Sobolo in Squidtropolis – Conversations with MAD! Comics Writer, Hafeez Oluwa
The folks over at MAD Comics have got to be trans-dimensional wizards at teasing. They’ve dropped some snazzy, incredible and unapologetically gruesome art for their upcoming comic(s), Oro. The few hints they’ve dropped on the direction and story of the comic promise extraordinary fight scenes, glorious mythical beasts and a narrative that hops us into the reality of the ostracized.
We hang out with Hafeez Olusuwa, the writer behind the upcoming beauty(ies) deep in Squidtropolis over the weekend. What follows is the fun chat we had, split in three parts.
PART I :
SM: Who is Oro? What is Osita? Heck, what is the title? We ask because, you’ve called it different names in your promo.
Lol! We are MAD! comics (with the exclamation mark). Oro and Osita are different titles that will be released simultaneously, hence the simultaneous promotion. We are creating a universe – a bunch of independent stories, all interlinked. We have Oro, Osita and the Disciples just like how DC has Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman.
SM: Uh oh…we’re so lost. That wasn’t clear at all. Anyhow, what are the comics about?
Osita is a med student who discovers he can summon an ancient spirit of a war masquerade. The war masquerade is sought after by many sorcerers, for he who controls the war masquerade will be invincible. The story basically follows Osita as he comes to terms with controlling his Eku (masquerade) and using it to protect people.
SM: And the guy above?
Now, this guy is a prince who was born deformed, abandoned in the forest and raised by spirits. He is mentored by the spirit of a scarmarker (ancient weapon makers). He builds a powerful weapon called a Leech and protects the kingdom that rejected him.
But we are bringing both Oro and Osita to modern day Nigeria. The comics are going to be laced with social and political commentary, and very disturbing images.
SM: Scarmaker? Is this historical or purely imaginative?
SM: Do their stories occur simultaneously in the same comic timeline or in different centuries that are linked?
Oro and Osita occur in the same timeline, but in different parts of the country.
SM: Oh Interesting. Would we see an intersection of both comics in the future?
Yes of course. Where is the fun if that doesn’t happen?
SM: We like! There’s something to be said about the surge in African created comics inspired by the continent’s mythological lore that borders on stale and overwhelming (we see you Sango). Don’t get us wrong, we’re suckers for elaborate powers and epic battles and Oro feels like it might be different. Please prove us right.
I will give you 5 reasons why we would be different:
- The ART: Gbenle Maverick and Keshinro Oluwaseun pushed the boundaries on the art to keep it fresh and surprising. We have created a unique style that you won’t find anywhere else.
- The STORY: while Oro is based on African Mythology, it turns to fiction to keep it interesting. We drew villains from history books and the news, for example, the villain called Doctor is based loosely on a notorious criminal in the 70s. We are mixing things up, keeping it exciting. Osita is 100% fiction.
- We are R18; nudity, violence and the language is heavy. I think this a path, not many indigenous comic books have gone down.
| SM: How much of a market is there for this? Have you researched it?
Thing is, we’ve a widespread belief that comic books are for children but African comic book readers are majorly adults and we want to stop treating them like children. We can’t predict how people will react to it. But so far, we’ve been getting major love. Our portal, www.madcomics.ng will open soon. Meanwhile, people can subscribe as they wait to get the comics.
- No spandex. anybody wears spandex in my comic, they are killed in the second panel
| SM: P R O M I S E?
I cross my heart.
| SM: What do you have against it though?
We at MAD! don’t approve of spandex for black people lol. I don’t think it’s wrong, but we all have different tastes.
- We are breaking rules and trying new things, the first edition of Osita is a one location comic (meaning the entire episode takes place in one location). I know you have heard of one location movies. Yeah, we brought it to the comics and we promise a silent comic (no speaking characters, zero dialogue) before the series runs out.
Who are the major players in the comics?
