Before the Nov. 11 release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Marvel is showcasing more of the film’s world in a new children’s picture book.
Per a press release provided to The Root, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: The Courage to Dream is the inspiring story of one girl’s journey to become a member of the Dora Milaje.
Set for release on Nov. 1, the book follows Assata, “a young Wakandan who hopes to become one of the Dora Milaje, the warriors who protect Wakanda. But because of Assata’s disability, she lets go of her dream. Assata’s light shows through all the same, introducing her to surprising friends: the princess Shuri, the warrior Okoye, and the powerful M’Baku. But only Assata can give herself what she’s missing: the courage to dream.”
In an exclusive interview with The Root, New York Times bestselling author Frederick Joseph and New York Times bestselling illustrator Nikkolas Smith discussed creating this inspiring new corner of the Black Panther universe.
“Black Panther in many respects is a story of perseverance and hope, which is at the core of everything I wanted Assata to stand for: a young girl who can remind children and adults alike to never give up on our dreams,” Joseph said.
Having worked as a concept artist on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Smith had already immersed himself in the film’s surroundings, so bringing the story into Assata’s world was a continuation of that process.
“I had a lot of Wakandan background characters in my head to draw from,” Smith said. “Imagining what some of their backstories were, I sketched multiple ‘speed paintings’ to create new Wakandan characters who populate these beautiful villages, schools, and homes.”
What makes Assata’s story so special within the Black Panther universe is that seeing her as a hero alongside characters like Okoye and M’Baku will create a lasting impact. For children, these are very real people who they look up to. This story will inspire these young people to see themselves as heroes.
“I recently received an email from a mom of a child with a disability, hoping that I could one day contribute art to a project just like this one,” Smith said. “I’m honored to be able to help young children with disabilities see themselves as the courageous heroes that they are.”
To many, Wakanda is a very real place. It’s the dream of something that was stolen from us a long time ago. Yes. it’s fictional, but it’s about the idea that we could still possibly have a culture untouched by the violence of the outside world.
“Black people in America have to constantly carry the weight of a history derailed by colonization,” Smith said. “Wakanda is that ‘What If?’ scenario in an alternate universe where we were able to keep our vast wealth of knowledge and resources intact. It is an indescribable beacon of hope and inspiration for our community.”
“Wakanda is my wildest dreams come true;, a place where the seeds of Blackness have been able to grow unapologetically into a tree of free expression, creativity, and wonder,” Joseph added.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: The Courage to Dream is on sale Nov. 1.