It has been a while since Comic republic released the first issue of Metalla the 13th. A work of pure genius and a title that I believe provides solutions to a few of the creative issues that the Nigerian comic book industry has had to face.
There has been a lot of controversy with regards to just how African African Superheroes are. I for one have been against African Superheroes from day one, mainly because I believe their very existence suggests that in order for Africans to be heroes… or awesome for that matter… they’ve got to dress, talk and act like some white guy.
I still stand firmly by this view especially when I put into consideration the fact that the Japanese created their own heroes and stories without necessarily following the American formula.
That said lately I have come to the realization that perhaps my own philosophy had flaws.The fact remains if African Art is truly going to be African then it should be protected from the corruption of certain European,American and even Japanese elements.
The problem with that suggestion however is that it is literally impossible to create our heroes, villains and stories in complete cultural isolation. Attempting to do so would just result in stories that are too static for anyone to enjoy and inevitably affect the quality of the final output. However that is no reason to succumb to the forces of creative colonization!
The fact is defining African today would be very different from defining African a few 100 years ago. Whether we like it or not European factors like colonization and the spread of western education have influenced our cultures extensively, so in a sense the current definition of Africa would be incomplete without European elements.
That said the question that arises next is…. what do we do?… what can we do? We can find the Balance. I continue to criticize characters like Guardian prime and the Extremes because they lean too far towards the west, in the end you can barely identify what’s really African about the stories. Some would argue Guardian prime’s costume is literally the Nigerian flag but that doesn’t really mean much if the only parallel between him and Superman is a change in color both skin and costume.
Metalla the 13th Addresses this issue in a subtle manner. Obviously technology has come a long way since the days of the old African empires and we can’t afford to represent Africans as a backwater bunch who aren’t progressing with the times, but we still have to make sure what makes us unique is captured in its splendor and glory!
Metalla does that marvelously , something I personally think EXO failed to do.We open up these books and we see heroes and villains who are black, but what makes them different from the likes of Miles Morales and John Stewart.
And before someone asks …yes there is a need for them to be different!….because those characters are a reflection of how that culture sees us…it’s time for us to paint a picture of how we see ourselves and how the world should see us but in order for us to do that properly it must be without dictation from foreign cultures and concepts.It is time the world really understood Africa and the only way that will happen is if her Writers and Artist also took time to truly understand her and unleash her for all to bear witness.