As I’ve interviewed you for Asphyxium twice before, you’ve always been hard at work on one writing project or another. Can you talk about some of your current writing projects?
Thanks for this opportunity, Dave Wolff. The last time we talked I was in my second year of study at Makerere University in Uganda. I had just completed writing book three of “The Ascendants” mini-series “The Ascendants Awakening”. While pursuing my degree in industrial and fine art, I associated, mingled and made friends with students offering a graphic design course unit and an illustration course unit. Those were very talented artists who sparked my interest in turning the story into a graphic novel.
Good enough, most of the students in my years knew about my writing. At least 80% of my classmates knew the title and about 50% had read a chapter or more. Most of them applauded my creativity/skill despite my weak English grammar. It’s during my third/final year that I made my plan known to several of my colleagues in the illustration and graphics design classes. They bought my idea because they already knew much of the story.
I had two illustration artists and two graphics designers, plus two creative writers. I expected this team to grow with time, which is the case currently. As you already know, “The Ascendants Awakening” was an expansive African fantasy story rich with tangles and twists through diverse cultures and several character plots.
The team loved the story but we couldn’t work with so many characters in one go! Suggestions were made that we handle the character development while focusing on inspiring children from six to twenty-three years. However, we could not character develop from the third book of the mini-series. We had to handle a major character from the very first book of the mini-series (“The Ascendants; Legends of Tsote”). This story I have only written using a pen on approximately 200 pages but never got to type and upload for public readings and reviews.
I was up for a challenge! Nevertheless, I knew my Ascendants’ world, its characters and plots were on the tips of my fingers. And with Tsote being the major character in the first book (a grown-up middle aged African warrior and legend), I knew where exactly to begin! And just like you stated, I have always worked hard on one writing project or another. I was able to write a back story about this legend’s childhood times, early-age experiences that natured and shaped him into an African legend and undisputed warrior.
No longer than a month later (after my graduation in 2020), Covid-19 penetrated our country. The country was put under lockdown for close to two years. These were very unfortunate times for everyone, but they provided me with ample time to write a short story about Tsote. As the lockdown stretched from months to a year, the short story transformed into a novella. I had to find a means of giving it an end and a title, “Mystery of the Olko Beads”.
I had hardly written the last of the thirty-eight chapters, and I saw this as perfect time to write a fiction and futuristic novel about the future possibility of the East African Union amidst the growing power and influence of a 35-year-old (dictatorial) government in Uganda. I named the story “Wheel of the People”. This story is set fifteen years ahead of the present. It’s an intelligent thriller, a fast paced and action-packed African based story. It reflects the power of love and family amidst the challenges of the unification of the seven East African countries. The events, characters and places are barely a mirror of reality.
I had hardly typed the story halfway to its end, when the lockdown was lifted. I had to present my team with “Mystery of the Olko Beads” which they’d followed chapter by chapter on Wattpad (a popular and free online readers/publishing site where I always published my stories). What I can say is, every one of them loved the story. However, to secure our partnership, my characters and the stories, we needed to sign an MOU to register our team as an art and entertainment company which we called Atro Universe Ltd. (Atro is a Portuguese word for Black) After this we began the story.
How well has “The Ascendants Awakening” sold since we last discussed it? Has it been made available on any new platforms recently?
I have sold around 68 books to my friends and the local readership in Uganda and had several online eBook reads, most of which have remained free ever since. Unfortunately, I have not added any new platforms because I have been buried in writing. However, I believe the book’s sales will grow by 60% after the release of the very first issue of the novel in a comic book version. All we need are the funds. We are doing our best to work with the best of our young and most creative local illustration artists to reach and attract readers of all colors and ages.
How has the Covid pandemic affected your society over the past two years? How have your recent projects reflected its impact?
Covid-19 reached Uganda in 2020, approximately two to three months after my graduation. This was the time when everyone started running around like a headless chicken looking for a day salary job to accompany side hustles like art and creative writing.
Like my fellow graduates, I needed a day job in a country where close to 70% of the population were jobless and surviving on side hustles despite having gone through the University! It was during such a desperate job seeking period that Covid got to Uganda and the lockdown began! Employer companies and organizations, industries and community businesses were forced to shut down for nearly two years which was a massive blow to the general economy.
