CULTURE + SPECULATIVE FICTION + ART = AGBARA

“Increased imagination, tolerance for and interest in diverse ideas, spiritualities, religions and people, as well as social awareness” capture speculative fiction writer, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu’s response on the impact of Africans embracing all storytelling genres. This is a most compelling answer, and for comic book lovers, Agbara does just that.

The Agbaraa comic is the needle and thread of Igbo culture and modernity. Agbara tells of a spirit’s earthly adventures as punishment for her refusal to chose sides in a war between angels and demons (and no, Dan Brown has nothing to do with it).

Created by the Kalu brothers, the comic is unapologetically African in outlook, celebrating indigenous religious practice in contention with modern misunderstandings and stereotypes, by supposedly progressive folk who should know better.

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Just like Nnedi’s response, Agbara especially calls for tolerance of diverse spiritualities, religions and people, and asserts co-existence between the new and old. It speaks of culture at a crossroads that instead of being disjointed, can be one and the same. Agbara demystifies African spirituality as a force for evil as popularly depicted in especially Nollywood movies and shows it isn’t at all different from what people associate with being better.

Agbara almost reads like a poetic Nigerian novel laden with proverbs that tug at your brain until you completely and joyously decipher them (the few times you can’t, you should consult a dictionary. It can be verbose sometimes). It is filled with suspense and also draws you in with its exploration of (im)mortality and human frailty.

Agabara is a real MVP who is being courted by both angels and demons. She’s fire and she’s ice. Being such a coveted gem, it’s no wonder she’s already inspired some beautiful cos play.

Cosplay by Siya Manikivana

Cosplay by Siya Manikivana from South Africa

She’s the kind of character girls can easily look up to. Her situation with the angels and demons is a subtle metaphor for the struggles girls might face while they school or start their careers. Is it the easy flamboyant path where souls are easily lost or is it the narrow and thorny, where success at best feels like a far fetched dream?

It is also representative of the inner turmoils many an African might face. Issues of identity, the temptation of blind copying to the detriment of our heritage; pervasive gullibility wearing a miracle and salvation mask that capitalizes on people’s fear and misunderstanding of the unknown.

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Agbara is published by Vortex Inc, a Nigerian creative content company. Vortex Inc. is championing the African narrative with its lineup of characters who breathe and eat as Africans would, as well as imagine new and exciting possibilities tailored to the African experience. Through its franchises, the young company hopes to export African culture to the world. A most noble mission that comic titles such as Agbara, Mumu Juju, Ojuju, Eternals and many more can achieve.

You can read Agbara here as well as Vortex’ array of beautiful stories here.

SS SPECIAL – BRITTANY LEWIS SHARES A SECRET (VIDEO)

Hi VX Lovers!

As we prepare to drop another cross-over comic series SECRET SOCIETY this is targeted at our alternative comic reader fan base featuring characters such as OJUJU, ANIKULAPO, RE-LEGION and a host of new exciting characters as a build up we are here again with our interviews of amazing talents that we are working on the project with globally. With us in the house is a powerful Afro-forward illustrator and digital artist. As a female in the art industry she inspires a generation like talent and stand out with her honest strong and detailed digital painting style.

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Brittany Lewis expressing her immortal technique at a Comic Con exhibition.

“I Think Its important that kids look up to character that look like them and tell thier story”

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B. Lewis at her work station while working on some SECRET SOCIETY SERIES Covers.

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Inspired by the Eyo, Ninzo & Okoroshi Masquerades Art by Britanny Lewis

WE LOVE MIKAEL QUITES, HERE’S WHY!

Since Mika joined our humble team alongside Ionut Mitrofan and Ameur Makloufi on the ETERNALS  project its been nothing short of joy in the VX family! Mikael is a talented digital artist of incredible detail and finesse, he has grown and worked in this industry for over a decade from the sizzling culture of Brazil.
He has a strong passion for the African – Caribbean culture. religions and society which burst out ferociously through his work and thats exactly how we fell in love with him!
Sharing A Coffee with Mika’
 
