Marvel’s Shuri gets the spotlight as a genius, a skilled martial artist, and a teenager in the new middle-grade prose novel Shuri: A Black Panther Novel. Writer Nic Stone puts the Wakandan princess on a quest to save her homeland, and further exploring the powers of the Heart-Shaped Herb.
This Shuri novel is the flagship release in a multi-year partnership by Scholastic with Marvel to later include the Avengers, Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales, and more.
“Marvel’s characters mean so much to our fans because they inspire us to embrace our individual power,” said Sana Amanat, Marvel’s VP of Content & Character Development back in September. “As the first title we’re launching with Scholastic, Shuri is the perfect character to highlight this message. She may be a Wakandan princess, but what makes Shuri the ultimate hero is her unique sense of intelligence, responsibility and determination, ideals that resonate with all of us.”
With Shuri‘s release coming on May 5, Newsarama spoke with Nic Stone about distilling the comics and movie star into this novel, what new elements she might be adding to the mix, and if Stone would like to get her feet wet writing a comic book of her own.
Newsarama: Nic, what can you tease about your novel?
Nic Stone: Two things you wouldn’t know about Princess Shuri from the comics or films (because I made them up, HA!):
1. She has a best friend—a Dora Milaje-in-training, in fact—who is her polar opposite. They bicker. A lot.
2. She has an A.I… named S.H.U.R.I. It’s an acronym for Super Heroics Universal Remote Interface.
Nrama: Fun! What is the creative process behind adapting a character originally made for a visual medium into a novel?
Stone: Well the interesting thing here is that because the visual medium used for her introduction to the world was a comic book (she first appeared on the scene in the Reginald Hudlin Black Panther run in 2005), the move to prose was a fairly smooth one.
I will admit that I had to like learn how to put an action scene into words, but beyond that, the most difficult thing about making the switch over from comic/film character to novel protagonist was not getting too carried away with description!
Nrama: Were you a Black Panther fan before working on this project?
Stone: Oh, 100%. True story: when I saw the Black Panther film in the Spring of 2018, I left the theater and said to my partner: “I really gotta figure out a way to get someone to let me write a novel about Shuri.”
Then eight months later, an email shows up in my inbox telling me this project is on the table, and the publisher thought I should be the one to write it. It is legitimately a dream come true.
Nrama: What do you enjoy the most about writing Shuri?
Stone: Getting to pretend like I’m the smartest person in the world, probably? LOL.That and it’s amazing to get to live in Wakanda and like imaginarily play around with a fictional celestial metal that absorbs sound and transforms it into tangible energy.
It’s also intensely empowering to write an adolescent girl-of-color who defies just about every stereotype and imposed limitation when it comes to S.T.E.M.
Nrama: Why do you think it was important to put Shuri’s story into prose form?
Stone: Literacy – as in the ability to read and write – is critical to any type of success in our modern world, but I find that a lot of young people don’t really like to read. Because they think it’s boring.
Stories like Shuri’s, where the main character comes from something kids have encountered in a different (not boring) medium, have the power/potential to break through that “I don’t read” wall, I think. And it only takes one book to get a kid to realize reading’s not so bad. Hopefully this will be one of them!
Nrama: Why did you want to make this a novel targeted to kids 9-12?
Stone: WORLD DOMINATION! Muahahahaha!
LOL. I’m kidding. Mostly… (**insert smirking emoji**)
Honestly, the most appealing thing to me about this project was the opportunity to build out the backstory of a new-ish, and yet quickly beloved Marvel character.
In the comics, she’s introduced in late-teens/early twenties, and in the film, she sixteen or so, but if you ask me, those early-adolescent years are some of the most formative in a person’s life. I want 9-12 year olds to see that they can do amazing things, even at a young age, and that their interests are totally valid and important. Especially black girls. Representation matters!
Nrama: Will your story be based more on the comics or the Black Panther movie/MCU?
Stone: Comics, because #IntellectualPropertyLaws, LOL. But, I think I do a pretty decent job of alluding to some of the film lore so that readers who have seen the film but are wholly unfamiliar with the comics will be completely familiar with the world even though there are slight differences.
Nrama: Are there other Marvel characters you’d like to tackle and write a novel for?
Stone: Now that is the million dollar question, isn’t it? **insert another smirking emoji**
(The answer is yes, but I’m not saying which ones.)
Nrama: There are many prose novelists that have transitioned into comics. Is this something that interests you?
Stone: Maybe. It’s a very different medium with a steep learning curve and an… intense fanbase. Guess we’ll see what the future brings!