The US comic book publisher and creator of some of the most popular superheroes, Marvel, has unveiled its newest project: a Nigerian female superhero called Ngozi, created by acclaimed science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor.
Ngozi will headline in a new title in September 2017, Blessing in Disguise, with its story, written by Okorafor, set in Lagos. It will feature appearances by Black Panther and Spider-Man villain Venom.
The character Ngozi, Okorafor told the BBC, was a teenager with a disability whose life changed “in an instant” when she encountered elements of the supernatural Venom-verse (universe) and acquired superpowers. Ngozi’s look and personality is based on the Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped by the Boko Haram militant Islamist group in 2014. Okorafor said it was an important detail to the character design to draw attention to the incident.
She worked closely with artist Tana Ford to recreate an accurate representation of Nigeria and its capital Lagos. “I wanted to capture the action and vibrancy of the city. It is an awesome city with great people, with lots of potential for adventure and backstory. The city helps the story almost write itself.”
The story itself uses both the tropes of the Marvel Universe – the hero’s journey, good versus evil and redemption – and elements of Afro-futurism that blend ancient African mythology with technology.
Okorafor is familiar with these concepts, having written more than 20 novels and short stories in the young adult science fiction genre, including the critically acclaimed Binti, which won the Nebula and the Hugo science fiction novella awards. She also won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa award for her debut novel, Zahrah The WIndseeker.
Her 2010 novel Who Fears Death? has recently been optioned for a series at US cable network HBO, with Okorafor fan and Game of Thrones author George RR Martin acting as executive producer.
The author hopes the Ngozi character will inspire the creation of more African comic book characters in the world of superhero fiction. “Nigeria, as well as other parts of Africa, has a very strong fan base for comics and science fiction, and a growing artist and writer community exploring elements of the genre with a distinctive African feel.”
For more information on the Marvel title Blessing In Disguise, visit the Marvel website.
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