• Hi Guys, Tell us about your inspiration that drove you into art (How did it start) and also about your career so far, projects you’ve worked on etc.
My family has always supported me since the beginning. My mother worked for many decades as a painter and painting teacher, so I grew surrounded by her books, paintings, brushes. When I went to college, I picked a course that was related to art, Advertising, having graduated in 2009. My career has started many years ago with the internships I did and small projects art related, more or less in 2006. From 2010 to 2015 I worked in an advertising illustration studio called Fescher Neoilustração in my hometown, where I was responsible for the 3D area and many projects. Since then, I have been freelancing. I also received an invitation to be part of the artists’ gallery of the Yoruba inspired comic “Contos de Òrun Àiyé”, by the good friend Hugo Canuto, where I did my version of Yemoja.
• Who inspires you to push the boundaries like you do in illustration
 
Many people. Specially my family and girlfriend. Many artists out there inspire me, not only in my field, but also in writing, filmmaking, audio and music, game designs. Some names: Mike Mignola, H. R. Giger, Arthur C. Clarke, J. R. R. Tolkien, Stan Winston, the list goes on forever. I think that stories and artists that strive for originality and depth always inspire me, because those are some of my main pillars.
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• What have been the biggest challenges you faced as an illustrator
 
The biggest challenges have been to stay motivated and to always keep on studying. Also to find jobs and learn how to network and connect to people.
• What have been your most memorable projects  and why
A good memorable project was one I did when I worked at the studio, back in 2012. I was learning V-Ray (a 3D renderer) and we needed to make an illustration about a pesticide for BASF company. It required the whole team working on it for many weeks while constantly learning and testing. In the end it came out fantastic and earned many prizes. Besides that, several of my personal projects have many years, some about 10 on the road, and you really get attached to them because they are part of who you are. My “Grey Days” project is one of these.
• Have you created any characters of your own? (If yes tell us more, if no why?)
Yes, several. I have always loved traditional roleplaying games, this year it mark 20 years since I played the first time. So I have created many characters I have played and several more as a game master. World building and character creation are some of my favorite hobbies.
• Your advice to young illustrators out there
Always keep learning, especially the foundation (drawing, observational skills, gesture, anatomy). Don’t give up, just keep pushing without giving it much thought, like a kid. Surround yourself with like-minded people, preferably with those better than you. Work your portfolio remembering where you want to be and what you want to do. Your portfolio needs to be treated like a store, show what you can offer. And don’t be frightened to show your work and connect to people – that is extremely important!

All Hail The Queen Yemoja

“This is  an Original Mikael piece which we have shared rights to using as the costume for Yemoja and also at displays at our exhibitions round the globe”!
• Tell us about your art process!
First thing I do is to do a good research. I mean a really good research, not only in Google or websites but also in books, magazines, games and films. I really like to know about what I am going to depict, so I study deep, not only images, but the subject matter. Then, I usually do pencil or Photoshop studies. I have been more and more using 3D in all parts of the pipeline, so sometimes I also make 3D sketches in ZBrush or 3ds Max and take them to Photoshop. Depending on what’s needed, I do color variations too. Once the design is established and approved by the client, I proceed to the final version. It is extremely important to work from macro to micro, working the whole design and shapes before going to detailing and minor things, such as textures, highlights, etc. I show my process in my website and blog – www.mikaelquites.com
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• What was your favorite cartoon / comic growing up and what are they now?
I didn’t have THE favorite cartoon/comic, but here are some of them: cartoons – Ren & Stimpy, Batman – The Animated Series, comics – Spawn, Lobo. My favorite cartoon nowadays is still Ren & Stimpy and also Samurai Jack. As for comics, definitely Hellboy/ B.P.R.D. and also Harrow County.
Thats all folks hope you enjoyed and got enlighten by the interview with Mika, stay tuned for all the juicy gist on the VX and also keep your eyes peeled for the next ETERNALS comic release announcement!

SPANDEXED SPIRITS – EKUN SAVES STRIKE GUARD

Nigerian spirit heroes loooove their spandex.

Anyhow, whoop, whoop! I knew it! Remember that purpled character from the cover page I had hopes for? Turns out I wasn’t off the mark. He has come to the aid of our depressed, recently separated hero, Strikey. What’s more, he’s a fun and persistent cat.

While just a high schooler, he knows his stuff and seems to have been in the hero business from birth. Strikey, who’s literally half the man he used to be, remains the lead character in part two of the “Get Your Ass Handed to You” saga and deserves an AMA and an Oscar for his stellar performance.

Purple cat guy goes by Dayo Akinleye Pedro and Ekun in hero circles, which, unless Google’s lying, translates into tiger. He’s a very likable character. He’s fun, has a sense of duty and like every human being, demons. He also waxes poetic with his corny sage quotes and his okro tongue reminds me of beloved Spiderman from the Captain America: Civil War flick.

