Jan. 6 (UPI) -- DC Comics is catering to middle-grade readers with Diana: Princess of the Amazons, a graphic novel following Wonder Woman before she is a superhero -- at age 11.
The coming-of-age tale explores Diana's struggles with growing up on Themyscira, where she is surrounded by adult Amazon warriors, and the lengths to which she goes to have a friend her age.
"The core of the story is friendship and finding your place," Shannon Hale, who co-wrote Diana: Princess of the Amazons with her husband, Dean, told UPI.
"I think for everyone, it's a universal feeling of having times or moments when you just don't feel like you belong. We all need to feel like we have a place in our community -- in our family in our friends group or whatever it is at any age," she said. "That's where I started with Diana. She needs to feel like she has a place, and she's yearning for a friend."
Shannon and Dean Hale are behind Eisner nominee Rapunzel's Revenge, New York Times best-selling series The Princess in Black and two novels about Marvel's Squirrel Girl. Shannon Hale also penned the Newbery Honor-winning novel Princess Academy, the USA Today best-selling Ever After High series and graphic novel memoir Real Friends, among other titles.
In Diana: Princess of the Amazons, Diana is unsure of her standing on Themyscira, where she is the only child and begins to question her place among the powerful Amazons who each serve a purpose on the island.
The future Wonder Woman gets into trouble with her mother, Queen Hippolyata, while looking for something new and fun to do. Feeling lonely and isolated, Diana uses magic to create a new friend, setting her on an adventure that helps mold her into the hero that she is destined to be.
"One thing we did want to show was how adults do forget what it's like to be a kid. In Themyscira, it's more extreme because there haven't been kids for thousands of years," Shannon Hale said. "Adults in the real world -- it's easy for us to forget how lost you can feel and how easy it is to make mistakes."
Dean Hale said he is excited for kids to see a character with whom they can empathize while knowing who the character becomes when she grows up.
"Here's a kid who makes mistakes, feels the same way that I do, but eventually ends up being one of the most powerful people in the world," he said.
The Hales believe that Diana: Princess of the Amazons will appeal to kids and adults because its story is relatable to all ages.
"Yes, she's going to grow up to be Wonder Woman, she lives in this far away, amazing, fantastical place, but she's also still a kid. She still makes mistakes and she wants to just be loved by her mom and understood for who she is," Shannon Hale said.
"That's something that I think anybody can relate to. Even if you're telling stories about fantastical beings, the core of it is going to have an emotional, human truth to it."
Victoria Ying serves as the artist on the title in her debut graphic novel. She got her start in animation working on films such as Tangled, Wreck-It-Ralph, Frozen, Paperman, Big Hero 6 and Moana.
Ying has illustrated several picture books, including Not Quite Black and White; Lost and Found, What's That Sound?; Take a Ride By My Side, and Meow! which she wrote and illustrated.
"There is this vulnerability to her that emotionally we don't see as much in the comics so that was something I was really going for," Ying said. "She's strong, she's still an incredibly powerful little girl, but I really wanted to try to make that emotional, make the character feel real and authentic -- like a real person."
"A lot of what I was trying to do was keep it really simple, very readable and really appealing."
Dean Hale said Diana: Princess of the Amazons works as suitable prequel to Wonder Woman's story.
"Anybody who loves Wonder Woman is going to love it," he said.
Diana: Princess of the Amazons is set for release Tuesday as DC's latest project geared toward middle-grade readers. The company plans to release more middle-grade graphic novels, such as Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, also written by the Hales. That one is set for summer 2021.
"It's changed children's literature," Shannon Hale said about the line. "Graphic novels for middle-grade readers have turned so many kids who considered themselves to be non-readers into readers."