Mohale Mashigo is the author of the widely acclaimed bestselling novel ‘The Yearning’. Her last book, a collection of brilliantly unsettling speculative fiction short stories called ‘Intruders’ explores how it feels not to belong. Also a comic book writer, she’s written a Black Panther story, knocked an acclaimed stint on United States of Captain America out of the park, and is working on some stories in ‘Batman: Urban Legends’ for DC. She’s also told us which Marvel character she would love to write next, and it’d be a pairing made in heaven. Did we mention she’s also an award-winning singer-songwriter? Well, she granted GeekAfrique an interview, and herewith are excerpts:
By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu
GeekAfrique: First of all, why did you become a writer, and at what point did you decide to? (Basically, what’s your origin story?)
Mohale Mashigo: I don’t know why I became a writer, but I have always been a storyteller. Even from a young age, I enjoyed telling stories. I started writing for fun, with a friend in high school. She would write one chapter, and I would write another. Even then I didn’t consider becoming a writer. It was only once my debut novel, ‘The Yearning’, was published did I think ‘Woah, I think I’m a writer now’.
GeekAfrique: You’ve written some very well-received books. Which of them is your favorite, and why?
Mohale Mashigo: I’ve written a novel and a short story collection. The short story collection is my favorite because I was testing my skills, strengthening my voice, and having fun. Not to say writing ‘The Yearning’ wasn’t fun, but I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote it. With ‘Intruders’, the short story collection, I visited different characters and put them in impossible situations. It was also the first time I really tried speculative fiction. The characters in ‘Intruders’ are also some of my favorites.
“Not to say writing ‘The Yearning’ wasn’t fun, but I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote it. With ‘Intruders’, the short story collection, I visited different characters and put them in impossible situations. It was also the first time I really tried speculative fiction.“
GeekAfrique: You’re known for skating in and out of various genres. Which, would you say is where you’re most at home?
Mohale Mashigo: I don’t think I’ve written enough to have a favorite genre yet. In fact, I sometimes find myself genre-blending so I would say my favorite is whichever I’m writing at the time. I feel most at home when I write about black women and girls if I’m being completely honest.
GeekAfrique: Your story in Marvel Voices was brilliant, showing us sides of many of our favorite superheroines we hadn’t been shown before. What inspired the story?
Mohale Mashigo: I liked the idea of young heroes being each other’s support system. I genuinely wondered: Who do these young women turn to when they need a break? What do they do on their off days? They know of each other, but could they possibly be friends? I liked the idea of a secret self-care spot and things started flowing from there. Riri, Shuri, and Kamala were perfect for the story.
“I liked the idea of young heroes being each other’s support system. I genuinely wondered: Who do these young women turn to when they need a break? What do they do on their off days? They know of each other, but could they possibly be friends?”
GeekAfrique: For non-South Africans, what’s the Kwezi comic book series all about?
Mohale Mashigo: Kwezi, created by Loyiso Mkize and Clyde Beech) is a story about a regular 19-year-old who suddenly (not really, there is a whole backstory) gains the hero starter pack of powers. Instead of going out here and doing things for “the greater good,” he uses it to become a social media sensation with dreams of being a global icon. It’s a story about ego vs altruism. We go on a journey of self-discovery with him, while he comes against dark forces that want to get rid of him. This all takes place in Gold City (a version of Johannesburg). I joined the team from issue 7 and the comic is now on issue 13.
“Cap is an interesting character, but writing him was never on my radar until I was presented with the opportunity to write a black woman taking on the mantle, then I was like ‘Uhmm…yes please!’ Nichelle Wright is such a badass!”
GeekAfrique: You went from a brilliant Black Panther story on Serial Box for Marvel to The United States of Captain America. Is cap’s story one you’ve always wanted to tell, or are the times simply calling for one?
Mohale Mashigo: Cap is an interesting character, but writing him was never on my radar until I was presented with the opportunity to write a black woman taking on the mantle, then I was like ‘Uhmm…yes please!’ Nichelle Wright is such a badass, and she doesn’t back down from a challenge. She’s also an activist by day, and Captain America by night. I simply fell in love with the character as we were creating her. Nichelle Wright is definitely one of the highlights of my young comic book writing career.
