YouNeek Studios, one of Africa’s foremost comic book publishing houses, has yet another feather in its hat as two of their team made the final list of nominees for the prestigious Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics for Iyanu -Child of Wonder – the latest addition to their connected universe of Africa-inspired heroes.
“This is without question one of the highest honors of my career as a creator.” says Iyanu comic writer Roye Okupe, “Dwayne McDuffie is a legend in not just the comic but animation industry as well. To be nominated for an award bearing his name is a lifetime achievement.”
Okupe’s enthusiasm about the nomination is well founded.
The Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics (aka “The DMAD”) is a prestigious annual comic book industry accolade, presented since 2015 and recognizing comic book creators, writers, and artists whose work promotes diverse human inclusiveness on the page or behind the scenes, in the spirit of the Award’s namesake, the late Dwayne McDuffie.
Artist Godwin Akpan was no less thrilled to be nominated saying, “As with many awards, this is especially big for me because it represents excellence and inclusion. Many of the other awards tend to focus on specific categories like the writing, or the art itself, but this award honors the effort of the individuals involved.”
The story of Iyanu revolves around an orphaned teen with no recollection of her past who suddenly discovers that she has hidden powers that rival the Divine Ones themselves. Her abilities may be the key to restoring the age of wonders and saving a world on the brink of destruction at the hands of The Corrupt – roving Cursed Wildlife and Divine Beasts desperate to destroy humanity.
Created by Roye Okupe and brought to life by the art of Godwin Akpan, Iyanu is the latest publication from YouNeek Studios that continues their history of releasing high-quality, African-inspired comic-book entertainment. In this case, Okupe made the conscious decision to cater to the under-served demand for content featuring African culture that centers and celebrates young black girls.
And the positive fan response to Iyanu – as evidenced by a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign – has been very rewarding, “I try not to depend too much on praise for validation. It is however very humbling to see that so many people love this character and story,” Okupe said about fan feedback he has received. “I think a lot of it also has to do with the amazing art Godwin Akpan brought to the mix. The book is just so amazing to look at.”
Akpan was also appreciative of the support they have received. “I have to admit that I’m really thankful it was well received by the audience. I can’t stress enough how important this is,” he enthused. “To hear that it was well received makes it worth [it] and it spurs us on to go on creating.”
Being nominated in the footsteps of past winners like Ivy Noelle Weir and Christina “Steenz” Stewart’s Archival Quality (Oni Press), Jamar Nicholas’s Leon: Protector of the Underground (Kids Love Comics), Ezra Clayton Daniels’ Upgrade Soul, G. Willow Wilson, and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel (Marvel Comics), and Nilah Magruder’s M.F.K. is no mean feat.
“It’s hard to believe that I am being nominated alongside some of the best in the industry. These are people I’ve looked up to for years. It’s mind-boggling.” Okupe stated. “But it’s also a testament to all the hard work and consistency I’ve put in over the last 10+ years. It’s feels very rewarding when things like this happen.”
In a coronavirus-marred award landscape there are almost certainly going to be changes to this year’s award presentation plans, but Akpan hopes to one day meet his fellow nominees as he’s also a fan. “I feel truly honored to be mentioned alongside people who have had decades of experience – some of whom I adore on the big screen.” Akpan said, “I hope I can get to meet some of these geniuses someday. For now I’m grateful just being mentioned alongside them.”
The full list of finalists:
Where to find these comic books
- They Called Us Enemy by writers George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and illustrated by Harmony Becker (IDW Publishing/Top Shelf Productions)
- Excellence by writer Brandon Thomas and artist Khary Randolph (Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment)
- From Truth With Truth by writer/artist Lawrence Lindell (self-published)
- Angola Janga: Kingdom of Runaway Slaves by writer/artist Marcelo D’Salete (Fantagraphics)
- Iyanu: Child of Wonder by writer Roye Okupe and artist Godwin Akpan (YouNeek Studios)
Additional reporting by I.O. Emmanuel