A panel at last years Lagos Comic Con
By Deji Bryce Olukotun
[Editor’s note: At The Beat we’re always trying to cover little known and emerging comics scenes, tus we’re excited to present this look at the Nigerian comics scene and this weekend’s Lagos Comic Con. For those who think Africa is all about ebola, think again.]
Nigeria may be wracked by Boko Haram and the threat of the dreaded Ebola virus, but the entertainment industry is booming in the largest economy in Africa. The Nigerian film industry, popularly called Nollywood, sells an estimated $800 million in mostly straight-to-video movies every year. What the films lack in production quality, they make up for in verve and melodrama–it’s hard not to get sucked into watching one if you happen upon one on television. The country also boasts a thriving independent press, and internet penetration is rapidly rising as the government pushes out broadband. Books, too, remain popular, led by the public intellectual and Nobel Prize Winner Wole Soyinka and the emergence of the national $100,000 NLNG Nigeria Prize– although a recent decision by the Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to place a crippling tax on imported texts has limited their availability. Piracy is also a problem. On my recent trip to Nigeria, I purchased a few CDs at what appeared to be a fancy music store and they all turned out to be pirated, and even the distributors of Nollywood films pirate the films they are supposed to be selling.
The comics scene in Nigeria has been thriving since the 1980s, but has yet to burst into the mainstream. There are tastes of what may soon emerge as youth in Nigeria fully embrace the internet—check out this sci-fi short on YouTube here, which includes an animated spaceship—but comics are still an emerging industry. On Friday, the third annual Lagos Comic Con will launch in the commercial capital of 20 million people. I corresponded with comics creator and co-founder Ayodele Elegba about the event, where we wrote about attractions, popular comics, Ebola, and cosplay.
Q: How did the Lagos Comicon get started?
Elegba: The Lagos Comic Con began in 2012 when I realized that the comic medium was not appreciated by the Nigerian public like it used to be in the 80s while I was growing up. I had previously published a newsletter to raise awareness about the scene but the response was low and people kept asking me where they could get comic books and if there were comics created by Nigerians. I wanted to debunk the myth and show people that Nigerian Comics do exist and that we have comic artists and writers here in Nigeria. That was when I decided to start the Lagos Comicon, with no funds but a dream to make it an international festival.
Q: What will you have at the event?
Elegba: This year the event is much bigger because we have included other genres of entertainment such as movies, games, and animations, which are like an extension of comic books. We will have a Comic Zone, where you can buy Nigerian Comics and meet African creators. We also have Nollywood Village: this is where you can buy Nigerian-made movies with an action/comics bent and meet A-list Nigerian film stars and music celebrities. We have the Game Zone, where we’ll run a competition this year called “Battle of the Game Lords,” where gamers will compete for a prize of over US$2000. We have an Arts and Culture Zone where we showcase fine arts, sculptures, paintings, and the beautiful culture of the Nigeria. We have a workshop session with 12 speakers who will talk about various genres of entertainment. Finally, we have the Kids Zone, where kids can play and have fun while their parents shop. We also have other segments like karaoke, exhibitions, dance performances and music performances from pop stars.
Q: What are some of the most popular themes in Nigerian comics (e.g. scifi, history, romance, adventure)?
Elegba: The most popular themes right now in Nigerian comics are magical or cultural, though we have superhero comics and military comics too.
Q: Are there any topics that you won’t find in other countries? For example, there is a series on President Goodluck Jonathan.
Elegba: Well Nigeria is unique, and there is a particular comic called Central Attack which deals with the issue of Boko Haram, the terrorist group in Nigeria.
[Interviewer’s Note: Central Attack depicts an elite government strike team that protects the country against the militant Islamic sect Boko Haram. You can read more about it here.]
Q: Who are the most popular comic book authors and writers?
Elegba: The most popular comic book artists are Ibrahim Ganiyu, Jide Olusanya, Stanley Obende, Mohammed Agbadi and many more. Writers include myself Ayodele Elegba, Wisdom Omon, Niyi, and Niran Adeniji.
Q: Piracy is a problem in Nigeria for fiction authors and for films. Is this an issue for comics in Nigeria?
Elegba: Right now there is no piracy in comics. Piracy dwells on the financial success of a products. Comics don’t have that yet.
Q: Will scares about Ebola cause any issues for attendance?
Elegba: I don’t think so. The Ebola scare has been well curbed by the Nigerian government and so far all cases of Ebola infections have been effectively quarantined and taken care of. We have also put in place measures for hand washing and sanitization at the event. We will be checking everyone’s temperature as they go into the hall.
Q: How is the internet affecting the comics scene in Nigeria? Can you buy local comics online?
Elegba: The internet is a developing media in Nigeria, but so far Nigerian comics are doing well. We have about five indigenous online comic stores in Nigeria now.
Will there be any cosplay?
Elegba: Sure, what’s a comic con without cosplay? There will be cosplay and there will be prizes for the winners.
[Deji Bryce Olukotun (@dejiridoo) is the author of Nigerians in Space, a thriller out now from Unnamed Press. www.returnofthedeji.com]