Female soldiers very nearly included in Kuvira’s army in the Legend of Korra finale.
Bryan Konietzko: I made a point of having several female officers of all different ranks designed for Kuvira’s military. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they were largely left out of the final animation. I didn’t supervise the background character assigning, but as the art director I ultimately have to take the blame.
So, I’m sorry! We made them, but you just don’t see them enough. Sigh …
Mecha pilot and corporal designs by Christie Tseng. Metalbender designs by Bryan Konietzko. Private and sergeant designs by Angela Song Mueller. Cleanup by Steve Hirt. Color by Silvia Filcak-Blackwolf.
The Wakandan Royal Portrait offers clues to the dangers within the fictional nation
“What makes him different from other superheroes first and foremost is he doesn’t see himself as a superhero,” says director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed). “He sees himself as a politician. That’s the first thing on his mind when he wakes up in the morning. ‘How am I going to fulfill my duties as king of this place?’”
That means not just fighting external foes, but keeping the citizens of his nation happy. He’s a king, but not a tyrant. And Wakandans don’t speak with only one voice. There are many political factions, many clashing points of view. Some are ready for revolution. Some are being pushed.
“He has to keep harmony between the tribes within his country, and that means managing expectations and doing things that are unpopular,” Coogler says. “At the same time, he is the protector of that nation.”
Angela Bassett costars as Ramonda, once the queen, now the mother of the king.
“She is one of the advisors that he would look to,” Boseman says. “He has to look to her for some of the answers of what his father might want or might do. She may not be exactly right all the time, but she definitely has insights. She is the queen mother. And she’s that for not just him, but for everybody.”
Bozeman laughs. “She’s has her hands in everything — even his love life.”
“The one thing I will say about all the female characters in this movie is that they are very strong,” Boseman says. “It’s a very matriarchal society.”
One of them is Wakanda’s undercover operative Nakia, played by 12 Years a SlaveOscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o. She may actually be the closest thing to 007 in this movie, and she’s a former lover of T’Challa’s.
“She is a departure from what she was in the comic book,” Nyong’o says. “Nakia is a war dog. She is basically an undercover spy for Wakanda. Her job is to go out into the world and report back on what’s going on.”
She also boasts some unique weaponry. “We call them her ring blades,” says Moore. “The ones Lupita carries while in the green outfit are based on traditional African weaponry. However, she does get a hi-tech upgrade later in the film, compliments of Shuri.”
Letitia Wright plays T’Challa’s kid sister, who is no one you want to face in battle either. “She is also a genius and runs the entire Wakandan design group,” says producer Kevin Feige, whose also president of Marvel Studios and one of the chief architects of its interlocked universe. “She’s responsible for all these amazing technological advances that Vibranium has brought about from Wakanda.”
Here she is pictured with twin, panther-shaped weapons. It’s not clear yet what they do exactly, but it probably hurts.
She’s not technically family, but she’s just as close. This character played by The Walking Dead‘s Danai Gurira is the head of the Dora Milaje, the all-female special soldiers unit that protects the kingdom (and the king) from harm.
“They are a very powerful force,” she says. “They are not utopic, but what Wakanda has down well is it has allowed people to function within their strengths. These women, their strength is to preserve Wakanda. It’s more like the secret service in a sense that it’s not just military. She is head of intel.”
Okoye has guilt over the death of the previous king, and she’s generally a stoic presence. But she’s not unfeeling. “She can be serious, but she also has an unexpected sense of humor,” Gurira says. “She has a heart, but for her country and for her people. She’s not a person who doesn’t connect to human beings as a result of what she does.”
There is an enemy in this portrait.
In the comics, he was once a Wakandan known as N’Jadaka, but he took on this “death-dealing” nom de guerre when he became a dissident, then an exile, from his homeland.
Michael B. Jordan’s character is one of the antagonists of the film, allied with the mercenary Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis, reprising his role from Avengers: Age of Ultron), an arms dealer who has plundered Vibranium before and plans to do it again. He’s addicted.
In The Godfather terms, Killmonger has sided with this outsider against “the family,” his brothers and sisters of Wakanda. “I think Killmonger has his own opinion on how Wakanda has been run and should run, and what I think Michael brings to the table is sort of a charming antagonist, who doesn’t agree with how T’Challa is running things, frankly,” says Moore. “I think that puts T’Challa in a difficult situation. Killmonger is a voice of a different side of Wakanda.”
Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya plays T’Challa’s best friend, who is also a member of one of the most vital groups in the nation. “W’Kabi is the head of security for the Border Tribe,” says Moore. “They live on the borders of Wakanda and serve as the first line of defense for the country.”
In other words, he helps maintain the disguise that Wakanda is just mines, farms, and woods.
