Comic Republic is bringing Nigerian Superheroes to the World Stage!
I can’t even tell you what age I was when I first became a fan of comic books and superheroes. Even in my earliest memories, I distinctly remember having Mego action figures of Batman, Robin, Superman, The Fantastic Four, and so on. I remember walking to the corner store with my older brother and our friends and using the change I collected to buy as many books as I could manage. My brother was a hardcore Marvel fan, so I grabbed the DC titles. I remember watching “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” and the “Super Friends” on Saturday morning.
The point is that for practically my entire life I’ve been an unapologetic, die-hard fan of all things “super”. So, seeing as I find it easier to count my years of fandom in decades rather than years, it’s not at all unexpected that very little that happens in comics surprises me.
Having said that, at this moment I’m completely fascinated by a new character, a Nigerian psychiatrist and parapsychologist named Eric Kukoyi who transforms each night into the hero Eru, the living embodiment of fear itself.
When I found out about Comic Republic, a new Nigerian comic book startup based in Lagos, I was more than curious. As I looked over the character bios on the site, Eru caught my eye right away. He was pictured along side other characters that were obviously heroes, like Guardian Prime, Ireti, and others. However, he had a dark, sinister look about him, even for an anti-hero.
Well, it was obvious. I was going to dive into his title first. Of course, being a seasoned and eclectic comic book fanatic, I made a few assumptions right away. After all, he was standing next to what looked to be a Superman archetype, so he’s probably the Batman of this universe. Or he could be the resident supernatural character, like Doctor Fate, Ghost Rider or Spawn. Certain that I knew what I was getting into, I opened the third issue of Eru since it was at the top of the page at the time.
After reading four pages, I stopped, re-read Eru’s character bio, re-read the first four pages, and still wasn’t sure what kind of character I was reading. Hero? Anti-hero? Villain? Is he saving this woman or scaring the bejeezus out of her? Are my eyes deceiving me, or was he dead in that first panel? I closed the third issue and instead opened the first. To get a firm grasp on this story, I’d need to start at the beginning.
Can I point out similarities between Eru and other characters? Sure. However, those similarities are only on the surface. Eru wasn’t presenting me with just the same old story of a dark hero. If I wanted to understand him, he’d require my full attention.
And that, my dear friends, is how Comic Republic hooked me.
The birth of Comic Republic
Sometimes it’s easy to say something “came out of nowhere” when we’re surprised by its sudden appearance. However, Comic Republic was years in the making. Its genesis can be traced to the imagination of CEO Jide Martin, a lifelong comic fan and entrepreneur.
When I read about Jide Martin as a six year old boy constantly drawing on anything he could get his hands on, even his text books and bedroom walls, it took me back to my own childhood. I can just imagine the worlds he created in his mind. The heroes, the villains, the epic stories he conjured up. I can relate to how he kept that imagination and passion while he read law at the University of Ife, and how he used his love of creativity to build an image consultancy firm.
Still, Jide Martin never lost his dream of starting his own comic company. So, one day while he was at his friend Wale Awelenje’s home playing video games with a few friends, the conversation lead to the formation of Comic Central Media, which would soon become Comic Republic. Their team began with Martin (CEO), Awelenje (Director), and former on-air radio personality Eduvie Oyaide (Head of Marketing & Corporate Communications), but quickly expanded, adding many skilled business professionals and award winning artists to their ranks.
Comic Republic sees two gaps in Nigerian society that they intend to fill. The first is a lack of quality comics, and the second being a decline in the reading culture of Nigerian youth. Having sampled the fruits of their labor myself, I’d say they are very much up to both of these tasks.
This desire to make a positive impact is readily apparent. As a child, Martin recalls modeling his behavior after the heroes he read about, often asking himself, “What would Superman do?” He wants his company to be a platform that instills a sense of confidence into today’s youth, promoting ethics, values, and creativity, showing them that they can achieve their dreams if they believe in themselves.
These desires can be readily personified in Comic Republic’s flagship character, Guardian Prime. As his bio reads, “Tunde Jaiye is the fifth element, one of the five essential elements on earth (earth, air, water, fire and man). He is the perfect man created how God intended man to be (in his image).”
Guardian Prime is definitely a Superman archetype, but instead of being an alien who is far beyond mankind, he is more the embodiment of everything humanity has the potential to be. He is the hero that exists in all of us, if only we had the courage to embrace it. It’s fitting that his greatest power, above his strength, ability to fly, or invulnerability, is the one power we can all wield: Faith.
A new Universe to explore…
As I said before, it’s hard to surprise me as a comic reader. Even the All-New, All-Different Marvel, which I do enjoy and does contain some interesting changes to continuity, has failed to deliver anything really new.
Comic Republic on the other hand, while using some familiar archetypes and tropes, is giving me some things I haven’t seen before, and that’s exciting! In fact, I actually can pinpoint the last time I was this excited for a new comics label. It was when a group of talented creators, Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Whilce Portacio and Chris Claremont, announced the formation of Image Comics.
So, my dear friends, I encourage you to explore the Comic Republic for yourself. I’ve barely scratched the surface when discussing the characters they’ve created, so there is still much for you to discover for yourself. Once you’ve sampled the stories Comic Republic has to offer, I think many of you will agree that these Nigerian superheroes are more than ready to take their place on the world stage. And, as always…