In a realm where imagination knows no bounds, Beserat Debebe, the visionary founder of Etan Comics, has been painting vibrant tapestries of African fantasy and superhero narratives since 2018. As the company approaches its sixth anniversary, Debebe stands on the precipice of a remarkable achievement: the realisation of his grandest dreams in the form of “Long Distance,” a captivating Pan-African comic book anthology set to transport readers to new dimensions of storytelling.
A native of Addis Ababa who embarked on a journey to the United States in 2004, Debebe’s creative odyssey has yielded ground-breaking works such as Jember and Hawi – the pioneers of Ethiopian comics, both acclaimed for their prowess in weaving tales that resonate with global audiences. Now, with “Long Distance,” Debebe extends his visionary prowess to unite a constellation of over 24 visionary African creators hailing from diverse corners of the continent, including Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
Etan Comics’ mission, as Debebe passionately articulates, is to serve as a beacon of Black excellence, a sanctum of empowering stories that celebrate the richness of African history and culture. In crafting this comic, he seamlessly adheres to this noble objective, weaving a narrative tapestry that boldly defies stereotypes and empowers the younger generation. As he underscores, “We are tired of stories that make Africans seem helpless, violent, or uneducated.” Instead, Debebe and his team are resolute in ushering a new era where African youth can immerse themselves in narratives that nurture self-esteem and pride.
“Long Distance” emerges as a remarkable response to the void in empowering African storytelling, especially in an era marked by controversial book bans. Debebe is determined to be a part of the solution, curating anthologies that are both entertaining and educational. It’s a testament to his unwavering commitment to propelling Black kids towards a future where they revel in stories that reflect their true potential.
Kickstarter, a platform that has proven pivotal in his previous successes, once again played a crucial role in breathing life into “Long Distance.” Over 300 Day One backers rallied behind the project, fully funding it within a single day. His choice of Kickstarter is deliberate, as he recognises its power to forge a direct connection with Etan Comics’ most devoted supporters, ensuring they receive the finest version of their cherished product.
This Kickstarter success story is not a solitary one. It symbolises the increasing demand for authentic African comic book narratives. It boasts an assembly of remarkable talents, including the debut comic book story by Booker-Prize shortlisted author Maaza Mengiste, a narrative voyage to the Palace of Dreams in Nigerian mythology by Cassandra Mark and a foreword by New York Times bestselling author Kwame Mbalia. The cover, a stunning masterpiece, is crafted by Sanford Greene, renowned for his work on “Black Panther” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”
What sets “Long Distance” apart is its commitment to amplifying women’s voices in the realm of African comics. Ethiopian American writer Mengiste shares yet another untold story of African women in history, while Nigeria’s Cassandra Mark invites readers to the mystical Palace of Dreams in Nigerian mythology. The result? An anthology that Debebe himself describes as “the African version of Love, Death, and Robots made by a Pan-African dream team.”
Beyond delivering a must-have literary gem, his newest creation signifies more than a mere release; it marks the genesis of a profound camaraderie among like-minded creatives scattered across the African continent. Debebe emphasises, “Our goal wasn’t just to make a great book; we wanted to support each other beyond that.” This synergy has birthed a work of profound intimacy and significance.
As a luminary in the realm of African comics, Debebe understands that “Long Distance” is not just a game-changer; it’s the gateway to a new era of African storytelling. Available in a stunning deluxe hardcover edition, it’s a collector’s dream come true, a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship that went into creating an anthology unlike anything the world has seen before.
In the canvas of African storytelling, “Long Distance” is a vibrant thread that weaves together narratives of empowerment, culture and heroism. As Etan Comics continues to redefine the boundaries of imagination, this anthology is an invitation to embark on a journey that transcends time and distance, celebrating the magic of African creativity.