Connect with us
Murewa Ayodele and Dotun Akande unfurl the legend of 'Akogun: Brutalizer Of Gods'

Comic Books

Murewa Ayodele and Dotun Akande unfurl the legend of ‘Akogun: Brutalizer Of Gods’

The wholly exciting sword and sorcery story debuts this week via Oni Press.

Writer Murewa Ayodele and artist Dotun Akande have made plenty of comics magic beforehand. Be it projects from their native Nigeria to Big Two fare a la I Am Iron Man, the duo (can we suggest the group name Double A, perhaps?) infuse a unique brand of emotionality and overt power into each new project. Now, though, the pair are exploring even more grandiose and compelling territory with a Akogun: Brutalizer Of Gods, a brand-new three-issue, bimonthly sword and sorcery series from Oni Press.

In Akogun: Brutalizer Of Gods, Ayodele and Akande explore an “age thought forgotten…when man, monster, and the divine all strode the Earth.” The story follows the titular Akogun, a “lone warrior emerges to test the immortality of the cruel gods who would deal destruction with impunity.” Drawing on the likes of “Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Thor, and the best-selling God of War franchise,” Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods is a sword and sorcery story that’s both wildly familiar and wholly unfamiliar, a deeply magical experience rooted in a fresh cultural tradition that still speaks volumes about universal ideas of family, honor, and the power of one pissed off mortal.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly comics podcast!

Akogun: Brutalizer Of Gods #1 is out this week (April 3). A few weeks ago, we had the chance to sit down with Ayodele and Akande via Zoom an extended chant about all things Akogun. In the 40-ish-minute chat, the pair spoke about their work together, exploring the stories and culture of the Yoruban people, how Akogun leans into and counters certain fantasy tropes, the long-term potential for this series, and much, much more.

(This interview was edited for clarity and length.)

(Editor’s Note for 4/2/24: We’ve edited several quotes on request of the subjects to better clarify their stances)

Murewa Ayodele and Dotun Akande unfurl the legend of 'Akogun: Brutalizer Of Gods'

Main cover by Dotun Akande. Courtesy of Oni Press.

AIPT: Can you talk about your collaborative process? You’ve done a few books/projects together already.

Murewa Ayodele: Dotun and I have known each other since college days; the first day in college. So we’ve been working together way before. We had a little comic book company we started off in Nigeria called Collectible Comics, where we published digital comics by both of us. We did New Men from Action Lab and a webcomic, My Grandfather was a God. That was the book that got the attention of some people from Marvel. And then we worked on some Avengers comics and some Iron Man short stories. We’ve been working together way before I Am Iron Man, but I Am Iron Man did open the door to this particular story because this was the book that Oni Press read that they reached out to us. They said they really liked I Am Iron Man and they would like to have us work on something for them.

AIPT: There’s obviously lots of Nigerian and Yoruban influences here. Was it a conscious effort to say like, ‘We want to tell a story from a specific kind of cultural perspective, and one that may be new to Western or American audiences? Is this a kind of outreach?

MA: Oni came to us with a little brief, and the brief was basically they wanted a barbarian story from our perspective. They wanted a barbarian story, and if you notice right now there are lots of barbarian stories out there. Conan is selling gangbusters. You have Bloodrik. I’m forgetting one of them, but they are like many barbarian stories right now. And they are all very good. So getting that brief, that was very, very intimidating. So, then, what’s a fresh spin we can take on it? We like telling stories. We love Greek mythology. But Greek mythology is extremely overexposed. And second mythology that we say we really, really enjoy — because it’s very similar to Greek mythology — is the Yoruban mythology. The pantheon is just as wide, the interactions are just as deep, and it’s not as explored as the Greek mythology.

In a lot of Western stories, there’s usually a warrior or a knight. In Yoruba mythology, the person is hardly ever a warrior. The person is usually a hunter. And there’s a difference in the way stories of hunters and warriors are told. There’s a little of the Samurai code there, where [hunters] are not as flamboyant as the Western warriors. They are these disciplined people. They don’t talk much. They are loners. They are very dark and broody. And there’s people that have seen extremely dark and weird and bizarre things. So they don’t really blend so well into society. We believe that in the forest, there are so many weird bizarre things and very weird creatures. And they’re the ones that see those things. If you talk about them, then something bad happens to you. So you have to keep it to yourself. So there’s this archetype of these hunters. That’s what brought this weird mix that we think really stands out whilst delivering everything you would want in a sword and sorcery story.