We have introduced the main Villain in Oro, The Doctor. There is also the son of Death Omooku. Many more will spring up as the series moves along.
SM: Squirttastic! Can you give us their back story, something to ginger readers?
Wow! We would like the story to unfold to our readers gradually.
SM: A teeny bit? Pleaaaaaaase?
Okay, I will disclose a bit on Omooku, the son of death. He was previously put down by Oro. He is back from the grave for vengeance and he is brandishing Sango’s axe and the grim reaper’s sickle and would stop at nothing, until he avenges his death.
SM: Oh wow! You got us with the axe & sickle. What inspired the comics? Any cultural attachments? How long have they been in the making?
I once heard someone recite an Oro ewi (Yoruba poetry) and I have since been fascinated by the demi-god. This fascination led to my decision to tell my own version of the story.
SM: Is that the inspiration for both comics or just one?
I started writing Oro about 9 years ago. Other stories came to me along the way. I later connected dots to all of them and decided to make a universe.
SM: How far will the character base for MAD! Comics grow, considering your upcoming comics are based on Nigerian history? Also how far back does/will it go and is there a possible expansion to other cultures across Africa?
It’s not based on Nigerian history, but borrows some story elements from the past and the present, mixed with fiction. The characters will span the continent – North, West, East and South Africa.
SM: Cool. What’s the specific aim of the series? Is the intention to teach morals, or history, or to entertain?
Lol! What would an African comic book be without morals? But it’s subtle in this context. We also want to stir people towards researching themselves rather than becoming (the) research material. Our primary purpose however is to entertain.
Is this gonna be a (one-shot) graphic novel or a serial where other writers and artists take up the mantle?
We hope to make it a long lasting serial and then, I can afford to hire other writers to worry about the story for me and hire even more artists to assist my fabulous team.
SM: Do you have an in-house creative team or do you have freelancers and ghostwriters onboard?
SM: Are you looking to make money? If yes, how?
We are going to be a webcomic, so we would adopt their strategies. Plus, we hope to sell some special editions. We also look forward to people buying our merchandise.
SM: Okay, webcomics. Do you have any plans to make physical copies?
Yes, the special editions will be printed and available on other platforms.
SM: Most African comics we’ve seen so far serve the English speaking market. Any plans to expand to other languages?
Yes, actually! We hope to make the comics available in different languages that our black brothers speak.
SM: Sweet! What’s your vision for African comics?
I look forward to a future when African Comics will be one of our major cultural exports to the world. That’s why it is important for me that we are unique in our story telling and brand of humor.
SM: Tell us more.
The way I am excited to hear BANKAI! I want an American child to jump for joy at a Yoruba or African word.
I would also like to say that, we have fresh titles coming The winner of the recent Farabale Art Beat Challenge is part of the team and is working on a title called Disciples and the artist Tim Verrismo who doesn’t like to be spoken about.
Which other projects would you recommend we check out in the fields of comics, games and animation from the continent?
Oh wow, that’s a huge one! Avonome, Visionary: Ascension published by Comic Republic are my favorites at the moment, but I am a big fan of June XII and Dark Edge as well, published by Vortex Comics. Also check out Ali Akdogan and Iruo Emusu‘s mobile game, Throne of Gods.
Ebele Okoye Weber and I are also working on an animated feature, something I am very much looking forward to.
SM: Thanks for the recommendations. For our TRIOmphant series, kindly share your top three African creatives (across film, music, illustration, animation, photography, literature, fashion etc.)?
It’s hard to choose three. Let’s see, the late Cyprian Ekwensi, an author. For film, Eric Aghimien and CJ Fiery Obasi. They are bold enough to be different from their peers with the type of movies they make.
Awesome, thanks for your time Hafeez. We really appreciate you hanging out with us.
Thank you for having me.
Oro and Osita are scheduled for release twelve (12) days. Subscribe to MAD!’s mailing list to stay in the loop on all their releases here.
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