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MUREWA AYODELE
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DF Interview: Nigerian writer Murewa Ayodele recasts Westernized mode of sword & sorcery through a distinctly African lens in ‘Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods’

 

By Byron Brewer

 

In an age thought forgotten – when man, monster and the divine all strode the Earth – a lone warrior emerges to test the immortality of the cruel gods who would deal destruction with impunity. He is a one-man reckoning that stands in defiance of his divine masters with a sword in hand and a thirst for god-blood. His name: Akogun the Brutalizer!

 

From writer Murewa Ayodele and artist Dotun Akande, Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods is told across three powerfully oversized bi-monthly chapters. Steady your mind and spirit for a comics milestone revealing the fabled origin and battle-tested fury of a new champion at the heart of a daring redefinition of swords and sorcery. How could I NOT be a part of this? It was my pleasure to discuss this unique Oni Press book with scribe Murewa Ayodele.

 

Byron Brewer: Murewa, there seems to be a little bit of an historic flavor to your coming book, Akogun, happening outside its covers. If memory serves, this is the first time two Nigerian creators, artist Dotun Akande and yourself, are attempting to redefine the sword and sorcery genre. Talk a little bit about the execution of this storytelling decision.

 

Murewa Ayodele: Dotun and I love the “sword and sorcery” genre – from franchises that sit smack in the middle like Conan the Barbarian to others that thread it like Samurai Jack, Witcher, and Xena: Warrior Princess.

 

Despite our love and respect for “sword and sorcery”, it is inevitable that when we clash a genre with darker tones like the African folktale, something thrilling, beautifully grotesque, and unique will be birthed.

 

Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods is inspired by several Yoruba mythologies, so there is definitely a flavor of historical fiction amid this story… but with a pinch of the cosmic. It truly is a story that’s uniquely engaging.

 

Byron: What can you tell readers about the canvas onto which you are about to set them in April? Describe the primordial African world and its aspects.

 

Murewa Ayodele: Swamps stalked by venomous creatures, dark forests with grinning faces carved into the tree trunks, savannahs ruled by bloodthirsty monsters, deserts plagued by flesh-ripping sandstorms… all under the rule of giant gods with twisted, unquestionable desires. Yet, it remains a land of beautiful people who against all odds and challenges will fight till their dying breaths. This is the primordial African world we present to you. This is the canvas onto which our story is gorgeously rendered. Alkebulan.

 

Byron: Not to diminish any part of the upcoming Brutalizer of Gods story, but what can you tell us about this limited series star? Who is Akogun?

 

Murewa Ayodele: Getting to learn about who Akogun is will be an essential part of the story and I wouldn’t want to deprive readers of that joy of discovery. But I can tell you this:

 

Akogun is the sort of character that reminds me of a popular quote by George Washington that says, “Real men despise battle, but will never run from it.”

 

Byron: Fill readers in about just some of the monsters, gods and other humans who stride the Earth (and this 3-part series) during this era. What is each’s relationship to Akogun?

 

Murewa Ayodele: The South African Grootslang has a little cameo. But it is the West African Ninki Nanka, a vicious reptilian monster that eats disobedient children who wander into the swamps, that makes a big splash.

 

Some of the cosmic elements of the story come from the gods of the Orisha (Yoruba) pantheon. Orunmila, the god of wisdom and divination, sees beyond time and space. Ogun, the god of war and metal, faces a horde of monsters alone and dominates. Obatala, the drunk god, concocts schemes beyond the comprehension of the sharpest minds. And Sango, the god of thunder and lightning… (pauses) I’d rather not say what role the rageful titan plays in the story. But trust me. It is a sight to behold.

 

Every element and fiber of this story, from the parts that take place on Earth to the parts that unfold in the Heavens, all lead to Akogun, the Brutalizer.

 

Byron: Can you give us an overview of the story you will be telling, a summary of what challenges Akogun and others will face and why… of course, without spoilers.

 

Murewa Ayodele: Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods is a revenge story that takes us across a beautiful yet dangerous primordial African world (Alkebulan) as Blue Eye Samurai did for pre-colonial Japan.

 

It features a protagonist with a tortured past going up against powerful gods like Kratos in the God of War video games.

 

Child imprisons parent, brother betrays brother, and creation unmakes creator. There is Game of Thrones level of drama set on the backdrop of the divine. Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods is gut-wrenching when it isn’t violent, orgasmic when it isn’t being sexy. Now, imagine the emotions it contains and creates when it’s firing on all cylinders.

 

I know every creator says this. This time it’s true. “This is a series not to miss”.

 

Byron: Tell readers how you became interested in storytelling and writing, and in writing comics.

 

Murewa Ayodele: I grew up a very sick kid. One major thing that made the experience not terribly scarring were stories. My dad often told me old folktales his grandmother told him growing up, I watched a lot of Nigerian movies and a few Disney classics my parents had access to. I devoured a wonderful children’s Bible I had as a kid that came with beautifully illustrated paintings. I couldn’t read but I stared at the paintings all day every day, guzzling down every detail and artistic choice. My parents got me a SEGA console with a Mortal Kombat video game so I would be forced to stay indoors and safe before a major surgery I had to undergo back then.

 

As my parents became more comfortable and access to foreign entertainment became easier in Nigeria, I turned into a big fan of cartoons and comics as well. So, I’ve always loved stories, and I’ve always been surrounded by them.

 

And It's only natural that when you're obsessed with stories, you'll experiment with telling stories of your own too. But I wouldn't start writing proper screenplays and scripts until I watched Avatar the Last Airbender as a teenager. It stirred up the desire to create fantastical worlds of my own for a living.

 

To this day, the only thing I love more than enjoying stories by other creators is getting to create new stories with my buddy, Dotun Akande.

 

Byron: Speaking of whom, how is it to be working with Dotun on this rather historic project? Talk a little about Dotun’s art.

 

Murewa Ayodele: Dotun Akande has been my best friend for over a decade now. And one thing I’ve learned from working with Dotun on several projects is that the big rule of “write for the artist” is pretty much useless when scripting for Dotun. This allows the story to be whatever it needs to be without constraints. Dotun draws babies flawlessly cute, his horses are majestic, his panel layouts are easy to follow, his design sense is immaculate, his action scenes are dynamic, and his acting is moving. For this project, he has leveled up beyond what I could have ever imagined. Dotun’s art on Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods is worth the price of admission alone.

 

And it’s a big plus that we have Dee Cunniffe on colors. In the credit pages of some of the most exciting comics in the past five years, I bet you’ll see his name on coloring duty. His colors flawlessly capture tone and elevate the art to new heights. We also have one of the best, if not the best, letterer in the industry masterfully putting words on the page. Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou operates on an unrivaled level of creative lettering. To cap it all, our editor, Karl Bollers, is an Eisner-nominated writer of comics with decades of experience editing comic books.

 

I suspect this is how great stories are told. (smiles)

 

Byron: Murewa, what other projects – inside or outside comics – in which you are involved can you tell readers about?

 

Murewa Ayodele: What’s got us the most excited right now is getting to tell more Akogun stories. Dotun and I have found ourselves eagerly working on the story outline for the sequel to Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods. We've fallen madly in love with the world and the characters. We can’t wait for you to join us on this journey. When you do, you'll understand our love for this world and characters, and share the same sentiments as well.

 

Dynamic Forces would like to thank Murewa Ayodele for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods #1 from Oni Press is slated to be on sale April 3!

  



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