This meant I would never get a job for nearly two years of lockdown. I was left to side hustle which transactions and deliveries were tightly prohibited until five months to the end of the first phase of lockdown. I wasn’t the only one going through this hardship but the whole community I lived in.
Sometimes it got hard to write when there was close to no food in the house and most of my clients were short on income and couldn’t even send a half deposit on their art orders. Hence, I would sit with my complete art works until the end of the lockdown and only then would I get paid. The situation in every household grew tougher by the day. Nevertheless, I kept my mind on my work, creating so that I never lost an hour, hoping tomorrow things would change.
When the lockdown ended and all the businesses reopened, the first thing I did was register Atro Universe as a legally incorporated art and entertainment company so that I and my creator team could jointly fight and escape the negative effect of the pandemic on the art industries in Uganda.
We hoped through a legal company we could grow as an association of young creators starting within our communities, to devise new means to battle the challenges of the changes to our industry and the economy at large. We would instill hope through creative art and graphic storytelling. The youth needed to rise from the Covid-19 trauma with all they got left, talent and hope. We left the lockdown without no money but through art and storytelling we could possibly morally boost and inspire many youths to create.
During and after the pandemic, how much inspiration did Atro Universe have on other authors and artists in your local community?
Atro Universe hasn’t been very effective yet due to limited funds to run its projects. Nothing hardly happens without funds. Money attracts people. Money eases all things. Money saves time. Everyone dreams, but without money dreams crawl and sometimes fade due to the dreamers’ ignorance and impatience. I am patient and this is it has taken me to achieve a united association of young East African creators.
So, Atro Universe isn’t such a big art and entertainment company to compare with Black Sands Entertainment (our role models) but its ability to birth a very promising young creators association called Atroverse Creator’s Association means everything to me and my creator colleague.
Atroverse Creator’s Association started in 2020 after the registration of Atro Universe Ltd with approximately seven members. Over that period of time, the association has grown to a membership of twenty-five members. Ninety percent of the membership is made up of illustration artists, graphic designers, young creative writers, film makers, music producers, local artists, local film makers, local actors and actresses, to mention a few.
We at Atro Universe are barely halfway through with our first duo-production for “The Mystery of the Olko Beads” and “Wheel of the People” stories. Instead, we and the company have given close to 70% of all our attention to growing and strengthening the Association roots.
Our senior/much-older creators must have known and understood the power of oneness in this industry but I believe their level of ignorance, ego, pride, greed for wealth and popularity above other local creators killed all possible chances of learning, inspiring, promoting, growing and diversifying the local creator industry, its content and its upcoming junior creators.
For that case, I encourage all local young creators in Uganda and possibly the East African region as a whole to join us, to grow closer under this Atro umbrella so we can cherish, support and grow each other’s creations to the peak with all our best means. The association is our greatest chance and opportunity to curb our challenges and differences in this tightly competitive world.
Offer synopses of the characters and storyline you devised for “Mystery of the Olko Beads” and “Wheel of the People”. What aspects of African culture are represented?
Our first project comprises of two stories and production may run until 2025 or 2026 depending of our level of access necessary production resources we currently lack. “The Mystery of the Olko Beads” and “Wheel of the People” and are set in two different fictional worlds and times from the present.
“The Mystery of the Olko Beads” is basically a legendary, mythological and African fantasy-like story set about 1500 years back in a typically very imaginative African world bursting with diverse African culture, cultures and imaginary creatures, monsters, shape-shifting warrior, kingdoms and powerful sorcerers to recon with. Synopsis: One thousand years ago, the Yakunko clans came into the possession of a powerful rock known as the Inka Seed. This rock granted them an extraordinary gift known as the Kurota. With this gift, Yakunko warriors seized the throne from its rightful rulers and thereafter cruelly and brutally cleaved their way through twenty-four generations of rule. For this very reason, Tsote detests having been born Yakunko. He wished his Kurota never manifested. Nevertheless, a threat twice greater and more dangerous than the Kurota lingering in the shadows waiting for the right moment to alter all timing and power there is amongst all men. Not until Mama Erusa, the village's blind storyteller reveals to Tsote an inheritance of magical Olko beads his mother left behind with a promise that one day when Tsote is of age, they'd guide him to his fate; this was the time. Tsote's quest begins...
