Why Black Panther Is Really Marvel's Most Dangerous Villain
Superhero stories love making up fictional cities -- Superman has Metropolis, Batman has Gotham, Spider-Man has a version of Queens that isn't covered in unwanted mix tapes, etc. In Captain America: Civil War, though, we get to see an entire made-up country: Wakanda, home of the Black Panther and, as of the end of the movie, about four-fifths of a frozen Captain America sidekick.
Rather than bow to stereotypes and portray Wakanda as an impoverished, war-torn African nation, Marvel did something pretty cool: made it a super-advanced utopia ruled by a superhero.
It's just too bad that this utopia's mere existence would doom millions of people to death and misery. Allow us to elaborate ...
They Keep World-Changing Technology To Themselves (At The Expense Of The Rest Of Humanity)
What sets Wakanda apart from other African countries is that they literally set themselves apart from other African countries, and everyone else for that matter. Notoriously isolationist, Wakanda has used technological superiority and a militaristic culture to fend off any invaders and completely close off its borders. In fact, the events of Civil War were kicked off during one of Wakanda's first attempts to send delegates to treat with foreign nations -- in the year 2016.
So their borders are impenetrable, and they simply don't give a shit what happens on the other side. If it wasn't for all the black people, it would be Donald Trump's wet dream.
Yes, Trump exists in the Marvel Universe, and Luke Cage made him his bitch.
And that brings us to the source of all of Wakanda's power and prestige: vibranium, a ludicrously strong metal that only exists within their borders. The Wakandans have used this one-of-a-kind substance to fuel their technological wonders, advanced weaponry, and sweet jungle-cat-themed battle-suits for centuries. Have they ever shared this revolutionary material with the world? Yes, of course: In the 1940s, while the Nazis murdered millions, Wakanda let the Allies have enough vibranium to make one oversized Frisbee. The creator of Captain America's shield, Howard "Iron Dad" Stark, even says: "What you're holding there, that's all we've got."
"We had a little more, but the Brits misplaced their kettle."
And that's it. That's the only time they've ever shared any vibranium. (We're ignoring any developments in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., because so does Marvel Studios.) Keep in mind, Captain America didn't exist yet when they sent the Allies that vibranium, so it wasn't like the King of Wakanda said "I'll give you enough of our precious metal to make a boss shield for your superman." He just sent along a teacup-sized portion and went back to completely ignoring the world. Imagine how easy World War II would have been if the Allies had indestructible tanks -- they could have cut through the Nazis' artillery like butter. And what's more, hoarding this technology, which could theoretically create vehicles that were impervious to damage, kind of places the blame for every car, train, and plane crash fatality squarely on Wakanda's shoulders.
OK, so Wakanda definitely wouldn't make the world a better place, but it's not like they would've sat by if the Nazis had suddenly gained the upper hand, right?
Every Country Around Wakanda Would Turn Into A Hellhole
For a long time, Europe had a tendency to march into Africa uninvited and make themselves at home, like a rude Airbnb guest who steals your stuff and overstays their booking. You might think that Wakanda's presence in the continent would discourage this sort of behavior -- but nope. If anything, Africa would have more white people trying to dick everyone over if there was a technological first world power smack dab in the middle of it.
The non-conquerable (but strategically important) land of Wakanda would result in even more intense competition for colonies by the European powers, since everyone would want a piece of property next door to try and trade for some of that sweet sweet technology and influence. Wakanda would become the anvil to the hammer of European colonialism, with every non-vibranium powered country caught in the middle. Of course, many of these potential victim-countries may not have even been able to survive into the modern era, due to Wakanda's near-monopoly on the area's water supplies:
According to author Ta-Nehisi Coates, current writer of the Black Panther comic, Wakanda completely covers the western portion of the massive Lake Victoria. Here's what it looks like in our universe:
And here's what the area around the lake looks like in Marvel's world -- the tan area is Wakanda:
The lake provides fresh water for the majority of the nations surrounding it ... or it would, if it wasn't suddenly under the control of the most modernized and industrial country to ever grace the planet. Imagine having to ask your neighbor for permission every time you want to have a drink, except your neighbor lives in a fortress and will shoot you if you so much as breathe on his front door.
