Hey 'Star Wars' Fans, There’s An African-Inspired Futuristic Space Opera In The Works

Paul Louise-Julie's new graphic novel is a futuristic “space opera” inspired by and aesthetically derived from ancient African cultures.

Poster for Paul Louise-Julie's 'Yohancé Pt.1: The Ekangeni Crystal'

After launching an African graphic novel series grounded in ancient mythology earlier this year, author and illustrator Paul Louise-Julie now has his sights set on a faraway galaxy.

The New Jersey-based, French-Caribbean artist behind The Pack will soon begin work on Yohancé, a futuristic “space opera” inspired by and aesthetically derived from ancient African cultures. The mini-series–comprised of several acts–will tell the story of an interstellar thief known as Yohancé–aka “The Monkey.”

Louise-Julie, a huge Star Wars fan, says he’s been enamored with the “space opera”–a subgenre of science-fiction that by definition “emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, and often chivalric romance”–since he was a child.

Like Star Wars, Yohancé is set in a far-off galaxy, though Louise-Julie says everything in this galaxy is integrally rooted in his research of ancient African cultures, like his hero’s Central African Fang Mask-inspired head gear for instance. That same research is the backbone of his Pack graphic novel, which Louise-Julie says is part of his larger goal of “creating a new mythology for the Black Diaspora.”

“As with The Pack and High Fantasy, I felt that this beloved genre significantly lacked diversity not only in the characters but in the underlying source of design,” Louise-Julie writes in a press release. “It was only natural that I use the same research I use on The Pack and push it in the other direction of science fiction. When I started this journey, I made peace with the fact that The Pack would occupy most of my adult life. I had no idea that there would be an equal excitement for an African-inspired Space Opera. After I wrote the script, it quickly became apparent that I had to do this, even if it meant running it parallel to The Pack.”

Louise-Julie recently wrapped up pre-production on the series and hopes to release Yohancé Pt.1: The Ekangeni Crystal sometime in early 2016. He plans to release a new installment of The Pack in the next couple of weeks. Keep up with Yohancé on Facebook.

For more, read our interview with Paul Louise-Julie on his work creating a new mythology for the African Diaspora.


Interview: Terri Is Stepping Out of the Shadows

We talk to the Wizkid-signed artist about the story behind the massive hit "Soco" and his latest Afro Series EP.

Certain afrobeats songs have made in-roads in international markets and paved the way for the genre's ceaselessly-rising widespread recognition. Among these history-defining songs were D'banj's "Oliver Twist," Tekno's "Pana," Davido's "If" & "Fall," Runtown's "Mad Over You," and of course, Wizkid's "Soco." Wizkid released "Soco" under his label imprint, Starboy Entertainment in March 2018, and the song spread like wildfire across Africa and beyond. "Soco" was an Afro-pop wonder delivered at a time when the 'afrobeats to the world' movement was gathering steam, further cementing its electric nature. The Northboi-produced song was co-signed by celebrities across the world like Rihanna, Cardi B, and Paul Pogba and has accrued well over a hundred million streams across streaming platforms worldwide.

"Soco" was not only a trailblazer amongst mid-2010s afrobeats records, it was also the introduction of the first Wizkid-signed artist, Terri. Just weeks before "Soco" was released, Terri was discovered by Wizkid's longtime producer, Mutay, who saw him covering the song "Oshe" on social media.

Before "Soco," Terri Akewe was well on his way to fame. At fifteen, he had performed at street carnivals in his neighbourhood and, one time, was carried all the way home by neighbours after winning a Coca-Cola sponsored singing competition. Before his life-changing meeting with Wizkid, Terri had a seven-track EP ready for release, as well as a viral song titled "Voices." "One time I was on set with the video director T.G Omori, he told me that 'Voices' was the first time he heard of me" Terri tells me as we settle on a plush couch at his home in Lagos.

Regardless of Terri's initial career trajectory; signing to a label headed by afrobeats' biggest superstar was bound to accelerate his musical journey, and at the same time, cast a huge shadow of expectation on his career, especially given a debut as spectacular as "Soco." With his latest EP, Afro Series, powered by the sensational single "Ojoro," one thing is clear: Terri is stepping out of the shadows into his own spotlight and he is doing it on his own terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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