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As The Hollywood Reporter revealed earlier Thursday, Lupita Nyong’o is in talks to join Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. While the identity of the character she would play remains a mystery, sources told THR that she will play the love interest of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, the eponymous hero and ruler of the fictional African nation of Wakanda.
There’s just one problem with that idea. Traditionally, the Black Panther hasn’t been shown as a character with a lot of time for romance — and the one character he’s most closely associated with in that area is essentially off-limits to Marvel Studios. With that in mind, here are five possibilities for who Nyong’o might end up bringing to life in the 2018 movie.
A longtime love interest of the Black Panther, Lynne is an American professional singer who met the hero when he rescued her from the racist organization The Sons of the Serpent in 1970’s Avengers No. 73. Although the relationship between the two mostly happened behind the scenes, Lynne was shown in Wakanda during the Black Panther’s first solo run in the Jungle Action series, and was even engaged to the hero during the 1991 series Black Panther: Panther’s Prey. The reason why the two split was never revealed.
If Monica Lynne’s relationship with T’Challa happened mostly off-panel, she was still luckier than Malaika, whose entire relationship with the hero happened before the character was introduced in the 1988 Black Panther Vol. 2 series. Well, mostly before — the two, it’s heavily implied, share an afternoon together in Paris in the series; Malaika is the Wakandan trade ambassador to Paris, as well as a member of the Order of the Panther. Clearly, however, she’s not that central to Black Panther’s life; she never appeared again outside of the 1988 series.
Storm (Kind Of)
Arguably the most high-profile love interest of the Black Panther’s comic book career is one that Marvel Studios can’t bring to the big screen. In 2006, Marvel announced with much fanfare that the Black Panther would be marrying the X-Men character Storm, with an entire six-issue Storm miniseries created to tell the previously unknown backstory of the romance between the two. (In reality, they had co-starred in a story that appeared in 1980’s Marvel Team-Up No. 100 that established the two had met as children, but had no other significant contact before the publisher’s announcement.)
The two were married in Black Panther Vol. 4 No. 18, with Storm becoming the queen of Wakanda in the process. That state of affairs didn’t last very long, however; the 2012 Avengers vs. X-Men comic book series set the couple on opposite sides of the conflict, leading to T’Challa annulling the marriage in his role as High Priest of the Panther Clan.
With Storm making her re-appearance in Fox’s X-Men movies with this month’s X-Men: Apocalypse (Alexandra Shipp replaces Halle Berry in the role), it’s unlikely that Marvel would be able to use her in a Black Panther movie even if they wanted to. But could the studio create a stand-in who is Storm in all-but-name, fulfilling the concept of an African superhero and childhood sweetheart without running afoul of attorneys?
Queen Divine Justice
The wonderfully named Queen Divine Justice might not have been a love interest per se of the Black Panther, but her comic book history — the daughter of the chieftain to a tribe outlawed by T’Challa, she was exiled to and raised in Chicago before serving as one of the Dora Milaje, the bodyguards to the king of Wakanda, and drawn into conflicts with the Black Panther’s enemies — makes her one of the most formidable women in the entire Black Panther mythos. (For those curious, eventually her tribe was returned to full status by a repentant T’Challa, and she was released from her duties as Dora Milaje so that she could lead her people.)
Again not a love interest, Shuri is not only T’Challa’s half-sister, but also his equal. Indeed, she claimed the mantle of the Black Panther for her own when she replaced T’Challa as the ruler of Wakanda, following the latter’s collapse into a (thankfully temporary) comatose state. Even before her time as the Wakandan queen, Shuri had dealt with alien invasions and attacks by super powered beings; once she was in charge of the country, she successfully fought off threats from Doctor Doom, Thanos and declared war on Atlantis. Suffice to say, Shuri was no pushover — as proven by her sacrifice to save her country ahead of the massive Secret Wars comic book storyline last year.
Black Panther is scheduled for a Feb. 16, 2018, release.
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