19 January 2016
Nicknamed "Africa's Avengers", the African superheroes created by Nigeria's
Comic Republic, range from Guardian Prime, a 25-year-old fashion-designer-by-day
who uses his extraordinary strength to fight for a better Nigeria, to Hilda
Avonomemi Moses, a woman from a remote village in Edo state who can see
spirits, to Marcus Chigozie, a privileged but angry teenager who can move at
"I thought about when I was young and what I used to make my decisions on:
What would Superman do, what would Batman do? I thought, why not African
superheroes?" explains Comic Republic's founder, Jide Martin, who started
publishing comic books in 2013. The company's tagline is: "We can all be heroes."
Midnight oil for the love of the dream. Growing the comic industry in Africa.
Let's do this! pic.twitter.com/40OvAqAGHk
The company is leading the way in developing unique, Afrocentric stories and
characters for markets long believed to lack interest in African-inspired characters.
The publisher has a team of artists and writers that create the stories, which are
published online and are available for free. Downloads of the issues have grown
from a couple of hundred in 2013 to 25 000 of the latest release in December
2015, as the series has become more popular.
As well as creating new worlds and amazing characters, Comic Republic also
publishes comics for companies and NGOs that are focused on delivering positive
messages to children, including in the public health services sector such as malaria
prevention and HIV/Aids education.
The start-up is part of a growth of made-in-Africa music, literature and art that
is beginning to resonate beyond the continent. Over half of Comic Republic's
downloads are by readers in the United States and United Kingdom; there are also
readers in countries as far as Brazil and the Philippines. But it is in
Nigeria that the
stories are finding the most extensive market, so much so that, according to Martin,
Lagos even hosts an annual comic convention for the comic and entertainment
Guardian Prime, "a black Superman" as Martin calls him, is, in particular,
finding popularity across Africa, as a home-grown Man of Steel.
The trend is expanding across the continent and other African publishers and
artists are creating their own take on the idea of the superhero.
Popular South African graphic novel Kwezi was created by designer
and artist Loyiso Mkize, for example. Its superhero is a teenager in Gold City, a
metropolis imagined along the lines of Johannesburg. The story, which features
plenty of local slang and cultural references, also has a strong moral centre and an
emphasis on education, according to Mkize. He refers to his story as "a coming of
age story about finding one's heritage".
Another Nigerian animator is Roye Okupe, whose graphic novel, E.X.O: The
Legend of Wale Williams, was published in August 2015. In the same vein
Superman and the Marvel universe, Williams has found a huge international
audience, "putting Africa on the map when it comes to telling superhero stories",
says Okupe. There is even talk of a live action feature film for the character.
Much like its Western influences, diversity and inclusiveness are hallmarks of
the African comic book. Of the nine characters created by Comic Republic, four are
women, which Martin believes is a reflection of the fact that women are active in
Nigeria's social politics. "[In] today's Nigeria, we're very indifferent to whether
someone is a man or woman. I wouldn't say there was any strategic decision. It's
just a way of life for us," he said.
Beyond battling evil and saving the day, the comics are also meant to show
how individuals can come together to provide for a "better, safer Africa",
Martin. It's a message that appears to be getting across to some readers.
One fan wrote on Comic Republic's Facebook wall about the character of
Guardian Prime: "My favourite quote [by him]: All it takes for evil to succeed is for
good men to stand by and do nothing. I won't stand by. I am Nigerian." I'm not
Nigerian, but heroes are going to help the youth and stimulate patriotism."
Africa's Avengers, including Guardian Prime, are a collection of African superheroes gaining popularity in 2016 around Africa and the world. Using the medium of comic books, companies like Comic Republic in Nigeria are taking the African message to the world. (Image: Comic Republic)
More about South African art, dance, literature, theatre, music.
SA's National Anthem - Pulling together two anthems, five languages - and over 44 million people. South Africans, take ownership of your song! SA's National Orders - Reflecting the inclusiveness and diversity of the new SA, our peoples and our place in the African continent. Mapping new views of Africa
The Parliamentary Millennium Project contrasts Western, Eastern and African forms of mapping to shed new light on 'the dark continent'. Humankind's cradle - The world's richest hominid site, home to 40% of all human ancestor fossils. A short history of South Africa
Take a brief tour through our dramatic history: from the earliest inhabitants through colonisation to the discovery of gold and the war that followed; from the evolution of black resistance through three decades of crisis to the eventual death of apartheid.