Ronald L. Smith Reflects on the Young Prince T'Challa's Journey in 'Black Panther: Uprising'
The latest volume in the 'Young Prince' trilogy is out now!
T’Challa, the young prince of Wakanda, returns home in the final installment of the middle-grade trilogy from Coretta Scott King award-winning author Ronald L. Smith. In addition to Black Panther: The Young Prince and its sequel Black Panther: Spellbound, Black Panther: Uprising is available now wherever books are sold!
In an exclusive interview, Marvel had a chance to speak with the author Ronald L. Smith about T'Challa's upcoming adventure in the hit Young Prince trilogy! Read on for more.
One day, he will wear the mantle of the Black Panther. But for now, thirteen-year-old T’Challa is back in Wakanda—back to his training, his family, and the comforts of home. And he is surprised to find himself missing his friends so soon after his recent time in America.
That’s why he’s thrilled when Sheila and Zeke come for a surprise visit. But their introduction to the wonders of Wakanda takes a dark turn when a national holiday goes wrong—and the mysterious, terrifying Originators are unleashed from the kingdom’s past. Even worse, now the elders of Wakanda, including T’Challa’s parents, are banished to a place beyond space and time.
To save his nation, T’Challa will need the help of all his friends, including M’Baku and his sister, Shuri. It’s a supernatural showdown between Wakanda’s past and its future, and it will challenge all that T’Challa thinks he knows about his home.
When T’Challa gets special permission to have his friends from America, Sheila and Zeke, come to Wakanda, he can’t wait to show them his home for a change. But their tour is brought to a halt when one of T’Challa’s peers, Tafari, summons dark forces in order to return Wakanda to the “old ways” before Vibranium was discovered. Tafari manages to banish the King and Queen along with all the tribal elders to an alternate dimension in exchange for the Originator’s release, leaving Wakanda vulnerable and unprotected.
Can T’Challa and his friends stop Tafari before the leaders of Wakanda are trapped forever?
In a special interview, Marvel had another opportunity to speak to author Ronald L. Smith about the process of writing the Young Prince series.
Black Panther: Uprising
Marvel: Best buds T’Challa and M’Baku are back in Wakanda after having a somewhat nightmarish adventure in America that left their friendship in question. Tell us a little bit about what awaits these two teenagers back home.
Ronald L. Smith: They’re both a little older and wiser. Kids grow up quickly, and I wanted to reflect on that dynamic in the final book. Their friendship is solid again, and it has to be, because some dangerous stuff is about to go down!
Marvel: Who else can we expect to see in Black Panther: Uprising?
Smith: We see Zeke and Sheila, of course, T’Challa’s friends from America. It’s a special and rare treat for them to be welcomed into Wakanda and they are in total awe. I was happy to get to write for Shuri, T’Challa’s sister. She’s a confident and brash Wakandan, and she’ll be the first one to prove it. I had a blast writing her scenes.
Marvel: Let’s talk about the title, specifically the word “Uprising”. What hints can you share about the title’s meaning?
Smith: It’s a time of peace in Wakanda. The Black Panther is a beloved leader. But not everyone might feel that way, especially young people, who have grown up with privilege and security. What happens when young people start asking questions about the monarchy? Some might say the Elders have lost touch with their history and true culture. That’s what the book is about: asking questions, and what happens when a charismatic leader begins to really doubt his nation and its place in the world.
Marvel: So far, The Young Prince trilogy has been all about friendship, adventure, and action. What can readers expect from this final installment?
Smith: More of that, for sure. But I also wanted to show T’Challa growing older and the pressures that await him as a future king. This was my favorite book to write, as we get to see Wakanda first-hand through the eyes of Zeke and Sheila. It was delightful to have Wakanda as a setting.
Marvel: Picking favorites: Do you have a favorite character in the trilogy and if so, who is it?
Smith: Zeke. He’s me.
Peek Behind the Process
Marvel: How did you go about tackling this final book in The Young Prince trilogy? Did you read any original source material to pull in Easter eggs for Black Panther fans? Or did you deliberately stay away from source material?
Smith: These middle-grade books are canon-adjacent, I guess one could say. They don’t mirror the films. I did study up on Wakanda and its culture: food, clothing, technology. I wanted to make it feel like a real city, but different. There is a little-known character from the comics that makes an appearance. That was fun. Don’t want to give it away yet! The religion around Bast is fascinating, and I think readers will enjoy diving into the world of the different cults and religions in Wakanda.
Marvel: How has your writing process changed since the first book?
Smith: I think every writer would say that they hope every book they write is better than the last. I love all the books. This one was especially challenging, in using Wakanda as a setting. I think I’m a little more grounded in the world of Black Panther than I was before. The process is the same. It’s fear and joy and creativity all coming together to craft something that you hope readers will enjoy.
Marvel: You’ve been working on this trilogy for a handful of years now with Black Panther: The Young Prince published in early 2019. Over the years, has working on this trilogy challenged you as a writer, and if so, how?
Smith: The first book was tough, because the Black Panther is such an iconic character in the Marvel universe. You don’t want to get it wrong. You don’t want super-fans to be disappointed. Fortunately, the geniuses at Marvel helped a lot, with canon and world-building questions. I had a lot of support. Hopefully, I’ve done him justice. I feel more confident as a writer now, but there’s always doubt, like every writer has. You just have to let those moments pass and listen to the muse inside your head, urging you on.
Get to Know Ronald L. Smith
Marvel: What do you do in your free time in between writing?
Smith: Sleep. Read. Eat. Binge-watch my favorite shows. I listen to a lot of podcasts, mostly covering film and TV shows. Also travel.
Marvel: What books are on your bedside table?
Smith: Ok. I’ll play. It’s certainly an odd collection:
- Zealot by Reza Aslan
- Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
- Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman
Marvel: What music do you listen to that may inadvertently or purposefully effect your writing?
Smith: I love classical music, especially late nineteenth century composers like Erik Satie and Claude Debussy. When I wrote the Black Panther trilogy, I listened to ancient Egyptian and African music to set the mood. There are several composers who use instruments of the era and try to mimic what their music was really like. It’s really enlightening, and helped me see the story much better. I also like meditative and transcendental music. (Lyrics break the fugue state I’m in.)
Marvel: As a children’s book author, what’s your favorite part about writing for this audience?
Smith: I love it when I get to meet young people who love the books. That is the best reward. It’s also refreshing to write a superhero of color. Kids need to see themselves in stories and find joy. I hope, in some small way, I am doing just that.
Black Panther: Uprising is now on shelves, everywhere books are sold!
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