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YOHANCE is the African Space Opera Comic You’ve Been Waiting For

YOHANCE is the African Space Opera Comic You’ve Been Waiting For

The world of comic books is filled with all sorts of fascinating people and creatures. Because of this, it’s hard for new creators to stand out from the crowd and create a product that will appeal to a wide audience. Even more, creating a comic starring a majority of African characters—when the demographic is seldom represented in mainstream comics—runs the risk of lowering its sales success rate. However, that hasn’t stopped creators from chugging away and developing in-depth worlds filled with people of color. One such comic is titled Yohance, from the brilliant mind of its creator, Paul Louise-Julie.

As a self-proclaimed “lone wolf,” Louise-Julie is the brains behind his publication label, Midas Monkee, where he handles the design, writing, layout, pencil/inking, coloring, and lettering for Yohance and his various projects.

Yohance is an African space opera comic rarely seen on newsstands, but Louise-Julie’s first foray into comics comes courtesy of The Pack but it wasn’t without sacrifice. “In 2015, I dropped out of college and made my first comic book: The Pack. Since that day, I’ve never looked back,” explained Louise-Julie during a recent email exchange.

After reading the first two chapters of Yohance, I couldn’t help but feel it blended parts of Star Wars with Indiana Jones. This was intentional, as George Lucas’ influence was a big part of what makes Yohance the comic it is today. “In a way, [George Lucas] taught me everything I know about storytelling,” noted Louise-Julie. “I remember spending whole summers breaking down each scene from [Star Wars] episode to episode. I examined how he composed, lit, and shot a scene to convey mood while always moving the story forward. More importantly, he taught me the art of visual storytelling and the power of image.”

Stars Wars is, in many ways, the ultimate space opera—a fact not lost on Louise-Julie. “There will never be anything else like it. That said, it was never been my intent to replicate it.” Yohance is setup as an established African space opera franchise, with each character introduced already having a well-thought out backstory. “We are literally thrust right into the middle of this galactic conflict and the story begins,” divulged Louise-Julie. “I understood not to make the character’s subplots too complicated, but instead focused on making them perfectly relatable. If done right, it should feel as if you’re right there with them, experiencing the story in real time. That’s what whisks you off on an adventure.”

What makes Yohance unique is the aesthetic is sourced entirely from ancient African empires and cultures. Every weapon, ship, costume, building, and detail involved a ton of pre-production. Luckily, Louise-Julie gained some much-needed experience in pre-production while working on The Pack.

Louise-Julie said he “spent years studying pre-colonial African empires and kingdoms” while in college. That level of commitment paid off three years later, with the creation of “a mythical version of Ancient Africa called ‘Aya,’ complete with 40 different realms,” said Louise-Julie. “Each one had its own history and distinct look. But when I decided to use that research for a space opera, the challenge was taking all this research and repurposing these aesthetic elements to fit into Yohance.

It’s obvious Louise-Julie has done his homework. In fact, if you’re looking for some real-world examples of melding comics with African culture, he has that covered. “For instance, Yohance’s mask is heavily inspired by a Fang mask from Central Africa,” Louise-Julie revealed. “The look of the Kinzane is just a stylized version of the ancient Benin Kingdom.”

Yohance stars the titular character, whose codename is Monkey, a nod to the fact that he, as a character, is always two steps ahead of you, while also being arrogant and reckless. Sticking with the Star Wars analogies, Yohance would be the African version of Han Solo. He has a rival in a woman named Cana, who Paul-Louise describes as “a lion and as an assassin/bounty hunter.” It is apparent the two have a history together, but since they’re both untrustworthy, their relationship is firmly in the dysfunctional category.

Those aren’t the only players to occupy the African sci-fi world of Yohance. We have Yohance and Cana on one side, and the mysterious Kinzane (Ukoza, Batok, and their father Oba, or Emperor) on the other. All groups are in search for the Ekangeni Crystal. Inside the Kinzane is a double-agent named Kofi, who is working for a fascinating character called the Annakil. When we first meet the Annakil, he’s descending from what looks like a golden spider web. He very much has a “Final Boss” vibe to him, if you’re familiar with the video game analogy. Having the look of a larger-than-life devil with horns also adds to his villain factor.

“[The Annakil] could be a hologram, an android, or something else entirely,” teased Paul-Louise. “We are led to believe that he is the last of his race but somehow knows exactly who Yohance is.”

So what do you think of Yohance? Is it the type of comic you want to see more of? If you give it a big thumbs up, then both current issues are available as a bundle here, and other comics under the Midas Monkee umbrella can be purchased both in digital and print.

Check out the gallery below for more exclusive images from Yohance, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Images: Midas Monkee

Tim Adams is a freelance writer who loves comics and the TV and movies that feature them. Follow him on Twitter!

 

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