AIPT: I’m glad you picked up on that because that was the thing that I liked about the first issue: Akogun feels very human. Like, he’s just a guy who’s doing this because he feels compelled to, not at all like a Conan type.

MA: That was where he gets the slightly Eastern tinge of honor.

And when it comes to hunters, hunters are more in tune with nature. There’s a little story that got me to like hunters. My grandmother said that one of our ancestors outside of the family was a hunter. And anytime he goes into the forest, he’s not able to catch anything. He goes to his backyard and his backyard has lots of banana trees. And then he speaks magical words into one of the banana tree trees and it turns into a deer and then he shoots it. And then that’s the deer he sells.

So, the way stories about hunters are told, they see them in such a way that they have this deep connection with nature that it’s not only about ending life, but it can almost change life, like from plants to animals. So we said, ‘We really want to see not a man versus nature thing, but a man using nature.’

AIPT: And that runs counter to a lot of the Conan stuff, which is about moving through the world killing people.

Dotun Akande: Our goal was to approach it with a “yes and…’ attitude. Like, ‘Conan, yes and…’ Akogun, he’s no barbarian; he’s actually a very normal guy, but to the gods they would see him as a barbarian. Someone who dares challenge [them]. But he is a hunter, and hunters are very, very deliberate people. They’re intentional, and they know everything about everything and they don’t talk much and all that.

He doesn’t rush into battle. He’s always planning. And when he strikes, he strikes perfectly, yeah.

MA: I think there was a time in the story, when we’re still trying to create a character, and thinking how he would probably kill his victims and hunt down his victims. It’s like Conan mixed with Batman. Imagine if Conan fought with Batman.

AIPT: Yeah, he’ll never endanger himself, and he’s not going to do more damage than he has to do to dispatch his prey. It’s a means to an end for him, which runs counter to a lot of Western sword and sorcery stories.

MA: And he’s also driven by vengeance; there’s that Batman thing played into again.

AIPT: He’s very much like, ‘I’m doing something that is necessary as a part of this sort of ecosystem that I’m in. Normally it’s animals and monsters, but now it’s gods.’

But I’m also curious, in terms of referencing Yoruban mythology and playing around with that…how much did you exaggerate? Or borrow directly?

MA: It’s a little scary walking with these gods. And the reason why is, because Yoruba [gods] are still being worshiped in Africa, in South America, and different corners of the world. So you have to be very careful not to offend. You have to be accurate as well. For example, when it comes to Ọbatala, his colors are white and you have to be able to play with them. There’s a girl that is going to come later where his skin is so dark — darker than night. We’ve not particularly broken it down here, but how are we going to represent that dark skin? So those are different. For Ogun, for example, he’s all about hunting dogs and he’s all about metal. So, instead of having two things, why don’t we merge them? Why don’t we have his companion be a metal dog?

DA: So there are different ways where I would play with it. For example, when this world was created, it wasn’t as sinister as we put it for Obatala. Obatala in the original mythology just thought, ‘I want to create something.’ So he talks to the god of gods, and he says, ‘You’ve created the heavens and you created the gods and you created all these things. I want to have my own kind of thing as well’ So then he asks for advice from other gods — one helps him with metal. But then he comes to earth and he gets drunk. While he’s drunk, he created the first set, but it came out misshapen, so he vowed never to drink again. And that’s the kind of weird way, the Yoruba way of describing why some people have different physiology. They get to say if you’re disabled or differently abled or anything, it’s almost like, ‘Oh, yeah, Ọrunmila was just drunk when he made you.’

Murewa Ayodele and Dotun Akande unfurl the legend of 'Akogun: Brutalizer Of Gods'

Courtesy of Oni Press.

So then we were like, ‘Why don’t we make it something more dark? So, when he was drunk, the first thing he made were monsters. And then we played around with that. So we’re really picking from Yoruba mythology, but we’re trying as much as possible to make it our own and something more visually interesting and stuff like that. When he made the earth, I think he used a chicken to make the earth. There’s some weird stuff there, and we were like, ‘OK, let’s just make it epic.’

DA: We drew from a lot of sources. Some are from the things we’ve seen, like the visual representations we’ve seen about our Yoruba gods, the famous ones. And sometimes we look at anime characters and even Western and Eastern gods and sometimes European gods, too. So it’s just a combination of so many things, and the things that we would like to see and will be functional in sequels and all that. We are trying to not be too tightly different, so we don’t present something that people might not readily want to check out or feel like, ‘Oh, is this for me?’ Something that is manageable and something to be happy with.

