If you’re a fan of Piggyvest’s comics on socials or the web, I’m sure you’ll be super excited to know more about how these comics were created and the brains behind them.
After reading the last issue of the Grown Ups series, I decided to chat with Agnes Ekanem, one of the contributors I had already connected with via LinkedIn.
I reached out because I wanted to highlight other writing options that are not for search engines, or emails.
We had an interesting chat, and she shared a little bit about her world, why she thinks more writers should create comics, and how she stays creative and comes up with ideas from the world around her.
Hello, please introduce yourself.
My name is Agnes Ekanem. But really, no one calls me that; everyone calls me Eris. I’m a writer and cartoonist.
Tell me about how you started writing for comics.
I started writing for blogs like Zikoko Mag, and eventually, they asked me to do illustrations because they saw that I used to illustrate for my blog, and I was like…yeah!
I wasn’t drawing much before then, but I kept at it. After that, I got hired by Piggyvest as a writer and cartoonist. My job went from writing for the blog and interviewing people to learn more about their money mistakes, to working on digital comic ebooks.
Before I started working on the comic ebooks, I was already illustrating for my company’s socials.
After a while, my supervisor suggested we work on long-form content that people could access and relate to.
It was really exciting because it was my first time working on a comic book project even though I had previously written for animation.
I had to do a bunch of research because writing for comics is a lot different than regular writing, like prose or drama.
Hmmm. Interesting. What makes it different?
The thing about writing for comics is that no one gets to read what you’ve written except through the eye of the artist.
So, in a way, the comic script is for the artist to interpret and create visuals. That’s a different thing entirely.
When I started, I had very good materials I relied on, and they were extremely helpful. They include Comics Experience Guide To Writing Comics by Andy Schmidt & Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. These books gave me the perfect guide on how to start writing comics.
Cool. What’s the first thing you consider before starting a new project?
The first thing I learned about writing for comics was creating a character profile. When writing for comics, you must have a good idea of who your characters are.
Ideally, that’s the first thing I consider. When working on my characters, I learn more about their fears and motivations.
I start by outlining my character’s goals, motivations, and possibly any hindrance they might face in achieving their goals.
I also consider the brief the company gives me. Basically, we want to tell the stories of young people and their journey through navigating their finances when they’re of age.
This usually gives me a good idea of where to start from.
If you read the last Grown Ups series, you’d see that the story started during their graduation ceremony. That was a great place to start because that’s when reality hits most of us.
Lol. I agree. No more allowance, nothing.
Yeah, exactly. We’re done with 10 episodes now, but just 6 are out. I’m currently working on the second season as well.
That sounds super interesting. I’m sure the Grown Ups fans must be truly excited.
So…asides from the brief that is always given to you, how do you get your ideas for your stories?
So, every writing I’ve ever done led up to this moment. The blog writing I did way back and all the conversations I had with people made me knowledgeable about what people were going through regarding finance.
I had many ideas and stories to dig into and create something unique.
Also, listening to people talk about money and their background helped me understand why people make different financial choices. These interactions helped me become a better storyteller.
True. Conversing with different people brings a lot of new ideas.
Yeah, it’s really something.
Do you have other comic scriptwriters in Nigeria you look up to?
No, I’ve not come across any Nigerian comic scriptwriters. The people I follow are mostly foreigners who work in Marvel or DC. They’re my inspiration because they do exceptionally well.
Indie Creators is an example as well. I’m such a comic fan, so I read many of their comics. There’s also this app called Webtoons, which hosts long-form comic stories from different creators.
It’s a social media platform for comic creators. I use Webtoons every day. So, I get to see different storytelling styles and interact with different creators.
Do you love what you do?
Yes, I do. Telling stories through the comic medium is powerful because it does what the prose doesn’t – it provides visuals.
With comics, you’re not relying totally on your imagination; you’re being served with visuals that make the story come alive.
It’s not film. It’s static, but then it makes it easy to visualize the stories the way the creators want you to see them.
It leaves no room for too much imagination. Because I enjoy interacting with visuals, that makes me happy.
Oh my, I love your passion for what you do. Do you think this is something more Nigerian writers need to go into?
I would definitely encourage more people to go into comic scriptwriting. I’m fortunate to work in a company that gives me creative freedom.
