Smash Pages Q&A | Murewa Ayodele + Dotun Akande on ‘Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods’

The creators of ‘I Am Iron Man’ discuss their new Yoruba-influenced barbarian tale, which Oni Press will release in April.

Murewa Ayodele and Dotun Akande made a splash on their native continent as the founders of Collectible Comics NG, their own Nigeria-based comics studio, and as the creators of comics like My Grandfather Was a God. They then broke into the U.S. market first with New Men from Action Lab, followed by several stories for Marvel, including the I Am Iron Man miniseries.

Their latest project is Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods, which Oni Press will publish next month. It’s an oversized three-issue miniseries that combines their love for Western comics and animation like Conan the Barbarian and Samurai Jack with Yoruba mythology, bringing an African lens to the traditional sword and sorcery tale.

“According to Yoruba mythology, we were all made by a drunk god, and during one of his drunken stupor, he made horrific monsters also. The first of the gods to visit this new, twisted world was the erratic god of war,” Ayodele said. “When we discovered this little bit of our culture’s mythology, we knew we wanted to tell a gritty fantastical story set in this primordial African world — a world of barbarous violence, monstrous creatures, and gods who give in to primal, destructive urges.” 

I spoke with both creators about the new series, their love for mythology and comics, and more. My thanks to both of them for their time.

I thought we could start at the start — how did each of you first discover comics, and what made you want to be a creator?

Murewa: From the time I was a child, I’ve had several dreams about what I wanted to do for a living. At some point in my life, I wanted to be a soldier, an inventor, a robotics engineer, a heart surgeon, a software developer, a game developer, and so many other cool professions. But the oldest of all of them was the desire to work in the cartoon industry in one form or the other. That desire is so old that I can’t remember a day in my life that it didn’t exist. 

Meeting my best friend and artist, Dotun Akande, in university made that dream real enough to chase more actively. We both grew up loving similar shows like Samurai Jack, Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory. We loved the same comics (and comic characters): Spider-Man, Batman, Flash, Iron Man, Batman: The Killing Joke, Sin City, Saga, etc. If it was illustrated (animation, comics, webtoons, illustrated storybooks, motion comics) we ate it up and wanted to produce our own.

Dotun: “My name is Zeta. I was built as a weapon to destroy, but I will not destroy anymore…” Cue the theme song!

It all began with Saturday morning cartoons and animations. I vividly recall waking up to the sounds of Batman Beyond‘s theme song, my fingers mimicking guitar strums in the air. Shows like The Zeta Project, Batman Beyond, Tom and Jerry, along with productions from Disney and DreamWorks, and the ones Murewa listed fueled my obsession. I’d sometimes pause DVDs to sketch keyframes, crafting my own miniature narratives. For those I couldn’t freeze, I relied on memory to recreate scenes.

Then came my introduction to comic books, courtesy of my eldest brother. My first comic, a Superboy edition, it was immediate sensory overload for me in the best possible way. Later, at a trade fair during a school event in primary school/middle school, my brother surprised me with a DVD of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire. Sensory Overload: the sequel!

Later on in secondary school/high school, I befriended some fellow enthusiasts who introduced me to American comics like Archie and The Fantastic Four. We struck a deal: I’d assist with illustrations for their biology assignments, and in return, I’d enjoy their comics over the weekend. These exchanges fueled my aspiration to pursue a career in the comic industry.

How did the two of you first meet and start working together? 

Murewa: Dotun Akande and I met at Redeemer’s University, where we both studied Computer Science. We often worked on assignments together. It quickly grew into me organizing events and running to him for some cool-looking flier designs. Not long after, I was writing codes for several apps and Dotun would handle the graphical user interface. So, when I went back to my first love (telling stories), I wanted to do it with no other person than my best friend, Dotun. 

Dotun: Wow, I can’t believe you still have these pictures! Haha!

One of my fondest memories of “meeting” Murewa is a story I love to share. It was evident from that day that he was a fearless daredevil, and I instantly knew I liked this guy. We were all freshmen in University, all quiet, vulnerable, and somewhat timid. Then came the day of a programming class that everyone dreaded—maybe it was a PASCAL lecture, I can’t recall, but it doesn’t really matter—and the lecturer was both renowned and feared. No one dared to be late to his classes. No one dared to question his programming methods.

But Murewa arrived late. He stood outside the classroom with the other latecomers, who were all who were gagged and tongue-tied in palpable fear. Not Murewa. Suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, Murewa burst into the classroom—mind you, ON ALL FOURS!—wearing his emotions on his sleeves boldly, pleading and almost eulogizing the very person we all feared. It was like a scene straight out of your favorite anime! Then the unimaginable happened: the lecturer broke character and cracked a smile. We were all stunned by Murewa’s theatrics and bravery. Surprisingly, the lecturer allowed him in, along with every other latecomer. This was the same man whom no one dared to be late to his classes or dared to question his programming methods.

Years later, Murewa dared to challenge his programming methods once again.
And so the cycle continues.

 I think here in the U.S. we take for granted that everyone around the world knows our comics and the characters who inhabit them — and I think you’ve both shown with your work on books like I Am Iron Man that you, indeed, know them pretty well. Are titles like Iron Man or Moon Knight or the average Oni Press title easy for you to get your hands on? And what are some of the challenges you’ve encountered as you’ve made the transition to working in the U.S. comics market?

Murewa: It is always weird when we watch foreign movies and we see that the kid who brings comics to school is the nerd who gets bullied for it. If you bring comics to class in Nigeria, you are instantly the cool kid. On further inspection of your comics, your mates discover it’s American comics – now, you’re the rich cool kid.

