Jide Martin is the CEO of Comic Republic, a Comic Book Start-up that is shaping the reputation narrative of Africa using quality art and stories in the form of Comic Books. In 2018, he was identified by a United Nations program headquartered in New York that provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in development (UNICEF) as one of Africa’s Change Makers. I wanted to learn more about Martin’s background, his current comic book work, and Comic Republic. As such, I am thrilled that Martin allowed me to interview him for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some comic books you loved reading? Are there any characters from your youth that you are still a fan of?
Jide Martin: Growing up, I liked to read Superman, X-Men, Conan the Barbarian and a lot of other comic books. I’m still a fan of Superman.
Yanes: When did you know that you wanted to make a career out of telling and producing stories? Was there a single moment that crystallized this goal for you?
Martin: Telling and producing stories was something I had always wanted to do for as long as I can remember but there was a moment when I knew it was time and then I just went for it.
Yanes: When I was researching comic book companies in Africa, I realized that there is a lot of activity taking place in Nigeria. Could you take a moment to discuss why you think comic books are becoming so popular in Nigeria?
Martin: Yes, first and foremost, I will say Comic Republic is one of the major reasons and I will explain why. Before Comic Republic came into the radar of the world in general, the comic book industry in Nigeria was almost non-existent as people believed in the myth that Nigerians are not comic book readers or even readers at all. There were also unsolved problems like cost of printing, marketing and distribution to a wider audience which were very capital intensive.
Comic Republic came into the scene and showed everyone that Nigerians love comics. We started by changing the way in which we delivered these comic books to readers by being the first and only publishing house at the time to host our comic books free on www.thecomicbook.com and the world loved it! With over 48,000 monthly readers, we could see clearly that the world indeed was ready for African Superheroes.
We took this a step further by demonstrating that companies don’t have to bear the cost of things like printing and the massive cost of distribution throughout the country to tell great stories. We partnered with a notebook company that produced 40 million notebooks with superhero stories on them. Our success story served as an inspiration for many and helped to reduce the barriers of entry in the Nigerian Comic Industry. This has also led various comic book creators to venture into this industry. The world is changing and I’m glad to be alive to see it happen. It is a time for black superheroes and more than ever, we can create content that displays our rich heritage and culture and showcase it to the world. It is indeed an exciting time to create.
Yanes: On a related note, do you feel there are figures in Nigerian folklore/mythology that would lend itself well to becoming a comic book character? If so, which ones?
Martin: Oh, there are loads of them. Comic Republic is introducing the world to our traditional heroes, legends, stories and myths. For example characters like Sango, Oya, Ara, Amadioha are just a few of our historical legends that we have brought to life.
Yanes: What was the inspiration behind founding Comic Republic?
Martin: I felt it was time we put Africa’s best foot forward and give the next generation heroes that they can identify with. My goal was to build protectors of today and provide icons for tomorrow.
Yanes: What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered building Comic Republic’s brand?
Martin: The initial lack of faith in the industry.
We set ourselves aside to be that company that treats artists with respect and is a fun place to work where briefs are treated according to service level agreements. Our team is a family and are treated as such.
Yanes: A title from Comic Republic that stood out to me the most is Eru. What is the origin for this title?
Martin: To further drive the need for diversity and originality in our comic universe. The idea came to the creator Tobe Ezeogu when he was seated in the dark one day at his home. At that moment, he imagined that there was someone in the shadows. This led to an epiphany to perhaps use this as an idea. The first concept was to call this ‘shadow man’ or ‘Anikulapo’ which means ‘he who holds death in his palms’. After several deliberations with the Comic Republic team, the creator asked me what Fear meant in Yoruba, a Nigerian language and I said Eru. This resonated well with everyone and then we decided to call him that.
Yanes: When you are deciding which idea Comic Republic should develop into a comic, what elements do you want a story to include?
Martin: Moral values first, inclusion of Africa’s rich culture, what’s trending, what we think our fans will like to see but most importantly quality story-telling and entertainment value.
Yanes: When people finish reading a story from Comic Republic, what do you hope they take away from the experience?
Martin: Africans are awesome people, and that great quality art and stories can come out of Africa.
Yanes: Finally, what are some projects you are working on that people can look forward to?
Martin: We are currently closing out some interesting partnerships which we will be announcing in a few months. We’ve also got some brand new titles out like Ireti Moremi, Scion Immortal, Might of Guardian Prime, Hero Generation and a lot more.