Interview: EXO: The Legend of Wale William Graphic Novel’s Roye Okupe

EXO: The Legend of Wale William is a creator owned graphic novel coming this summer from Roye Okupe the Owner/Creative Director at YouNeek Studios.  The story is set in the year 2025, in the fictional Nigerian city of Lagoon which is modeled after the Nigerian city Lagos. Here’s the official synopsis and trailer:

Tricked into returning home to Nigeria after a five year absence, an impetuous young man named Wale (pronounced Wah-leh) Williams embarks on a journey to investigate his father’s mysterious disappearance. His only clue is a cryptic Nanosuit left behind for him by his father, a suit which grants superhuman abilities. As he comes to understand the suit’s powers, Wale realizes he must restore hope to the city by preventing catastrophic attacks from the sociopathic extremist, Oniku.

I had the opportunity to ask Okupe a few questions about the project which you can read below:

Uncanny Pop: What inspired this project and what was the creative process?

Roye Okupe: 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).

UP: What inspires you to create comics?

RO: To be honest, my inspiration came from rejection. As much as I love comics, initially my plan was to release EXO as an animated movie. I created this video to pitch to investors and distributors and while majority loved the “idea”, I was told by some that nobody would watch an animation based on African characters. I am still pursuing the animated project, but as of now, I decided I would take matters into my own hands and release my story to the public as a graphic novel first. To prove that consumers truly are interested in stories based on diverse characters.

ExomodeSheet     OnikuNewUP: What do you do when you’re drained and need to recharge creatively?

RO: Good question, as I do get drained a lot. To be successful in this business you have to wear multiple hats (writer, marketer, PR, sales, customer service etc.). It really can get overwhelming quickly. What I always try to do when I feel like I’m getting there is just take a day or two to do nothing. During those days I’ll spend my time watching movies and TV shows, playing video games and spending time with family and friends. You’ll be amazed at what you can come up with after a break like that!

UP: What advice can you give aspiring artists?

RO: It’s hard for me to answer that. My background comes from being a writer/producer and creative director, it wasn’t until later in my adult life I started becoming fascinated with comics. While I have a keen eye for artwork and constructing scenes, I personally don’t draw. But from my experience, surround myself with great artists (illustrators, storyboard artists, concept artists), what I would say is keep getting better at your craft. Always be willing to work harder than the next person and you will find success.

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UP: What’s something you learned early on in your career that made you a better writer/producer and creative director?

RO: I learned never to give up. I’ve failed so many times that no one would probably blame me if I decided to quit chasing my dreams. But as hard as it seems, I always try to use failure as fuel. I learn from it and try to find a way to become a better version of myself.

 

UP: What advice can you give writers?

RO: Write, write, write. Just keep writing. I believe writing is a skill that can never be mastered. There is always room for improvement no matter what level you are on. Also, if you can find a mentor who can nurture you as you grow.

UP: Can you tell us about any other current or upcoming  projects?

RO: I’ve spent the last 5 years crafting a universe of diverse superheroes. I call it the “YouNeek YouNiverse” , pretty cool hunh? Right now I have about 10 different superhero titles in the back burner. But for now my focus is making my first one, EXO, as successful as possible. This is the only way I can continue my passion of crafting diverse superhero stories. EXO’s success is crucial.

UP: Diversity has always been a hot topic within the comic book industry and it was recently in the public eye with actress Michelle Rodriguez’s comments on how POC should create their own mythologies. What are your thoughts on what she said?

RO: This is a very good question. I personally feel she made some good points, but if given a chance she might phrase certain things in a different way. But this is were I agree with her. We as POC must push to get our stuff out there. My mission with EXO: The Legend of Wale Williams is to put Africa on the map when it comes to telling superhero stories, be it animated or throughsuperhero 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. 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 if done properly (great script, good production values etc.), Nigerians, Africans and 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 (5 years so far) in developing the story and characters. My hope is that EXO fulfills my life long goal of adding something unique to the superhero genre.

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UP: Closing remarks:

RO: Last thing I want to emphasize is that the graphic novel will be released first (this summer). While there are early plans in motion for the animation, there is no set release date as of yet. We’re hoping to build a strong fan base with the book, using that as impetus to eventually produce the animated feature. If you want to follow our progress, please sign up for our newsletter here: http://youneekstudios.com/

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