I work in a fintech company, but I’m out here making comics; that’s super cool.
However, it’s also important to note that there aren’t a lot of Nigerian companies that will agree to create a separate product (like comic products) asides from their main products, so there might not be a lot of job opportunities out there.
I hope more Nigerian companies will consider using their writers to make comics, because it’s an engaging way to interact with your audience.
Oh yes, it’s very different from the norm, and I love it. Videos, graphics, and podcasts are slowly becoming cliche now. I’d love to see more comics.
Yeah. So, I always like to think about the people who don’t like to read a lot of texts. Using comics makes content available for them in the way they like.
If I were to advice people interested in venturing into this path, I would tell them to have a backup plan because I don’t know if it’s a thing you can apply for as a job here in Nigeria. Where I work, I have other things I’m doing. I’m a content writer as well.
Comic scriptwriting happened to be a niche my company created, and I had to adjust myself to it. If you find yourself in a situation where the skill is required of you, then it’s something you can learn.
You could also write for animation because most comics get adapted into animation.
Yeah, solid points. Many people dislike reading, so comic eBooks are good alternatives.
Yeah, and I love how we can create web comics for these people. The web is always accessible and shareable.
As I’m speaking to you, the Grown Up Series has about 90,000 views, and we got that without marketing.
Yeah. When people love something, they share it with their friends, and that’s how it goes viral.
Also, I’d like to add that companies interested in printed comic books should first create for the web, build a fan base and proceed with prints.
For example, I absolutely loved a comic series on Webtoons, and I think it is one of the best things anyone has ever created. The writer started creating for the web, and when she gathered enough fans, she proceeded to print.
That’s really something. Thanks for putting it out there. So, what’s the most exciting part of your job?
So, first of all, let me just say this, I always panic when I’m about to create something new. So, it’s not like I’m always having fun.
Yeah. Can totally relate, ha-ha
However, that anxiety keeps me on my feet. So, to ease out of it, I read a lot of other comics.
Reading comics is the most exciting part of my job because my mind becomes more open to things I didn’t know about.
Reading is also playful because as you read, you get into the head of the writer and find ways to replicate something new and exciting in your work. Eventually, when you start to write, you get so into it.
Interesting. Should we expect your stuff soon?
Oh yes, the stuff I do at the side is mostly animation. I’ve been working on this animation project – E DEY HAPPEN.
I’m trying to get investors to come on board as well. Before I got into comic scriptwriting, I wanted to write for animation.
Also, I told myself that before I turn 30, I’d publish 5 comic books, asides from what I’m currently working on at Piggyvest. However, it’s costly, so if I find another artist willing to collaborate with me, I’d love that.
Such a fantastic time with you. Do you have any last words for writers out there?
Being able to write anything at all is not easy, but the job has to get done. The best part about being a writer is that you don’t need anyone but yourself.
As writers, we have to set the ball rolling. I need writers out there not to lose sight of their power to create.
I need them to know that they are very important in the creation process, and without them, there is no story.
Also, no matter how bad things get, I need them to know that they have a story that no one can tell the way they can.
It’s a gift to be able to create, look within yourself, dig up stories from your life, the world around you, and come up with something remarkable.
We are all exceptional. So, please, keep writing.
Finally, don’t procrastinate. The world needs you. No matter how bad you think your work is, there’s someone out there waiting to hear your story. Please do not give up. Keep doing what you do.
Wow, thank you. I needed that. I agree with you, it’s essential we know that what we bring to the world is unique, and it might not appeal to everyone, but it will matter to those it’s meant for.
Yeah, exactly. I always say that your people will find your work, connect with you, and appreciate it. It’s always worth it in the end.
Let me add this: I always look at my past work and cringe, lol. I guess that’s normal. I’m also glad I did them then, you know? Because everything led me up to this moment.
Ha-ha. Yes! Thank you for your time.
Thank you so much, Chidinma. This was really great.
I’m sure you enjoyed this wholesome conversation, and I hope you picked one or two lessons. Do me a favor by sharing this article with your friends.
Connect with Agnes Ekanem on LinkedIn, and tell her how much you appreciate everything she shared with us.
Also, guys…don’t forget to check out her animation project; it’s hilarious and worth your time.