Move over T’Challa!

Alumna to write new Black Panther comic book series on Shuri, Princess of Wakanda


Writers of the Future/Nnedi Okorafor

Powerful women: Alumna Nnedi Okorafor (left) and one of the covers of the Shuri comic book series (right). Shuri, the tech genius little sister of T’Challa, will be at the center of this series and will have to step into a a larger role — leading Wakanda.

Adekemi Kasali, News Editor

Award winning Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor, who graduated in the H-F class of 1992, will write a new Black Panther comic book series based on T’Challa’s little sister Shuri, that will be released in October by Marvel.

According to Marvel, “Shuri will have to decide if she will forego her own passions in order to stand up for her nation,” when Wakanda is missing its leader.

“People should read it because it’s awesome. The story is not going to be what most are expecting and the art is incredible,” Okorafor said.

Okorafor, who also wrote the comic books Black Panther: Long Live the King and Wakanda Forever, is a science fiction author who has made waves in the industry. Her novel, Who Fears Death, which won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, is in the works to be an HBO drama series and will be produced by Game of Thrones creator, George R.R. Martin. Okorafor serves as a consultant on the project.

“The process [from print to film] is complicated and eye-opening. I’ve learned an immense amount because I’ve chosen to be very involved, as opposed to what many writers do, which is take the money and run,” Okorafor said.

Okorafor had zero expectations that Marvel would ask her to write the Shuri comic book series or HBO would want to produce a TV show based on her book, these things and more have been a pleasant surprise for her.

“It’s all very exciting because something happens almost every day. It can be very stressful, but no one can say life is boring for me,” Okorafor said.

While at H-F, Okorafor was a star on the tennis team and played semi-pro year round with a serve that “clocked at 114 miles per hour.” When she arrived at the University of Illinois however, she learned she had to have a spinal fusion due to her severe degree of scoliosis.
Unfortunately, she suffered a trauma due to complications with the surgery and ended up paralyzed from the waist down.

“I didn’t start writing until I was 20 years old,” Okorafor said. “I started writing stories because I was an athlete paralyzed by surgery complications and I needed something to keep my mind sane. Stories were that thing.”

Ann Cherry, director of development and alumni relations at H-F, said Okorafor’s success says a lot about H-F and its educational environment.

“The success that she’s achieving is very satisfying for everyone involved with the school,” Cherry said. “[Being in the alumni office] is especially exciting because I get to speak with fascinating people.”
Cherry also said she has noticed a trend among successful alumni like Okorafor.

“We see great success from alumni who have been involved in anything really, here at H-F,” she said. “This is why the school is always telling the students to get involved in whatever you are interested in, because it will carry you far.”

A major part of Okorafor’s writing is her Nigerian heritage. It is important to her that her stories include more people of color and the setting of Africa. This resonated with librarian Kelly Campos of the Homewood Library.

“In 2008 I stumbled upon her book Zahrah the Windseeker. I was browsing the library shelves and I saw this book with a brown girl on the cover. Not only was she brown, she had natural hair with magical green vines growing out of it,” Campos said. “As a person of color who enjoys fantasy books, I felt so seen just knowing this book existed. I devoured that book in one evening.”

Campos also said she is not surprised at Okorafor’s success, given the talent of the H-F community.

“Art, theater, and music are all about imagination. Writing stories is yet another expression of imagination and creativity so it is really not a surprise to see H-F grads stealing the spotlight,” Campos said.

The Homewood Library will have a variety of events to discuss Okorafor’s work. This includes a Shuri comic book discussion on Nov. 27, in which attendees will receive a copy of issue number one; and an event with Okorafor herself on Jan. 11, where she will talk about some of her projects, have a short Q&A, talk with readers and sign books.