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He unfortunately has a very disturbing fashion game. Go Ekun, with your purple tights, golden knee high boots, golden elbow long gloves, and funky backward fur mane. Eww! Cool helmet by the way.

Then there’s Chichi, SG’s girlfriend. She’s landed in a bit of a mess with an old flame that might’ve reignited passions if he wasn’t so impatient. His forceful and hurried display of love earns him a resounding slap that echoes off the pages beyond Pluto. Chichi backs her dragon palm of fury with some solid advice, don’t push a woman to the wall. Then there’s also the chance that he needs her for some occult sacrifice.

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I couldn’t help but juxtapose this with rape culture especially among friends and couples. The lesson? No is no, even if it seems like it. Don’t force little Dickens through the door even when the door’s unlocked, so long as the voice behind says no.

This issue felt less Strike Guardy and more like the grand entrance of a fun spirit hero which is admirable because, it is the catalyst to unifying the Vortex universe and a setup to Ekun’s own comic. Imagine the scolding SG’s gonna get from June XII when they meet.

While I wanted more Strike, Ekun brought sunshine to the prevailing gloom. Ekun #0 continued from where SG ended and saw Ekun toy with rock man Eki and claim his heart pumped lion’s blood. Ekun must mean lion then. Someone is proud chale.

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I like what Vortex is doing, creating something African kids can hold on to. While considerable effort goes into getting each comic together, I beg that the team check their spelling and grammar. It might seem like nothing, but it takes points from the quality they’re pushing. Anyhow Vortex, can we have some chicken soup after the fowls are done playing?

I also dunno what it is, but the art felt off for me. I also wonder why it’s titled Spiritual Ebb. It felt more like a surgebecause of the new spirit players in the game: Ekun, Eki and that not so honorable boyfriend guy. But, considering SG is the main character, it’s excusable.  His spirits are after all, drained and he just might hang up his costume which brings up teamwork chale. I bet Coker’s having Naruto worthy flashbacks of what it means to work in a team. I am still bitter about Ajagz departure and he better return quick.

This issue was exciting thanks to Ayodeji Afolabi’s Ekun. Check out Strike Guard 8 here and Ekun #0 here while we anticipate SG 9: Fire and Smoke.

And while we’re at it, let’s look forward to Jagun Jagun, a mashup of Ekun and Strike that comes out next year. Strike’s costume looks good, although too similar to Black Panther’s.

Peace!

Jagun Jagun

 

6 REASONS “STRIKE GUARD” WILL CHANGE THE HERO BUSINESS – SPOILER ALERT

Strike Guard is the story of Abolaji Coker a college undergraduate at the university of Lagos, Political Science. After being murdered by a cult group (gang) and dumped in a pit which happened to be the grave of Yoruba deity “Ajagbeja”, he is given a second go to live but with Ajagbeja’s spirit  using his body as a host. He agrees and becomes strike guard (the last illustrated character by his murdered best friend Antai who was a comic artist) vowing to use his powers to avenge the cult group that murdered both him and his innocent best friend and eventually fight for the helpless people of Lagos against an unleashed new wave of spirit entities.

Strike Guard “Awon Ibere” Issue #1

Some really cool stuff go down in Issue one, here we experience the origin of Strike Guard but from an angle of Soliloquy as he speaks to himself on how the world seems to be crashing around him this brings us to the first  reason:

1. ABOLAJI COKER IS CRAZY, Yes we said it!!

Firstly he has a millennium old deity in his head and he lives with it, Abolaji coker needs mountain of fire ministers to live with him at his hostel for at least 1 week and Ajagbeja would find his square root, Haba, which kind of Juju is that, basically he is possessed and he is forming strike guard, if we report his situation would he not be at Yaba left by now? Strike take time o, we don’t like it.

Still on the crazy, of all things to do after being “willfully possessed” by a Yoruba demon that cannot watch his mouth he went to find tailor to make a spandex yellow and blue uniform, NA WA, Oga strike na you dey reign o, you will not calm down and move to Ibadan where you can manage yourself,  you decided to become spider man, good luck!

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2. STRIKE GUARD IS A MUMU LOVER BOY

Unlike Clarke Kent (Super Man), Peter Parker (Spider Man) and Bruce Wayne (Batman), Mr. Abolaji Coker (Strike Guard) is in love with the reason he is in this mess in the first place does it not seem like this Chi Chi girl has used Jazz to hold this boy? there is a lot of Jazz in hidden places in this comic, but we can’t even blame her it is Abolaji Coker that carried his legs to go a toast “Iya Cultist” .

