Marvel’s New Black Panther YA Book Sees a Young T’Challa Coming to America

Marvel’s New Black Panther YA Book Sees a Young T’Challa Coming to America
io9 has an exclusive excerpt from Black Panther: Spellbound. (Image: Disney Books)

Do you have a child who loved Marvel’s Black Panther movie and wants to know more about the character, but maybe isn’t ready to dive into the comics? Disney Books has just the thing. Author Ronald L. Smith is about to release Black Panther: Spellbound, a young adult novel that follows a young T’Challa on a trip to America where he must save his friends and a rural town from an evil politician. It’s out this fall and Gizmodo has an exclusive excerpt.

Winner of the 2016 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award, Smith wrote Spellbound as a sequel to his previous Black Panther book, The Young Prince, but you don’t need to read one to read the other. “They are all stand-alone novels, each with their own separate storylines,” the author told Gizmodo over email. “Of course, I hope people have read the first book, The Young Prince. What I’ve tried to do, and hopefully accomplish, is to mention a few of the larger story points that have shaped T’Challa thus far, so readers will know where T’Challa’s mindset is. There is also a third book and the hope is that people will see T’Challa’s growth over the series, preparing him to eventually take the throne!”

Being as Spellbound follows a young T’Challa, long before taking the throne of Wakanda or mantle of Black Panther, Smith had to be mindful to make sure the character was true to the comics but also unique to this story. “I’m writing for a young audience, and I want to tap into the same hopes, fears and dreams for T’Challa that my readers would have,” he said.

“Even though he’s privileged, internally, he’s still a kid, and learning about the world and how to navigate it. I think these elements are things that readers will have in common with the young Prince. The traits we see in King T’Challa are evident in his younger self: bravery, self-doubt, pride. He’s becoming the character we all know and love.” Here’s the cover to Spellbound, followed by Gizmodo’s exclusive excerpt.

Image: Disney Books Image: Disney Books

T’Challa lay in bed. The glow of the lava lamp provided a calming effect — a myriad of slowly swirling colours of red, blue, and green. He thought about Bob the Acrobat and the Man in the Green Suit. The last time he had come to America, he discovered he was being followed. That time, it was Nick Fury, sent by his father to keep an eye on him.

Was he being followed again?

T’Challa turned over and punched his pillow, making a soft spot to rest his head. Sheila’s right. I’m just being paranoid. He turned off the lamp and fell asleep to the sound of Zeke’s light snoring.

***

The next day dawned bright and sunny, like every other since T’Challa had arrived. The jet lag was finally wearing off, and he stretched and yawned in bed. “About time,” he said aloud.

After a quick breakfast, the group set off on a little sightseeing tour in and around Beaumont. It was a small, quaint town with a rich history. There was an old train depot that had been turned into a museum, a few shops where artists sold their paintings and sculptures, and several small businesses that sold everything from hand-woven baskets to African-inspired clothing. T’Challa was glad to see a connection to his homeland in this little town, thousands of miles from the world he knew. He bought a small wooden carving of a panther to give to Shuri.

T’Challa thought back to when he left Wakanda, and how Shuri was jealous that he was allowed to visit America. “Your time will come,” their father had told her. “Maybe one day you and your brother can go together.”

Shuri had smiled reluctantly and wished T’Challa a safe trip. She was like that, T’Challa knew: kind, smart, and determined. More often than not, one could find her in Wakanda’s science labs, soaking up information like a sponge. She had the run of the place, being the princess, and her quest for knowledge was insatiable. T’Challa knew her future would be bright.

As they continued to explore Beaumont, T’Challa saw, as he had in Chicago, a few areas that were run-down and in need of renovation. Boarded-up buildings and abandoned storefronts dotted the streets. He thought it strange that America had so much wealth, yet some of its citizens couldn’t escape poverty. He made a promise to himself to help one day, if he could.

He thought once again of Wakanda’s wealth and prosperity. What can we do to make our neighbouring nations better? When I rise to the throne, my reign will be one of open borders, sharing Wakanda’s wealth and technology.

But, another voice in his head chimed in, how will you do that? Wakanda’s power lies in its secrecy. Would you give that away for a humanitarian cause?

“Not everywhere gets the same treatment as the nice historic part,” Sheila said.

T’Challa snapped out of his thoughts.

