Kwezi – by Loyiso Mkize, Clyde Beech and Viwe Mfaku
The concept for Kwezi came about when these three friends imagined what an average 19-year old South African boy would do if he manifested superpowers. The story is set against the backdrop of modern day Jozi, and follows the life of an exceptional boy’s destiny in contemporary South Africa.
In addition to the book’s distinctly local flavour, the artists created an entirely interactive digital platform, which enables their fans to have a say in the creative process. They post their concept art on their Facebook page and gauge the feedback from their followers before inking their ideas. The idea is to feature their biggest fans and their most interactive online audience members as extras in upcoming issues.
Kwezi has achieved wide success in a relatively short amount of time. As much as my childhood would not have been the same without Marvel and DC, the American comic book scene has never been known to shy from prejudice (#surprise). One simply has to skim through Women in Refrigerators or an analyses of people of colour in comic books to get a general idea of who’s doing the drawing. Ironically, the marginalised often aren’t quite misfit enough to save the world – which was evident in the massive amount of backlash Donald Glover received when he told the Internet that he’d like to audition for the role of Peter Parker’s Spiderman. This is why Kwezi stands out – because it’s not an attempt to create a conventional protagonist, nor is it an attempt to rectify a cultural imbalance. It’s an original piece of work, written and drawn by South Africans, for South Africans. A piece of work that remains true to the artists’ own individual experience of our country.
Follow and contribute to Kwezi right here.
There are hundreds of other South African artists out there creating equally unique content. The problem with the tiny comic book industry is the lack of financial support for artists. But, as contemporary author Mark Z Danieleski says: “If the act of writing/drawing isn’t the primary focus, it shouldn’t be the primary vocation. There are far easier ways to make money if money is the goal.”
We’re a generation of kids who grew up amongst unfolding success stories, of the J.K Rowlings, the Trevor Noahs and Lena Dunhams. I’ve never been an advocate of Generation Y, but I have met a very specific breed of millennial dreamers who don’t understand what chasing passion entails. I’ve spoken to countless souls who tell me about the series of books they want to write; the mega-blogs they want to start, or the graphic novels theywant to create.
I’m all for the dreamers, but most of these conversations remind me of a Hannah Horvath monologue from HBO’s Girls – “I’m the voice of my generation” – which inspires a rolling of eyes so physically exerting that I might rip an optic nerve. It may be important to understand that your one passion in life is not a euphoric road to success. (In fact, the word ‘passion’ itself derives from its Latin root, ‘pati’ – meaning ‘to suffer’).
All the artists at the Free Comic Book Day showed exceptional commitment to their art; doing it because they love creating.
*Images courtesy of Readers Den and all original artwork © the creators.