When Marvel movies tease the likes of villains such as Thanos or Red Skull, fans pretty much know what they're getting into when they watch the movie. Erik Killmonger however, the revenge-driven villain of this year's Black Panther film, remains mostly a mystery to casual audiences.
Just who exactly is this menacing villain sweeping through Wakanda?
Created by Don McGregor and Rich Buckler, Killmonger first appeared in Black Panther comics in 1973, during the Panther's Rage story. From there, he was featured in various Black Panther arcs over the years, and even made appearances in other Marvel comics like Iron Man and Deadpool.
Killmonger, born in Wakanda, was originally given the name N'Jadaka. Growing up, N'Jadaka was no different than any of the other children in Wakanda, but things took a turn for the worst when Ulysses Klaw attacked the country. The villain and his army forced N'Jadaka's father to work for them as they attempted to take over the nation.
The Wakandan forces ultimately defeated Klaw, killing N'Jadaka's father in the process. His remaining family members were banished, forced to leave Wakanda for good. Angry at the country he called home, the king who banished him and the villain who corrupted his father, N'Jadaka ended up in Harlem, New York, where he vowed to get revenge on those who had wronged him. He spent his time in America becoming a skilled warrior, and studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in order to acquire the skills that could help him in his fight against T'Challa.
Eventually, Killmonger returned to Wakanda, where he asked T'Challa to allow him back into the country, claiming that he deserved to right the wrongs of his father. The King allowed it, only to be stabbed in the back when Killmonger organized a revolution in the advanced African nation. He preached change to his followers, saying that Wakanda and its King had strayed far from what made the nation great in the first place.
While Killmonger and his forces were ultimately defeated, his story is set to make for one of the more personal villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rather than a generic bad guy like Ronan or Yellow Jacket, Killmonger has a deep personal connection to the hero of the movie, and he fights for much more than his own personal interests.
Far from a household name, Killmonger is played by one of the fastest rising stars in Hollywood, Michael B. Jordan, who's taking his second crack at Marvel movies after the disastrous Fantastic Four reboot in 2015. Black Panther will be Jordan's third time working with director Ryan Coogler. The actor was highly celebrated for his starring performances in both collaborative efforts before this one; the tragic indie film Fruitvale Station and Rocky sequel, Creed.
Be sure to check out Black Panther when it hits theaters on February 16. Tickets are on sale now.