How I'm Using EXO, An African Superhero Film/Graphic Novel To Fight for Diversity In Superheroes

cover-art-final-promo-2 Writer and creative director Roye Okupe will launch his debut graphic novel E.X.O. – The Legend of Wale Williams August 2015, narrating the origins of a superhero from Nigeria (Africa). E.X.O.: A superhero story about redemption set in a futuristic 2025 Africa.
Roye Okupe  writes,

You know, when Rich Johnston sent me an email this evening (after I had stalked him for 2 weeks straight) I immediately started to jump for joy. "Yes! The Kickstarter campaign for my graphic novel is gonna be on Bleeding Cool! I've finally made it in life!" After a few hops around my North Bethesda apartment in Maryland, I thought to myself, "Did I actually read the email?" So I calmed down and proceeded to read. To my slight disappointment, no my article was not going to be published on Bleeding Cool (insert sad face), but instead, a challenge was issued to write something interesting that could eventually get on the blog. "Nice, I still have a chance" I thought. So, I began writing. At first I figured I would come up with something creative and/or funny to try to win his heart so I could get the post on BC, but after second thought, I realized what makes me and my project unique is the journey so far.

My name is Roye Okupe, writer and creator of E.X.O. – The Legend of Wale Williams. E.X.O. is a superhero story about redemption, set in a futuristic 2025 Africa (Bet you haven't heard that one before). The book is set for release in August 2015. From the first day I laid my eyes on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons in the 80's, I've been hooked on superheroes. Since then, I've watched, played and read every single superhero related title I could lay my hands on: movies, superhero comics, manga, anime, graphic novels, superhero animated movies & series, video games, etc. Then in 2008, after noticing there wasn't a lot of diversity within the genre, I decided to tell a story about a hero from Nigeria (Africa).

My mission with E.X.O. is to put Africa on the map when it comes to telling superhero stories, whether through animation or superhero comics and graphic novels. We have so many people with a wealth of creative and appealing stories on the continent, but they never really get the proper commercial exposure. I myself experienced this when I approached investors and distributors with my test animation. I was told it was a great idea, but there was no fan base for this sort of product. But I refuse to believe that. I believe that if it's done properly (with a great script, good production values etc.), people all over the world will be receptive. We don't necessarily love characters like Superman, Batman or Spiderman because of their place of origin. We love them because they have great stories we can identify with. That's why I took my time in developing the story and characters. I decided since I was not getting any backing for the animated feature, I would take matters into my own hands. I would release the story as a graphic novel first, and try to build a fan base organically. If E.X.O. becomes a household name in comic books, it would stand a better chance to get backing for an animated version. My hope is that E.X.O. fulfills my life long goal of adding something unique to the superhero genre.

Lastly, I really want to share my experience with the project on Kickstarter in case there's anyone else like me out there.

For two years, I pondered whether or not to add my project to Kickstarter. But fear never let me. "What if I fail?" "What if people never pledge?" "I am not good enough and my graphic novel sucks?" But I never let that stop me. For one year I studied other successful campaigns not just in my category (Comics/Graphic Novels) but also all over Kickstarter. I took notes; I watched videos and read blogs. After months and months of meticulous planning I finally launched my campaign on Sunday April 4th. And would you believe in just 3 days I met my goal! In 2 days I had my campaign posted on Mashable because of my unique take on superheroes. In fact, it was so buzz worthy it had 3000 shares in 2 days. And this is for a graphic novel that hasn't been released yet!

Why am I saying all this? Simple. I am proof that persistence pays off. I am proof that you can chase your dreams. I am proof that if you never give up, you can be a success, even when you fail miserably, multiple times like I did. It is such an awesome feeling and I just had to share it with you guys. If a project as diverse and niche as mine (A superhero from Africa) can succeed, whatever idea you think may not work can. And there's only one way to find out, try.

You can check out my Kickstarter campaign here (runs until May 7th): 

Please donate if you can. And if you cannot, sharing is equally as good. There are some awesome stretch goals I am hoping we can hit. As a matter fact, I recently released the first 27 pages for free. If we can double our current pledged value this weekend (as of this writing it sits at $6,150), I will release an additional 12 pages for FREE! That means almost a quarter of the book will be out there before it's released. So, what do you guys say? Can we do it? I bet we can!


Some notable links:

My website:



Instagram: @YouNeekStudios

E.X.O. Credits:

Roye Okupe – Creator/Writer/Art Director
Ayodele Elegba – Editor
Sunkanmi Akinboye – Artist
Raphael Kazeem – Colors
Godwin Akpan – Cover Art

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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