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|Posted on Friday, October 01, 2004 - 04:00 pm: ||
Read it and weep (sob)
Komikwerks Works It At Nigerian Comicbook Convention
By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu
When comicbooks are mentioned in Nigeria, forerunners are often the popular American fare, consisting of the generic Spider-Man, Batman and other superhero fare. Then in an isolated Nigerian context, the lewd-content-glorifying Ikebe Super and its more wholesome sister publication Super Story would surely pop up. However, comicbooks are currently witnessing a revolution of sorts in the West African nation of over 120 million people, via a growing crop of young, hip writers, artists and specific technology buffs. Add the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) - which is a cultural rights activist organisation that spans the whole of Africa - into the mix and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results. CORA organised the Lagos Comicbook Carnival, making it the continent’s first ever such event. The organisation worked with the brightest minds the industry has to offer, and the result is the three-day festival showcasing the very best comicbooks and cartoon art available on Nigerian soil.
The comicbook scene in Nigeria, in the past, has always been typified by mass-market publications, which often harbour mostly adult-themed content. A few attempts, over the past two decades, have been made by some publishers to bring out more intellectually sound comicbooks, though such books dwindled in number, ultimately into oblivion. While all that happened over the span of years, a handful of young, talented creators are getting noticed, as well as their creations. Their genres of preference range from the traditional superhero premise to dark, gritty, themes which exude authentic street-savviness. Another quality present in the work, no matter how alien the genre is, is an innate, earthen vibe that is profoundly Nigerian.
Comicbooks are, generally, powerful tools of mass communication, given their potent mix of words and images, fused together to tell a story or project an idea. Considering the recent growth spurts witnessed by new Nigerian comicbook publishers, the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), participants in the Lagos Comics Convention included fledgling publishers like Village Square Communications, who chose the event for the debut of their masthead title Pandora Comics. The format of Pandora is that of an anthology, and contains in it three tightly written and drawn offerings by hot new artists including Nsikak Ifet. Others include Imperial Creations Studios, publishers of the popular Dark Edge monthly comic. Also unveiled specially for the convention, was Dark Edge’s second issue. Imperial Creations Studios’ Marketing Directors, Elegba Ayodele, says while he is pleased with the rising sales figures of their products, he remains sad over the general impression a lot of people harbour towards comicbooks. “Most people tend to look at comicbooks as kiddies’ stuff, without realising their immense strength as tools of entertainment and education,” said Ayodele, whose booth also screened several well-received animated shorts featuring popular characters from their publications, mostly directed by artist Ibrahim Ganiyu.
Providing support to the artform with their presence at the convention, were several cartoonists from major newspapers around Nigeria, Veteran Cliff Ogiugo from the Daily Independent and Obe Ess from The Guardian were present, talking patiently with the crowds which thronged their respect booths. Among the attendees of the convention, were several celebrities from other areas of the arts. Jazz Legend, Tunde Kuboye was seen holding a handful of comicbooks, to which he confessed being an incurable fan and reader, right after the obligatory I am buying for the kids’ line.
There also was a fanboy stampede-causing appearance at the Komikwerks booth by red-hot underground rapper Mode 9, himself once a comicbook artist, providing strips for the journal Hip Hop World. Other highlights of the convention include a dazzling performance by Nigerian highlife icon, Fatai Rolling Dollar, who treated the crowd to his trademark sounds.
One of the key organisers of the comicbook convention, also of multimedia powerhouse Homemade Cookies, Lanre Lawal, said that while he was pleased with the turnout, he would not be satisfied until the whole world wakes up to the Nigerian comicbook industry. “We are here, and we are doing things that the rest of the world have no choice but to notice – and applaud,” said Lawal, who also said that at least five major international comicbook websites headlined news of the Lagos Carnival.
Several aspiring comicbook writers, artists, colorists and publishers met and networked, planning ahead for future projects. One of them, Adelaja Mark Ogidi, whose Methro Studios is working on a project called ‘Weirdo,’ said he had been inspired by the gathering at the convention to work harder on his upcoming book.
Lanre Lawal, speaking about subsequent editions of the Comicbook Convention, said plans are underway for an official convention website, as well as an even bigger outing come next year. He also said that he and his fellow organisers will see to increasing the number of participating international publishers, expressing gratitude to Komikwerks, for assigning their Special Features Editor, yours truly, to attend and represent them. The Komikwerks booth was abuzz with activity and was the venue for extensive talks on the future of comics in Nigeria, as well as that of Internet publishing.
Then, at the end of the three-day Lagos Comicbook Carnival, Lanre Lawal said: “I know these all sound like big dreams, but I can afford to dream big. Afterall, I am in the business of dreams.”
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