African superhero universe goes from graphic novel to animation

Following a monumental 10-book deal with Dark Horse Comics, YouNeek Studios has secured VC investment from Impact X Capital to develop a groundbreaking animation series based on a world of superhero and fantasy stories inspired by African history and mythology. Highly regarded former senior VP of co-productions at DreamWorks, Doug Schwalbe, has joined as executive producer and will oversee distribution.

Dark Horse Comics, one of the world’s leading entertainment publishers, welcomed YouNeek and its pioneering founder Roye Okupe into its fold in January 2021 in a deal that will publish all 10 of YouNeek’s graphic novels. Okupe, a Nigerian-born rising star of the industry, is working  with TV industry veteran Erica Motley, creative partner at Impact X Capital, to bring the magical series to screens worldwide, starting with ‘Iyanu: Child of Wonder,’ a classic children’s fantasy quest in the tradition of shows like ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender.’ More uniquely, ‘Iyanu’ features a teenaged, Black female lead whose story and the world are inspired by Yoruba history, culture, and folklore. An award-winning filmmaker, Okupe tells stories through the lens of extraordinary, compelling, and inspirational African characters, and was just nominated for the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics, meant to honor “commitment to excellence and inclusion.”

According to Motley, “Impact X Capital is thrilled to partner with YouNeek Studios to bring its first animated series to life. With its stunning African locations, brilliant themes of unity and community, and rare focus on Black Girl Magic, ‘Iyanu’ represents our aim to create outstanding,  multicultural content by exceptional, diverse talent.”

“As soon as Erica Motley brought me ‘Iyanu,’ I knew it was special,” says Schwalbe. “I’m thrilled to introduce it at the Kidscreen Summit.”

YouNeek is on a mission to bring empowering African narratives and the work of Black creatives to worldwide audiences. “This is an unprecedented time for stories inspired by African history and culture,” says Okupe. “Our mission has always been to empower African creatives and storytelling. We’ve done it successfully in the comic book industry and with Impact X Capital, we’re excited at the opportunity to do it in the animation space, with as many people as possible creating these stories who look like the characters in them.” YouNeek has also partnered with Forefront Media Group as well as with Triggerfish Animation Studios for ‘Iyanu.’ Triggerfish CEO Stuart Forrest says, “We fell in love with ‘Iyanu’ when we read Volume I, so we’re eager to bring our network of skilled creatives to make this show inventive, vibrant and an authentic  representation of the fresh talent across the continent.”


YouNeek™ Studios is a hub for “YouNeek” and creative character-based storytelling and entertainment. Simply put, through the use of graphic novels, animation, video games, and other forms of media, we focus on telling extraordinary stories about extraordinary characters inspired by African history, culture, and mythology. We do this with the ultimate goal of empowering African creatives and storytelling across the globe.


Founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson, Dark Horse Comics is an excellent example of how integrity and innovation can help broaden a unique storytelling medium and transform a company with humble beginnings into an industry giant. Under a new partnership with Vanguard Visionary Associates, Dark Horse is positioned to further expand its reach globally with publishing, products, and filmed entertainment. Over the years, Dark Horse has published the work of creative legends such as Yoshitaka Amano, Margaret Atwood, Paul Chadwick, Geof Darrow, Will Eisner, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Faith Erin Hicks, Kazuo Koike, Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Moebius, Chuck Palahniuk, Wendy Pini, and Gerard Way. In addition, Dark Horse has a long tradition of establishing exciting new creative talent throughout all of its divisions. The company has set the industry standard for quality licensed comics, graphic novels, collectibles, and art books, including_’Stranger Things,’ ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender,’ ‘The Legend of Korra,’ ‘Minecraft,’ ‘The Legend of Zelda,’ ‘Super Mario,’ ‘Dragon Age,’ ‘James  Cameron’s Avatar,’ ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Mass Effect,’ ‘StarCraft,’ ‘The Witcher_,’ and ‘_Halo.’_Today, Dark Horse Comics is one of the world’s leading entertainment publishers.


Impact X Capital is a double bottom line VC, founded to support diverse and underrepresented entrepreneurs and whose founding members include Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox and the first Black woman to head a Fortune 500 company, Ric Lewis, once voted the most influential Black person in the UK and British TV actor, author and diversity campaigner Sir Lenny Henry. Impact X Capital pursues investments in digital and technology, media and entertainment, health education, and lifestyle companies.


Based in Cape Town and Galway, the 25-year-old premium content CG animation studio is currently producing a TV series for Netflix,’ Mama K’s Team 4, and finishing off its third feature film,’ Seal Team.’Triggerfish is in development on a broad slate of film and television projects for most of the world’s biggest studios and also services AAA-rated and mobile games for the likes of Electronic Arts, Unity, and Disney Interactive.

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