“Wheel of the People” is set fifteen years from now in East Africa, at the brink of the unification of the East African Union member states. It a story that will change everything you knew about African power and future politics. Much about this story, I have already mentioned. Synopsis: The East African community finally agrees to join hands to become one as a nation. Presidents who already served two terms and above in their respective states are denied participation in the Union's pre-presidential election. As the Union prepares for its pre-presidential elections, President Salim Savimbi of Uganda threatens to withdraw from the Union. The Union terms his withdraw illegal and a threat to its future. Amidst the confusion, President Salim invites the USA Interpol into Uganda. The Interpol was on a regional search for RAT, a weapon of mass destruction the US made first hoping to cripple Japan's might in the East in 1943. Unfortunately, the US lost the weapon in a ragging storm over the East African Great Lakes region until 2031. Shortly after Interpol’s arrival, a C4 bomb explodes in Kampala claiming several high-profile lives. President Salim is alleged the murderer! This stirs up the Union making a civil war inevitable! Nevertheless, President Salim shows no signs of fear for a pack of barking dogs. What happens when a wounded, angry puppy bites his pride?
Besides those two I have written another novella about Tsote (the fifteen-year-old boy and main character in “The Mystery of the Olko Beads”). It’s about ten chapters shorter than the first story. However, I called this “Tsote and the Sunflower Famine”. Its events occur three years before the events of “The Mystery of the Olko Beads”. A random reader of this interview may wish to check it out just in case they found the Olko Beads story interesting.
In what ways do the plot points of “Tsote and the Sunflower Famine” influence the events in “The Mystery of the Olko Beads”?
These two stories happen in the same cultural setting. The only difference is, I tried my best not involve Tsote and the Sunflower Famine story with any character from “The Mystery of the Olko Beads”. The reason is, I was on a journey of writing a hot story about each of the major characters I very well knew were appearing somewhere in the first part of “The Ascendants’”, A Legend of Tsote - Book One.
Sote was the first and I gave him a novella. And writing the Sunflower Famine story was one way I could take the origins of individual characters I found very influential to the major book and Tsote's adventure until he is a grown-up warrior.
Opit Ramundo is the great sunflower famer's son in the Sunflower Famine story. They are best friends with Tsote. Opit's father is the reason why the southern lands of the Yakunko Empire have survived the past three years of a continuing famine. He discovered the sunflower crop with lots of other super-natural benefits I can’t mention here, but the lands and its people loved and honored Menshi Yudo Ramundo for a discovery that sustained thousands of lives in hundreds of south villages.
The famine isn't anywhere close to ending and Menshi Yudo Ramundo is sickly. Everyone is worried he might die, and the sunflower crop may end with him. But he has a son and wishes he may take on the family crop farming legacy. Unfortunately, the son isn’t interested. He wants to train alongside his best friend Tsote so they become great Yakunko warriors like he heard about the warriors of the old times who built the foundation of the Yakunko Empire.
The two boys are inseparable, and they'll learn a lot from their stubbornness and thick-headedness, most especially around the time the survival of thousands of lives may have shifted onto their shoulders at such a tender age. And any stupid decision could lead to the total dissolution of the whole Yakunko Empire. Unfortunately, Opit Ramundo and everyone else don’t appear again in “The Mystery of the Olko beads”. Opit Ramundo appears again in “The Ascendants (A Legend of Tsote)”.
After many years north of the Yakunko Empire where he'd travelled with his father's caravan a year after the famine, he returns South a fully grown up, wealthy and influential man in the affairs of the Northern desert trade tribes.
When Tsote's friend Opit left the south, Tsote remained another five years training as a young Yakunko Kurotandi warrior. Kurotand is a term Yakunko clansmen gave to boys born with the gift of shape shifting. A gift that allowed the Yakunko tribesmen close to twelve generations of rulership over their eight sister clans.
The Kurotandi training was meant for all Yakunko boys born with the gift of the Kurota, Opit wasn’t born with it and they were trained to serve in the Yakunko emperor’s personal special Kurotandi guard the rest of their lives, which was every Yakunko boys' dream and father's wish for at least one of their sons. However, there is a lot of bad and minimally good Toste will learn about this extra-ordinary gift, his life without a mother and father, his tribe's past and future before embracing his fate.