We got many of our American comics experience from these cool kids in class, cousins, and sometimes siblings. When our parents finally got cable TV, we got it from shows and movies adapted from comics. And when Dotun and I started making some money of our own, we subscribed to apps like Marvel Unlimited or we pay family members in the diaspora to help us pick up some comics from their local comic book store when they come visiting. After we read a print comic, we usually give it out to young readers around us – hoping to keep the hobby alive in the country.

So, being a comic fan in Nigeria is hard work. But being a Nigerian who works in the U.S. comics market is probably the best thing that has ever happened to us. The pay is phenomenal. The U.S. is hours behind us, we usually feel like we have extra hours of work before deadlines. Lol. And it just feels like a dream come true when one sees their name next to names you thought the world of.

Dotun: Perfectly put, Murewa. It’s indeed an honor for us to collaborate with the numerous exceptionally talented individuals who have paved the way before us, as well as those currently contributing to the creative landscape. Some of them have worked on projects that have ignited our passion and creativity, as Murewa aptly puts it, these are creators whom we hold in high esteem.

To have our names alongside these remarkable individuals serves as motivation to strive for excellence, and we aspire to inspire others who will follow in our footsteps to do the same.

Where did the idea for Akogun first come from?

Murewa: We wanted to tell a Sword and Sorcery tale but one that was true to our Yoruba roots. When it comes to Yoruba Fantasy Adventure tales, the protagonist is hardly a knight in shining armor or a chivalrous swordsman who loves beautiful women. Yoruba Fantasy Adventures tales are dark, creepy, tragic stories with a hunter/warrior protagonist.

Imagine a warrior as skilled as Conan who fights in the shadows like Batman – a warrior whose surroundings are his most dangerous weapons. That’s just badass. From that mold, Akogun was born.

Image from Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods #1

Who are some of the characters readers can expect to meet in Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods?


  • Obatala: The creator of humans, the drunk god.
  • Sango: The god of thunder and war.
  • Ogun: The god of metal and war.

Note. There can only be a single god of war.

Image from Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods #1

Your comics work often draws from mythology. How do you approach blending these ancient narratives with contemporary themes and characters? Dotun, as you’re creating these larger than life characters and monsters for Akogun, what’s your inspiration for the designs? 

Murewa: We grew up loving myths and legends – ranging from Greek myths to local folktales. There is a grandeur feel to them that we completely adore. That’s how we approach a lot of our stories, including science-fiction adventures like the I Am Iron Man comic series.

When it comes to adapting these narrative structures for the modern audience, I think it helps that we don’t think of stories that way… “ancient” or “contemporary.” The respect a sacrificial hero inspires, the innocence of a young child trying to navigate the adult world, the hatred siblings have for each other because Father loved one more, the fire burning in the heart of first-born child who must fight to restore their family’s honor, the warmth of a friendship that’s stronger than a sibling bond, the hurt of a spouse loving another. A lot of these “ancient” themes have stood the test of time because they are ever-green, always relatable, and always “contemporary.”

Image from Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods #1

Dotun: We have a deep love for mythology. These were among the earliest tales we heard from our parents during our formative years. Often narrated at bedtime, they left us captivated, sometimes petrified, and frequently puzzled spurring a tonne of questions. Mythology sparks our imagination, encourages us to question, and instills in us a quest for knowledge about human nature, while imparting valuable morals and ethics.

Yoruba mythology, in particular, serves as a custodian of our cultural heritage, inspiring artistic and literary expression through its vibrant narratives. These stories might be ancient but they’re never archaic or outdated. Hence, they remain relevant and timeless, seamlessly blending with contemporary themes and issues.

Murewa and I draw inspiration from various sources for the aesthetic designs of our larger-than-life characters and monsters. Our influences range from beloved anime characters like Kakashi from Naruto and Satoru Gojo from Jujutsu Kaisen, to iconic figures like Conan the Barbarian and Samurai Jack. We also find inspiration in the rich imagery of Yoruba gods and orishas, the elaborate costumes of masqueraders in Lagos, Nigeria, and the avant-garde styles of Afropunk enthusiasts on platforms like Pinterest, and indigenes from other beautiful tribes in Africa. Additionally, our monster designs are influenced by childhood stories featuring creatures such as large-eyed galagos with canes and woven mats, slithering snakes with limbs, and avian beings with human faces, among other imaginative amalgamations.

Image from Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods #1

What made Oni the right publisher for this particular project? How did you first come into contact with them? 

Murewa: Our favorite podcaster, David Harper from Off-Panel, talks about books published by Oni a lot. One of our favorite webcomics, The Tea Dragon Society, was published in print by Oni. Two of our favorite series, Scott Pilgrim and KaijuMax, were also published by Oni. It’s not hard to see the pattern that a lot of our favorites seem to be Oni-related. So, we reached out to Oni via email – hoping they would be interested in working with us. While we were scouring the internet – looking for more Oni email addresses we could bombard with solicitation messages, Hunter Gorinson (Oni’s publisher and president) was busy reaching out to our agent over at CAA about how he enjoyed our I Am Iron Man comic and would love it if our agent could convince us to come onboard. Needless to say, our agent didn’t break a sweat having to pitch us on the idea.

Is there anything else you’re working on or have coming out soon you’d like to mention? 

Murewa: Not anything we can talk about yet. We are pretty focused on the world of Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods right now and a possible sequel series, Akogun: Revenge of the Gods.

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