Growing up, African comics were quite rare. My most vivid recollection is the late Frank Odoi’s Akhokhan appearing next to other western-imported comic strips in the Daily Graphic newspaper. Thanks to the digital age and new media, however, no one will have to suffer a dearth of African-created comics as many are now free to download or inexpensive to purchase.
An evolving band of African artists are giving breath to ink and comics are springing up all over the place, either by teams or solo illustrators. These artists are helping build an impressive library of continental comics on life, imagination, desires and the future. I’ve composed a list of contemporary comics that weave together stories that embody many of the traditions, myths and realities that many Africans experience or can readily identify.
Below are 8 African comics you should know about.
Kwezi is the story of a narcissistic South African teen with extraordinary gifts. A bit of a trickster figure, his superhero strengths allow him to take on the bad guys which he documents quite avidly on social media, occasionally, stepping on the toes of the local authorities. It’s all fun and games for Kwezi until an imposing nomad pays a visit and sets the teenager on a new adventure to discover his purpose and understand his gifts in preparation for a great new responsibility. Check out the first issue here.
MUMU JUJU by Etubi Onucheyo for Vortex Comics
Initially, a school project, the humorous Mumu Juju tells the story of two tight partners, Mortar and Pestle, who have an insatiable hunger to rid the world of evil. The duo must pay debts to an Auntie Ejule, a rumoured witch and Kenga, a deity who is quick to assert his authority by demanding, “Are you my mate?!” The dialogue in this comic is fresh and nostalgic especially for Nigerian pidgin lovers and the art served is delicious. Get a preview dose here or buy the issues here.
AVONOME by Stanley Stanch Obende for Comic Republic
Avonome is a fantastical story about a reincarnated woman with no memory of her past save for her name and the ability to see spirits. Aided by a purple shapeshifting babysitter and an angel, she embarks on a mission to discover who she was and to understand her gifts, all while kicking evil spirit ass. The graphic novel draws references from Yoruba myths like the Abiku as well as Nigerian history and features some exciting character designs. You can read it here.
Generation Identity is a fun comic story about a musical band of four boys who discover their divine powers and are transported into a trans-dimensional realm with specific limits around time. In this new realm, each has to face off with an Underlord to unlock the secrets to time. By tapping into their supernatural abilities, the group battles opponents with pure wit, patience and luck, returning to the world oblivious to their newly gained powers. Physical copies of G.I. are available for purchase through Squid Mag.
E.X.O. Illustrated by Babajide Briggs Adebimpe
This story follows Wale Williams, a young man who inherits a nano suit with superpowers from his missing dad in a futuristic Nigeria. He assumes the identity of Lagoon City ‘s hero by fighting off The C.R.E.E.D., an extremist organization with sinister motives, as he investigates his father’s disappearance. Originally planned as an animated film, E.X.O., was turned into a graphic novel to ramp up support after being rejected by several producers who axed a Black superhero, no less one from the continent. The project was successfully backed on Kickstarter and is available for purchase on Kindle, Comixology, iBooks and from YouNeek. You can subscribe to E.X.O.’s mailing list for a preview here.
Draped in an overflowing green cape and leotards with white accents, Guardian Prime is planet Earth’s answer to Lagos’s terrestrial and extra-terrestrial threats. Brimming with Gaia’s power and helped by his sidekicks, Hero Generation (another series by the same publisher), Guardian Prime zooms around fulfilling his duty as the sentinel for Lagos and the rest of the world. Get a load of him here.
BLACK SAGE by Sola Adebayo for Boxt Out!
Black Sage is described as “an 8-page miniseries that focuses on the innate desire of the common man to deliver justice to corrupt individuals” by the comic’s creators. This vivid graphic novel tells the story of a heavily bandaged, Weston hat donning, lasso wielding vigilante, who, guided by his own moral compass and a supernatural entity called The One (enabling him to walk through walls among other things), hunts down corrupt individuals and exacts immediate judgement if they refuse to redress their actions. The first issue focuses on Nigeria’s power issues and can be downloaded here.
NEWBORN SAGA by Peter Daniel for Pedastudio
Not to be confused with the space opera of the same name, this comic follows the story of ten guardian spirits (Mlezi) summoned to cleanse the earth of a loony scourge, powered by Ogandi, an ancient and malevolent god bent on human extinction. Ogandi wasn’t completely vanquished the first time and many generations later, he has found a new host in the person of a scholarly prince, now set to throw the world into chaos. Will the Mlezi be victorious once again? Find out in the first issue here.
Other worthy comic mentions include the football-themed Supa Strikers, Collyde Prime‘s Misfit, Leti Arts’ interactive Legends, Red Origins, Egyptian werewolf-themed The Pack, Uhuru: Legend of the Windriders and a host of other titles.
There are a lot more kickass projects in the wild not listed. What comics are you into?
UPDATE: The original version of this article erroneously credited MudHouse Black as the publishers of Avonome.
By KADI YAO TAY