“Growing up in the capital city of Nigeria, Roye Okupe didn’t have many super-powered role models,” opens David Barnett in The Independent. “Comic books were few and far between in Lagos, and those that he did see – imports from the US – didn’t have many black main characters.”
Many years later Okupe rectified that problem, setting up YouNeek Studios in 2015, to create comics and graphic novels set in his homeland.
It started out with an internet download that went forward to a crowdfunded printed graphic novel
But Okupe wasn’t the first. Earlier, in 2013, Jide Martin started Comic Republic, also in Lagos. And for any geography Nazis out there, Lagos was the capital of Nigeria when Okupe was a boy, but of course the capital has since moved to Abuja. Lagos remains the centre of Nigerian publishing.
“I don’t think Africa and Africans are well represented in mainstream Western comics,” Martin said. “That is why we are here… to give us a place in this genre and to show the world what Africans are capable of.”
But it’s not just about African versions of Superman and Spidey.
Okupe has published the first part of Malika – Warrior Queen, a historical fantasy epic set in a 15th-century West Africa, and an art book, WindMaker – The History of Atala, inspired by West African’s rich mythology.
Well, I can vouch for the rich history and mythology of the region, being an ex-pat a little further west, so I’ll be looking to find that, and to watch out for the pending Kickstarter campaign to fund part two of Malika.
The New Publishing Standard went live just too late to cover the 2017 Lagos Comic Con, the sixth event in Nigeria.
But if Lagos is, for now, the African comic capital, be in no doubt comics are growing in popularity across the continent, and across the world, as one more way in which authors and illustrators can connect with readers in the brave new world that is the Global New Renaissance.
A look at Pakistan’s exciting comics scene soon here at The New Publishing Standard.