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VERSUS COMIC SERIES: ENTER THE DEATHLY SAINTS

So, it’s been a long time coming. It’s taken a lot of grit and determination to finally get here, but in the end both Dayo and I were determined to finish the story we started almost 8 years ago and now, we finally have. The Versus comic book series didn’t start off as a series, in actual fact it was originally intended to be graphic novel, which I intended to sell in hard paperback form. But over the course of working on it, Versus went from being a one volume (large) graphic novel of about 200 pages, and as time went on, grew into a two volume graphic novel of over 500 pages within the first couple of years.  At its conclusion Versus finds itself as a 700 page, 25 issue comic series. Yep, the gaddam thing just kept spiraling out of control until it became this monster that kept me up at nights and made me wonder if it was ever going get done.

Versus was my white whale, which is strange in many ways, mostly because it was never the comic story I initially wanted to tell in the first place. As the fates would have it, the moment I committed to finishing it, there was nothing else I could do. Obsessed with seeing it through, I just couldn’t move on to anything else. I couldn’t wrap my head around creating or working on any other comic book, not because I thought Versus was going to be this great thing, but simply because I was determined not to join the throng of comic book creators who came before me, who never quite managed to get anywhere with their creations. I was determined to finish the story arc I wrote, ready dig in and prove that I could at least finish what I had started. You can’t imagine the relief I felt (and still feel) now that the stupid thing is done.

The script for Versus was written long before Dayo (the artist on Versus) ever put pen to paper. The story was set in stone and even though I believed I had moved on  and (as I would like to think) matured somewhat in my chosen profession as a Writer, I was adamant about not making changes to the story I originally wrote. Come what may, Versus would end the way it was originally intended to. I would hope fans and readers would see it as a fun ride, with far out locales and tons of action inspired by the Manga comics and Anime shows, that at one stage, took up a huge chunk of my life. My only hope is that people will at the very least find it mildly entertaining; if nothing else. It was the wait that killed me though. Mostly waiting for Dayo to finish the art. And then, for myself to letter it and put the whole damn thing together in the final stages of its production. A tedious and thankless task, but one that needed I needed to see through.

But, before I could launch the new issues in Volume 2, I knew I would still need to relaunch the first fifteen issues, which I had already released a couple of years back in anticipation of the art for Volume 2 being completed.  Unfortunately, as I waited, I would eventually be faced with the rather sad decision to take down the comicbandit.com site. This was mostly due to the lack on content available to me at time, a lot of which I had expected to get from several of my contributors who were having a hard time finishing their own titles as well. It was a shame really. There was a lot of content on that site that I realized would be useless when I finally decided to relaunch Versus comic. I really would have liked to keep the whole thing alive, but alas, the problem was that it just wasn’t sustainable.

With many of the titles not coming through as they should and with some of my former (external) contributors putting up their own websites to host their own content, there was a significant lull in the release of new material on the site and that meant there wasn’t really much for me to offer potential visitors and fans. I finally decided to take the site offline and to wait it out until Versus was done or at least until the still fledgling Nigerian comic industry finally reached a point where looking for new content (for my site and my news blog) was a little easier. And as luck would have it,  both (Versus and the Nigerian comic industry) seem to have reached critical mass (so to speak) at the very same time.

To be honest, it’s not all Dayo’s fault that finishing the comic took so long (though I blame him constantly, even now) . Certain trends in the country (Nigeria) made it necessary for both of us to find alternatives to the comic book dream and just, well, make money. And as a result, so began my timid and often harrowing foray into the world of Nigerian movie script writing. A chapter of my life which (for the most part) which is best left in the pages of some low-rent horror novel. I learnt many things working in the Nigerian movie industry, not just about my ability as a writer, but also what it meant to write for people with less imagination than you might otherwise have. There were moments were I thought it was all a waste of time, but then there were other moments that gave me hope. Soon, I was in the thick of it. Swamped down by work and the constant burden of other people’s lack of imagination and quite sadly, integrity. Yes, it’s not a new thing. The world is full of people (even those you’d never suspect) in positions of power just waiting to use you and prop themselves up on your shoulders and I have found that there is no place better to learn this lesson than in the Nigerian entertainment industry.

The trick, I discovered, was letting them use you, without them realizing that you were also using them in return. You get what you want (or at least something that you want), and hope that it’s enough to cover the expense of your pride (lack of monetary compensation) and perhaps a small shard of your soul.

Speaking of souls, that brings me back to the message of Versus. It’s sometimes more subtle than people realize. There’s so  much going on in the story, it’s easy to lose sight of the themes within it that speak about overcoming adversity and standing up in the face of those who seem to have no other vocation but to knock you down. We all live with it everyday, but we don’t have to put up with it. And that’s the story of Versus. Not just for the heroes, but even with what the title’s main villain “Iyan’Gura” attempts to achieve in his dastardly plans to reset the universe. Refusing to except a world that gives us nothing but pain, deceit and resentment, while still believing that by the sheer force of one’s will, you can overcome anything and defy the very nature of the universe.

It’s a nice sentiment I think. I’ve perhaps become a little more cynical about certain things these days, but going back to the story of Versus, to the time when I first wrote it, there was that wonder about the whole thing that reminded me why I loved writing so much. And sometimes, remembering that feeling is just enough for me to believe that anything is possible. And well, at least in Versus- in this fictional world that I created with the help of Dayo- anything is.

What do you think?

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