The ‘Women of Marvel’ Guide to Shuri
Scientist. Black Panther. Monarch. In an all-new episode of the ‘Women of Marvel’ podcast, we cover Shuri’s inspirational Marvel history.
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A ruler of Wakanda as comfortable in the Black Panther suit as she is in the lab, Shuri is an indomitable force of genius and strategy.
Between the comics and the cinematic versions of Shuri, we’ve seen her master nuclear physics, nanotechnology, and synthesize a heart-shaped herb—the special plant that gives the Black Panthers their powers. And her older brother T’Challa, the Black Panther, has benefited from many of her inventions too. As a Black Panther herself, Shuri has led Wakanda and her people on multiple occasions, sometimes toeing the line between duty and her own sense of justice.
[RELATED: Shuri as the Black Panther]
In the second episode from the latest season of the Women of Marvel podcast, our hosts Ellie Pyle and Preeti Chhibber spotlight the scientist-princess, talking to comic creators and novelists like Nnedi Okorafor and Nic Stone, plus Dr. Sibrina Collins, chemist and executive director of Lawrence Technological University’s Marburger STEM Center.
Listen to Shuri’s full Women of Marvel spotlight, then catch our episode highlights below!
SHURI IN THE COMICS VERSUS THE FILMS
When speaking to Nnedi Okorafor, a novelist and the writer of Shuri’s 2018 solo comic series, Ellie and Preeti learned how Shuri’s earliest comic appearances differed from her adaptation in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther:
“It's complicated because [in 2018 when I was writing SHURI] we had Black Panther, the movie, and then we had a whole history of comics,” shared Okorafor. “[Shuri] was complex; she had many different angles. My job [in 2018’s SHURI] was to bring both of those storylines together. That was one of the reasons why I was really happy to take on the project, because I love challenges and also I’m a big character person. The Shuri in the comics and the Shuri in the film are very different. And the idea of bringing them together was a really interesting challenge.”
Okorafor also relished the opportunity to write a character whose power is so rooted in the sciences:
“I'm a science-fiction writer, so the technology aspects were not a problem for me,” she explained. “It’s not new territory for me, and it’s also territory that I'm obsessed with already. For example, in SHURI (2018), there is one aspect to the story where she was dealing with black holes. If you know the deep dive that I did on black holes where I was looking at physics, mathematical equations… A lot of it didn't go directly into the comics, but [the research] was definitely part of what the story grew from. And since Shuri is obsessed with technology and she's very much a perfectionist and explores all the angles and then goes off on tangents and explores those things too, it felt right; the way that I did the research, the obsessions that I had, the knowledge that I picked up… doing that research was part of her character development.”
SHURI: FROM PRINCESS TO QUEEN
Author Nic Stone also knows a lot about Shuri. She’s written three Young Adult novels about Wakanda's Princess for Marvel and Scholastic Books, exploring her teenage years in Wakanda and the ways she wields her scientific knowledge like a super-power.
“My favorite thing about writing the Shuri: A Black Panther Novel trilogy was getting to add to the canon,” Stone revealed. “When we first meet Shuri in the comics, she's probably like 18 or 19 years old. She is looking to challenge the standing Black Panther and overtake that role. But somebody beats her to it, and that someone’s name is T'Challa! [Then] we meet her in the first film; she’s 16 years old or so. [In] the books that I write, she starts out as this 13-year-old kid. Her mother is very keen on her doing more princessey things and fewer combat-ish, science things. And she really is working to prove that what she is into is valuable to her beloved, beautiful mother.”
And, while hosting podcast series The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther, Stone gained deeper insight into Shuri’s earliest appearances and comics evolution:
“I think something that a lot of people don't realize is just how new Shuri is,” reflected Stone on the character’s first appearance from 2005. “It’s a very interesting thing to me when I think about how we create characters who have supposedly already lived a certain number of years, and you look back and it's like, ‘Oh, well, this character burst out of the void at age 17, two years ago.’”
THE WORLD OF WAKANDA IN THE REAL WORLD OF SCIENCE
It’s one thing to be a fictional scientific genius. But Shuri’s stories are rooted in real-world science. For all her intergalactic travel and astral projection, Shuri isn’t that much different than scientists studying the wonders of our universe.
Like Dr. Sibrina Collins: a chemist and educator whose love of Shuri inspired her to bring Marvel into the classroom. “Ask an Expert” correspondent Isabel Robertson spoke to Collins about how the science of Wakanda can inspire students in STEM.
“I first became aware of Black Panther and Wakanda in 2018 when Marvel Studios’ Black Panther was released. I didn't read comic books as a kid, [but] there was a lot of buzz about this new film, and my sister encouraged me to go see it. So, I go to the movies in February of 2018, and I'm enjoying the film,” Collins recalled. “And it occurs to me that Wakanda is thriving on a production and use of this so-called element called Vibranium. And because I'm a chemist and I can't shut off my chemistry brain, I kept asking myself, ‘OK, if this element were real, where would it be? In a periodic table?' And that's what chemists do. We come up with these questions that we think are interesting and need a solution.”
Collins took her excitement one step further by drafting a curriculum outline for a new Periodic Table of Elements that asked students where Vibranium might fit. A colleague shared Collins’ question with students and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
“You just don't know when and where inspiration will show up,” said Collins. “I did not plan to go into that theater and get inspired to write about the periodic table. I just saw this connection. We were interviewed by a journalist from Scholastic Science World, which is a magazine that’s read by over a million kids talking about science concepts. They created this lesson plan aligned with the next generation of science standards for students to classify Vibranium. So we've used those materials to create workshops for middle school students and high school students where they work in teams. And they think they're trying to figure out where this fictional element will be, but what they’re really doing is learning about the organization of the periodic table. The students’ responses are just amazing. They are really into these Marvel films!”
The latest season of Women of Marvel has arrived! Tune into upcoming episodes spotlighting a new hero each Wednesday, available wherever you listen to your podcasts!
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