Which character would you identify yourself with most? Batman, Superman, Sailor Moon, maybe even the Hulk? Even if none of these characters appeal to you personally, thousands of other people around the world have grown up with them. The release of the new Avengers movie, “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, exemplifies how comic books and Si-Fi fans around the globe gather to watch their favorite superheroes come together and kick butt on the big screen (in 3-D!).
America has left a great impression on younger children, who wish to be like their favorite characters when they grow up. With new heroes like Kwezi and Wale Williams Africa is also leaving a mark in the comic book and graphic novel world. These supernatural heroes are meant to be role models for the younger African generation, for them to be able to identify themselves with characters who resemble them and who possess the same cultural background as the young readers.
The First of their kind
Nigeria’s first supernatural graphic novel is titled “E.X.O – The Legend of Wale Williams” (pronounced Wah-leɪ, not whale) The story centers on Wale Williams, a young adult who returns back to his hometown in Lagoon, Nigeria (a fictitious adaption of the populous Nigerian city Lagos) after the mysterious disappearance of his father. Upon his five year absence, Wale discovers a powerful nano suit in his father’s laboratory and with his newly gained powers it has become Wale’s mission to fight for justice and to protect the citizens of Lagoon from an extremist organization promoting fear and oppression in a city that has already fallen under the hands of their corrupt government.
The first issue of the comic is said to be released along the end of summer. E.X.O would be the first publication of software programmer and web developer Roye Okupe. The born and raised Nigerian was inspired by the various cartoons he grew up watching and the scarce selection of comics he could get his hands on as a child. His aspiration to the project began with “movies, comics, manga, anime, graphic novels, animated movies/series, video games etc. And then in 2008, after noticing there wasn’t a lot of diversity in the genre, I decided to tell a story about a hero from Nigeria. ” as he says on africa.quora.com.
Resurfacing African Culture
Moving further down the continent South African artist Loyiso Mkize has released limited copies of his graphic novel “Kwezi” in the earlier year of 2014. Before launching his comic Mkize had already been a popular artist amongst his peers and other creative thinkers. The 27 year old has collaborated as co-illustrator for the Supa Strikas, a pan-african comic book, and has also worked on animation projects for the country’s local Disney Channel satellite station DSTV. As was the case for comic book lover Roye as is also the case for Loyiso – The artist had dreams of starting an independent project that would adhere to the average African youth, and so he created 19 year old Kwezi, “[…]an arrogant, opinionated anti-hero who discovers and appreciates his superpowers … the cultural aspect brings him back to his roots.” As he tells Dispatchlive.
Like with the common superhero tales of Batman and Spiderman that the world has become familiar with, the two leads in both graphic novels also come from different backgrounds and have a different story. However, the one thing unifying them is their cultural African background, an important aspect of the continent which has become lost in mainstream media.
With E.X.O, Kwezi and other super natural stories such as “Oya: Rise of the Orishas” and “Rise of the African Legends” the African countries are about to leave an impressionable mark on oversea readers and change the views of how modern-day African culture is portrayed and perceived by the masses.
Header Image credits to Kwezi