When making Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler and Marvel producers changed a significant detail about the Dora Milaje. Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole wrote the script to include a lot of characters and storylines from the Black Panther comics, but they had to change a major issue with the Dora Milaje in order for the story to work. Thankfully, their changes ended up improving the characters compared to their comic counterparts.
Coogler’s Black Panther broke box office records and became the 14th highest-grossing film in the world, earning $1.3 billion. The film incorporated the story and characters from the Black Panther comics into the film and brought King T’Challa and his kingdom of Wakanda to life. The Dora Milaje were a significant part of the comics that got incorporated into the film. Okoye, head of the Dora Milaje, plays a major role in Black Panther as T’Challa’s fiercest protector. Even though the Dora Milaje were in the comic books, Coogler and Cole had to fix a major issue with them when writing the script.
In some prominent Marvel runs of Black Panther Comics, the Dora Milaje were actually teenagers. They were women and girls between the ages of 15 – 20. Every tribe would send their most worthy woman to the Dora with the intention of not only protecting King T’Challa but potentially becoming Queen. For Black Panther, the MCU changed the Dora Milaje to be adults with the sole purpose of protecting the king instead of also being wives in training. This benefits the film by eliminating sexist undertones from the comics.
The Dora Milaje were first introduced to the comics by writer Christopher Priest in Black Panther vol.3 #1 in 1998, 32 years after the creation of Black Panther in 1966. While the idea of potential wives for monarchs is not unheard of in the real world, it was an awkward addition to the Black Panther canon at the time of its debut and has only become worse with age. T’Challa was clearly uncomfortable with the situation as well as he constantly rejected any ideas of romance between himself and the Dora Milaje, so it’s best that Marvel has phased this part of their characterization out.
In the comics, Nakia and Okoye were both members of the Dora Milaje. Aging them both to be grown women and making their purpose solely to serve Wakanda allowed Ryan Coogler to use their characters to support the story a lot more effectively. Since the Dora aren’t aiming to marry King T’Challa in the film, Okoye was able to be with W’Kabi, leader of the border tribe and eventual supporter of T’Challa’s enemy Killmonger. Coogler was able to tell the story of a couple that was on opposite sides of the conflict and strengthen the plot.
Nakia was a Dora in the comics but a spy for the Wakandan government in Black Panther. Since she was also made an adult woman not a teenager like in the comics, Coogler was able to create a better love story between her and T’Challa. Nakia was in love with T’Challa in the comics, and he kissed her once while experiencing a hallucination. Luckily, Coogler and Cole’s changes meant that the movies were able to keep some elements of the character but also show Nakia as a strong character as well as a love interest for T’Challa.
Marvel’s choice to change the Dora Milaje’s age and their purpose to make them adult women who only protect the king paid off, as it allowed them to utilize the characters from the comics more effectively. The changes Marvel made to the Dora Milaje made Black Panther one of their strongest films so far and contributed to the film’s legacy.
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