Dark Horse Comics has announced a partnership with YouNeek Studios that will bring the creative studio’s McDuffie Award-nominated Youniverse of African-inspired superheroes to the publisher. The deal will see Dark Horse reissue YouNeek’s previously-released graphic novels, and publish new books in the line, with a total of ten titles to be published by Dark Horse.
Founded by Roye Okupe in 2012, YouNeek Studios has developed a universe of characters and stories inspired by the history and mythology of Africa, in stories told by African creators. Okupe’s three previously-published books — Malika: Warrior Queen, Iyanu: Child of Wonder, and E.X.O.: The Legend of Wale Williams — will all receive new editions that include previously unseen material. New titles to come out of the partnership will likely include previously-announced YouNeek books including Windmaker: Birth of a King and the team-up book The Oloris: Heroes Will Unite.
In the statement announcing the partnership, Okupe and Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson talked about the importance of bringing stories featuring characters from underrepresented communities to a wider audience:
“What we are trying to do over the next few years is create a compelling and immersive universe with our own twist. How? Well, the YouNeek YouNiverse is a massive, interconnected universe of sci-fi, fantasy and superhero content spread across multiple timelines with stories told from an African perspective. Is this ambitious? Yes. Is it impossible? Not at all.” Roye Okupe stated “With this monumental partnership with Dark Horse and the impeccable history, support and infrastructure they bring to the table, we will finally be able to achieve our ultimate goal: create, for a global audience, content that empowers African creatives and storytelling.”
Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson added, “YouNeek Studios is unlike anything in American comics today. Roye has brought together a host of amazing African talent, telling African stories and Dark Horse is honored to help further their reach.”
The Okupe-driven Youniverse is the latest superhero line for Dark Horse. The publisher is already home to Mike Mignola‘s Hellboy universe, as well as Jeff Lemire‘s Black Hammer-verse. The former of those has already seen multiple media adaptations, while the latter is in the process of being adapted. It wouldn’t be surprising if Dark Horse Entertainment, the publisher’s film and TV wing, has eyes on bringing the Youniverse to the screen at some point.
Check out descriptions, release dates, and covers for the three previously-released YouNeek Studios books below. The first releases under the partnership between Dark Horse and YouNeek, Malika: Warrior Queen, will arrive in stores this fall.
In Malika: Warrior Queen, Malika inherits the crown from her father, but in the process the kingdom of Azzaz is split in half. After years of civil war, Malika finally unites all of Azzaz, expanding it into one of the largest empires in all of West Africa—but expansion will not come without its costs. Malika: Warrior Queen arrives September 7 2021 and is available for pre-order now.
Iyanu: Child of Wonder, the tale follows a teenage orphan with no recollection of her past. Suddenly Iyanu discovers that she has abilities that rival the ancient deities told in the folklore of her people. It is these abilities that are the key to bringing back an “age of wonders,” and Iyanu must begin her journey to save a world on the brink of destruction. Iyanu: Child of Wonder Volume 1 arrives September 21, 2021 and is available for pre-order now.
E.X.O.: The Legend of Wale Williams Volume 1 is an Afrofuturist superhero story about redemption set in the bustling metropolis that is Lagos, Nigeria. Wale Williams, who moonlights as the tech savy superhero E.X.O tries to save the city from a deadly group of emerging extremists, but first he must save himself. E.X.O.: The Legend of Wale Williams Volume 1 arrives October 19, 2021 and is available for pre-order now.