Part 1 of the graphic novel series E.X.O.: The Legend of Wale Williams is officially released this week, and with it comes yet another reason to support creator-owned comics. These folk continue to be on the cutting edge of diversity, shirking off the big marketers, focus groups, and people who tell you “what sells,” and instead goes straight to us, the consumers, and give us what we want. Of course, large publishers eventually follow suit after we support Kickstarter campaigns, small publishers, and stories like E.X.O. Just like underground hip-hop, the good stuff is there when whenever we look for it (until it’s snatched up by Diddy and ruined).
We first covered E.X.O. at the launch of its Kickstarter campaign to finance a graphic novel that was actually originally conceived as a cartoon series. The obstacles that the creators faced were disappointing yet unsurprising:
“Is anybody really going to watch a cartoon series based on an African character?”
If the success of the trailer is any indication, many of us actually would. Our consolation comes through the efforts of Roye Okupe and YouNeek Studios who created that trailer, crowd-sourced funding, and released E.X.O. this week. Check out the 3-minute Book Launch Trailer where Okupe explains his journey bringing this story to audiences.
I had the opportunity to read the first book of E.X.O. and it delivered, including the unexpected nostalgia from watching action cartoons as a child. The structure, characters, and even the twists are reminiscent of stories about the reluctant hero who is given great power and learns to wield it on the fly to save the day. Only this hero is from Nigeria, adding Wale Williams to the narrow roster of Africa-centric heroes, and the book does well integrating the feel of Lagos through the scenery, Nigerian slang, and a bright cast full of Black excellence.
If you have yet to see the trailer, watch the video along with my real-time reactions. It’ll give you a great sense of what to expect, although I will say there are actually several more interesting characters than I expected in the book, which was a pleasant surprise. Wale is dope and all, but be may be your second favorite character behind someone you hardly see in promotional materials.
This is a fun book by a writer I am proud to support. It takes a lot of work to create, fund, and self-promote an independent graphic novel, and I admire the perseverance and level of work it takes to achieve this book release. We wish them the best in what they intend to accomplish, and hope you do too:
You can buy E.X.O.: The Legend of Wale Williams Part 1 on Amazon, Kindle, Apple iBooks, or directly from the publisher, YouNeek Studios. Want to see if it’s for you? You can read the first chapter online for free right here.