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African Comic Company makes a Business out of Superheroes
by Startacus Admin
A gap in the market does not mean a gap in interest or demand. Here is how a small African startup has quietly proven that and taken full advantage of it.
While it is true that any character should be relatable to anyone, regardless of race or gender, it’s hardly a lot to ask that people have that little bit extra to relate to. Wonder Woman fans do not consist solely of white females, but girls and women – mostly white ones at that – naturally see themselves in her character better than others do.
So what if you were a comic reader in Africa, poring over books full of characters who don’t look like you, don’t speak like you, are integrated into a different culture to yours, and battle issues that are different to the ones you face? Wouldn’t it be a little more difficult to relate to them?
Based in Lagos, Nigeria, the nine-person team at Comic Republic has created a range of African superheroes. It is perhaps unfair that these heroes are touted – though positively – by some fans as ‘Africa’s Avengers’, as these are not a bunch of American heroes dragged to another continent and painted a different colour; these are their own heroes – these are Nigerian superheroes, created by Nigerians, for…well, everyone.
While other heroes may be taken from their homelands and dropped into America, their creators under the assumption that western readers won’t otherwise identify with them, Comic Republic’s nine characters are unapologetically Nigerian through and through. They promote Nigerian culture and battle for a ‘better, safer Africa’ through a company whose tagline is ‘We can all be heroes.’
And they do seem to mean all. Though diversity is more than just race and gender, it is a pretty good start that four of Comic Republic’s nine characters are extremely powerful female superheroes. This unconscious decision reflects, they say, the equal role of women in Nigerian culture.
What’s better still is the fact that these comics and characters being African – and nobody should really be surprised by this – isn’t alienating non-African readers. While 30% of Comic Republic’s readers come from Nigeria, over half of readers come from the UK and America. To put that in perspective, although only a couple of hundred downloads were seen in 2013, downloads of December 2015’s release totalled around 25,000.
These nine men and women saw a gap in the market and stepped up to fill it. As well as their own superhero comics, which they offer for free, they create comics for companies and their products, and for NGOs who want to highlight public health risks such as malaria – a service that sounds a lot like what Revolve Comics are doing in Northern Ireland.
CEOs are asking Comic Republic for superhero portraits of themselves, local filmmakers are interested in adapting stories, and the company is right in the middle of a rejuvenation of African art, music and literature that has reach beyond that continent.
Perhaps the moral of this story is that if you see an opportunity, take it. Don’t over-think it until it’s gone. Don’t look around and think ‘but no one else is doing it’ – lead the way. Go check them out.
Written by Ross Harrison
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