GeekAfrique: Speaking of that, is there a particular Marvel character you’d love to take on?
Mohale Mashigo: Blade. Without. A. Doubt.
GeekAfrique: Do you find flitting from comics to prose to songwriting to screenwriting even a little dizzying?
Mohale Mashigo: Besides learning the technical elements of the different disciplines, no. I’m a storyteller and every story needs the same thing from me: to tell the best way I can. Perhaps I’m a multi-linguist that way. I understand the personalities of the languages but in the end, a story is just a story.
GeekAfrique: While we’re still catching our breaths from ‘Intruders’, when is your next novel coming out?
Mohale Mashigo: I have no idea. I’m certain my publisher will say 2023, ha-ha. In the meantime, I’ve become Lead Writer for a South Africa game developer (Nyamakop) and we are working on something SUPER-exciting. Can’t say what right now, but it’s pretty dope. I also have a 3-part story in ‘Batman: Urban Legends’. The editor (Ben Abernathy) approached me asking if I would be interested in writing something for DC. I said yes, and I was given the character Kid Eternity. He’s in Gotham and things are getting weird and interesting for him. I had fun working on Kid Eternity in Gotham because he’s a weird and mysterious character, which is definitely in my lane.
GeekAfrique: Finally, what, would you say, is one thing a reader would most certainly find in every Mohale Mashigo story?
Mohale Mashigo: Humour. No matter how dark or light the story may be, there will also be humor. It’s how I navigate my own life and it finds its way onto the page. There is always room for laughter.
GeekAfrique’s Best Comic Book of 2022: ‘New Masters’
‘New Masters’, by the Coker brothers, takes the reader into a future Nigeria which while dark, is filled with hope, powered by writing that’s masterful and art that’s gorgeously atmospheric, weaving one of the most compelling stories in graphic fiction this year.
By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu
As soon as the story opens with the following lines: ‘1124 Post Adventu, a few miles East of the Kainji Mines, deep into the Eko Exclusion Zone’, we meet Ola. The spunky tech-enhanced teen, accompanied by a droid called Àṣẹ, has slid down a cable to scavenge, but instead finds what could be a large deposit of raw Obsidium, a crucial mineral that has all kinds of individuals in hot pursuit. I immediately fell in love with the characters, a love which becomes absolute when the droid asks our heroine if she would like it to “Initiate the pick-race protocol”. How much more Nigerian could a comic book get? (Note for non-Nigerians: To ‘pick-race’ means to run away, or to flee a situation or an individual out of one’s league)
Ola soon tries to offload her precious find, and in the process, we meet some of the most colourful characters I’ve come across since the original Star Wars trilogy or Nnedi Okorafor’s spectacular ‘LaGuardia’ graphic novel. A shifty suya seller-cum-black market dealer, a high-powered committee consisting of humans and aliens, or a couple made up of a Yemi Alade-esque fashionista and a lover from literally another world. It has such a varied cast of characters that a traditional comic book reader might feel overwhelmed. To me though, it was a perfectly-built world, populated by the most realistic characters I’ve come across in science fiction in a long time.
It has such a varied cast of characters that a traditional comic book reader might feel overwhelmed. To me though, it was a perfectly-built world, populated by the most realistic characters I’ve come across in science fiction in a long time.
Also, what’s a futuristic yarn set in Nigeria without Lagos, the city we all love and hate in equal measure, or Tejuosho for that matter? That’s not to mention cameos by Hausa words like ‘Tozo’ when Ola barters for a bit of Suya at Yaba Market, or an earlier-mentioned exclamation of ‘Shaege’ (a corruption of the Hausa word for ‘bastard’, weirdly also used to denote chronic badassery). Then the cherry – or cherries – on this layered cake: Views of Eko City itself, as well as the slums of Makoko, still sinking even in this far-flung future.
This, the first story arc, is called ‘The Eye of Orunmila’ in reference to a massive status quo-changing trove of knowledge that will change the universe. It also appears to be the chief McGuffin of the story, driving the story forward so well that the following chapters almost have no choice but to follow suit. The writing by Shobo Coker, one half of the duo of Nigerian brothers who created this masterpiece, is deft in its delivery of character beats, and in its layering of fantastical sci-fi backdrops. The dialogue flows in such an organic way that one could easily forget he is reading a comic book. One word: Bravo.