Has your readership outside Africa increased as a result of word of mouth and net advertising?
My greatest readership comes from constant social media interactions with other writers and readers in different writers’ groups. Facebook and Instagram helped me a lot with getting my stories known outside Africa. Aside from that, I’ve been illustrating most of the characters in “The Mystery of the Olko Beads”. Illustrating my characters’ likenesses even without colors has given my readers a grander point of view of the Olko Beads story and similarly bolstered their understanding and attachment to that imaginary world and its ways. This I have learned from feedback and reviews. It motivates and inspires me to go on. This hasn't earned me money because my stories are still free for all readers but pushed my creations beyond.
Who are some of the authors you’ve met and started corresponding with on social media? In what writers’ groups did you start exchanging messages?
Around the end of 2019, while posting about “The Ascendants Awakening”, I came across a popular story titled “Her Paper Marriage” by a random young lad, C.G Hope. She had around forty thousand readers and I hadn’t reached even ten thousand readers on Wattpad. She was published for the same story on several other online sites. And the story was doing three times or more greater than mine. Being a Ugandan, I sent her a message and when she discovered my stories, she too was surprised and applauding “The Ascendants”. We became great friends ever since. She has taught me a lot about online marketing for my stories.
Having left university with a goal to turn “The Ascendants” mini-series into a series of fantasy graphic novels, I took to deeper research and learning about the business, its ups and downs. Like any dreamer I knew what I wanted and how important it is to try and learn from professionals. So during lockdown while I wrote “The Mystery of the Olko Beads”, I did a great deal of research about comics and 2D & 3D animation films making that part of our long-term goals. I saw comics I never knew did exist about African mythology, legends and folklore. I was intrigued. One was “Black Sands Ent”, founded by Manuel Godoy. He wrote about Egyptian mythologies, a genre many never to as sword and sorcery. The other is Milton Davis. He is a fantastic fiction writer and owner of MVmedia LLC, a publishing company specializing in science fiction and fantasy based on African and African Diaspora culture, history and tradition. His most notable works include “From Here to Timbuktu”, “Changa’s Safari”, “Amber and the Hidden City”, “Griots”, “Terminus” and more. I haven’t gotten his attention really to respond to much of my questions, but his stories do inspire me a lot.
Around the end of the lockdown, I learned about Youneek Studios and associated with a lot more comic creators in North and South Africa where close to 70% of the indigenous comic books are created. I joined lots of Indie comic book creators’ groups on Facebook and followed many other creators on Instagram. I was challenged by how much was out there already.
I started character designing, sketching out lots of my characters when I realized close to 90% of all the creators I associated with online, first promoting their manga/comic projects ahead of the actual publication. Unfortunately, I was financially down and couldn’t even afford a graphics tablet in Uganda. Then I learned about Indiegogo and Gofundme and close to 80% of all indie comic creators I communicated with were actually relying on crowd funding via these sites and others to finance their projects.
I met lots of challenges and limitations for my country, region, taxes and banking of the funds. I went to look for a day job which meant a lot would wait until my team and I made the startup funds. Nevertheless, I’m determined and believe we shall get there come what may. As Andy Kileen, an English author and good friend living in Uganda once told me, “There is a big potential market in the UK for African fantasy fiction. People are looking for something different from the usual Tolkien/Game of Thrones.” This encouraged me to continue writing science fiction and fantasy even though creators’ gadgets and funds weren’t readily available yet.
Tell the readers who Andy Killeen is, what he has published and if you and he have worked together at all? When and how did you meet him?
Andrew Killeen is a writer, editor, and traveler. Originally from Birmingham, England. Andy is currently living in Kampala, Uganda, after five years in China. In the UK he worked with homeless and vulnerable families, was an indie DJ and ran a literary festival. You can Google about him and discover his acclaimed historical thrillers. Some of his works include “The Father of Locks” and “The Khalifah’s Mirror/Fragments: Stories and Poems”.
I first encountered him on a Facebook post. He was probably just several months landed in Uganda. He posted to share about one of his first writer/young aspiring writer workshops meant to occur somewhere in Kampala in 2019. Due to some circumstances, I wasn’t able to attend even though I really needed to.
