Remember in Marvel’s Black Panther, when Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) tosses T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) over a waterfall and is then crowned the new king of Wakanda? Well, in the comics, right after the waterfall scene, Killmonger went on to fight another Marvel superhero after his coronation: Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool. Were fans robbed of Deadpool in Black Panther? Depends on how you look at it.
Minor spoilers for Black Panther ahead.
Besides the fact it’s one of the most exciting Marvel movies ever, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is also a loyal tribute to the character it’s inspired by. A hodgepodge of stuff imagined by Don McGregor, Jack Kirby, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Reginald Hudlin, Black Panther is arguably the most influenced by Christopher Priest, the first black man to actually write Black Panther’s comics.
From 1998 until the mid-2000s, Priest introduced modern readers to T’Challa, coming up with bold ideas like the hapless government lackey, Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman in the film), and T’Challa’s adopted brother Hunter, who leads the super secret Wakandan police, the Hatut Zeraze, as the “White Wolf.” (Stick around for the post-credits scene and you’ll see the coolest reference to that.)
Priest also wrote Killmonger’s ascension to the throne, which is Killmonger’s goal in the film. Beginning with #18 of Priest’s Black Panther, a revived Killmonger seeks the throne of Wakanda and the mantle of Black Panther, so he challenges T’Challa to ritual combat. In issue #20, the fight finally happens. Ross unwittingly distracts T’Challa, allowing Killmonger to get the upper hand and knock Black Panther out cold.
Fearing Killmonger will kill him, Ross yields on behalf of T’Challa, essentially forcing T’Challa to forfeit. Killmonger doesn’t throw Black Panther over a waterfall like he did in the movie — he did that way, way back in 1973, in Jungle Action #6 by Don McGregor’s — but Killmonger is now rightfully Wakanda’s king and the new Black Panther. Much like the film, Killmonger wears his Black Panther suit with ornate gold accessories.
Here’s where the film and the comics diverge. In the film, T’Challa is rescued by the rival Jabari tribe and is cared for by M’Baku. But in the comics, T’Challa gets some help from Brother Voodoo and Marc Spector, a.k.a. Moon Knight, another Marvel hero long overdue for his own movie. While T’Challa walks the spiritual realm with Moon Knight, Killmonger rules as king, and even tries to force his membership into the Avengers.
That’s when Deadpool comes in. Before Killmonger returned from his resurrection, T’Challa’s biggest adversary was Achebe, a certifiable genius and serious creep who talks to a hand puppet. Killmonger’s goal was to rule Wakanda; Achebe wanted to destabilize it. With T’Challa gone, Achebe manipulates Deadpool into fighting Killmonger, which he does, because Deadpool’s only loyalty is to cold, hard cash.
In Black Panther #23, Deadpool is in Wakanda, where Wade Wilson spends several pages fighting Killmonger one-on-one. Deadpool holds his own well enough, but the fight ends anti-climactically as Ross breaks them up. There was a whole thing with Achebe making Deadpool a fool and stuff about Killmonger’s pet tiger, but it’s not important. The important thing is Killmonger fought Deadpool when he was king of Wakanda, a storyline that doesn’t happen in the movie, for obvious reasons. But could you imagine?
A little after his fight with Deadpool, Killmonger surrenders the Black Panther mantle, albeit involuntarily. But you should really read how; conveniently, Marvel has collected the entire storyline, including the Deadpool brawl, in Volume 2 of Christopher Priest’s Black Panther.
Marvel’s Black Panther is in theaters now.