The art is the work of an accomplished illustrator. One minute it looks stark and glisteningly computer-generated, the next it’s as organic and unsettling as some of the most masterful watercolour work currently being done in the medium.
The art, by Shof Coker, is the work of an accomplished illustrator. One minute it looks stark and glisteningly computer-generated a la ‘Blade Runner’, the next it’s as organic and unsettling as some of the most masterful watercolour work currently being done in the medium, a la the production design of Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ film. Even the lettering is kinetically charged, and is part of the artistry which graces the pages of this beautiful comic book. There also are locales that are as many as they are far-flung from each other and a distinct and deliberately-done combination of the familiar and the futuristic. One word: Bravo, also.
PR material says it is ‘A vision of West Africa under the thumb of alien colonizers’, wherein ‘A motley crew of outcasts find themselves caught up in a power struggle for control of an ancient artefact with immense power’. The comic book is also described as ‘A ground-breaking blend of science fiction, adventure, drama, and vibrant Afrofuturism’. I totally agree, even if the correct term is ‘Africanfuturism’, but that’s a fight for another day. With a handsome trade paperback edition out now, it is safe to declare this the most energetic debut of this year so far, and by far.
‘New Masters’ Vol. 1 trade paperback, published by Image Comics, is on sale now.
AI-created comic deemed ineligible for copyright protection
The United States Copyright Office (USCO) reversed an earlier decision to grant copyright to a comic book that was created using “A.I. art,” and announced that the copyright protection on the comic book will be revoked, stating that copyrighted works must be created by humans to gain official copyright protection.
In September, Kris Kashtanova announced that they had received a U.S. copyright on his comic book, Zarya of the Dawn, a comic book inspired by their late grandmother that she created with the text-to-image engine Midjourney. Kashtanova referred to herself as a “prompt engineer” and explained at the time that she went to get the copyright so that she could “make a case that we do own copyright when we make something using AI.”
“AI art” is artwork created by an artificial intelligence machine learning process, meaning that a computer/machine has learned information, such as the past work and art style of other artists, and descriptions of characters and images, and then generated a new image using that learned knowledge.
“AI art” is artwork created by an artificial intelligence machine learning process, meaning that a computer/machine has learned information, such as the past work and art style of other artists, and descriptions of characters and images, and then generated a new image using that learned knowledge. The knowledge fed into the machine is almost always from humans, who also often feed into the machine-specific guiding instructions for the creation of the art, but the actual final creation is generated by the computer/machine (in this instance, it would be Midjourney).
The USCO had previously denied giving copyright protection to A.I.-produced art, including earlier in 2022 when it denied protection to Stephen Thaler and his AI-generated painting, “A Recent Entrance to Paradise.” Thaler then sued the Copyright Office, so the Office granting protection to Zarya of the Dawn was naturally a surprising turn of events.
However, in a post on her Facebook page. Kashtanova revealed that the USCO had contacted her to tell her that it was revoking the protection, explaining that it had errantly missed that Midjourney had created the art for the comic (despite Midjourney being listed on the credits of the cover of the comic). The USCO has given Kashtanova 30 days to appeal its decision.
Kashtanova pointed out at the time that they were “open to how it was made and put Midjourney on the cover page,” but the actual application doesn’t specify the role of Midjourney in the creation of the comic, only noting that the comic was “A.I.-assisted.”
Source: AI Business
Lagos Comic Convention 2022: We’re ready for 10,000 guests – Elegba
Ayodele Elegba created Lagos Comic Convention, the fastest-growing annual gathering of geeks in the country, and this year will see the event hitting a milestone as it marks its tenth year on Saturday, Sept. 17. He spoke to us about his enthusiasm that this year’s will be the biggest and best show they’ve ever given fans, as well as many other points. He spoke to Abdulkareem Baba Aminu, and herewith are excerpts:
By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu
GeekAfrique: For Lagos Comic Convention 2022, what will you be doing differently?
