Some young Nigerian artists have created Comic Republic and invented superhero characters that are gaining in popularity in Africa and beyond.  Comic Republic is growing fast, with over 25,000 comics (about 20 pages each) downloaded so far.

Africa is a continent that often makes the news for all the wrong reasons: crime and corruption for example.  From this same continent, a group of daring and talented artists are working at changing Africa’s global image and boosting the hopes of many young Africans for a better future, through a medium that most captures their imagination; the world of comic book fiction.

Comic Republic was launched in 2013 by a group of young Nigerian artists and story writers based in Lagos. Their passion for comic books gave rise to the idea of creating African superheroes who, in the imagination of young Africans, would champion the ideals that make up a better society. Family and friends believing in this ideal contributed, together with organizations like Kickstarter, a company “that helps artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, and other creators find the resources and support they need to make their ideas a reality.”

In the 1930s and 40s, when the world was threatened by ideologies that aimed to oppress and exterminate entire peoples, young Americans turned to Superheroes as the defenders of their most prised values as a nation: freedom, justice and peace. The stories of characters like Superman, Captain America and Batman made their way into each child’s home through printed comics and eventually on television. They inspired hope in victory over evil. And although each of these personalities was portrayed as having a troubled past, that was never a definitive obstacle in their pursuit for the good.

Similarly, far from denying the problems that many African countries face, superheroes like Guardian Prime, EXO, Max Speed have been portrayed as home-grown African citizens (mostly Nigerian) who have taken up these challenges personally, and have decided to employ their special powers to bring them to an end. Honesty, honour, courage, friendship and teamwork are themes underlying a series of impactful stories. They are depicted in high-quality rendered artwork, that, although American in inspiration, is truly African in essence. The stories are set in African cities, countries and regions, some contemporary and others futuristic.

Surprisingly, over half of Comic Republic’s downloads are from readers in the US, the UK, and from other countries like Brazil and the Philippines. It has even caught the attention of media like Forbes and CNN, and “so far, private companies have asked Comic Republic to create comics for their products and NGOs have asked for help illustrating public health risks like malaria.

As the stories of these superheroes unfold, and as some of them are already in production as movies, the message about Africa that these artists are sending to the world can be summed up with one of the author’s words: “The future is not as a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created… First within the mind and will, then within the next activity” The future is not some place we are going but some place we are creating. Good day folks.

Jotham Muriu Njoroge has a Bachelors degree in Architecture from the University of Nairobi. He is currently studying an undergraduate degree at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome.