If you grew up in the 80s/90s, then you’ll probably be familiar with comics like Archie & Betty, The Adventures of Tintin, X-Men, Justice League, and the likes. If you owned any of these titles back then, you were a rock star.
Comics were everything.
We looked to those colored pages for our favorite heroes and characters. We wanted to be like them. We wanted super powers too.
Before then, the widely spread Nigerian comics were mostly socio-political themed — appearing as strips on the back pages of major newspapers across the nation. I bet you all remember the Rastafarian, Omo Oba, and Efe & Jude; then the even more adventurous titles likes Captain Afrika, Frank Benbela, Ikebe Super (with the notorious Papa Ajasco) and the randy tales of Mr. Nackson to name a few.
You’ll agree that comics form a crucial part of the modern-day narrative culture. Asides providing entertainment, tit bits of information about the society are embedded in the context of the story, educating the reader, especially the young ones about what is right or wrong, who is what, what’s important and how to do things.
Readers geeked over Iron Man arguing over all the mind-blowing experiments by Tony Starks; we flexed muscles with Clark Kent kicking asses while occasionally succumbing to imaginary kryptonite; and some even got introduced to the concept of dating from Archie & Betty. We rooted for Shegs as he led Supas Strikas to victories after victories against all odds. Shegs proved that in every team, there’s always that star individual who stands out and encourages other to do better.
These characters helped shaped our mentality and our perception of the world.
However, most of these comics started disappearing off the bookstands and bookshops. A lot of people blamed it on the instability of the Nigerian economy that drove cost of publishing comics astronomically high, while other claimed it was the dearth of original stories that crippled the comic industry.
In recent times, there’s been a separation of quality storytelling and powerful characters.
Most comic creators are looking for inspiration for the next African Superhero. People now call Thor a well-packaged Sango, and Zeus, the white man’s Orunmila. But this shouldn’t be the case.
Storytelling shouldn’t end with novels, movies, and content marketing gigs. Storytelling is extremely important in creating comics that are culturally relevant and will resonate with the Nigerian audience.
Although things in the comic industry are gradually improving. As Internet penetration increases globally, digital publishing is the new rave and you don’t need a cut-throat budget to get your illustrations out there. Any passionate and committed individual can develop and hone the technical skill required to be a world-class illustrator and create good comics.
But storytelling is key.
Enough of the capes and spandex. We need to tell our own stories, from our own perspective.
We need new heroes.
The existing Nigerian economic community is witnessing a resurgence with comics like The Indomitable, Chicken Core, Dark Edge, Guardian Prime, Visionary, Avonome, Misfit, Ireti, E.X.O amongst others making Nigerian comic lovers smile again.
But we want more.
This is why we are partnering with Lagos Comic Con 2016 to tell Nigerian stories that are not only true but can also stand the test of time.
We at Mainland Book Café will be supporting five (5) fantastic comic artists from the exhibition with free publicity for every edition produced within a period of one year.
So catch us on September 17 at NECA House, Alausa, Ikeja for the 2016 edition of Lagos Comic 2016!
Written by Ayomidotun™
Ayomidotun is a seasoned digital product designer and user experience specialist based in Lagos, Nigeria. He is also the founder of Lagos-based literary club, Mainland Book Cafe.