Squid Mag speaks with The Comics Meltdown Group about what the group is about, African geekdom, African comics and the way forward for the group.

In October 2018, a surprising and rather disturbing hashtag, #boycotlagoscomiccon2019 surfaced on social media just a month after a successful Lagos Comic Con 2018. Allegations of fraud, deceit and misdeed made the rounds, trumpeted by one Gbenga Lawal for all to hear.

Immediately, the Comics Meltdown Group, a Facebook group with over 30,000 members, jumped into action, objectively sharing information and taking a bold stance. In the wake of the hashtag, The Comics Meltdown Group on Facebook stood tall as the bastion of hope and justice. The group became a rallying point for creators and fans in the Nigerian geekosphere. About a month later, the matter seems to be almost resolved, all for the better of the still growing Nigerian (and African) geek community.

Inspired by the name of a folder containing freshly bought digital comics on Akintoba Kalejaye’s personal computer, The Comics Meltdown Group started in 2010 with the aim to build a safe space to have fun and free discussions around comics, manga and other forms of graphic novelization.

According to Ilesanmi, the first member of the group and brother of Akintoba, the only comic group available for African fans back in 2010 was the Anime Exchange. Comic heads had nowhere to dissect comics the way they wanted. This propelled the creation of the Comics Meltdown as an online haven for manga and comic lovers.

Squid Mag’s KaDi Yao Tay spoke with The Comics Meltdown Group spoke about Africa’s largest online group of comic book aficionados, fans and creators, the future of African comics and building an online community!

Read on for our conversation.

I’ve seen many groups start out with great promise but fail, failure here meaning the groups become inactive. How have you stayed on so long without stagnating?

Newborn Saga characters
Characters from Peda Studios’ Nebworn Saga

The reason for that is simple, our members! Frankly, we are grateful to every single member of the 21000 thousand Comics Meltdown Forum Members. They are the reason for our continued existence.

Over the years, we have tried to maintain that safe environment, and it is with the help of the Admin that the Comics Meltdown has been a mainstay as a comics fan group. Bodunrin Oye, Kingsley Okoh, Wale Awelenje, Jummai Ekele, Marcel Akerele, Femi Leo Irojah, Dotun Fadairo and Julia Ehana; these guys are the MVPs.

What is your biggest achievement as a group?

The fact that the Comics Meltdown is still active and a safe Haven for Comics Fans. This is the Raison D’etre for our existence and as long as people post and continue to have flame wars on the Comics Meltdown group, our existence is justified.

Social media is both fun and distressing and fandoms take this to the extreme. How do you deal with trolls and bullies in the Comics Meltdown Group?

This is a great question. The Comics Meltdown group has a 100 percent acceptance of trolling…lol! Trolling is fan culture and we are fine with this.

But, we have a Zero Percent Tolerance for acts of bullying or nastiness to other people. The blocked list of the group stands at close to 700 people. If a member cannot be civil, we don’t retain them on the Comics Meltdown.

Once again, this is mainly due to the Admin and the Moderators who are not getting paid for this, but continue to do this for the love of comics and maintaining the haven for comics discuss.

You recently launched a website. How different is this going to be from the Facebook group?

Thanks for asking this. The website, www.comicsmeltdown.com is still in phase one of gradually ensuring that our members do not have to be restricted to the Facebook group if they do not want to.

The website is a pure extension of the forum as the forum will always be the most important part of the Comics Meltdown Group.

On the Website, we feature happenings on the Forum, Comics News and Reviews, all generated exclusively by Comics Meltdown members and created for themselves and the world. You could say the website is a love letter from the entire Comics Meltdown Group to the world.

An article by The Independent asserts that Lagos (Nigeria) is Africa’s Gotham of superheroes or in other terms, the continent’s melting pot of comic books. Do you agree? What, in your opinion, contributed to this?

Malika warrior Queen

In terms of pure statistics, we will say that 60 percent of our traffic for the website, the Facebook forum and the Instagram page all come from Lagos State. We believe that with the sheer number of comic publishers in Lagos alone, the veracity of that statement cannot be doubted. The dream would be when the emerging comic fever emerging in Lagos overtakes the entirety of Africa!

What can other African countries with an almost non-existent comic scene like Ghana, for instance, learn from this?

All anyone needs to do to generate awareness in the public consciousness is to get some friends together and discuss comics. We won’t tell you there is any secret because there isn’t.

