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Nigerian Animators Are Bringing African Superhero Comics to Life

Lagos-based Vortex Comics is committed to telling stories that appeal to a real, African readership.

by Catherine Chapman
23 November 2016, 4:50pm

All images courtesy of Vortex Comics

When Strike Guard debuted, the Nigerian comic about a young man bestowed with superpowers living in crime-ridden Lagos was one of the first of its kind. "Strike Guard is deeply grounded in both culture and the contemporary African lifestyle," Somto Ajuluchukwu, Creative Director of Vortex Comics, the startup behind Strike Guard, tells The Creators Project. "You see the comic and you see the life of an adolescent African boy who is struggling with his spirit powers and new life. I believe people connect with that.”

By bringing the ten-issue series to life, Vortex Comics is diversifying an industry historically dominated by South African artists, giving voice to the creative minds living and working in Nigeria today.

Founded in Lagos in 2013, Vortex Comics aims to foster that country's illustration industry, but though the company is committed to creating characters relatable to ordinary Africans, a lack of creative infrastructure within Nigeria makes it difficult to bring that goal to life. “There are so many brilliant ideas but the industry here in Africa is largely underfunded,” Ajuluchukwu says. “This is the biggest problem in our industry. The opportunities, however, are infinite, both socially and financially. It was a Herculean task for us to raise funding, but we pushed through.”

Despite myriad challenges, however, Vortex Comics recently succeeded in producing an animated short film based on Strike Guard, which premiered at this year’s Lagos Comic Convention. The 9-minute piece takes its storyline from Beads of Fury, the first installment in the Strike Guard series, and it's drawing global recognition for animators living and working in Nigeria today.

The animated video version of Strike Guard was created in partnership with SPOOF! Animation, the creative studio behind Area Daddy, a popular video series about a social media-inept father figure. Other notable titles to emerge from the Nigerian animation scene include Rat Race and Turtle Taido, to name a few. But increasing the number of Nigerian-made animated series is hindered by challenges like high production costs and the tendency to outsource work to other countries.

“Our focus is not to be the first,” Ajuluchukwu says. “The idea is to break the ceiling for the industry and watch the tidal wave come in as it booms, like Nollywood today.”

Vortex is in the midst of developing a full-length animated series for television, to be broadcast both on local and Pan African television (DStv). They’re also committed to training the next generation of animators through Vortex Academy, which offers classes on illustration, coding, creative thinking, and graphic design. In 2017, Vortex will teach a semester-long class at the University of Lagos. “Kids need to be able to go to university, here in Nigeria, and study animation,” Ajuluchukwu says. “It’s currently non-existent, and we want to change that.”

In May 2016, the Nigerian government recognized its booming animation sector and several publications reported that Montreal-based company Toon Boom would sponsor the training of at least 3,000 Nigerian animators. “There should be schemes that grow the commercial industry in Lagos,” Ajuluchuwku says. “Our primary issue is not the technical know-how but funding the industry and sustainable wealth amongst industry players.”

To learn more about Vortex Comics and Strike Guard, click here.

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