MA: There’s a monster from West Africa, and stuff from South Africa. We played around with the entire continent. The desert people are more like Mali…when their culture was closer to the Arabs and where they exchanged goods more with Egyptians and Syrians and stuff like that.

AIPT: Maybe we touched on this earlier, but there’s so much humanity here that even the big, gory monster kills, there’s something very intimate and personable about that. Not to speak ill of Western fantasy storytelling, but I think there is that tendency for overkill and that people really indulge in the violence. But here, it has a purpose. There’s a depth and there’s an emotionality to it.

MA: While coming up with the story, we were looking for what would be the big conflict in the story because we just can’t have one single conflict or something. In a lot of other cultures, you see stories like Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. But in West Africa, there aren’t people that are so obsessed with growing to ridiculous degrees. And we’re trying to think, ‘If we tell a story about this crazy person that just tried to conquer all the other kingdoms,’ it’s not realistic. I think it comes from the fact that a lot of African countries have a lot of resources — like, why do I need your land again? One of the reasons why the Vikings went out so much wasn’t necessarily for glory or anything because growing things in their homeland was very difficult. The land was harsh and they saw this fertile English land and they wanted to take it for themselves.

So, then, what would really be the source of conflict, and that’s when I came up with religion. Religion is a universal thing, and one of our major reasons for fighting everywhere. So that’s when the gods came in, and you would see as the story goes on, that’s why we could approach it from the religious point of view and not from either scarcity of resource and things like that. But while trying to be real, we also have fantasy elements and the fantasy elements of Obatala-created monsters. We noticed that in a lot of African cultures, cultures that were closer to swamp areas, had more stories about monsters than cultures that were closer to the desert.

Because in the desert you can see everything in front of you, so while you get bored in the swamp, everything is in fog, covered by trees, so your imagination can run wild. So we’re thinking in this world that most of the monsters are in the swampy area. And the farther you go from the source of water, the farther you are from these monsters. So even if fighting [for] land will come up [later], it will be because, ‘Yeah, I want this piece of land because it’s far away from monsters. I don’t want to be close to where they are.’

AIPT: There’s only one monster per square kilometer over here, so this is my land.

MA: It also makes because in the story, Obatala lands in water, moves the land out of water, and starts to create monsters. So it’s possible that they just run into the water and hide in this one area before they travel out into further places, but they’re comfortable where they originated from. Plus, mythologies really have different versions. When it comes out about how they made the world, there’s a version where it was just water, all water. And there’s another version where…there were less soil areas.


Courtesy of Oni Press.

AIPT: For me growing up, I remember reading a lot of Aesop’s Fables. And I don’t really know where those stories come from, and I don’t have a deep connection. But with this one, it feels like people still have a huge relationship with the lore. They still kind of engage with a lot of these figures, these stories in a really organic way.

MA: In lots of the stories, we could say maybe that the gods are no longer worshiped. While with this one, the stories have morphed in ways that it’s still alive because the people passing on the stories are still here with us. Like, you still hear things about Shambhu, who is the god of lightning. Anytime you see every cloud in the sky and it’s about to thunderstorm, you go to the highest peak — scientifically, thunder goes to the highest peak — and if you can pinpoint the stone, the exact stone that the lightning struck, if you take that stone and then do some incantations, you can have control over the weather as well. There are festivals that people organize worshiping this particular God. It’s like living in stories our mom told us.

DA: I remember when I went to see one of my siblings at this Indian restaurant. There was this conversation around this traditionalist who had power over the weather. And then they had to do a meeting because they wanted to have a wedding ceremony…so [the traditionalist] could speak to the gods so that it doesn’t rain. But there was one particular event, where some family was supposed to have him [come], but they didn’t pay him any attention because they didn’t believe in any of those things. Plus, it was not the rainy season at all. And then they went ahead with their program and this so-called man called down rain and thunderstorm and everywhere was just snow and it was the strangest thing ever.

AIPT: We’ve already spoken about humanity, but I’m also curious about the gods. Avatalla seems interesting, especially because there’s another tendency in fantasy stories to like make these gods kind of cruel and vindictive and they’re these terrible creatures. Yet he comes off a little funny and personable

MA: We keep going back to the portrait thing. That’s the great thing about Yoruban mythology. Like, Shango was the first king of the Oyo Empire. You can actually trace them.

