“Look! Up in the sky. It’s a bird… It’s a plane … It’s Wale Williams?”
When we think of superheroes, iconic characters like Superman, Wonder Woman and Captain America often come to mind. Over the past few decades the world of comic books, specifically that of the superhero fantasy, has evolved from a niche pastime into a popular genre of mainstream interest. It is no wonder then that some of the highest grossing films in Hollywood in recent years have been live action adaptations of many popular superheroes stories.
Born and raised in Nigeria, Roye Okupe was no stranger to the superhero genre with some of his childhood favorites including Batman and the Transformers. However, it was not until he moved to Washington D.C at the age of 17 to pursue a degree in computer science that the idea to create a superhero character of his own came to be. Having always had an interest in animation, Okupe’s hobby led him to recognize that the world of superheroes, though diverse in its own right, was lacking in its portrayal of characters and storylines that were not centered on some futuristic or past version of American society. And thus Okupe’s brainchild, “E.X.O: The Legend of Wale Williams” was born.
Set in the fictional Nigerian city of Lagoon in 2025, this afro-futuristic graphic novel tells the tale of Wale Williams, a Nigerian man forced to return home after five years away to investigate the mysterious death of his father Dr. Williams, a brilliant nanoscientist and innovator. It is here that he stumbles upon an “Endogenic Xoskeletal Ordinance” nanosuit and the quest to find his father’s killers and save Lagoon City from the villainous organization known as the CREED begins.
Roye Okupe’s journey to creating his African superhero has not been without its challenges. In his interview with CNN’s African Voices, Okupe spoke of his initial struggles securing funding for his project with most investors apprehensive about backing a project set exclusively in Nigeria. However, rather than give up, Okupe chose to stay dedicated to his dream because this project is more than the simple realization of a childhood fantasy. He recognizes that it is high time that people began to pay attention to Nigeria and the African continent as a whole. This project has the potential to open up doors for the wealth of talent and creativity within the African continent to begin making its way into popular culture. Even the simple premise of a Nigerian nanoscientist as the plot’s driving force is an attempt by Okupe to challenge existing preconceptions about the continent and speaks to the current economic and technological boom taking place across Africa.
And with the release of Okupe’s first graphic novel this fall, the question now becomes, “Is the world ready for an African superhero?”