Jember: An Ethiopian Kickstarter Comic Book

Meet Jember, the Ethiopian Superhero

I had the privilege of chatting with an African comic book creator who is breaking out in a big way. Using the power of Kickstarter, he is raising funds to produce and distribute his brand new comic book from scratch. Since the popular Black Panther movie, the doors have been opened for African superheroes (which have existed for years) to garner more global attention than ever before. 

The strategic release of this creator's project duringUS Black History Month cannot be overlooked... The young man's name is Beserat Debebe, and we discussed his brainchild; Jember. Read more to find out more about the Ethiopian Superhero, and how you can be a part of bringing this exciting project to fruition.

UPDATE: The Kickstarter fund surpassed its funding goals in just 4 hours! You can still contribute for the remaining days until the 4th of March for their stretch goal to do an epic comic book tour across Africa...

My Interview with the Creator  

Beserat Debebe

What inspired you to write Jember?

I have always loved fantasy stories. Even as a kid, I was exposed to a lot. The thing that was always missing for me though was fantasy that centered around African mythology and characters.

That’s why I wrote Jember. I realized no one was going to write these stories if we didn’t write them ourselves. All our stories, and folktale are being passed down orally from our parents generations. If we don’t tell these stories and preserve them in a new way, they will disappear. That’s why I got to working. I hope others join in too.

The hero starts as an unemployed graduate, which is a
problem all across Africa. Did it come from your own experience?

Not my own but it is the experience of my closest relatives. I think I would have had a very similar experience as them if I hadn’t moved to the US. My goal was to tell the story from a very authentic place and the highly educated yet unemployed African youth is an appropriate starting point.

Any chance that Jember might do some superhero work in other
African countries in future issues?

Of course.

In the words of the great Stan Lee “A person who helps others simply because it or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.” That’s all Jember needs to be.

Thank you very much, and I wish you the most success for your Kickstarter campaign. I'm looking forward to receiving my own copy of Jember and writing a review on my blog soon! 

**Extract from the Jember Kickstarter page** 


JEMBER takes place in present day Addis Ababa (capital city of Ethiopia). The story follows Amanuel Tilahun, a bright young man struggling to find a job in the city after finishing school. As rejection after rejection leads him to contemplate leaving the city altogether, he comes across something that gives him special abilities....

If you are a fan of Miles Morales Spider-Man, Black Panther and similar coming-of-age stories then this comic book is for you.

What makes this story unique is its setting. Not only is the environment physically more complex, the culture and values of society are different. Ethiopian culture is a collectivist culture. Everyone looks out for one another. But this could also lead to less diversity in ideas. Change could be hard to come by as what is acceptable is defined and limited by the group. 

So it begs the question; is a hero even needed in such a society? Can a hero be accepted? Valued? Trusted? 

The story also draws inspiration from East African history and mythology. East Africa is considered to be the birthplace of humanity. It is the source of significant advancements in art, science and philosophy. It also has a rich tapestry of myth which has been largely unexplored by mainstream stories. If you are a fan of Greek and Roman mythology, then African mythology will open a whole new world of fantasy for you.

Besides being a powerful story, JEMBER is also Ethiopia's first superhero comic book.
**End of Extract** 

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