Towards the end of 2016 Enigma Comix Africa went from a sole creator to a handful of talents working on multiple titles. A simple but effective look into the practice of collaboration and collaborative spirit that has been missing from comic creation throughout southern Africa as we know it.
Creative teams working on a single book aside, it opened up a door that had all been forgotten about in a world of superhero team-ups on the silver screen.
In terms of the Zimbabwean comic book scene, one of the oldest and most notable characters is Umzingeli The African Bounty Hunter. She stands as one of the founding pillars that served as the springboard for what would become the comic book buzz, conventions and digital art debates going forward to the present day.
Umzingeli has been featured in the news in countless conversations about superheroism in Africa, having headlined an Al-Jazeera documentary on African comics and eventually got her own solo published book by Enigma Comix Africa. She is without a doubt an icon for the comics being created in southern Africa to aspire to.
A different character that was created in the wake of the comic book boom, standing as one of the youngest intellectual properties in Zimbabwean comic books is Razor-Man. Holding the belt for longest running comic book series, appearing in several news publications as well as being selected for publication in the Kugali comic book anthology, the character is fast growing in popularity and with time will reach the status of Umzingeli.
What is fascinating and important to note is that these characters created by different people, set in their own worlds and ultimately the protagonists of their own stories presently exist within the same universe. When Enigma Comix Africa evolved from a single creator, their creative potential escalated almost exponentially with the possibility of these two heroes meeting.
For a scale of reference, this is when King Kong met Godzilla for the first time and more similarly when Batman met Superman all those years ago in their first crossover publication.
The nature of this meet up is unique compared to other comic books across Africa. This is because, Nigeria – which has the largest market share of comic books in Africa – usually rolls out several characters at once. Their presence within each others’ stories casts no doubts. In fact, Vortex Comics launched a shared universe in Spirit Wars while Comic Republic Media does this through Hero Kekere. While this makes for easier storytelling, it doesn’t come with the spark of something brand new.
This absorption of intellectual properties is not unfamiliar territory but does propose uncharted waters for newly established and developing markets in the field. Sharper minds would see this as an opportunity to invest in characters created locally, what’s a complicated scribble with notes in the back of a book today could become a headlining success tomorrow.
The first crossover between Razor-Man and Umzingeli arrives in Razor-Man V3 issue 13 and is set to become an instant collectors issue.
About Bill Masuku
Bill Masuku is a young comic book artist and writer from Zimbabwe creating stories that capture social issues in a fantasy and sci-fi light. He is the creator of Captain South Africa and Razor Man which has featured in the Kugali Comics Anthology. Follow him on Instagram @billmasukuart