I love super heroes and heroines, especially accidental ones (think Peter Parker and Hulk). There is something gratifying about a fellow regular folk who suddenly comes into supernatural power and uses it for the good of the community or mankind. In the western world, such a fellow is usually pitted against big evil pharma or big evil tech corp. Exhilarating stuff indeed!
It’s easy to see how intentional the creators of these western comics are. They have an agenda and they are there to deliver; storytelling being their vehicle. It may not always have started out this way but the second comic characters became national celebrities (now global celebrities, since Emeka in Umualuwaku can angrily tweet about how Robert Pattinson could possibly be the worst choice for Batman), the creators became deliberate in making these saviours…and their antithesis.
In Nigeria, among American comic enthusiasts, you are either a Marvel or DC fan. You only find a few straddling both. So it’s no surprise to me when I come across certain Nigerian superhero stories inspired by some western comics.
Of course, they are well crafted and are always nice to read but there is always something missing. I wouldn’t call it originality because come on, we always build on existing knowledge, therefore we are bound to find some streaks of similarities in bodies of art.
What I find missing is ‘intentionality’. As much as it feels good to read about Nigerian comic characters who accidentally come into supernatural powers, I’m always left bereft of any sense of responsibility and patriotism that should usually come with these sort of comics.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t propose flying the green white green flag in every page or singing the national anthem in every dialogue so as to give a sense of patriotism. The western comic character speak to their era and environment unlike ours which seems to be trying to force a character which doesn’t suit our reality. We may all be in 2020 but the reality of the 2020 in USA differs from that of Africa. This I fear, isn’t considered when we make character bibles of our comic saviours.
Let’s take a look at Batman. If you ask me, I would say Batman is a superhero who resonates with Nigerians. Look at his city, Gotham, and compare it with the present Nigeria. Eerily similar without the tech advanced part. Bruce Wayne is a wealthy man with access to advanced tech equipment and the upper crust of Gotham. This means he is privy to information that aids his decision and fuels his heroic clandestine purpose.
In my opinion, creating an accidental superhero who by virtue of his or her class status cannot influence, have access to the elite and political class who suck the masses dry, really does nothing for me. Although, he or she cannot continue to be confined to his or her backyard, there is a great need for us to see growth (swathed with human flaws). Picture this: an accidental shapeshifter who lived his or her whole life in a slum discovers that he or she can get into Aso Rock for a presidential banquet undetected because he or she can shapeshift into the Vice President or even a Chief of Staff. The shapeshifter (after tying up the real Vice P resident…or Chief of Staff) attends the banquet and seems to know everyone or every topic. How? Does shapeshifting also come with memory shifting? He or she fits in and completes mission in no time, in a place he’s/she’s never been to. How?!
Sometimes I think we are carried away trying to get to different points in a story and end up neglecting the details of the journey to those points. Details matter!
How did the shapeshifter learn the mannerisms or speak a different tribal accented Nigerian English? Batman is who he is because of who Bruce Wayne is!
If we are to create a superhero, we also need to take a look at the economics and politics of the time. I believe it is more realistic and relatable for a Nigerian superhero to fight our own special evil corp – bad leaders in government and public offices. They are the ones we need saving from. We need our own kind of super hero who fights institutional corruption, one that exposes their shady plans and dealings to the masses. We need a saviour that can push us into asking questions because the questions he or she asks, reflects our reality.
Written by Adachukwu Onwudiwe.
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