Get yourselves together, discuss and connect with more fans (they exist!). Be careful to avoid toxic fans but, make sure you keep reading comics, discussing as fans and supporting your favourite comic creators.

The Comics Meltdown is a fan-driven forum and we believe that this is largely responsible for any sort of popularity we enjoy in the nerdsphere. Ghanaian fans need to support homegrown content and local creators need to believe in their creations and put them out.

African comics have seen a boom in popularity and I dare say appreciation since around 2014 thanks in large part to the Internet. What else do you think accounts for this?

Zebra Comics
Comic panels from Zebra Comics

We agree with your assertion on the internet attributing largely to the boom of the African comic book scenery. But, we cannot understate the hard work these guys put into their creations.

These creators and publishers sink a lot of effort, money, time and talent into every African comic out there. Our point is, the boom of the comic industry is also attributable to a upgrade in art, storytelling and marketing strategies.

On our part, we do not discriminate, out forum is open to every single creator or publisher. As long as publishers or creators do not cut corners or steal from others, we are ready to do anything to help you push your title in our forums.

Is there a viable future for African comics or is it a fad?

In our opinion, the African comics industry is off to a walking start. That walking start is gradually settling into a running pace. The future is bright and creators have to realize that they are creating for an audience that lives and breathes.

African comic book fans have been reading high-quality comics from Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Shounen Jump, Image Comics etc. African creators need to continue to step up their game and maintain quality art and stories to level the playing field.

What are your aspirations for African comics?

Squid Mag co-founder Kofi Sydney Asare holding up a copy of the Kugali Anthology and a leaflet for the award-winning Lake of Tears graphic novel
Squid Mag co-founder Kofi Sydney Asare at the first Pa Gya Literary Festival in Accra

Our aspiration is not so lofty, we only want all our members to one day discuss African Comics the same way they discuss foreign comics. This is an absolutely difficult task given the diversity inherent in our membership but, we believe in African Comics!

We’ve had some trouble reviewing African comics. As a fledgeling industry, how best do you think comics should be reviewed, if at all? What advice do you have for us?

Comics Must ALWAYS be reviewed. Feedback must never stop flowing to the creators. But, we realize some creators do not want honest feedback and this trend needs to stop.

To be in the public eye is to be liked and disdained, but if the creator keeps their course and stays true to creating great comics, feedback should be an absolute joy for them even when bad. We think you guys at Squid Magazine are doing a refreshingly good job. Please maintain your course, we believe in you!

What are your top 5 comics; African and the rest of the world?

Cover of Kwezi issue 6
Kwezi, a popular South African comic by Loyiso Mkize

Lol, this is hard. The Comic Meltdown is a group made of diverse people with diverse preferences in comics. We might not be able to avail you with a Top 5 list, but we can at least tell you about some comics we thought were great. Please, this list is not arranged in an order of preference:

African Comic Reading Suggestions

  • Kwezi by Kwezi Comics
  • Metalla by Comic Republic
  • AEGIS by Epoch Comics
  • Mlezi (Chronicles of NewBornSaga Rise of the Mlezi) by Peda Studios
  • Oro by MAD Studios.

International Comics Reading Suggestions

  • Planet Hulk & World War Hulk by Marvel Comics
  • Irredeemable by Image Studios
  • Flashpoint Paradox by Dc Comics
  • The Shadow by Dynamite Comics
  • Invincible by Image Comics

Conclusion

The Comics Meltdown is a great example of using technology through social media to build a community around a cause.  The Comics Meltdown knows no geographical boundaries and is not limited to only Nigerians. It is open to everyone. In fact, according to the admins, it is not open to only humans; Kryptonians, Daxamites, Skrulls, Guardians and other non-terrestrial races are welcomed. Join this vibrant Facebook community on Facebook.

Other Facebook communities worth mentioning are the Comexposed, Kugali, Squid Mag’s own Comic Makers Association of Ghana (CMAG) and the Association of Comic Makers of Nigeria (ACMON).


About the Comics Meltdown

The Comics Meltdown Group is an online community of comic book, manga and graphic novel lovers who use it as a haven to discover, show love and share opinions on the storytelling medium. The group was started by Akintoba Kalejaye, Bodunrin Oye, Marcel Akerele, Wale Awelenje, Kingsley Okoh, Ilesanmi Kalejaye, Edward(Kal) Ogbebor, Femi Leo Irojah, Jummai Ekele, Theresa Adevokai, Dapo Olasiyan, Olawale Ajao, Obi Eze.