Ayodele Elegba: This year is like a rebirth for us. After the COVID pandemic, we saw a decline in events and socializing. It was a scary situation, and we never thought we would be back again. We are grateful that geeks from all over Nigeria came together last year, even if masked, but with the same hyper-enthusiasm. This year, we have been able to secure a title sponsor in Raptures, a comic book app that hopes to change the way comics are perceived in Africa. We also have secured sponsorship for our zones as well, something we have been trying to achieve for a while now. Also, the French Consulate’s kind sponsorship continues this year.
This year, for the first time, the entire event will be ticketed and we have made this decision because our goal is to make the event self-sustaining, and we can give the fans the opportunity to finally support the event and say ‘thank you’ for the 10 years we have organized the event for free. This year we will be announcing the DreamMakers Award for individuals and organizations who have contributed immensely to the growth of comic books in Nigeria.
“It’s been ten years, and we are poised to welcome over 10,000 guests this year.”
Of course, we are back at the Landmark Event Centre, and we will be bringing back all the juicy activities the fans are used to seeing, like cosplay, panel discussions, screenings of exclusive clips from films and animation, and exhibitors selling their comic books and merch. It’s been ten years, and we are poised to welcome over 10,000 guests this year
GeekAfrique: Since you began the event, what has been the single most difficult goal for you to crush?
Elegba: I think the most difficult has been to make big corporates see the comic convention for what it is. Many of them are used to musical concerts and reality shows and will not put money into what they still perceive as kids’ stuff. We’re still working hard to change that perspective and get big money companies to support and sponsor.
In the past, I would clear my account to pay for the event. But over time we have seen the event now able to mostly sustain itself based on sponsorship, vendors, and ticketing. This year we are grateful for all the numerous exhibitors and sponsors who have joined us this year to make it a reality.
GeekAfrique: You’ve kept at it for a decade now. What has kept you going on?
Elegba: I guess the dream has kept me going. You know, the image of a future where African comic books will become a household name, and adapted into movies, games or animation. Also, the dream of the average young person making money from talent, as well as that of animation studios springing up all over the country, and big-name streamers courting them. This dream keeps me awake every night, and I am glad of the growth we have seen in the creative space since Lagos Comic Convention began.
GeekAfrique: How much of a presence will animation have this year, as RENDACON has been created to take care of that?
Elegba: Animation will always have a special place at Lagos Comic Convention. This year will not be an exception, as we have studios like Spoof! Animation coming to premiere its latest project at the event. With our partnership with FilmOne, it means animated films and shorts will be screened on actual cinema screens this year. We had actually begun to see a growth in animation content at the convention a few years ago. More and more animation studios and storytellers were springing up, and we didn’t have enough room to actually do justice to them all. so we established RENDACON (Radical Exhibition of New and Dynamic Animated Content). We will be having the second edition in November, and we hope to bring a lot of speakers and trainers to discuss topics that will help growth in the animation space.
“It’s tough (laughter), especially when you have some very juicy scoops. Even now I am privileged to some government announcements that will be made at the event, but I am not permitted to say.”
GeekAfrique: Participating creators and companies no doubt share secret projects with you during planning. How do you summon enough willpower to keep those secrets?
Elegba: It’s tough (laughter), especially when you have some very juicy scoops. Even now I am privileged to some government announcements that will be made at the event, but I am not permitted to say. I keep my mouth shut because I don’t want to spoil the surprise(s). I think it’s more fulfilling to see rather than be told, and this is why fans need to attend physically and experience all the great stuff for themselves.
GeekAfrique: Your own comic book company has been rather quiet regarding actual publishing of books. Why is that?
Elegba: We just wanted to re-evaluate our business model and look at other ways of succeeding at printed copies. The animation side of the business is doing quite well and it’s almost impossible to make comics at the same time too. But we will be making some announcements at the convention, so fans should watch out.
QeekAfrique: If you could have one celebrity grace the Lagos Comic Convention, which one would it be?
Elegba: I would love to have Idris Elba over, to come to talk about his experience working with James Gunn on the Suicide Squad movie, his Heimdall role, and to just hang out with fellow geeks and soak up the awesome Lagos energy. It’s always a pleasure seeing a black man representing very well in comic book movies.
Lagos Comic Convention is slated to take place on Saturday, September 27th, 2022.