“To outsiders they appear to be what people would ‘expect’ of a small provincial African nation – but the truth is they are some of the fiercest warriors in Wakanda, intent on protecting the secrets of their advanced nation at all costs,” Moore says.
Now that T’Challa is king, he asks W’Kabi to join him as a palace advisor.
Another vital voice of reason for the young king is Forest Whitaker’s shaman, a longtime advisor to T’Challa’s father and the keeper of the Heart-Shaped Herb, a plant that grows only in Wakanda and absorbs the Vibranium-rich minerals. When consumed, it gives the new leader superhuman strength. (But in the comics, it only works on members of the royal bloodline.)
“He’s somewhat a religious figure or spiritual figure,” Coogler says of Zuri. “Spirituality is something that exists in Wakanda in the comics, and it’s something we wanted to have elements of in the film. Forest’s character, more than anything, is a major tie-back to T’Challa’s father. Zuri is someone he looks to for guidance.”
As wondrous as Wakanda seems, it can also be treacherous. For all the talk of honor in The Godfather, the families were compulsively driven to destroy each other. 007 may venture to the most beautiful places (and people) on Earth, but there’s always a villain determined to wipe those places off the map. If Black Panther owes thematic inspiration to those predecessors, the danger comes hand in hand with the beauty.
But that’s where the similarities will end. When the Marvel Studios movie debuts Feb. 16, the story will remain on Earth, but its creators pledge to take fans to a world they’ve never seen before nonetheless.
“I don’t think people are prepared for what this movie is going to be,” says Feige. “Not just Black Panther, but the Dora Milaje, and Killmonger, and the entire design of Wakanda – both its traditional African-inspired elements, but also the Vibranium inspired techno-elements. I can’t think of a blend that has happened like that before in movies.”
I’m so sorry I’ve been absent lately, guys! It’s been a combination of work I can’t talk about + my laptop being out of commission. Posting from mobile is a really uncomfortable experience, which is why I’ve been more active on my Twitter and Instagram.
Anyway, I have some Good Boys™ for your enjoyment here! If you’d like to grab prints, you can do so on my shop. I never posted the full page of Bucky, so I’m excited to finally show him off!
Queen Nzinga Mbande (1583-1663), sometimes referred to as Anna Nzinga, was ruler of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in what is now Angola.
As the favoured daughter of King Kiluanji of the Ndongo, Nzinga Mbande was brought up witnessing her father’s governance of the kingdom first-hand. He even took her with him when he went to war. Kiluanji made deals with the Portuguese who were expanding their slave trading operations in South West Africa, and this relationship was maintained when her brother Ngola Hari became king. However in 1617 the Portuguese Governor Correia de Sousa launched attacks against the Ndongo kingdom that captured thousands of Mbundu people.
In 1621 when the Portuguese invited the Ndongo king to take part in peace talks, he sent his sister Nzinga Mbande in his place. At her famous first meeting with De Sousa chairs were only provided for the Portuguese, and Mbande was expected to sit on the floor. Instead she commanded one of her servants to go down on all fours and act as her chair. During the negotiations Mbande walked a fine line between preventing the Portuguese from controlling the kingdom as they had done in Kongo, while keeping options open to trade for firearms to strengthen her armies. In this she was successful, although as a condition of the agreement she had to convert to Christianity and was baptised as Anna de Sousa, with the Governor becoming her Godfather.
In 1626 Mbande became Queen of the Ndongo following the death of her brother. Her reign began in peril as the Portuguese went back on their deal with her and declared war, as did other neighbouring tribes. Forced into retreat from her own lands, Mbande led her people south to the kingdom of Matamba, which she attacked, capturing Matamba’s Queen and routing her army. Mbande then installed herself as the new ruler of Matamba, from where she launched a prolonged campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Portuguese which would last for the next 30 years.
Mbande developed a legendary reputation as a warrior, although claims that that she took part in human sacrifice are likely the result of European propaganda and gossip. Accounts that she maintained a personal harem of more than 50 men are also unproven. What is known is that Mbande assembling a diverse army to oppose the Portuguese that included runaway slaves, defecting soldiers, and women. Exploiting European rivalries she made an alliance with the Dutch, which included acquiring her own personal bodyguard of 60 Dutch elite soldiers armed with rifles. Working with the Dutch, Mbande successfully defeated Portuguese armies in 1644, 1646, and 1647. However the Dutch were eventually pushed out of the region in 1648 and Mbanda was forced to carry on the fight alone. While she was never able to completely defeat them, she successfully resisted Portuguese invasion for decades.
Mbande continued personally leading her troops into battle until she was in her sixties, but the long war eventually wore both sides down. In 1657 she finally signed a peace treaty with Portugal. She then spent the rest of her life focused on rebuilding a nation which had been devastated by conflict and over-farming. She died of natural causes in 1663, aged 81. Today Nzinga Mbande is a symbol of Angolan independence, memorialised by numerous statues.