Two months later he organized a young writer’s meeting In Kampala, which I made sure I attended. His efforts made a very positive impact on the few that attended the meeting. I hadn’t met even more than two Ugandan writers. This meeting got me in closest contact with young writers who were as passionate and creative as I was. As young writers from a third world country we shared so many similar challenges. All I can say, a lot was shared, and it improved something about how I thought about writing and creating fiction. Not long after the lockdown began. We had a WhatsApp group through which I stayed in close communication with him; he enlightened me more about writing and it helped transform my approach to creating.
Through Facebook and Instagram, have you by any chance met any graphic artists who would be interested in designing art for your work?
I’ve talked to Raudric Curtis of Royal House Comics and several other graphic artists who are more than willing to illustrate and color our very first comic book issue. I’ve always held my breath whenever I saw the price lists, especially for African science fiction/fantasy fiction. The prices range between $60 and $180 which is one month’s rent for a one room house in my country. However, I got a day paying job last month and hopefully I’ll get to accumulate these funds to have our very first issue worked on. Then, I’ll have something to use for a fund raiser campaign on Indiegogo or GoFundMe.
At the rate its going now, do you think African comic art and fiction etc will be accepted in the US and other countries?
Sure. African comics and manga of all genres, most especially superheroes, are emerging. Comic book creators from Uganda and the continent at large seek to change the meaning of diversity, bringing relatable characters and rich storytelling traditions to the increasingly popular industry.
Famed African superheroes like Black Panther hail from the diaspora but demand for Afrocentric stories has remained limited in a market dominated by U.S. publishers like DC and Marvel, together comprising of over half the global industry according to data compiled by Diamond Comic Distributors.
However, East African, Nigerian and South African creators are now demanding and pushing for greater representation, as a number of self-starting entrepreneurs like Chris Mugaru, Elupe Comics, and Atro Universe are emerging with original comics with an African focus capable of attracting readers in the USA and Europe.
The Japanese answer to comics, Manga, has long infected Western culture with its unique art style and fantastic storylines and I’m an avid fan. People in the States love Japanese culture and want to go to Japan because of Manga, explaining why we need to do the same or better down here in terms of quality, diversity and compelling African stories. Just as Manga has done, Atro Universe hopes that the development of African comic books can spread Africa’s cultures around the world because the main reason we tell stories in our culture is to tell morals and give lessons.
Despite past depictions, African stories are now on the rise with the presence of events such as Lagos Comic Con and Free Comic Book Day in Cape Town. Although South Africa is more established in terms of art production, including the comic “Super Strikas” which is read all over Africa, the continent’s largest economy is making strides into the diaspora market with fresh characters. Presently, Nigeria seems the most resolved on making the African comic industry a real thing. It’s the guys who do it out of their own pockets who are propelling African comics into the U.S. and European markets. There is great potential in African comics by Africans. Nevertheless, major regional, social and economic challenges are yet to be stomped to find greater impact in the U.S. and Europe. Among these is the general poverty; 80% of aspiring creators lack the necessary funds and gadgets required to run quality/world class productions comparable to DC or Marvel. There is poor/expensive Internet access; social media algorithms seem to restrict lots of essential African creator contents due to various unclear reasons. In turn this limits our readers’ base in the diaspora from accessing/viewing or ever knowing anything about major African narratives.
Atro Universe isn’t any different from the other young creators. But there is a great possibility of penetrating overseas market/readers for Ugandan/African comics if such challenges are ironed out.
Can you name some more of the comics being published by Chris Mugaru and Elupe Comics? Do they have email addresses and ordering information for the readers?
Chris Mafigiri Mugaru is one of the few senior pioneers. He recently launched a comic book, “Children of War”, at the Goethe Zentrum Kampala Uganda German Cultural Society offices in Kampala. In 2013, he won a Uganda comic artists’ competition sponsored by UGCS. Dominic Muwanguzi talked to him about his love for comics, the influence the art form has on other visual arts, and the future of his passion turned profession.
“Children of War” is a cross genre comic book, adventure, futuristic, and political history. It is a fascinating story that takes you through an ideological time of Africa’s unification, the characters that are the axis of this unification and their lives. It is a story he hopes to turn into a graphic novel.
