Barely weeks after announcing that her book “Who Fears Death” would be adapted for a TV series by HBO (the network behind hit series like Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley), Nigerian-American writer, Nnedi Okorafor is taking her stories to a new audience; this time with Marvel Comics.
The Hugo-award winning fantasy writer announced via Twitter that she will be crafting her first story for Marvel, an 8-page comic titled “Blessing in Disguise”.
The comic is set in Lagos and will feature as part of Marvel’s Venomverse anthology.
According to Okorafor, the story features a young girl, Ngozi (meaning “Blessing” in her native Igbo and named after the author’s sister), along with popular Marvel characters like the Venom, Black Panther, and the Rhino.
Naturally, as Okorafor put it, wahala ensues.
Announced in May 2017, Venomverse will be the spiritual successor to 2014’s Spider-Verse, a similar anthology built around Spider-man.
This time, the story centers around Eddie Brock, the host for the symbiote, Venom (who fans may remember as the black reptile-like figure that was one of Spiderman’s arch enemies), as well as many “venom-bonded’ characters including fan favorite, Deadpool as well as Black Panther, Mary Jane, Ghost Rider and now, Ngozi.
Other characters from the Marvel multi-verse will also make appearances.
A Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University at Buffalo, New York, Okorafor has garnered a sterling reputation and international accolades for crafting thematically-complex science fiction and elements of magical realism and fantasy into gripping stories with infusions of African culture.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio to immigrant parents of Igbo origin, the style and themes that define Okorafor's work are a function of her education as much as her heritage.
During her years attending Homewod-Flossmoor High School in the American state of Illinois, Okorafor was known for being dominant in science studies; evident in her use of the scientific to support the meta-physical elements of her stories.
Growing up, she visited Nigeria very often, enjoying experiences which allowed her connect to the reality of life at home and the traditions and beliefs that have fuelled her stories.
Till this day, Nigeria is a second home.
The author has, in the past, affirmed the role that African literature can play in inspiring higher standards among the continet's diverse peoples.
"I think that literature provides Africa with a mirror to inspect itself. Also, certain types of literature, science fiction for example, and a lot of the fantastical literature push African readers to imagine", Okoroafor said in an interview for the 2016 edition of Ake Arts and Book Festival.
Needless to say, imagination is a staple in her stories. Most notable among her works include “Who Fears Death” (A World Fantasy Award Winner for Best Novel), “Akata Witch” (An Amazon.com Best Book of the Year) and her "Binti Trilogy" (the first of which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella).
While novels are clearly her forte, this is not her first time writing comics; she is credited as a writer in 2012's "Mystery in Space", a one-shot anthology by Vertigo Comics, loaded with unsettling short stories.
With “Blessing in Disguise”, Okorafor joins writers like Neil Gaiman, Scott Snyder, Marjorie Liu and Ta-Nehisi Coates on the list of fantasy novelists who have also pivoted into comics.
Fans of both Marvel and Okorafor can expect a story based on memorable characters and a style of storytelling that confronts the contemporary as much as it allows the imagination to roam free.
The collaboration between Okorafor and Marvel also brings to light, the potential in telling African stories, however imaginative, by visual means.
Across African cities, an underground comic book scene is steadily growing. Beyond generic staples like the seminal Supa-Strikas, companies like Lagos’ Comic Republic and Youneek Studios are making impressive efforts at putting complex narratives into enticing comics.
Marvel’s Venomverse anthology is slated for release in October 2017.