'Black Panther' Reveals the Secret Origin of MCU Wakanda and Vibranium

Years after it was first referenced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wakanda -- the resource-rich and tech-savvy African nation led by the King T'Challa -- finally came to the big screen in last week's Black Panther, and moviegoers got a sense for what the country's deal is.

The history is, like most things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, largely similar to the comics, but with a few notable tweaks to modernize and to grease the wheels of live-action translation.

In the film, thousands of years ago, an asteroid made entirely of vibranium landed in what would later become the nation of Wakanda.

Crashing into the Earth and burying itself deep beneath, the incredible properties of the vibranium altered the world around it, creating (among other things) the heart-shaped herb which would be used for generations to enhance the Black Panthers who protected the region.

Upon the discovery of vibranium much later, several local tribes went to war over the resources, with a conflict that stretched on for generations until the first Black Panther rose as a ruler who could unite all of them under the banner of peace and in the name of Wakanda.

In the generations since, Wakanda has enjoyed peace and prosperity, while remaining hidden from the outside world. Pretending to be just another resource-starved agrarian African nation, Wakanda remained largely off the radar, with the one major exception being when some of its vibranium was stolen by Ulysses Klaue in 1992 -- a theft which touched off the events of Black Panther and ultimately led T'Challa and others to question whether remaining out of sight and hoarding their resources was the wisest course of action.

As in the film, Wakanda in the comics has been isolationist and protectionist for centuries, only recently joining the wider world of the Marvel Universe. This goes largely uncommented-upon in the comics, although it was Killmonger's biggest complaint in the film, and a source of real-world criticism by cultural critics who question a wealthy and powerful African nation's failure to stop the slave trade from happening.

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Black Panther is in theaters now. It will be followed by Avengers: Infinity War on May 4th, Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6th, Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, the fourth Avengers movie on May 3, 2019, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 5, 2019, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.