I met Chris Mugaru my very first time in 2019 during my final year at Makerere University. It was by coincidence I recall. We walked close to a kilometer from the University to a nearby students' hostel town called Makerere Kikoni. When he learned that I was of the same faculty of art from which he himself graduated, we found relating topics to hold our conversation. He told me he majored in Illustration as a course unit during his final year in university. He was an Alumni who left the university seven years earlier.
The moment I heard he was an illustration artist and comic book writer; I was loosened up to reveal that I was a fine artist and creative writer. He asked what exactly I have written, and I narrated three different stories. He was more than impressed and asked for my number when we were ready to part, requesting if we could meet and talk more over the weekend. He called me once before the weekend to inquire of we could meet. We met again at a cafe and he asked to hear a little more about “The Asc3ndants”.
Unfortunately, I never saw him again until this day but I had a belief we would work out something together... but, maybe it wasn’t the time then. I was researching on Google about the number of comic books and animation creators we got in Uganda and his face popped up at the top of the list. I was glad we shared a moment face to face but dared not bother him.
I instead got connections with Elupe Comics to learn more about the comic industry and business they were already into. What I can say is they are such an awesome team of artists to reckon with. Elupe Comics has a website if any random reader would love to find out more about their astounding works. Simply Google the creators name as I’ve typed it.
Are Lagos Comic Con and Free Comic Book Day growing in attendance despite the limited internet exposure? Do you think these shows will eventually become as large as conventions in Europe and the U.S.?
I learned that fifty years ago, a bunch of comics fans in San Diego decided they wanted a way to meet other creators and other fans. They were mostly teenagers - okay, and two adults. What resulted is a pop culture phenomenon we know as San Diego Comic Con. Over time this was emulated by creators from different parts of the world. Lagos Comic Con is one of many other international creator conventions borne of the same ideal.
The practice and an attendance of hundreds of creators from a wide range of African cultures has inspired hundreds of other aspiring creators and smaller conventions across and around Africa. The first Lagos Comic Con took place in September 2012 with about 300 guests in attendance.
So far, Lagos Comic Con is the largest and most sounding far in Africa. This is because of its networking platform where creators get to meet others who are doing amazing things. Local and international artists get to see what others are doing and go away challenged and inspired to step up their game. Aside from exhibitions, awards, competitions and stage performances, the LCC hosts numerous workshops and panel discussions on industry most relevant topics.
With the impact of these conventions, young artists across Africa have grown aware of the limited misrepresentation of African narratives in the international creator industry. They have grown more aware about creator sites such as Fiver, Freelancer and other sites where they are pushing African narratives on a very determined level and positive basis and competing for foreign jobs. Job opportunities available on such sites have drastically reduced the levels of cybercrime induced by joblessness among youths.
Creators and fans at Lagos Comic Con are concentrated in the 17–35-year-old range which makes up of over 90% of the guests. More interestingly, as the years passed, female attendees grew to make up as much as 40% of the guests. This is due to the wide variety of creative art fields the Lagos Comic Con focuses on such as films, books, gaming, virtual reality and more. The other reason why we created Atro Universe Ltd and its Atroverse Creators' Association is that East African aspiring creators can hardly participate nor access Lagos Comic Con due to poor and highly taxed internet access. We believe we shall inspire others so that African comic conventions are compared to San-Diego Comic Con given time, enthusiasm among our local creators and above all oneness.
Concerning the free comic book day in South Africa: Being that comics are essentially a modern version of telling stories in pictures, they’ve been used vastly to tell stories in the most fantastic ways that share political ideas, agendas, and certainly made mockeries of political figures in every age. From those Saturday morning comics in newspapers to lavish pieces of erotic fiction, there probably isn’t a single topic that hasn’t been touched on by the comic artist’s pen. Lovers of 2D and 3D animation even have a tendency of thanking artists behind their best original animated films, as each frame of the films were originally hand-drawn by dedicated artists. So, Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) puts these amazing works of art and literature into the hands of even those that can’t afford them by offering free comic books for every one of every age.
Joe Field established Free Comic Book Day in 2001. At the time he was running a comic bookstore that was located next door to a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop, which seemed to garner a great deal of promotional equity from their Free Scoop Day. He was inspired to imagine what a free comic book day might be like! While writing for a magazine of the comic industry, Joe noted there had been a resurgence in comic purchases in the wake of the recent flow of comic book franchise movies. Society and finances were both looking favorably on this unending wealth of diverse stories. And that’s when Joe suggested the institution of a Free Comic Book Day, synced with superhero popularity, to spread the fandom as wide as possible.
