• Monday, June 24, 2024
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Comic Republic partnership with US-based studio to project African stories globally – Martin

Comic Republic partnership with US-based studio to project African stories globally – Martin

Following a partnership deal between Comic Republic, a Nigerian online multimedia company, and an American Television Production company, Universal Content Productions (UCP), a division of Universal Studio Group (USG), Jide Martin, chief executive officer (CEO) Comic Republic, in this interview, with ZEBULON AGOMUO spoke on his passion for and journey through comic book production. He also spoke on the implication of the partnership, expressing the optimism that it would take rich African stories to the Global big screen. Excerpts:

Congratulations on Comic Republic’s partnership deal with Universal Studio. This is really very exciting. May we know a little bit about the partnership?

For years, we were trying to break through into the international market and we started reaching out to international studios because the major goal of selling our story was to put our African narrative on every screen worldwide. We knew that an international studio has the capacity to enable us to achieve that goal. The end goal is to be able to build our own capacity to be able to do it later. All of the studios demanded that we go get agents. We immediately reached out to the best agency. Fortunately, we got represented by the biggest agency in the world. From there, they took us to many other studios before we landed the deal with Universal Studios.

The reason we picked Universal Studio was because a lot of studios wanted ownership; the valuation was very low but Universal was more interested in the creators owning their own brands, the IP. And so we signed with them. They were able to give us a creative lead to lead the development process in terms of TV and film. They promised that they would give us the opportunity of the space to tell our authentic African stories. Everything was just so right. We were so excited because Africans are now going to see the world of rich African stories on the big screen globally. It is an amazing time to be African.

How did Comic Republic start? What is the single idea behind its establishment?

I grew up on Superheroes. As far as I can remember I have always wanted to draw. But it really manifested when I started talking to my friends about superheroes. And everybody was like “Black people like us cannot be superheroes for the white people.” As for me, I wasn’t a big fan of what people said or what mummy or daddy said. I wanted to be like Batman and Superman as well. No matter how powerful he was, Superman would always want to help people just like Batman would actually go to great lengths to also help people. And that was my moral compass. I felt I needed to create an icon for myself and my friends. So from school, I started drawing comics. Fast-forward to a few years later, no matter what I did in school, no matter what kind of business I did, I always wanted to go back home and draw and make comics. And then it became superheroes since. Most of the blockbuster series and the very popular series were superhero series. And I thought “Why can’t we create that for Nigeria?” That was when I made up my mind that I was going to take all of the money I was making from my different businesses and try and create this.

How did the other ventures you had in the past help to prepare you for this journey?

My creative journey and my journey through different careers gave me all the skills I needed to be able to run a company. I studied law at the Obafemi Awolowo University. That honed my need for principles and guidelines. It basically prepared me for a structured environment. And then starting a fashion business I learnt how to start, develop and market a product and how to get the appreciation of people on a particular product and helped me learn the importance of processes on how to come up with an idea on something as simple as an outfit and getting people to buy it. So, all of that kind of honed my skill and experience in developing a business and a product like a comic book. You know it’s all art if you ask me. I was vast in the service delivery business and that pushed me to be able to create a product and to focus on the product being appealing to people worldwide.

Read also: Inside Henkel Nigeria’s journey of success & community empowerment

The comic business is not really big in Nigeria that can attract the interest of entrepreneurs. So what were the initial bottlenecks that you needed to overcome?

The first challenge was to make people believe in that product itself. I was coming from a community that didn’t even recognise the product I was getting into. But I knew it was possible. All great inventions were deemed impossible, unnecessary, and silly until they were made; and I could give a list. So I had that foreknowledge. I thought I first needed to convince people that comic was a necessity in Nigeria.

The second challenge I encountered was how to distribute. There were no proper distribution networks then, such as roads, among others. That was in 2013. Fortunately, there was the Internet. People had started jumping on Facebook, Youtube, and other social media platforms at that time. Eventually, I figured from the get-go that we were not going to do physical distribution. We were going to use social media to distribute our comics. Of course, there is the infrastructure problem we all face, in terms of power, etc.

The biggest problem of all was the skill; how to train people on a product that does not exist. Training young creatives was the longest and hardest journey. First, they need to believe in themselves. Secondly, develop the skills necessary to service the world. And then most importantly to fit into processes and procedures in order for us to create an industry that the world will come to respect.

Tell us about your comic characters. Which is the first one that berthed?

The very first character that Comic Republic produced, which I created, is the character called Guardian Prime. It is my favourite and the flagship character of Comic Republic. Coincidentally, he wears the colours of the Nigerian flag – green, white, green. For me, like I said I wanted to inspire the next generation. I wanted to inspire Africans and Africans in the diaspora and then show the world that despite the way the world perceives us because of the colour of our skin, we have the capacity to do good. We are beyond the limitations they see in us. And so The Guardian Prime is the perfect man; he is man as God created him to be. He is the human element of the five elements that are necessary for existence. He is only as strong as he believes he is. His self-belief powers his strength. He can fly as fast as he believes. As long as he has faith in himself and he can literally overcome anything as he draws his powers from God. The moment he starts to doubt himself he becomes weak. For us that was supposed to be the icon that would show human beings and he happens to be Nigerian. It is an indication that you can be whoever you want to be as long as you believe in yourself.

Are they global or Nigerian stories

Our stories are more global but they originate from indigenous sources. We focus on indigenous elements. We have always told people we don’t just want to be seen as a Nigerian comic company. We want to be seen as a comic company that happens to be Nigerian but focuses on indigenous sources and has indigenous inspirations. What that means is that we draw our inspiration from everyday Nigerian lives and everyday African lives. We draw inspiration from our traditional myths, our gods, and the things we believe in generally. So, literally, you will find something you can connect with as a Nigerian and as an African in our books. But we create it for our global audience, even though it is of national standards. So, anyone in any part of the world will be intrigued and want to find out what the story is about. So we put Africa’s best foot forward.

Talking about myths and legends, sometimes some of these stories are perceived to be diabolical. Does that pose any challenge to you?

Unfortunately, there is the perception that anything originally African is diabolical. And that complicates things. We have been brainwashed to believe that our traditions are diabolic. For example, we have a character called Aje. Aje, traditionally, is a female white hero; most people don’t know that. It was the colonialist who gave it another meaning and concept when they came to Nigeria. This was due to the fact that their society was largely patriarchal then and they wanted to use that to suppress women. She is a good-natured queen whose job is to heal and help people.

Have you started speaking with Nigerian filmmakers in terms of collaboration, seeing the quality of characters you are creating?

Nigerian filmmakers have not started reaching out to us yet. But I know they will. I still feel like the Nigerian filmmakers are still basically trying to attend to the Nigerian audience. However, we have reached out to a number of Nigerian studios who are excited and are waiting to jump on board.