So, those gods were humans, how can you have stories of the third king was the one that made the heavens and the Earth — how is that even possible? So it becomes, ‘How did I give this explanation?’

…Each of them felt this deep connection with humans and so they decided to come to earth in human form at different times. So that’s where the dissimilarity comes with the Christianity. So when you hear stories about all of them, they are so human and flawed.

So you have all these sad, tragic stories. Like, there was a powerful king Shango, who got envious of two of his tribute nations. And then he wanted them to fight against each other. He locked their heads against each other, and one of them won. One of them swore vengeance on Shango, and so he came to Shango’s palace. Shango breathed fire on him, but nothing happened. And he told Shango that he was coming back in seven days, and in seven days he was going to die. Shango fled; he ran away from his life. And the next time they would see him, he hung himself from shame.

The more you read the stories, you’re going to see why Obatala is the way he is, and it’s something that is very human, you know? Why does there seem like this god of chaos? It’s because something deep in his heart; his heart’s broken and that’s why he’s behaving the way he is, you know? So that’s where we are coming from — this mythology that all the gods are still human. It’s probably one of the mythologies where they don’t tell their stories in this grand way, like Thor. These are usually very human characters.


Courtesy of Oni Press.

AIPT: I think it just adds another layer to the story and it just makes it all feel really relatable — everybody’s a little crazy, a little sad, a little obsessive here, and nobody is above sort of all these big emotions.

I think the last question, and it’s mostly a two-parter, are there any moments from the rest of the story that you’d like to tease? And, based solely on how good issue #1 is, is there a long-term future for this book/series?

MA: I’m so excited about the second part of the question that I’ve forgotten the first part entirely.

Yes, we do have plans to come back; we want it to be three-issue arcs. So now we’re doing Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods, and that’s going to be three issues. What we’re planning to do next is Akogun: Revenge of the Gods, which is going to be another three issues. And, like you said earlier with Conan and whatnot, you have like different books to plan to keep coming back to these stories. And it’s going to be a very, very long story. But so far, we’ve only seen two of the gods, and we have quite a number of them and it’s going to escalate. We have a change in motivations, different stages in life. Everything you see in long form storytelling. We’re structuring it this way so that

If you have Brutalizer and don’t enjoy it, there’s Revenge of the Gods. You can start in Revenge and go back and whatnot. So it’s easy to navigate and access while also giving us time to work on [stories] and to give the best to this work. In a lot of comic books, and I don’t think it’s the fault of the creator, we see a lot of books losing steam. And the reason why it’s lost steam is because every month, or every two weeks, you have to come up with fresh ideas and you have to draw these things.

AIPT: Yeah, I’d rather see you guys do this when you feel like there’s a story.

MA: For the first part/question, we’ve teased a little from the mythology…and we’re definitely going to borrow from that and spin them around and add some things to them as well. We’re telling a pastiche or something. But yes, we’ve not shown some gods, but Obatala has a brother who is also a giant god. And [Obatala]…he’s not crazy as he seems. He’s a deep planner, actually. All that facade of him laughing and being drunk and all that, he’s actually under control. There’s a master plan to play out, and we will see later.

Join the AIPT Patreon

Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:

  • ❌ Remove all ads on the website
  • 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
  • 📗 Access to our monthly book club
  • 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
  • 💥 And more!
Sign up today

In Case You Missed It

José Luis García-López gets Artist Spotlight variant covers in July 2024 José Luis García-López gets Artist Spotlight variant covers in July 2024

José Luis García-López gets Artist Spotlight variant covers in July 2024

Comic Books

Marvel Preview: Spider-Woman #6 Marvel Preview: Spider-Woman #6

Marvel Preview: Spider-Woman #6

Comic Books

New ‘Phoenix’ #1 X-Men series to launch with creators Stephanie Phillips and Alessandro Miracolo New ‘Phoenix’ #1 X-Men series to launch with creators Stephanie Phillips and Alessandro Miracolo

New ‘Phoenix’ #1 X-Men series to launch with creators Stephanie Phillips and Alessandro Miracolo

Comic Books

Marvel reveals details for new X-Men series 'NYX' #1 Marvel reveals details for new X-Men series 'NYX' #1

Marvel reveals details for new X-Men series ‘NYX’ #1

Comic Books

Newsletter Signup