The second volume of Nigerian creators Roye Okupe and Godwin Akpan’s Iyanu: Child of Wonder – co-published by YouNeek Studios and Dark Horse – won Best Graphic Novel at Africa’s 2022 Nommo Awards over the weekend. The ceremony was livestreamed September 2 as part of the Chicago WorldCon event.

Nommo 2022

The Nommos are an annual award bestowed by the African Speculative Fiction Society. Works are nominated across four categories – novel, novella, short story and graphic novel – and voted upon by the ASFS membership. The aim of the awards is to support the work by Africans in the wide field of speculative fiction published in Africa and around the globe. Nommo Awardees receive a US dollar sum of $1000 in the Novel and Graphic Novel categories, and $500 in the Novella and Short Fiction categories.

The YA graphic novel series Iyanu: Child of Wonder is a historical fantasy tale of a young orphan in the Yorubaland of the distant past. It was YouNeek’s first graphic novel featuring a teenage protagonist and, in July, was greenlit to become an animated series on Cartoon Network and HBO Max.

At the Nommo 2022 Awards ceremony, YouNeek founder, CEO and Iyanu writer, Roye Okupe said:

“This is a huge honour for myself and Godwin. Iyanu is a huge project that is special not just to myself but I feel like the global audience that has really come out to support us – not only on Kickstarter but also in having an HBO and Cartoon Network show in development. This is something that is a huge deal not just for myself and Godwin but African creators all over the world. We’re incredibly honoured to receive this award for Iyanu volume 2.

He added:

“I just want to tell everybody, to all the fans, that we’re going to keep on creating great projects and we’re going to keep honouring Africa and the African diaspora and that is something that is very special to me and I know it’s very special to Godwin. Thank you again so much, for this, for everybody that voted. It’s a huge honour and I don’t take it for granted.”

Artist Godwin Akpan,

“Like my colleague Roye said, this is a huge honour for everyone and especially me because I’ve actually worked a lot on this project and to see it come to the stage where we’re actually acknowledged and then recognised for the hard work that we’ve done – it’s a really big delight for us.”

Iyanu: Child of Wonder is part of a 10-book publishing agreement between YouNeek Studios and Dark Horse Comics that was signed in 2020. Iyanu: Child of Wonder vol 1 released in the US on September 22, 2021; Vol 2 will release September 14, 2022.

Dark Horse tweeted,

YouNeek Studios has been in existence since 2015 and was founded by Roye Okupe. It is a Nigerian multimedia company with involvement in comics and animation, and an ambition to create its own fantasy-superhero universe inspired by African history, culture and mythology.

Later in the ceremony Roye Okupe, who is based in the US, talked further about YouNeek Studios, their rising profile, and Iyanu.

“It is exciting to see the response from everybody across the globe – not just here here in the US or parts of Africa. When it comes to the specificity of African culture, it’s not just something that’s exciting to us Africans. People around the world want to see what we have to offer as it pertains to entertainment, as it pertains to music, as it pertains to movies, TV, animation, comic books. So it’s really a great time to be an African creator, and Iyanu, I think, that’s one of the reasons why – apart from it being a great story – it’s also one of the reasons why people have embraced it so much.”

Roye Okupe also talks about how instrumental his artistic partner Godwin Akpan has been on not just Iyanu but the visual development of YouNeek’s creative output – as character designer, cover designer and more.

“2015 is when I unofficially started YouNeek Studios (officially the company was registered in 2016). It’s funny Godwin and I have been working ever since then. He has been very instrumental in getting us to where we are today. One of the things that a lot of people don’t know is that Godwin designed 95% of the covers for all the YouNeek Studios comics. He’s also helped design a lot of characters for YouNeek Studios. So he hasn’t just worked on Iyanu. I know Iyanu is his ‘baby’, as he likes to call it, I also want to give Godwin a huge shout out and I’ll let people know that this company is just more than Roye – there’s also people like Sunkanmi Akinboye, Toyin Ajetunmobi, Ayodele Elegba. There’s a lot of Nigerian talent that has helped us get to the point that we are.

“It’s very rewarding to see over the years our hard work being rewarded – not just by getting the Nommo Award but also other things now like getting to have a huge fan base with Dark Horse, seeing the work that we’ve been working on for so long, and the future is very exciting.

“I encourage YouNeek fans to please continue to support us, please continue to go out there and grab the books in the stores because you are the one that has gotten us to this point and you are the ones that will keep taking us to the next level.”

The Nommo Award’s 2022 graphic novel shortlist was unusually slim – at only two books passing the strict eligibility criteria. The only other eligible title was Awele Emili’s slice-of-life The iJournal webcomic. The two-book list was the shortest graphic novel list since the awards began in 2017 – previous years have seen the category’s shortlist range in size from four titles in 2017, to eleven in 2019.

The eligibility criteria for the Nommo Awards are rather strict, requiring nomination only by the membership with no author or publisher direct involvement in terms of submission. Works need to be authored or significantly co-authored by a person from (or directly related to) a country on the African continent.

Below are the nominees and winners of the 2022 Nommo Awards in full.

Best Novel

  • WINNER: The Library of the Dead, T.L. Huchu (Tor)
  • They Made Us Blood and Fury, Cheryl S. Ntumy (Amazon KDP)
  • The Gilded Ones, Namina Forna (Delacorte Press)
  • Son Of The Storm, Suyi Davies Okungbowa (Orbit)
  • Far From The Light Of Heaven, Tade Thompson (Orbit)
  • The Madhouse, TJ Benson (Masobe Books)

Best Novella

  • WINNER: Remote Control, Nnedi Okorafor (Tor/Forge, Tordotcom)
  • The Future God Of Love, Dilman Dila (Luna Press)
  • Not Seeing Is A Flower, Erhu Kome (Eraserhead Press)
  • An Exploration Of Nichole Otieno’s Early Filmography (1232-1246), Kola Heyward-Rotimi (Strange Horizons, September 2021 issue)
  • The Abomination, Nuzo Onoh (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September-October 2021 issue)

Best Short Story

  • WINNER: Masquerade Season, ‘Pemi Aguda (Tordotcom)
  • The Brother, Makena Onjerika (Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World ed. Eric J Guinard; Dark Moon Books)
  • Shelter, Mbozi Haimbre (Short Story Day Africa Prize, Disruption: New Short Fiction from Africa; Catalyst Press/Johannesburg Review of Books)
  • O2 Arena, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (Galaxy’s Edge)
  • And This Is How To Stay Alive, Shingai Njeri Kagunda (Fantasy Magazine, November 2020 issue)
  • Dreamports, Tlotlo Tsamaase (Apex Magazine, December 2021 issue)
  • The Many Lives Of An Abiku, Tobi Ogundiran, (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #309, July 2021 issue)
  • An Arc Of Electric Skin, Wole Talabi (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine September 2021 issue; Reprinted Apex Magazine, April 2022 issue)

Graphic Novels

  • WINNER: Iyanu: Child of Wonder Vol. 2, Roye Okupe & Godwin Akpan, (YouNeek Studios and Dark Horse Comics)
  • The iJournal, Awele Emili (self-published webcomic)