Wakanda Forever: The Black Panther Family Tree

By Andrew Koch Premium

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You’ve heard the buzz. But who’s the man behind the catlike mask in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The Black Panther made history as the first mainstream superhero of African descent, but those unfamiliar with the comics might not know much about him.

Let’s look at the Black Panther family tree to better understand T’Challa, the king of Wakanda.

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Who is the Black Panther?

The 2018 “Black Panther” film and comics center around T’Challa, the crowned prince of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. His late father, T’Chaka, ruled as the Black Panther, Wakanda’s warrior-king and the head of the nation’s religious faith. But when T’Chaka is murdered, T’Challa must take his father’s place as king and Black Panther, defeating threats from both within and without. The Black Panther wears his trademark suit made of vibranium (a rare and impossibly durable metal) and possesses enhanced agility, durability and strength.


In the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Family tree showing T'Challa, his father T'Chaka, and their relatives
The Black Panther family tree as presented in the MCU films

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films, a mysterious assassin kills T’Chaka as part of a scheme to split up the Avengers in “Captain America: Civil War.” T’Challa, as the Black Panther, seeks to avenge his father’s death and kill the Winter Soldier (who has been framed for T’Chaka’s murder). He eventually captures T’Chaka’s true killer and brings him to justice, then offers to shelter the Winter Soldier in Wakanda.

“Black Panther” picks up where “Civil War” leaves off, with T’Challa returning to Wakanda to fend off a challenge from his cousin Erik Stevens/Killmonger (birth name: N’Jadaka) and confront a dark family secret involving Erik’s father, N’Jobu. T’Challa is supported by his mother, Ramonda, and sister, Shuri. He and Shuri also appear in “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

It remains to be seen how the death of T’Challa actor Chadwick Boseman will be reflected in the MCU films. Fans speculate that “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” will acknowledge T’Challa’s death and have Shuri take on the mantle of the Black Panther.


In the comics

Family Tree showing T'Challa, T'Chaka and their relatives. The comics version differs from the film version
A partial Black Panther family tree, as presented in Marvel comics

The original Marvel comics differ somewhat from the MCU’s adaptation. In the comics, T’Chaka marries twice: first to N’Yami (with whom he has T’Chaka), then to Ramonda (with whom he has Shuri). Thus, T’Challa and Shuri are half-siblings in the comics, but full siblings in the films. Earlier comics also mention another of T’Chaka’s children: Jakarra, who attempts to overthrow T’Challa.

The comics further develop the Black Panther family tree. T’Chaka has a brother, S’Yan, who took over the Black Panther mantle upon T’Chaka’s death. In some versions of Black Panther’s story, T’Challa challenges S’Yan for the throne. T’Challa defeats his uncle, much to the chagrin of S’Yan’s son, T’Shan. (In the comics, N’Jadaka/Erik Killmonger is not related to the Black Panther royal family.)

Another arc of the Black Panther series follows the “Black Musketeers,” four of T’Challa’s other cousins (Joshua Itobo, Khanata, Ishanta and Zuni). The four team up to fight Jakarra, though the comic doesn’t specify how the four men are related to T’Challa.

T’Challa’s family tree intertwines with other famous Marvel characters as well. T’Challa’s grandfather, Azzuri, fought the Red Skull alongside Captain America during World War II. Like his grandfather, T’Challa has teamed up with Captain America and other famous heroes, including the Fantastic Four and Daredevil. T’Challa also had a romantic relationship with Ororo Munroe (better known as the X-Men’s Storm), marrying and later divorcing her.

The Panther’s Legacy

The Black Panther became the first mainstream comic book character of African descent when he debuted in an issue of Fantastic Four in 1966. The revolutionary character made waves across the comic book industry, paving the way for more superheroes of color such as the Falcon, Luke Cage and John Stewart (the Green Lantern). The release of the 2018 “Black Panther” film brought the character to even wider prominence.

Though many associate “Black Panther” with the Black Panther Party, the comic predates the organization by a few months. In fact, Marvel briefly changed the character’s name to the Black Leopard in the early 1970s to avoid connection with the Black Panther Party. Creators didn’t necessarily shy away from the association with the civil rights movement, however. They reversed the “Black Leopard” decision after just a couple years, and one issue featured the Black Panther fighting members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Want to learn about more fictional family trees? Check out our guides to the Star Wars and Harry Potter family trees.

Marvel Entertainment uploaded a YouTube video describing the Black Panther family tree, including the members of T’Challa’s royal court as well as his guards.

Last updated, October 2022.