The year is 2025, the prosperous Lagoon City has been overrun by alarming skeletal drones and corrupt politicians. Wale Williams comes home after 5 years of absence to find his estranged but brilliant inventor father has disappeared. His pursuit of a parent will lead him to a nanosuit his father built, which provides him with superhuman abilities and a destiny to protect the city he loves. This is the story of E.X.O aka Wale Williams, a new african superhero created by Nigerian born Roye Okupe and brought alive in his fast-paced, afro-futuristic graphic novel.
Okupe was born and raised in Nigeria but relocated to Washington D.C. at age 17 to study computer science at George Washington College. There the young creative’s passion for cartoons and animations really developed.
When Okupe finished college, he decided it was time to insert more diversity into the superhero world. By 2012 he founded Youneek Studios and Wale Williams and his alter-ego “E.X.O.” were born.
The original concept was for an animated cartoon, so he developed a seven-minute trailer to showcase his work. But after a year of shopping it to distributors and producers, Okupe was out of luck.
“A lot of people were afraid about taking a risk with a character that was from Africa because there was no fanbase to prove that this is going to work. I had people tell me, ‘you have a nice product. You might wanna change some of the characters around…’
Refusing to let this be a nail in the coffin for E.X.O., Okupe decided to change tack. He turned the animation into a trailer for a graphic novel and collaborate with artists back home to help him color the world of Lagoon City and bring the graphic novel to life.
“We have such a wealth of talent who are not getting the exposure they deserve. Most of the time when you hear news about Nigeria, it’s mostly negative things. I’m trying to show a different side of Africa that people are not regularly exposed to.”
Okupe wanted to make a character that was very intertwined with technology because of technology’s popularity in Africa. He was keen on showing that there was a lot of great stuff happening on the continent and that it was time for people to pay attention to Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Several months on, and the book is almost ready. The team are making final tweaks to artwork so now Okupe had to find financing for publishing. Wanting to also show that there could be a huge fan community for a product like “E.X.O,” the resourceful designer decided to crowdfund the project. They reached their target within two days. He says:
“It was then that I knew this was the right path. Any failure I felt before – it finally justified the fact I never quit on myself.”
The graphic novel is set to be the first in a trilogy with a tentative release date in August.hg