Exclusive Interview: “Squirrel Girl: Universe” Author Tristan Palmgren

 

In Marvel’s comics, movies, TV shows, and video games, some heroes are serious, and some are not so serious. And then there’s Squirrel Girl. Who, of course, has the powers of a…well, you know. And while she doesn’t have her own Marvel movie, show, or game — yet! — the selfless superhero does have her first novel courtesy of writer Tristan Palmgren. In the following email interview about Squirrel Girl Universe (paperback, Kindle), Palmgren discusses what inspired and influenced this furry tale, as well as how it connects to the other Marvel novels published by Aconyte.

Tristan Palmgren Squirrel Girl Universe

For people unfamiliar with her, who is Squirrel Girl?

Squirrel Girl, a.k.a. Doreen Green (yes, it rhymes, shaddup) has an awesomely fuzzy tail and the license to wear squirrel-ear headbands wherever she goes. Also the proportionate strength and speed of a squirrel. She became this supremely cool through a high-speed crash of at least four different origin stories, but who’s counting? She debuted kicking Dr. Doom’s butt with an army of squirrels, and then she went back in time and did it again for good measure. Things only went uphill from there.

Squirrel Girl is the most persistently warm, cheerful, and funny voice in the Marvel comics pantheon. Her stories are affectionate parodies of Marvel as a whole, but they’ve also got a lot of heart in them. She’s my favorite Marvel character and I leapt at the opportunity to write about her.

And in terms of its plot, what is Squirrel Girl: Universe about, and when and where does it take place?

A tussle with mad superscience leaves Squirrel Girl and her friends lost in outer space, where there is a conspicuous absence of oxygen and, even more troubling, a shortage of squirrels. After hitching a ride on a passing space whale, Squirrel Girl and her trusty companions find themselves on a free-merchant space station, and on the front line of a looming interstellar war. The stakes have never been so high, and trillions of lives are at risk. Luckily for the universe, Squirrel Girl is here to stand up against the odds and set things right across the galaxy.

Are there any connections between this novel and either the current Squirrel Girl comics or the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Squirrel Girl: Universe picks up right after Ryan North’s delightful fifty-issue run of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comics. But no knowledge of the comics is required. This isn’t an exam. That said, there are a lot of characters coming over from them, and readers familiar with the comics will have more background with them. Squirrel Girl’s partners include Tippy-Toe The Squirrel, her human roommate Nancy Whitehead (a human with the proportional strength and speed of a human!), her fellow animal-themed superheroes Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi, nihilist-philosopher / brain-in-a-jar Brain Drain, and mad scientist Mary Mahajan.

Squirrel Girl has yet to make an appearance in the MCU…but I have faith that someday she’ll be on the big screen. Aconyte’s Marvel books are all based on the comics, not the MCU.

Aconyte have published a couple different lines of Marvel novels, including Legends Of Asgard, Untold, School Of X, and, in the case of Universe, Heroines. Do Aconyte’s Marvel books share a universe? Or is it that the Heroines books share a universe, the Untold books share a different universe, and so on?

The Aconyte books do share a universe. I was able to do a pretty significant crossover between one of my Heroines novels, Outlaw: Relentless and my School Of X novel The Siege Of X-41. As with the Squirrel Girl comics, neither is required to follow the other, but readers who pick up one will have a cool new perspective on the other. Recurring villain the Mad Thinker also pops up in both Squirrel Girl: Universe and Cath Lauria’s Black Cat: Discord.

Squirrel Girl: Universe is going to be followed in the Marvel / Aconyte universe by Marsheila Rockwell’s Untold novel Sisters Of Sorcery [out September 6, 2022], Richard Lee Byers’ Legend Of Asgard book The Prisoner Of Tartarus [October 4, 2022], and Amanda Bridgeman’s School of X novel Sound Of Light [November 1, 2022]. When you were writing Universe, did Marshiela, Richard, or Amanda ever ask you not to do something because it would screw up what they were planning?

Not for Squirrel Girl: Universe which, apart from the Mad Thinker connection I mentioned, takes place pretty far afield from the other books. Light-years and light-years afield, in fact. But this is definitely something we’ve done before. The School Of X novels get most of this kind of attention. In fact, young mutants Anole, Tempus, Triage, Graymalkin, and others have ongoing shared character development in novels by myself, Carrie Harris, and Robbie MacNiven.

Squirrel Girl: Universe is, of course, not your first novel. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Universe but not on any of your previous novels, especially Domino: Strays or Outlaw: Relentless?

Squirrel Girl: Universe is very different from other books I’ve written. My last projects have all tended toward the dramatic side of things. Squirrel Girl: Universe is a space opera comedy, and comes from a very place. The obvious inspirations are Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Derek Charm’s writing and art on their unbeatable Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comics, which I tried to channel hard for Squirrel Girl: Universe. I’ve also devoured and reread Douglas Adams many, many times since middle school, and leapt at the chance to write in the same style.

What how about non-literary influences; was Squirrel Girl: Universe influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Like, for instance, the Marvel Rising cartoon that featured Squirrel Girl, or the podcast Marvel’s Squirrel Girl: The Unbeatable Radio Show?

The Squirrel Girl Radio Show / podcast is amazing. It came out after Squirrel Girl: Universe was headed to the printers, though, so I didn’t get the chance to put any references to it in this project, though.

I’ve seen Squirrel Girl in a handful of other places, but my biggest pool of Squirrel Girl Facts™ will always be the comics.

Now, the obvious question would be to ask if you think Squirrel Girl: Universe could work as a comic book. But I think it’s pretty obvious that it could. But do you think it could also work as the basis for a movie, TV show, or video game? And while we’re on the subject, who would you want to play Squirrel Girl? Milana Vayntrub? Anna Kendrick? Keanu Reeves?

There are plenty of actresses who would do great as Doreen, but what about Tippy-Toe The Squirrel? I would accept only an actual squirrel, but good luck getting squirrels to return your calls. They’ve got more important things to do.

So, is there anything else you think people should know about Squirrel Girl: Universe?

You can read the first part for free on this page of Aconyte’s website.

Also, The Hulk has kindly agreed to offer editorial advice, and you can find his constructive criticism throughout the book.

Tristan Palmgren Squirrel Girl Universe

Finally, if someone enjoys Squirrel Girl: Universe, they’ll probably read Domino: Strays and Outlaw: Relentless . But once they’ve read those, which of the Marvel novels you didn’t write would you recommend they read next?

A trick question! Obviously, you should read all of Aconyte’s Marvel novels. If you’re looking for a different kind of read, though, take a look at the School Of X and Xavier’s Institute books by Robbie MacNiven, Carrie Harris, Amanda Bridgeman, and Jaleigh Johnson. The Marvel Heroines novels are (more or less) stand-alone adventures, while the X-Men focused books have an interwoven setting and storyline, inspired by the period in X-Men comics when the X-Men had split apart and opened rival schools.

(A warning about the Domino and Outlaw novels: they’re aimed at a higher age range than Squirrel Girl: Universe, and while there’s plenty of fun to have with them, there’s more violence, too.)

 

 

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