The Black Panther may be the ruler of Wakanda, but the hero wouldn’t be able to lead without the elite, trusted king’s guard, the Dora Milaje. In Marvel’s new book Protectors of Wakanda: A History and Training Manual for the Dora Milaje, the origin and intense training of Wakanda’s warriors is highlighted in journals from veteran and new Doras. The Root has the exclusive reveal of the cover for the book, which is set for release Sept. 13. Author Karama Horne spoke with The Root about putting together a history for some of Marvel’s most famous and popular characters.
Cover artist Ashley A. Woods created an image of a Dora in a ready stance looking straight at us, as if she’s daring us to attack. Horne was adamant that the warrior needed to take a confident pose.
“I remember asking everybody, we need to see her face. Whatever Dora is on the cover, it shouldn’t be the back of her head, it shouldn’t be a profile, she should be looking right at us,” Horne said. “Looking at somebody’s eyes and looking at somebody’s face feels direct, like something the Dora would do. Straight on, looking at you in that ready stance was really, really important to me.”
The prospect of creating a history for the Dora Milaje was both daunting and terrifying for Horne, who is a culture journalist for SyfyWire and her own TheBlerdGurl website. As someone who spends a lot of time in the comic book world, she knew one wrong note would be immediately criticized. However, there’s nothing to worry about here, as Horne’s enthusiasm about the Dora is infectious and exciting.
“It dawned on me that the Dora Milaje don’t really have a history in the comics,” she said. “We see them come in and out, they’re these beautiful bald women who are warriors, but I was like where do they come from, how do they get picked? We know they come from all over Wakanda, but what does that look like? And that’s what I decided to explore in this book.”
In examining the lives of the Dora, Horne needed to look back into Wakanda’s history through previously published Black Panther stories. Not really a hardship, as like any true comic book nerd, she discovered whole new things to love about the books.
“This idea of Wakanda hadn’t really been codified, and there were all these amazing surprises, things that I found along the way that I think people who are fans of the movies are going to be surprised about. Because the comic book lore is a little bit different,” she said.
Black Panther has always been great at balancing the importance of history with advanced technology. Considering how crucial vibranium is to Wakanda, it is vitally important that the Dora have technological knowledge, as well as fighting and weapons training.
“Everything in the book utilizes the technology that we have seen to date. I introduce a couple of new things, but they’re not that far out of the realm of possibility if you already know the parameters of the worlds of Wakanda, as well as the types of vibranium that are found there,” Horne said. “There’s equal parts physical training, but there’s also technological, as well as language. Every single Dora must speak a minimum of seven languages, half of those are traditional African languages.”
Since it’s a training manual written by Dora for Dora, the book never has to emphasize the Blackness of the women. They just get to be themselves, and not worry about judgment. This provides Horne a chance to add some comedy as overseas warriors make interesting observations about the western world.
“People think they are just the king’s guard, but they have positions all over Wakanda and beyond, and I place them in those positions and describe details and what their training is,” she said.
The awesome thing about the Dora Milaje is that they never justify their actions or motivations. No one questions if Navy SEALS or Army Rangers are badasses, they just are. This book rightfully puts the Dora Milaje on the same level.
“They explain without explaining that we are the elite because of how we train, how we work and how we rest. And I explain that not as an outside observer, but as the voice of a Dora inside the book,” Horne said.
Protectors of Wakanda: A History and Training Manual for the Dora Milaje is scheduled for release Sept. 13.