African storytellers are finding new ways to deliver African folktales, history and lore to the mainstream audience. And as part of that tradition, Etan Comics presents the first Ethiopian superhero comic, Jember, with vivid illustrations and sleek storytelling.
Jember follows Amanuel Tilahun, a recent college graduate who finds disappointment in his efforts to start his career in the bustling city of Addis Ababa—that is until his life is suddenly changed when he comes across extraordinary powers. The character is inspired by the life and experiences of young residents in Addis Ababa.
Etan Comics is a platform dedicated to educating, entertaining and empowering a new generation of Africans by creating superheroes of that inherit African origin and values, based on the belief that stories are the best learning tools. “They are what move us, make us feel alive and inspire us. With our stories, we aim to broaden your perspective about the world. We encourage you to learn more about different cultures, people, nature and all the amazing intricacies of this world,” says Beserat Debebe creator, writer and founder of Etan Comics, according to The Reporter Ethiopia.
Debebe brought Jember to life along with line and cover artist Stanley Obende, line artist Brian Ibeh, color artists Akanni Akorede and Waliu Edu, and letterer Rebecca Asah. And although scenes in the comic book are set in Addis Ababa and the names are Ethiopian, the characters are an amalgamation of African features such as the history of the East African civilization known as the Kingdom of Punt, which is a big part of the creation of Jember’s story. The founder recalls that the process led the team to learn from each other. “We get to learn about each other’s background culture so it continues to be an enriching experience.”
Although comic books are not a common storytelling medium in Africa, they are increasingly becoming a popular medium for visual storytelling and many young digital artists are venturing into the field. With over 8000 followers on the Etan Comics Facebook page, many are happy with this new beginning and eagerly wait on subsequent issues.
“My hope is that through Jember and other future comics, our audiences can find role models they can relate to at a personal level,” says Debebe. “Due to the lack of representation in Western popular media, which is highly consumed by Ethiopians, young Ethiopians can often be consciously or subconsciously limited in what they aspire to be. I hope our work challenges them to expand their imagination.”
The first issue was released on 23 February in both Amharic and English translations and is available for digital download. The second issue is expected on 24 August.