While the Dora Milaje are frequently referred to as the King’s bodyguards, they are much more than that.By Faridah Gbadamosi The reviews for the very highly anticipated film "Black Panther" are up and they are glowing. Currently sporting a 99% Rotten Tomatoes score despite attempts to disrupt that, the film is well on its way to possibly being Marvel’s best film yet. The most gratifying thing in all these reviews filled with praises is that the Dora Milaje get to shine. Going into the film, the thing that gave me the most pause was how the Dora Milaje would be represented, how the women in general would be represented. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a mixed bag when it comes to female representation in their films, and even more frustrating is the lack of women characters of color up until recently (though Valkyrie was a truly fantastic character). With the Dora Milaje we get to see black women warriors — some of the best fighters in the comic book universe — brought to life. More than anything, I wanted them to be written and shown to be amazing. While the Dora Milaje are frequently referred to as the King’s bodyguards, they are much more than that. They were introduced in "Black Panther" Vol. 3 #1 by Christopher Priest as an elite squad that exists to protect Wakanda, its King and also serve as his ceremonial wives in training (an aspect that has been thankfully dropped from the film). Created in a bid to keep the peace, the Dora Milaje is composed of women chosen from the rival (and occasionally warring tribes) that surround Wakanda, each given an equal opportunity to be the King’s queen. The Dora Milaje are easily identified by their shaved heads and African tribal markings. They are highly trained in a specialized fighting style that makes them great at fighting in any environment and with just about any blade. Most of the Dora Milaje are not named but a few have been identified with storylines of their own. There is Ayo who is a part of the elite team within the elite Dora Milaje known as the Midnight Angels, there is Nakia, who eventually becomes the villain Malice, and of course there is Okoye, one of the most loyal of the Dora Milaje, a trusted confidant to the King. While the Dora Milaje have been prominent in the comic's run since their introduction, they were finally given the space to exist on their own in Roxane Gay’s recent, and unfortunately short-lived, series, "World of Wakanda".
The labor of black women is still being usurped without proper credit, and certainly without any reward.The “Black Panther” movie is slated to be the biggest thing in Black America since Barack Obama’s first inauguration. Never before have there been so much blackness in a blockbuster film, a major comic universe film no less. The preview this week is getting rave reviews. Ryan Coogler and Marvel have a hit on their hands. Which makes it baffling as to why a black woman who was pivotal to introducing the world to the story world beyond the main character was not invited to the preview of the movie. Actually, it’s not baffling. The act is disappointing. It is just more proof of how the labor of black women is valued much more than the woman herself. https://twitter.com/rgay/status/958183880950923265 https://twitter.com/BonjourEve/status/958216064009166848 Roxane Gay wrote the "Black Panther" spin-off, “World of Wakanda”, a series about the army which backs Black Panther and secures the nation he governs. Gay turned the series into the first black female LGBT comic, complete with a romance amongst the characters. She did so without compromising the group’s bad-ass quotient, making the action-packed comic a huge breakthrough for intersectionality in the MCU. Marvel cut the comic mid-2017, citing low sales. This is despite the growing interest in the Black Panther film that will release in less than a year and a lackadaisical advertising budget for the comic from its onset. The comic debuted with more than 57,000 copies sold but was down to around 14,000 six months later in April of 2017. Instead of letting the franchise ride on the growing interest in the upcoming film, Marvel pulled the book. Gay’s skilled writing had made its mark, however. Her books took readers into the world of the all-women army, Dora Milaje, and their skilled security of the nation that the Black Panther originated from. Her comics opened the franchise to BIPOC in ways that the Black Panther comics never could — centering black women in the protector roles we often end up shouldering in the real world. It was also a story that showcased a same-sex romance in a militaristic setting without being too “preachy” about the social implications — something Marvel comics is still notorious for. Their superheroes are well-known for tackling social problems but in the manner of the after school specials that the networks peddled in the 80s.