clan of gorilla-worshiping warriors who dressed up in a gorilla suit in honor of the tribe’s white gorilla deity.
Of course, having a black man parading around in a gorilla suit is some racially-charged imagery that Black Panther thankfully chooses not to adapt, which is why this black exploitation period character is altered considerably in the jump to the screen. That being said, the movie still finds a way to tastefully honor the character’s comic origins: the thick fur on M’Baku’s shoulders and forearms along with attached armor pieces help exaggerate his upper body, and he also briefly wears a gorilla mask during his ritual battle with T’Challa.
13. Shuri’s Vine Joke
Black Panther easily could have made T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) a hermit-like tech nerd, but the film also remembers that she’s a teenager and one who is every bit in touch with pop culture as anyone else her age (it’s amazing what the internet can do, isn’t it?). One sequence that shows off Shuri’s knowledge of meme culture comes early on when she glances down at her brother’s sandals and asks “What are thoooose?!” in an incredulous tone. That same question and tone was first delivered in a Vine of the same name, only in that case the comment was directed at a police officer’s choice of footwear. You can learn all about the history of this particular Vine here.
12. Back to the Future Kicks
Fortunately for T’Challa, style is just as important as function when it comes to Shuri’s Black Panther suit designs and she comes up with a much cooler choice of footwear for her brother to replace his sandals with. Shuri’s “sneakers” (emphasis on the sneaking) are designed to cut down on the sounds of footsteps and fit perfectly like a second skin. As Shuri explains, the form-fitting tech was inspired by an old American movie and while the title is never explicitly stated, it’s most likely a reference to Back to the Future Part II and Marty McFly’s futuristic, self-lacing Nikes.
11. Trevor Noah Cameo
It took more than three months after Black Panther’s release for this one to be discovered but as confirmed by Vanity Fair, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah has a cameo in the film as Shuri’s A.I. Griot, which helps Everett Ross pilot a virtual fighter plane during the final battle (the word “griot” is a West African term for a storyteller).
Noah, a native of South Africa, notes that getting the chance to play a role in Black Panther represents a personal victory for himself, as several of the film’s characters speak Xhosa, one of his home country’s official languages. “It was extra special for me because the people speak Xhosa in the movie,” he said back in February. “There were subtitles, and I was like, I don’t need your subtitles! I don’t need your subtitles! This is just for me right now! Nobody else listen! This reminds me of my mom.”
In a later interview with Chadwick Boseman, Noah confirmed that Black Panther’s “authenticity” resonated with his friends in South Africa, noting that “People loved it back home.”
10. Pan-African Flag Colors
Black Panther’s South Korea scenes are memorable not only for the action-packed car chase scenes, but also because the heroic trio of T’Challa, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and Okoye (Danai Gurira) make for such a dynamic, entertaining team. One reason these scenes stand out so much is because of the wardrobe, as all three characters dress to impress when they head to a casino in hopes of capturing Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). What you may have missed is the subtle significance of the trio’s color scheme.
Not only do Nakia and Okoye stand out in their green and red dresses, respectively (which is ironic considering they’re trying to blend in with the crowd), but when you line all three characters up, their colors correspond to the three horizontal lines that make up the Pan-African Flag: red, black, and green. Also known as the Black Liberation Flag, the Pan-African flag has been a longstanding African nationalist symbol and was officially adopted by the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League — a black nationalist fraternal organization — in 1920.
9. “Another White Boy” To Fix
Midway through Black Panther, T’Challa reunites with Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), who is attempting to capture Ulysses Klaue. Killmonger manages to bust Klaue out of custody and Ross takes a bullet for Nakia in the process, prompting the heroes to transport Ross to Wakanda in order to save his spine. Really though, it’s Shuri who will have to do all the work when it comes to putting Ross on the mend and she pretty much says as much when she mutters that he’s “another white boy” for her to fix.
For anyone who’s been paying attention, it’s pretty clear that the other “white boy” she’s referring to is one James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who was left in her care at the end of Captain America: Civil War. Indeed, as we see in Black Panther’s post-credits scene, Bucky is well on the mend and ready to suit up for Infinity War. In fact, there’s a whole comic book prequel that details how Bucky is “rebooted” by Shuri.
8. ‘All My Children’ Connection
What does a daytime soap opera have to do with a superhero blockbuster? Well, both of Black Panther’s leading men landed acting gigs on All My Children but the connection gets even weirder than that. It turns out that Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan played the same character, appearing on the show as “Reggie Montgomery” (albeit at different times). One has to wonder if the pair traded notes and reminisced about their soap opera days on the Black Panther set. Considering Jordan’s name is more closely associated with the character than Boseman’s is, the pair even had a real moment of animosity to channel in their on-screen rivalry (not that we’re saying they actually did that, of course).
