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Who Is Bashenga? Here’s What You Need To Know About the First Black Panther

Bashenga as the First Black Panther in Marvel Comics

It has been over a month since Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premiered in theaters. The long-awaited sequel to 2018’s Black Panther was forced to changed directions after Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed King T’Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther) in the first film, sadly passed away in 2020. Boseman’s death is mirrored in Wakanda Forever, as King T’Challa’s passing leaves Wakanda in desperate need of another Black Panther in the face of another enormous threat: Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and the Talokan.

As a result, Shuri (Letitia Wright) synthesizes the heart-shaped herb and takes on the responsibilities of the Black Panther. However, she and T’Challa are far from the only individuals who have taken up the Black Panther mantle. The first individual to hold that title in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was Olumo Bashenga, back in the Bronze Age. As a result, he is an important part of Wakandan and Black Panther lore and has been mentioned in both films.

The release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever renewed interest in Bashenga, and even led to calls for Marvel to develop a project centering around the first Black Panther, with many fans suggesting John Boyega for the role. While Marvel has not confirmed that a Bashenga project is in development, it is always a possibility. Here’s everything you need to know about Bashenga.

Who is Olumo Bashenga in Marvel Comics?

The heart-shaped herb in 'Black Panther'
(Marvel Studios)

Despite his importance, Bashenga does not have an extensive history in Marvel Comics. This is because he is a part of Wakanda’s history, rather than a current player in Marvel’s ongoing narrative. However, we do know that Bashenga lived in Wakanda during the Bronze Age. Like T’Challa, he belonged to the Panther Tribe in Wakanda. Back then, the tribes of Wakanda were not united. Bashenga was a Wakandan shaman warrior who predicted an explosion of cosmic energy from the Mena Ngai (the Great Mound), which brought Vibranium to Wakanda.

Legend has it that Bashenga forged two weapons—Skybreaker and the Spear of Bashenga—which managed to absorb the energy from the eruption. After tossing the weapons away, they landed in the western region of Wakanda, where the energy was released and the city of Birnin Bashenga was formed. Both Skybreaker and the Spear of Bashenga became revered weapons, passed down for generations in Wakanda. Later, Bashenga was given a vision by the god Bast, which led him to the heart-shaped herb. After consuming the herb and being granted the powers of the Panther god, Bashenga became the Black Panther and united the tribes into the Kingdom of Wakanda, where he served as their first king.

It must be noted, however, that Bashenga was technically the second Black Panther. The very first was Mosi, in the year 1,000,000 B.C. Mosi was the first to consume the heart-shaped herb and survive. He was also one of the first people who recognized the useful properties of Vibranium, and he served as a member of the Stone Age Avengers. His story is similar to Bashenga’s in that he, too, once united Wakanda. But that unity was short-lived, as the tribes broke up once again until the coming of Bashenga. The MCU has referenced Bashenga as the First Black Panther, though it is not entirely clear why they opted to gloss over Mosi’s legacy.

(featured image: Marvel Comics)

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Rachel Ulatowski is a Freelance Writer, blogger, and aspiring author. As a Freelancer Writer she hopes to give readers the same comfort and enjoyment that she finds in all things nerdy and noteworthy, as a blogger she enjoys snarking on YouTubers and reality stars, and as a future novelist she hopes to raise awareness for child abuse through literature.