“Lots of businesses have closed up,” Sheila went on. “Gramma said that mining used to be the town’s main industry, but the last mine closed decades ago. That’s where my granddaddy used to work, before he died.”

T’Challa thought of the Great Mound in Wakanda, where Vibranium was mined deep underneath the slopes of Mount Bashenga. When he was a kid, his father would buckle young T’Challa into the Royal Talon Fighter, the king’s personal aircraft, and take him to see how it was done. Hover drones floated around the mound, their lasers pinpointing locations where rich veins of the unearthly metal could be found. Subterranean mine carts powered by maglev technology raced to the depths to return with a huge glittering bounty.

T’Challa knew that Sheila’s grandfather would have marveled at the technology. “Too late now,” he whispered.

“What’s that?” Sheila questioned.

“Nothing,” T’Challa said.

As they made their way to the bus stop, T’Challa saw a group of three or four people headed their way. They took up the whole footpath and were taping flyers to telephone poles and lampposts.

“Here you go,” one man said as they passed. “Big rally coming up.” He handed T’Challa a flyer and kept walking.

T’Challa took it as the group proceeded down the street.

“What’s it say?” Sheila asked. They huddled alongside him. It was a flyer printed on red paper — one they had seen before.

“Vitruvian Man again,” Zeke said.

But on this one, there was a message:

rally for justice

june 9

8 pm on the town green

meet the good doctor, bob

“I guess the flyer from Vulcan Park was just the tease, as they say in advertising,” Sheila said.

“Who’s the Good Doctor?” Zeke asked. “What kind of name is that?”

“I don’t know,” Sheila said. “But that rally is tomorrow.”

T’Challa was really intrigued now. What was this Bob up to? He had looked directly at T’Challa on two occasions, and that was more than a coincidence.

“We should check it out,” Zeke suggested.

“OK,” Sheila said. “But I really don’t think anything weird’s going on.”

T’Challa nodded, but he wasn’t quite sure that Sheila was right.

***

T’Challa sat down to a bowl of hot Southern chilli. As hot as it was in the South, people still ate hot food even on the warmest of days. Food was food, Miss Rose had said, and it was eaten in the South no matter the temperature.

“So what do you kids have planned for the evening?” Miss Rose asked, setting down a plate of corn bread.

Sheila slid her spoon into her bowl. She had chilli as well, but without the meat. “There’s some kind of rally going on at the Town Green. We were thinking about checking it out.”

“Oh, really?” Miss Rose said. “What kind of rally?”

Zeke placed a dollop of sour cream on his chilli. “It’s some sort of social-justice thing. I think.”

Miss Rose smiled. “Still fighting for change. We did that, too, back in the day. Sometimes it seems like we’re still fighting the same battles.”

A thoughtful gleam sparked in her eye. “When your mama was just a baby, I’d carry her to protests. We thought we could change the world.”

“You did change the world, Gramma,” Sheila told her.

“What you did back then was amazing! Mum told me that you and Granddaddy used to go into stores and restaurants and demand to be served. Now that’s brave.”

“Thank you, child,” Miss Rose said. She cocked her head. “And to think we did it all without the internet.”

Zeke looked up from his bowl. “I still don’t understand how that worked. How did you talk to each other if you couldn’t text?”

Miss Rose closed her eyes and opened them again. T’Challa had seen Sheila do the same thing several times the past few days. “Zeke,” Miss Rose said. “There were these things called telephones.”

“Oh, that’s right,” Zeke said, feigning surprise. “You actually had to memorise phone numbers.” He went back to his food. “Weird.”

“You wanna come, Gramma?” Sheila asked. “To the rally?”

“You kids go on and fight the power yourselves,” Miss Rose replied. “I did my time already.”

“We will, Gramma,” Sheila said with a smile. “We will.”

Smith knows that, especially after the hugely successful Marvel Studios movies, writing Black Panther is a privilege and he hopes Spellbound lives up to those lofty expectations. “I know that people all over the world love the character and I want to do it justice,” he said. “Wakanda and The Black Panther are so well-known in the lore, I feel a duty to get it right, as best as I can. I try to draw a little from the movie and the comics, and find some interesting angles/paths to explore that haven’t been used a lot already. That’s what I try to keep in mind.”


Spellbound is out this autumn. You can pre-order it on Disney’s book site.