“The most important thing that Black Superheroes do is help African people to see themselves as powerful and beautiful,” says comic book creator Akinseye Brown. Brown is the creator and owner of Sokoya Comics whose mission, since its inception in 2006, is to create the best stories and characters within African science-fiction / Black sci-fi. When asked what he means by the term “African science-fiction,” Brown describes it as:
“It is simply good storytelling whose narrative uses elements of technology, science, spirituality fantasy and mystery, to connect and reconnect the reader/audience with their African culture through past, present and future.”
Brown explains that African science-fiction must have at its base “a firm grasp of African culture to which the African audience can recognize and culturally relate.” Brown theorizes that the ability to relate to heroes causes the audience to see themselves as heroes. And, if people see themselves as s/heroes, they then begin to act as someone who is responsible for bringing good to the world. Thus, heroes, in Brown’s view, must have lofty morals and ethics, which the audience can look up to and hopefully emulate. Brown’s Sannkofamaan comic book comes to mind in this regard. Sannkofamaan, who has the superhuman power to physically replicate himself into hundreds of men, is the protagonist in a story about a talented African-American physicist named Dr. Derek Daren, who on a trip to Ghana, West Africa, becomes a Pan-Africanist and is soon compelled to help and unite African people worldwide. Within the storyline, Brown uses actual African countries, cities and socio-political subject matter to create environments where only African heroes would dare to venture. In his first story arc Sannkofamaan finds himself in the trenches of the Niger Delta, actively fighting against tyrannical multinational oil companies that are attempting to destroy a small local society of fictional Nigerian people. However, the subject, as many of you know, is not fictional at all. The real life oil giant Shell has had its run-ins with the Ogoni people of Southeastern Nigeria, and usually at the expense of the Ogonis.
Brown offers that, “Black superheroes have the power to teach and enlighten us about various African issues, both in world politics and at home.” Under the banner of “Digital Comics,” found on the www.sokoyacomics.com website, we are introduced to Brown’s first attempt at an African family in science-fiction. He calls the story, Dr. Abiola. This light-hearted read stars Omodele and Olusaanu Abiola, young married doctors in outer space hailing from the Alkebulan Galaxy System. Their adventures are meant to emphasize the importance of self-exploration, treating ourselves well and visualizing a positive and successful African future filled with African created space vessels, scientific and technological advancements.
Brown not only has plans for more comic book titles and online digital strips but also short films projects. However, with an industry that has been inundated by superheroes in film and television, how does Brown plan to separate Sokoya Comics from the rest of the heap? Brown says, “The power behind my superheroes is that they have absolutely nothing to do with what the “West” and America is used to seeing in Black lead characters. My stories are about characters who see themselves as Africans, not as “people of color,” not as Americans or British who happen to have brown skin. My characters see themselves as Africans who have a history, a culture and a future totally open for us to design for ourselves.”
Brown’s most notable work, How To Draw African Superheroes (HTD) vol. 1 creates an avenue for budding artists to design the future of science-fiction storytelling. This one-of-a-kind workbook assists artists, writers and comic book fans in imagining and creating their own African heroes and stories. Having had such a positive response to HTD vol. 1, Brown plans to have HTD African Superheroes vol. 2 available for order on his website by summer 2011.