7. The Human Torch-Captain America “Feud”
With his appearance as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, Michael B. Jordan is now the second actor to have played Johnny Storm in a Fantastic Four film, only to later make the jump to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Chris Evans being the first, of course). On the surface, there isn’t much really much to this “coincidence.” The MCU is so large and expansive now that it’s not surprising to see two young actors who played the same character turn up in a different film universe as different characters.
Still, Jordan and Evans do have one thing in common besides being former Human Torches, in that they’ve both now fought Black Panther on screen. Back when Black Panther made his debut in Captain America: Civil War, Evans’ Steve Rogers fights the African king to protect his best friend Bucky. Now, in Black Panther, Jordan fights T’Challa as Killmonger. It’s going to get even weirder if the Fantastic Four ever make an appearance in the MCU …
6. Black Leopard
When Killmonger defeats T’Challa and takes the throne of Wakanda, he inherits the power of the Black Panther and gets a suit of his own. The villain opts for the gold suit T’Challa passes on earlier in the film, which helps differentiate the two visually, but minor detail that many probably didn’t notice is the spots scattered across the golden armor. This visual detail references two different parts of Black Panther history. The first is calling attention to the character’s name change to Black Leopard back in the early ’70s, done so in the hopes of distancing the character from the controversial politics of the Black Panther Party. The spots could also be a nod to Killmonger’s sidekick, Preyy the leopard, who otherwise doesn’t make an appearance in the film.
5. Panther Vs Rhino
Late in the film, we see W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) unleash his combat rhinos against T’Challa’s forces, leading to a supremely cool fight between Black Panther and one of the charging beasts. While some viewers were likely turned off by this overly fantastical sequence, it’s one that’s ripped right out of the pages of Black Panther’s earliest comic run. In the character’s very first story arc, “Panther’s Rage” (Jungle Action comics), T’Challa fights Erik Killmonger but also does battle with a rhino at one point. This moment was a clear inspiration for the action on screen, as Coogler and his effects team recreate the Black Panther’s grasp on the rhino (seen below) almost perfectly.
4. Everett Ross: Captain Marvel Connections?
Martin Freeman’s CIA man Everett Ross is given much more to do in Black Panther than he did during his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War, even getting to play the hero in the third act thanks to his skills as an ace pilot. It’s that detail specifically that elevates Ross above being just a silly presence in the film, as Shuri’s reading of Ross’ file makes it clear that he’s much more capable than his appearance would suggest.
Ross was a pilot before he joined up with the CIA and what’s interesting about this detail is that it was invented specifically for the movie. Considering Carol Danvers will be introduced to us as a young pilot in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, is it possible that Ross has crossed paths with the Marvel heroine before? We’ll just have to wait and see …
3. Possible Doctor Strange Connection
For as good a villain Killmonger is, the film kind of just brushes over his big plan of arming Wakanda’s spies scattered around the world. That being said, there is an interesting Easter egg hidden in Killmonger’s plot and it has to do with the cells that accept his orders first. As noted, the forces in New York, London, and Hong Kong are all on standby, ready to attack and this would be seemingly throwaway bit of information were it not for the fact that those three cities are also home to Earth’s three Sanctum Sanctorums from Doctor Strange.
As we learned in that film, these three strongholds of mystical energy shield the Earth from threats, meaning that if Killmonger’s plan had been carried out, it could have spelled doom for the planet in more ways than one. It’s hard to know whether this was an intended nod on Ryan Coogler’s part to Scott Derrickson’s film or just a total coincidence, but we like to think that nothing is an accident in the MCU so we’re leaning towards the former.
2. Moonlight Cameo
Ryan Coogler has gone on record praising Barry Jenkins’ work on his Academy Award-winning film Moonlight and notes that the filmmaker was a supportive voice for him when making Black Panther. Coogler returns the favor in a sense with Black Panther’s final scene set in Oakland, California. As Shuri is showing the local neighborhood children a Wakanda airship, there’s a small boy who gets the last line in the movie. That boy is none other than actor Alex R. Hibbert, who starred in Moonlight in one of the film’s three starring roles.
1. The White Wolf
On the surface, Black Panther’s final post-credits scene is a bit of a letdown. Showing Bucky Barnes alive and well in Wakanda after being put into a deep freeze at the end of Captain America: Civil War is pretty much exactly what we expected to happen since Bucky is featured in the trailers for Avengers: Infinity War. Plus, considering Black Panther is the final Marvel movie before Infinity War hits, it’s hard not to be disappointed that the film doesn’t do much else to set up the imminent arrival of Thanos.
Still, there is one interesting bit of information provided in the scene that may hint at something bigger to come. We learn that the children of Wakanda refer to Bucky as the “White Wolf,” which is the name given to an outsider stranded in Wakanda. However, it also signifies the person raised to eventually be T’Challa’s most trusted soldier, as the White Wolf becomes the head of the Wakandan secret police, which suggests that Bucky will be an important ally for Black Panther and the whole of Wakanda in Infinity War.
Follow me on Twitter at Nick_Steinberg.
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