Durban - A comic book about the life of Shaka Zulu, which has received great reviews from the New York Journal of Books and The Wall Street Journal, is set to be released in South Africa later this year at the first Comic Con Africa.
Shaka Rising, created by Durban artist and writer Luke Molver, is the first in a series of African comic books about African histories created by Africans. It is published by Storypress Africa, a new publishing partnership between South Africa and the USA.
Molver said he was working on the second installment of the series, yet to be titled.
“This one will deal with the second part of the Zulu king’s life up until his assassination by his brother, Dingane.”
Molver, who has been a freelance illustrator for more than a decade and has self-published several of his own comic books, said he was approached by StoryPress Africa last year to create Shaka Rising.
He embraced the opportunity to work on this iconic story.
“Shaka is one of South Africa’s most well-known historical figures, and the story of his rise and fall hits all the notes of a great epic: familial strife, political intrigue, folklore, myth, blood-splattered action - everything that makes for a gripping narrative.”
He said that because of the traditions of oral storytelling in Zulu culture, the various agendas of Shaka’s rivals and the biased and unreliable accounts from white settlers, the research for Shaka Rising was quite extensive.
“Shaka is an unusual iconic figure from history in that we know so little verified fact about the man himself.
“He is part history, but also part myth and this lends itself to some great storytelling possibilities.”
Molver said his research included the work of Shaka scholars, such as Dan Wylie and John Laband, who themselves collated as much information about the Zulu king as possible from primary, secondary and tertiary sources.
“The historical elements of Shaka Rising, such as political alliances, territorial borders, specific battles - as far as possible these are all factual and true.
“Included in Shaka Rising is an educational component: a glossary of isiZulu words and information on Zulu customs, culture and traditions, that all relate directly to scenes in the comic.”
He said the choice to make Shaka Rising a comic was quite simple - “comic books are a uniquely exciting and accessible medium for storytelling.
“As a novel, the story has the danger of being perceived as just another school textbook, not the favourite reading material of teenagers.
“However, as a comic book, the visuals hugely increase the impact of the story.”
Molver said while the book had a target audience of young adult readers from 15-25, when he was creating it he did so without constraints in mind.
“I set out to create a comic book that I would have liked to read when I was 15, and that I would still enjoy when I was 50. I think that can be achieved by striking a balance between action-packed and educational.
“Readers get an exciting, fast-paced adventure story in the vein of something like Game of Thrones, while learning about real-life cultures and peoples with whom they may be unfamiliar.”
Speaking of some of the reviews the comic book has received in the US, Molver was exceptionally pleased people were enjoying the book internationally, but looked forward to getting some local feedback and reviews from South Africans when the book is released in September.
“I am happy to say that the success so far of Shaka Rising definitely bodes well for future books of the series. People are very interested in these stories.
“Also, with the phenomenal success of movies like Black Panther, and the renewed interest around African speculative fiction in general, I believe this is a very good time to be putting out these comic books.”