While traveling through Baja, Mexico in my Volkswagen Westfalia, I received an Instagram message from an old Naval Academy company mate who noticed that I had started writing about nerd culture. He said there is someone I needed to meet. Due to my limited service and getting our baby blue Westy stuck in the sand with the sun setting, tide rising, on a desolate beach known as Dead Man’s Bay (a story for another time), I connected virtually with Obichukwu to discuss Kolanut Productions, the largest publisher of African comics and webtoons in the world.
Comic Book Curious: How did you get started into the comic universe?
Obichukwu Udeh: I like to refer to our timeline because when you are a hyper-creator time moves differently. Well technically it would start in 2012 with the first creation of Red Origins. The Red Origins world building is the foundation of all stories of Kolanut Productions and its universe. But intentionally it all started in 2017.
We would often brag about “the vault” to people and the online community, which is where all our story ideas are contained. 2017 we formalized “the vault” and have been adding and releasing new stories annually. Also around that time, Nnedi Okorafor the award winning author and juju consultant encouraged us to keep creating stories.
CBC: What is the connection between Kolanut Productions and Squid Magazine?
OU: Squid Mag is based in Accra, Ghana and focuses on African comics and webtoon. In the past and now people are not paying attention to comics coming from and out of Africa. As a result, he is written 3 articles so far on what we are doing:
While I was in Ghana for a wedding we had planned to meet up but we’re unable to due to schedules however he was able to write about our latest and greatest comic Red Hunter.
CBC: Squid Mag’s mascot, a cute pink squid releases ink which is described as a defense mechanism for "how African creators are painting our realities and fantasies in an ocean of canvases; an ocean that is increasingly encroaching and erasing our narratives.” Can you explain to me Kolanut Productions’ take on this? What are some specific examples where this has occurred?
OU: American, European, and Asian don’t and refuse to draw stories about the African diaspora. And when depicted this diaspora is depicted in one type of way. This creates what Chimamanda calls the danger of a single story.
So I will call it like it is. It’s a war in the art and literature world. As some choose to battle AI as AI lays siege on their kingdom. We at Kolanut productions are holding the line firm at the frontier of storytelling.
CBC: How important is it to you and your team to represent the black community in nerd culture?
OU: When you say “black community” what do you mean? Do you mean the ones represented in San Diego comic con or does it include those represented in Lagos comic con. It’s critical for us to represent the entire diaspora in the Caribbean, Pan-Africa, Expat communities, and Afro communities, as well as the U.S. As the largest IP of black stories and largest black comic universe, Kolanut Productions is the Disney the black community have been looking and fighting for.
CBC: How many followers do you have? I am trying to put a number and better understanding to "the Disney of the black community."
OU: Our total number of followers across our websites and social media we have 30,000 subscribers and followers.
The "Disney of the black community" comment is a prophecy, a glimpse of what’s to come. Not many comic publishers are engaged in this type of thinking or content model.
CBC: What's your next up and coming project? When will it release?
OU: Our next upcoming project is Rumble in the Jungle. Rumble in the Jungle inception was before the 3 African kings of the UFC (Israel Adesanya, Kumaru Usman, Francis Ngannou) rose to prominence. We always loved African martial arts and nostalgia for the WWE wrestling stories. So, inspired by Muhammad Ali’s fight against George Foreman in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rumble in the Jungle was born.
CBC: What makes you most proud about your achievements with Kolanut Productions?
OU: We are proud after over a decade of work to be the largest publisher of African comics and webtoons in the world. We are especially proud that we have the largest black comic multiverse in the world with interconnected stories called the NCU (NeoAfrican Comic Universe).
About the author: Erin Edwards is a recently resigned Navy pilot who has seen the world from the sky and is eager to write about it on the ground. Though she is just beginning to dip her toes in the comic world, she is passionate about meeting new people and unfolding a whole new universe.
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