People tend to think of comics if its America’s superheroes and comedy strips or Japan’s casually dressed adventurers. But let’s go between the East and West hemispheres and down the Prime Meridian. No, we’re not stopping at France; Bande Dessinees are for another time. We’re going to help a few creators highlight a highly underrepresented part of the world, Africa. African Comics are a giant step for the entire continent, so pay attention.
Africa has mostly been seen as a poor and desolate land filled with tragedies. To overcome the hurdle, a number of Nigerian-born creators have made Africa something worth looking at. This is a lot considering that some people view Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Alright no more politics, let’s get to the good stuff.
Phase 1 in Progress: YouNeek Studios
Let’s begin with arguably the best-known Nigerian creator: Roye Okupe, the founder and creative director of YouNeek Studios. Compared to the other comic creators we are covering, Roye did almost all of the important parts himself. Born in Lagos, Nigeria he moved to the United States as a kid; while in the USA Roye was influenced by superheroes like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Educated at George Washington University, Roye strove to create an animated superhero series back in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, no company wanted to go through with it since nobody thought that an underrepresented country would gain much recognition. Roye decided to do whatever it takes to create a connected superhero universe through modern media like Facebook and Kickstarter.
The first step was E.X.O.: The Legend of Wale Williams; a redemption story that follows a young man who inherits an Iron Man-like suit. Both volumes had successful Kickstarters with money to spare. To gain as much support as possible, Roye got on various news sites like CNN and Comic Book Resources. It did the job, and this was just the first project.
The United Republic of Comics
On a similar note, there is Comic Republic; this company’s goal is to tell stories about the values of Nigeria and comics.
Let’s focus on Comic Republic’s flagship character, Guardian Prime. Guardian Prime is the most recent of supernatural beings that appear every 2000 years. This gives a certain impression to certain religious folks. Guardians appear when Gaya herself believes the world needs them most. Guardian Prime is compared to Superman for being a cape-wearing powerhouse. But instead of portraying the ideals of humanity in an otherwise godly form; Guardian Prime simply represents Nigeria’s most valued belief, Faith. In fact, his powers are based purely on faith, this allows him to pull off feats that should be impossible. Covering the core heroes are “Africa’s Avengers” the Vanguard.,
One thing to pay attention to however is the diversity in overall comics. It’s common knowledge that people complain about a lack of racial diversity in mainstream comics. As a result, Comic Republic’s characters shine in this department when it comes to African portrayal. Hey, half of the company’s major characters are women, which is more in comparison to other comic companies.
Shockingly, to increase comic reading in Nigeria and other countries, Comic Republic have their comics on their website for free. Anything for free is worth a look at; especially if it gives a person a glimpse into a completely different life.
There’s a Vortex a Comin’
Sharing Comic Republic’s vision is Vortex Comics. (Not to be confused with the defunct Canadian indie publisher or the comic book store in Wisconsin.)
This company has a similar mission to Comic Republic, telling African stories to expose the local culture through heroes. But, Vortex Comics’s stories uses more traditional lore and beliefs compared to the more modernized world of Comic Republic. For example, Vortex comic’s first major title Strike Guard is deeply embedded with spirituality; the title character is brought back from the dead after contracting a Yoruba deity. Some stories can even be humorous like in Mumu Juju. There are also sci-fi stories like the futuristic Wrath House and the political struggle story of Sannkofaman.
What really sets Vortex Comics apart, is teaching others how to make cartoons and comics to make the industry and Nigeria grow. They’re not just keeping it in national borders, the company keeps their issues open for everyone to read on Issuu.com.
Out of Nigeria’s Shadows
Are superheroes not to your liking, or just tired of hearing about Nigeria? No problem, Midas Monkee might be more up your alley. This small business run by Paul Louise-Julie creates graphic novels that blend African cultures with fantasy and science fiction to create good stories. One example is The Pack. People did this gimmick before but Paul did it right. Paul definitely took the right steps to get his works out and now he’s got a fan base.
Not enough? How about Leti Arts; a company known for its role in Africa’s gaming community that recently got into comics like The True Ananse. How about South Africa’s comics like Supa Strikas, a soccer (football) comic that got a cult following. Don’t forget current runner Kwezi, a coming of age superhero story about a guy who grows up on heroics. There are even a few other comics like graphic novel, Champion of Dema among other many underground comics. Finally let’s not forget Comexposed, Zimbabwe’s Comic-Con.
All of these comics say the same thing: Africa is flourishing, it’s not just the stereotype established by focused cameras. The long and hard road for the people there was well worth the effort. These creators have proven that true diversity in comics is possible; something that has been difficult for mainstream companies to accomplish. Once again, comics have proven that they are gateways into people’s imaginations. The comic industry is now expanding at an exponential rate. Comics aren’t bound to just American comics and Japanese manga anymore; now there is a whole range of comics. So what are you waiting for; the world’s opened its pages, now get reading.