AFRICA’S NEW HEROES
In recent years various startups across the African continent have taken up a daunting a crucial task, inspiring the African youth through fantastic stories and extraordinary characters.The efforts of the likes of Leti arts,comic republic,youneek studios,vortex comics and numerous others have been appreciated globally and some have had so much success that the likes of CNN,the Newyork Times and Forbes have taken notice of their works.The question now is that in a time as crucial as this are we as the pioneers (both the creators and fans alike) of an industry making the right choices?…..Don’t be so quick to answer that question!
As a committed and fanatic spectator of the ongoing explosion of African creativity there is one disturbing trend that has come to my notice and thus my reason for writing this article.I believe I may be the first person to just come out openly and say what is on everybody’s mind and as delicate as the matter is it is quite essential it is dealt with as promptly and effectively as possible.
THE DISTURBING TREND.
The new industry claims to be showcasing African culture and the African people through the unique and dynamic format of story telling that are found within the pages of comic books but is that truly what is happening? After reading numerous stories from numerous African publishers I find that our culture is sometimes betrayed and is forced to kowtow to the demands and dictates of a foreign culture.The heroes been created and branded as African to some extent are not African , in fact they are simply an off branch from the American industry hiding behind the facade of been something unprecedented but the truth remains they are really nothing new and the African audience simply tries to appreciate them because after all what else can they do?
The creators of these heroes mean well and it is not their fault if they would make such mistakes.A lot of them grew up in the American genre wishing there were something like that in their localities but at last they were disappointed.Now they are trying to make sure future generations do not endure the same but in their anticipation and excitement they may have deviated off the course a little.A black iron man is still iron man no matter how you put it now Riri Williams has made it clear you do not need to be Tony Stark or some white guy to have your own suit of armor so really you ask yourself what is the point of Exo?Youneek studios say that Wale’s story is about redemption but if that is the case he didn’t need a suit of armor or some futuristic tech to tell us that story did he? and even if he did the similarities in their stories are something else….I mean one can get over the whole armor after a while but now they both got daddy issues and are stinking rich…is it just me or is that too much of a coincidence….you look at it carefully we got a classic batman/green arrow situation here where one is a mere shadow of the other!
That said that does not mean we cannot use scientific or technological approaches in telling our stories but the trick is do it without making your readers think “black iron man” every time they see the main character…..and then there is this guy……
….is it just me or are there some serious similarities?I get it the aim was to create a scary and mysterious villain but they could have put more African elements into the guy’s costume because honestly I look at him and there is nothing African about that….I mean he looks cool and all…might even kick the crap out of Amon but …what makes him African?
An industry away we have another tech oriented hero but he comes with his own identity and he definitely does not remind me of Iron man….
enter the world of Gundam and you immediately forget Iron man…though its a suit of armor (a mega one at that) it brings a completely new experience with it new kind of characters and stories are evolved steeped in Japanese culture, it doesn’t feel forced and is just right!
AFRICA DOES NOT NEED A SUPERMAN
Some justify this blatant betrayal by assuming that in order to keep up with international standards the rules set down by the American industry must strictly be followed, these include a compulsory 24 colored page format,spandex and numerous other unnecessary cliches! The world already has enough Supermen and wonderwomen, enough shield’s and Argus enough Avengers and justice leagues, Africa has the responsibility to bring something new to the scene? Must our comic books be limited to an approximation of 20 pages and must it be only one story…must our stories even be called comics…..the Japanese call their stories “manga” and they still manage to satisfy the international community with quality goodies without following rules laid down by American publishers!
They do this so well now they are even giving the Americans a run for their money….Africa can do the same,if we cast away the shackles of creative colonization.Our culture is rich and vibrant and if we remain true to it we will not need help from another source to take the world!
We do not need tights and blasters, we do not need Bat mobiles and Helicarriers if we want to tell the African story let us just do it without feeling like our culture needs a makeover!Already I can see some works in progress and that there are people who are beginning to get it…..
The industry is young and the way it will look in a few years to come depends on the decisions we make now.We can either decide to take the easy road and be subject to another industry or truly pioneer something new, great and unprecedented….This is a call to arms to all my fellow pioneers, if we are are going to do this let us do it right!