3.  THE STRIKE GUARD SITUATION CAN HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE

Yes!! it can! We all know jazz is real and it is ready to occur anytime, any day and anywhere, don’t go and accidentally fall inside a pit that used to be the burial ground for Sango o, your situation might not come with super powers you’ll just be experiencing witch craft “PRIVATELY” . But seriously now, think about it you have heard of people possessed that fly at night, turn to cats, dogs, Strike situation is not far off.

4 STRIKE GUARD IS PATIENT

Have you met Ajagbeja?

LOORRRDDD! he is ANNNOYYIING, the way he laughs, the way he brings trouble by just… pretty much… existing and the way he appears in the mirror when Abolaji coker is trying to check him self out and most importantly .. why does he not just … SHUT UP anyway Abolaji Coker has to deal with this and does a pretty good job at it while he is at it, we respect his patience, he truly would have used his power more effectively in a monastery.

5. STRIKE GUARD HAS NAIJA HUMOR (SHARP MOUTH)

Spiritual GPS?! in BEADS OF FURY (Issue 1) strike guard was beaten black and blue because of he was busy cracking jokes instead of cracking bones, but he we can’t complain it really had us laughing for half the comic but our brother must focus cause not every time play, sometimes calm down and win battles, anyway this humour brings it down to a natural level, Abolaji coker has a sharp mouth and we all know Nigerian people fight with both their mouth and their fist so it all kinda makes sense.

6. STRIKE GUARD & AYODELE ELEGBA (creator) ARE DRAMA KINGS

Imagine what he’s going through at the moment, Died, came back, girlfriend DRAMA, Lost his best friend, has a secret no body can afford to know about and an alter ego which doesn’t make that easier he has suddenly become responsible for everyone around him, because all the spiritual catastrophe is as a result to uncle Ajagbz that has used his body for 5 bedroom flat. Ayodele has stormed the entire vortex just because he believes that the art for Ajabz was not designed as only “HE” imagined.

Ajagbeja standing over a lifeless Abolaji Coker Lines by Sunkanmi Akinboye Colours by Waliu Edu

Thats all for the Squeeze hope your enjoyed us chopping and screwing the STRIKE GUARD ISSUE 1 like we did till the next comic!

 

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The Vortex Comics Logo

 

MUMU JUJU: BUILDING A NEW AFRICA THROUGH FRIENDSHIP AND COMEDY.

Mumu Juju is an exciting new comic born out of the love for comics and the desire to use this medium to tell stories and impact lives. It is an easy read that speaks to every generation while getting its message of friendship and dedication across. Mumu Juju is a periodical which will be featured on www.vortex247.com, from Thursday, 30th July, 2015.

Etubi Onucheyo the creative mind behind ‘Mumu Juju’ came up with the idea one sunny afternoon in 2013, when he was very hungry and craved freshly pounded yam (a meal indigenous to the eastern and western parts of Nigeria). The main characters of the novel are ‘Mortar’ and ‘Pestle’, whom he used to pound the metaphorical yam of his story into life. It takes the reader on a wild journey with the two main characters as they overcome challenges and obstacles while trying to complete the tasks given to them by a god named ‘Kenga’ and his witch side-kick ‘Ee’.

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Mumu Juju touches on the importance of love and friendship in getting us through any situation in life with a hilarious twist to it that takes away the seriousness of the story and makes it fun to read, while still sending its message across. Etubi, carries this theme of friendship and love on through Mumu Juju, with the good guys appearing in pairs, and the villains alike, showing the unconscious undertone in relationships where even evil and corrupt minds are in pairs but with time are separated each holding their evil schemes, showing the consequence where there is a lack of true friendship and love, while an open and loving mind seeks and finds like minds to grow and develop with.

“The only for difference between me and others is that i decided to make this my job”
Etubi Onucheyo

Mumu Juju is the first in a line a graphic novels and comics which will be featured periodically from a series of writers on www.vortex247.com. Vortex Inc., is a creative content company from the heart of Africa that is keen on exporting and expressing African culture through various media such as cartoon, comics, educational content, movies etc.

