Comic Relations to the Continent
Not often is Africa seen in as the back drop of comic books, but there have been a few characters that frequent the continent, come from one of the countries on the continent or have ties to the continent in some way. Early in 1940 a character known as Mr. Mystic frequented the continent many times as a diplomat and hero. He would go to countries like Dakar and Nigeria and became involved in protecting governments as well. He once saved the government of Nigeria from a military Coup. Some of his villains lived in the continent and fought him there, like Queen Rana.
Fictional countries of Africa
The depiction of Africa is often in contrast to its realities.
In reality, Africa is a continent with over 50 distinctive states, hundreds of different tribes, thousands of different languages, different geography and climates and hugely diverse cultures and religions. There are many problems including poverty, starvation, corruption, diseases and wars but also thriving economies, urban areas with huge cities, functioning democracies and rich cultures of music, sports, literature and movies.
The depiction of Africa is often simplified into the following aspects:
- It is seen as one country without any distinctive differences, so that it's clear that this is Africa, although it is impossible to say that about anything. It is often enough to give "Africa" as a location, often without begging the question "Which country?".
- The geography is either savanna, jungle or desert, it is always hot and there are "wild" animals around (lions, camels, giraffes).
- People are living in "primitive" tribes with huts instead of houses.
- If there are cities they are often sinister, dangerous or destroyed by war. Skyscrapers or any kind of metropolitan areas are rarely seen.
- Almost any depiction of Africa shows "typical" African problems: poverty, corruption, starvation, diseases (often AIDS), civil wars, mass slaughter, gruesome violence in general, child soldiers.
- Westerners are often in Africa to "help" the Africans, mostly suffering from the cruel circumstances there.
- Northern Africa is rarely considered to be part of Africa and instead is part of the "Arab World".
Although some of these depictions are rooted in reality, they are often extremely one-sided and show the same ignorance that the Western World has shown towards Africa throughout the periods of colonization and post-colonization.
One fictional country that plays a major role in comics is Wakanda, home of Black Panther. It is a highly developed civilization whose technology mostly surpasses that of any other country. It is often made clear that this is exceptional for Africa.
Probably the best example for the depiction of Africa in comics is the following page from J. Michael Straczynski's Superman: Earth One #1.
In six panels six locations are shown that are attacked by the alien villain. Five countries are mentioned, showing typical sights of these countries. The sixth one just says "Africa" and shows a camel in a desert. Compared to the very limited areas that are shown, this one is almost impossible to pin down. This ignorant depiction is underlined even more by the fact that one other shown location is Egypt, which of course also is in Africa but seems to be a different part of the world.
Another example is the solicitation text for Batwing #1, the introduction of "the Batman of Africa":
Africa, a land of beauty – and of great horror. A land of creation and conflict. It is in desperate need of a defender, and from the ranks of Batman Incorporated comes a soldier to carry on the legacy of The Dark Knight in the most tumultuous region on Earth. Meet Batwing, the Batman of Africa!
Africa has nice landscape ("beauty") and was once important ("creation" - see also the title of the issue The Cradle of Civilization) but now there is "horror" and "conflict" and the "land" is "in desperate need of help." The protagonist turns out to be a former child soldier and the first villain is called Massacre and kills with a machete.