Move over Superman and Wolverine. Meet Guardian Prime and Enzo Kori-Odan.
While superheroes in comic books and in video games have predominantly been white characters, two companies in Africa are attempting to change the perception of what a superhero looks like.
Nigeria’s Comic Republic
In response to the lack of black comic book stars, Comic Republic, a startup based in Lagos, Nigeria burst onto the scene in 2013, responding to what they saw as a lack of uniquely African superhero stories.
Founder Jide Martin says: “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?”
Comic Republic’s flagship character, is Tunde Jaiye, otherwise known as Guardian Prime. He is described as a fashion designer by day, superhero fighting for a safer Nigeria by night.
Martin says of the character he created: “I saw that Nigeria was filled with so much negativity. This hero [was] designed to give us faith to see that our actions and words could indeed make a difference and throw a positive light on Nigeria to a global audience.”
Comic Republic’s list of characters also includes a number of female superheroes, too. Ireti, one of nine central characters, is described as a “mighty warrior with powers that surpass normal men.” There’s also Bidemi Ogunde, an archaeology student and gymnast at the University of Ibadan who has special powers.
Creative Director Toby Ezeogu said: “There is a lack of female heroes on the African scene in general. We wanted female characters that would become icons to the African girl growing up, to give them something to aspire to – that they too can be heroes.”
But why did the platform want to focus on women superheroes? “The question should be why not,” exclaims the company’s head of marketing and corporate communications, Eduvie Oyaide. “With Jade Waziri, you see a stern commander who studies the activities of the heroes and ensures they are kept in check, then you see Aje, a female witch who needs to learn how to control her powers and use them for good or evil, you see Avonome, created out of a desire to teach more about the Nigerian culture using African fantasy; there is Ireti also of African descent and Jazz, a new character who joins a group of young teenage university graduates (The Extremes) in the quest to fight crime.”
“There is a lack of female heroes in the African scene in general,” adds Ezeogu. “Girls don’t have heroines to look up to these days, rather they have celebrities of questionable character. What you end up with is a generic stereotype of the female gender. Girls are seen to others as delicate roses, and we say yes, females are roses, but roses have thorns and roses are tough not delicate. We wanted female characters that would become icons to the African girl growing up to give them something to aspire to that they too can be heroes and it’s not an all male field.”
Comic Republic set out to inspire a positive movement. “We believe in the power of stories,” says Oyaide. “Sometimes, people struggle with acceptance of who they are. With our stories, we want to reprogram the values and beliefs that drive behavior among individuals. We want to inspire people to believe they can be so much more than they think if only they believe, we want to drive them to believe they have the power to influence their future.”
So far they’ve produced six major titles and over thirteen editions, all of which are available to read for free online.
Their Vanguards series features all of their superheroes together in one comic, and has been likened by some fans to “Africa’s Avengers.” According to the company’s Creative Director Tobe Ezeogu, it’s a movement that doesn’t just include fighting bad guys and saving the day, but rather, shows how these likeminded individuals came together to fulfill their dreams for a “better safer Africa.”
Cameroon’s Kiro’o Games
As a recent CNN article stated about Enzo Kori-Odan, “Finally, a video game hero for Africa.”
Enzo is the creation of Cameroon’s Kiro’o Games. According to Madiba Olivier, the company’s founder, “I wanted to break what I call ‘the exotic world’ image of Africa.”
His African role-play fantasy game, Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, is the first of its kind in Cameroon.
So far Africa’s rich and diverse cultures is seldom incorporated into computer games. Olivier’s creation is changing that.
Unlike most fantasy games, this one features an African hero, and creates an alternative world inspired by African folklore and mythology.
The hero of the game, Enzo Kori-Odan, is the ruler of Zama — a diverse country free of an imperialist past but now threatened by a coup. The story centers around Enzo and his wife Erine, and their fight to regain the throne. The hero’s power comes from the collective energy of his ancestors, a force known as the Aurion.
Kiro’o Games currently is one of several video game studios gaining prominence in Africa.
These two ventures from Nigeria and Cameroon are challenging the narrative of what superheroes look like, and inspiring a generation of young Africans at the same time.