Tilda Johnson (Deadly Nightshade)

I spoke too fast apparently, as Man-Ape wasn’t the last character spotted in the Black Panther trailer: we have a confirmation of another one who appeared in there, and that’s also a new revelation. When we first see Erik Killmonger with the tribal mask on, he’s accompanied by some of his followers, the first one by his side being a woman: that’s Tilda Johnson, portrayed by Nabiyah Be. It’s quite unexpected to see her here, since in the comics she surely had a few run-ins with Black Panther in his American years, but she never had anything to do with Killmonger (or with Wakanda in general). Let’s see together.

Tilda Johnson was born in HarlemNew York City, the only child of a poor black family. Born with an innate aptitude for science and a remarkable intellect, Tilda didn’t show any sign of being a natural born genius, preferring to hide her true nature behind the facade of a naive girl; she studied in secret and by herself, obtaining an extensive knowledge of chemistry, genetics, physics and much more. With the brain she had she could do pretty much anything, but being a poor girl in a poor ghetto there was just one thing she wanted to do: to gain money as fast as she could to get out of a life she hated with all herself. Despite being just sixteen years old, she became quite a criminal mastermind in a matter of months, starting her own racket. Her successes attracted the attention of much bigger fish, like Yellow Claw, the Chinese crime lord. Claw was looking for allies at the time, and the young genius could have proven useful to him. The two formed quite a formidable team, and Johnson started being called the Deadly Nightshade, due to the project she was working on with Yellow Claw (sometimes, her scientific genius had her being called Doctor Nightshade). Thanks to Claw’s resources and Nightshade’s brain, they developed a special serum that could transform any human into obedient werewolves, a superpowered army fiercely loyal to its master. Deadly Nightshade started experimenting her serum on jail convicts, so that she could use the inmates as invincible minions for Yellow Claw: the plan succeeded, but S.H.I.E.L.D. noticed the disappearance of the prisoners, and sent Captain America on the criminal duo’s trails. Cap defeated Yellow Claw and his werewolves, but Nightshade managed to escape.

Tilda now had a personal score to settle with Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D., and she developed another serum to obtain her vengeance: based on pheromones, this new concoction allowed her to mind-control people, and she used it to conquer an entire S.H.I.E.L.D. facility; when Cap came to the rescue, she controlled him as well, forcing the hero to battle his partner, Falcon. It was thanks to the latter that Nightshade was defeated, and this time she was taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. and imprisoned. A common jail couldn’t hold her for long, however, and she soon escaped, coming back to her Harlem and reprising her old objective of becoming the queen of the underworld. She built an army of life-like robots based on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Life Model Decoys, and employed them as muscle to take over the protection rackets in the neighborhood, all the while posing as the mistress of R. U. Rossum, a “crime boss” who was actually one of the robots. Nightshade managed to overthrow Maggia, but her mechanical army was eventually reduced to scraps by Iron Fist and Power Man. She came back months later, this time controlling Hulk to obtain a rare circuit developed by Rand-Meachum Corporation, but Iron Fist and Power Man faced her again, helped by Machine Man. After this umpteenth failure, she once again looked for allies, and she joined Superia‘s feminist terrorist group Femizons, becoming her second in command and developing for her a serum that could transform men into women, even using it on the likes of Captain America and Paladin. She even built a “sterilization bomb” to free women from the burden of motherhood, but the Femizons were eventually defeated. Her past experience with werewolves attracted the interest of Dredmund Cromwell, the Demon Druid, and she replicated for him her werewolf serum, this time succesfully transforming Captain America in a feral beast. Every battle, however, turned into a new defeat, and it didn’t take many more experiences like these to make it clear for Tilda that she was wasting her potential in her crime career…

Tilda Johnson is an extremely smart, yet greedy and ambitious woman, a natural genius who believes she has to prove her worth by making as much money as she can in the shortest time possible, thus “redeeming” herself from an early life of poverty. As the Deadly Nightshade (or Doctor Nightshade, or simply Nightshade), she uses her impressive genius to devise weapons, serums and machines for criminal use, such as an army of robots, her werewolf serum, mind-controlling pheromones, and even her own personal battle armor, a strenght-enhancing suit with silver spikes protruding from it; she’s also a superb athlete and a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, more than able to take care of herself if the situation doesn’t allow her to hide behind the curtains as usual. Originally an irredeemable crime mastermind, Nightshade is now a changed woman, who thanks to the encounter with people such as Misty KnightNighthawk and Hawkeye is trying to start a new life worthy of her potential…but it’s a long road to redemption, one full of temptations and occasions to come back to the old ways…

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  1. […] Tilda Johnson (Deadly Nightshade) […]


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