The creative director of Vortex Inc. Somto Ajuluchukwu started the company from an intense love for art and the powerful role entertainment can play in re-branding Africa. This passion led him to leave the comfort of his regular 9-5 grind in investment banking and embark on the never ending journey of Afro illustrated stories.

Somto has five years’ experience as the creative director of Nature’s Own Wonder (NOW), a graphics design company he set up in 2010 in his second year in university. He also worked with Lego Toy Company right after school and understudied with Image Comics (publishing house for Robert Kirkman, creator of Walking Dead franchise). These experiences, inspired him to start up Vortex Inc. in early 2014 and with key partnerships established, is beginning to realize its dream of taking calculated steps in terms of creativity and structure in a delicate industry.

The theme for Vortex Inc. 2015, is Rolihlahla, a Swahili word which means trouble maker and also the middle name of Nelson Mandela. This stands for the desire of Vortex to pull on the branch of Mother Tree Africa and share the culture of Africans with others, to the level where it begins to resonate in all we do as individuals and begins to export who we are unconsciously.

“Africa has suffered too many explosions, it is time we implode”

Somto Ajuluchukwu

The Masquerades are coming!!! – A review by Zik Nelson

This review is a featured post from – KUGALI

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Nigeria based comic book publisher released the prequel to their upcoming Ojuju series. Written by Somto Ajuluchukwu the story re-imagines traditional Nigerian masquerades as magical beings that inhabit the modern world.  Iheme Odiete, the leader of the Egungun and Ekpe masquerade tribes awakens from a 100 year long slumber and is immediately sucked into a chaotic cycle of violence that results in blood, gore and destruction. (Warning Spoilers Ahead!)

With minimal exposition the story throws readers straight into the deep end. Within the first few panels the titular character finds himself surrounded by a sea of corpses although it’s not clear as to whether or not he’s responsible for their deaths. This ambiguity is a running theme in the comic as the writer leaves it up to the readers to decide whether or not Ojuju is a villain, hero or perhaps something else entirely.

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This new series is also a cross over as June XII, another character from the vortex line up enters the fray. June XI is a superhero based in Nigeria that spends most of his time battling corrupt law enforcers, politicians and other worldly beings. June XII’s radar eventually catches onto Ojuju and his trail of destruction and while nothing major happens in this prequel a clash between Ojuju and June XII now seems inevitable.+

Akindele Damilola and Yussuf Shittu must also be commended for excellent art work. In this very short prequel the two artists do a fantastic job of packing in a number of epic scenes and battle sequences. Most of all the character design for the Titular character is nothing short of fascinating. Unlike other masquerades Ojuju wears his mask as a cap slightly tilted forwards to cover his face. The characters decision not to don his mask fully seems to symbolise his moral ambiguity and it will be interesting to see how the artists play around with this in future installments of the series.+

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It’s too early to tell just how good the Ojuju series may be but this prequel has set up an excellent backdrop to what could be a fantastic story. However, don’t take our word for it! Read Ojuju #0 for free and let us know what you think in the comments. Also check out Vortex inc for more great comics, they’ve also launched a line of awesome t-shirts so you can support your favourite Vortex superhero.

Introducing VEXPO

Lagos Comic Con is just a few weeks away and Vortex comics, a creative company hell bent on exporting African culture through its content has come up with a pretty cool way to engage with fans and the public alike. Dubbed VEXPO, Vortex Expo, the week long event will be an open house into the Vortex universe, showcasing the company’s repertoire which includes a number of comics, animation and events.

Think of VEXPO as a gallery exhibition or even Disney’s D23 Expo with a spotlight on solely Vortex products or if you like, a mini Image Comics Expo. There will be conferences, art workshops, theater experiences, mentoring, game and art contests, the whole nine yards, only it will be the vortex way, a hurricane of exciting energy.

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Resource persons include celebrated comic actor, Afeeze Saka Oyetoro of Papa Ajasco fame, Microsoft’s Olusolu Amusa, a writer, speaker and radio personality, Ayodele Elegba, Nigerian comic veteran and founder of the Lagos Comic Con and many more with expansive knowledge about creativity and success.

VEXPO takes place from September 5 to September 10. Vortex describes VEXPO as being built on the pillars of entertainment, education and participation, foundations relevant to exciting kids and adults alike enough to imagine, re-imagine and manifest amazing ideas.

The event is supported by Lagos Comics Con, Lego, Nickelodeon, Microsoft,British High Commission, Kaboom and Urban96 FM.

Sign up for VEXPO here.