The first Free Comic Book Day coincided with the opening of the 2002 Spider Man film, hoping to ride on the wave of promotion and all of the hubbub going on about it in the news and other media sources.
While not every year sees Free Comic Book Day coming into line with the release of another feature film, it often happens as a matter of providence. While the comics do cost the retailers a small amount each in overhead, they are routinely given away to all comers to help drive interest in the comic book hobby. As a promotional event, the day seems to increase business traffic and sales in comic book stores overall. And this is another of Atroverse Universe’s visions. We hope to pioneer the set of the first free comic book store/library in the central part of Uganda and to every region of the country where children and youths 8-25 years of age can freely access them within the community library premises.
It’s been a year now since I started discussing this idea and vision for the spread of the comic book pop culture to different regions of Uganda as a way of speeding up local’s understanding of the relevance and impact of comics to young people. We needed to do this so we could widen indie creator to markets Marvel and DC have not been able to crack into yet. Fortunately, the idea has been bought by many Diasporan and North African indie comic creator most of which are willing to donate several of their works towards the Atroverse community libraries. The idea is still yet to be put into action by the members of the association and we hope to lay the first brick of the library’s foundation next year, October 6, 2023, if all goes well.
The Association is a powerful engine towards the ironing out of all the above-mentioned challenges. However, most creators have different opinions and worries about the intentions and goals of the Association claiming it’s not the first they have been a member of. They say they have been in several other associations which leadership and goals faced difficult challenges which eventually led to their collapse. Some other young professionals loved the idea but still asked me to grow it and ensure it survives its early challenges before they could join. It showed me that creators weren’t hearing this their very first time.
They may have been a part of several other non-creator associations and believed the same challenges that crippled the others could crumble Atroverse creators’ association in the short or long run. Hence very few seemed interested. Others believe the leaders are opportunists due to what they might have met elsewhere. Yet we have outlined all these challenges to know where they usually sprout so we could iron them out before they can cripple this association too. The foundation is hard to stabilize because we are limited to certain resources, but we are also open to any external support in case one found interest in the ideas, mission and goals to help us safeguard our association against the challenges those disagreeing to join met elsewhere or foresee coming our way.
As we speak, art is a much-undervalued skill or talent in Uganda and yet I believe we are a great inspiration to scientific and technological sectors. Science and technology would crawl without the influence of art. Children have found paramount interest, love and inspiration to venture into science and technology due to the technological and scientific imaginations of artists and creators exhibited through imagery. However, our country and governments in East Africa have given the fields of art a very ignorant eye. And yet to effectively inspire children and youths between eight to twenty-five, the government must get involved. And the only way to attract international organizations’ creators’ grants and our very own government’s attention, trust and eventual support, is through a joint body.
Presently, creators and their marvelous works have long been overshadowed and absorbed by the value and quality of internationally established creator companies. But through a powerful association like Atroverse Creators’ Association, under visionary, determined and experienced leadership, local creators and their works shall be facilitated, promoted, trained where necessary, supported financially and technologically depending on what type of work, portrayed message and its impact on the general basis.
When the works are fully ready, the association will work hand in hand with national media houses, learning institutions like secondary schools, universities and other government bodies and ministries responsible for culture, arts, science and technologies so that a piece of work by any of our association members finds value in the local market to compete equally on the international market against established international creator companies and their popular works.
In a way, this will propel the whole local creator industry into a positive direction.
What kind of an impact do you want to have on other authors through your writing?
I’d like to inspire writers from my country to work alongside talent they don’t have so they can get their works out there. There are writer/authors in my country who can write astounding pieces of novels and novellas but can barely draw a cup on its actual shape. The same way, there are many talented artists whose talents with the pencil, pen or paint brush are incomparable. Still there are thousands of youths graduated with first class degrees in IT, graphics design and 3D animation or character design. Some have specialized in fields which only and only when brought together can an industry find a face and power to be heard or power to counter public ignorance about the relevance of creators and power enough to stomp on all challenges suffocating all young indie creators in Uganda and East Africa at large.