'Black Panther': Which Character Will Michael B. Jordan Portray?

If Jordan is playing a villain, as suggested, could he be one of these five Marvel bad guys?
John Buscema/Marvel Entertainment

Following the addition of Lupita Nyong'o, Marvel's Black Panther will add Michael B. Jordan, The Hollywood Reporter exclusively revealed Friday. The identity of his character remains under wraps, but sources suggested that he might play a villain. But … which villain?

It's worth remembering that Black Panther already has one villain ready to be slotted into place: Ulysses Klaw, who was played by Andy Serkis in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, is part of T'Challa's comic book origin as the Black Panther, even if he has yet to be connected with Ryan Coogler's 2018 movie. Will Jordan's character work alongside Klaw in the new movie, or stand alone? And in either case, who could he be? Here are five suggestions from the decades of Marvel comic book mythology.

Man-Ape

Let's get this out the way first: yes, "Man-Ape" is an astonishingly insensitive name. Let's just call him M'Baku, his birth name, instead, shall we? The second-mightiest warrior in Wakanda — after the Black Panther himself, of course — M'Baku rejected the dominant Panther Cult in favor of the rival White Gorilla Cult, using its teachings to gain superhuman strength and attempt to take control of Wakanda while the Panther was in the U.S. with the Avengers. Defeated by the Panther, he was exiled from Wakanda and left to travel the world as a mercenary who would go on to fight Captain America, the Fantastic Four and other comic book heroes.

Reverend Michael Ibn al-Hajj Achebe

Described by co-creator Christopher Priest as "the Joker to Panther's Batman," Achebe's origins have been left purposefully vague. But one potential backstory for the character is that he started life as a farmer in the (fictional) African nation of Ghudazan who was left for dead after soldiers from a neighboring country destroyed his farm and raped his wife. Nearing death, he sold his soul to Mephisto — one of Marvel's many stand-ins for Satan — and survived to become a strategic genius whose only ambition is to create chaos and disorder. Such as, for example, destabilizing the Black Panther's nation of Wakanda.

Kiber The Cruel

A scientist who, following a lab accident, gains the ability to absorb the life-forces of other beings, Frederick Kiber was discovered by the Black Panther after Kiber kidnapped one of the hero's cousins. As a side-effect of the accident, Kiber was unable to leave his laboratory and, after a battle with the Panther, found himself trapped there with no one or nothing to help him lure new victims to feed his hunger. While a seemingly random choice for a movie villain, Kiber has a particular caliber that few of the Panther's other villains do: He was created by Jack Kirby, the original co-creator of the hero.

Salamander K'Ruel

Created for the Panther's first solo run in comics, the wonderfully named Salamander is a Wakandan rebel who becomes part of an attempt to over through the Panther's rule. Mutated by exposure to the radioactive material that helps create Vibranium — the near-unbreakable metal only found within the Panther's home country — he has the ability to "grow" toxin-covered projectiles inside his body, which he uses as the heads of arrows he fires at his enemies. Think of him as a particularly gross Hawkeye. (Also, worth noting: Salamander K'Ruel is unrelated to Kiber the Cruel. Things are just cruel in Wakanda in general, it seems.)

Erik Kilmonger

It should be noted Kilmonger's impressively fearsome name is fake, a guise he assumed after being forced out of Wakanda as a child when his father attempted — and failed — to overthrow the Panther's father as ruler of the country. (His original name was N'Jadaka, following the linguistic construct that gave the Panther the name "T'Challa.") Returning to Wakanda, he followed in his father's footsteps and tried to overthrow the Panther's rule; although he was unsuccessful, he returned a number of times to try and take the country for his own before apparently dying when former Avenger Monica Rambeau flew through his chest. One potential point in Kilmonger's favor: When his father tried to overthrow T'Challa's father, he wasn't working alone. The name of his accomplice? None other than Ulysses Klaw …

Black Panther is scheduled for a Feb. 16, 2018, release.

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