The only countries that would be spared from the repercussions of having Wakanda in the neighborhood would be the ones that don't exist, because Wakanda apparently swallowed them at some point. These countries are Burundi and Rwanda, and we assume there are at least some Marvel fans living there who think this is bullshit.
Especially since both places are known for the same things: horrific genocide, and failed UN intervention to stop said horrific genocides. So maybe the existence of Wakanda is a good thing, since it would have prevented these mass slaughters? Funny you should ask that, because ...
Idi Amin Would've Killed A Lot More People Because Of Wakanda
Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was one of history's craziest despots, in both the "did terrifying things" and "pulled wacky stunts" sense. During his eight-year reign, Amin purged his country of perceived traitors through mass torture and execution, ruthlessly persecuted certain ethnic and political groups, seized property and funds from whoever he saw as enemies, and managed to piss off nearly every other foreign ruler. Between 80,000 and 500,000 people died because of him. And in the wild and wonderful world of Marvel superheroes, it was probably all much, much worse.
Art imitates life imitates art.
You see, Amin's rule was so bad that refugees started flooding into neighboring Tanzania -- and some of those refugees included political opponents, which led to Amin's unwise decision to declare war on that much bigger country. The Tanzanian army was karmically bolstered by Ugandans who had been run out by Amin, and the Uganda-Tanzania War was a swift victory for Tanzania, leading to Amin's even swifter loss of power and subsequent exile, which, to put it mildly, was a good thing. With that in mind, let's look at those maps again:
The red stuff is blood.
Wakanda (and a bunch of other fake countries, but mainly Wakanda) is located right in between Uganda and Tanzania, meaning that refugees would have had nowhere to flee during Amin's reign. Instead of crossing the border to a country that welcomed them and fought back, they would have basically been running into a wall. Remember, Wakanda's history is "they've never intervened in foreign affairs," not "they've never intervened, except that one time they did." Without the Tanzanian war, it's hard to say just how much longer Amin could have stayed in power, or how many more would have been massacred. Remember, Wakanda was only willing to part with a shield-sized amount of vibranium to stop Adolf fucking Hitler.
One brutal despot getting a few extra years of despotting may not seem like a massive consequence (if you're an asshole), but Idi Amin wouldn't be the only dictator getting a boost from the existence of Wakanda ...
Black Panther Is A Fascist Dictator, And Would Inspire Dictators All Over The World
Think about what Black Panther really is. His secret identity is King T'Challa of Wakanda: a leader who has inherited power through a patriarchal line, rules via a militaristic monarchy, and uses superpowers to enforce his will. Black Panther is basically what Kim Jong-un believes himself to be. The major difference here is that Wakanda is an actual world superpower, and not an inconsequential punchline.
"Oh, and my wife shoots lightning bolts. No big."
Think about the implications of such a figure. Real-life revolutionaries have to rely on Stalinist Russia or the house of cards that was Hitler's Germany for their examples of how totalitarianism can work. In the Marvel Universe, Wakanda practically provides a blueprint for "How To Be A Good Dictator." We're talking about a country with no war, no politicians beyond the superhero on top, and where the acceptable ways to dress range from "futuristic scientist" to "exhibitionist." Can you imagine a more perfect paradise? And it was achieved through good old-fashioned fascism.
Seriously, it's hard to think of a greater challenge to the superiority of the American way than a Kim Jong-un-esque figure who actually benefits his people and his country -- far more than the average western government, too. Wannabe Wakandas would spring up wherever revolutions occur, probably with their own animal-costumed supreme leaders. Fascism has a new poster boy, and that poster has already been in theaters everywhere.
The Russian is a happy accident.
Then again, it probably still wouldn't be quite as bad as a world in which every rich asshole has decided he wants to be Tony Stark. How long would it be until some douche accidentally turned Silicon Valley into a smoking crater? A week?
Comic book universes: Cool to visit, but you sure as shit wouldn't want to live there.
For more reasons we should be frightened by the MCU, check out 6 Insane Plot Points Marvel Movies Refuse To Delve Into and 5 Deeply Troubling Questions The Marvel Movies Don't Address.
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Nightmarish villains with superhuman enhancements. An all-seeing social network that tracks your every move. A young woman from the trailer park and her very smelly cat. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, a new novel about futuristic shit, by David Wong.