June XII is the title and lead character in Ibrahim “Sirgai” Ganiyu’s comic. June XII marks the first elections after the 1983 military coup that resulted in the widely acknowledged victory of Moshood Abiola in 1993 and subsequently, its annulment by Ibrahim Babaginda and eventually, General Sonny Abacha’s coup.
The day is celebrated by some in pro-Abiola states. In a 2013 interview with Vanguard, Senator Roland Owie argued that, while the elections were free and fair, the events leading to Abiola’s candidature and presumed victory weren’t as rosy. That notwithstanding, the day stands as a herald of Nigerian democracy and some have even hailed it as Nigeria’s true democracy day. This is most likely Sirgai’s inspiration for the comic and we’re grateful for the birth of a living corruption eraser.
On the twenty-third anniversary of the day that spurred the comic, we share our thoughts.
The opening pages of the Vortex Comic title establish June’s world effortlessly as a rotting Nigeria where nepotism at the masses’ expense, dysfunctional structures, occultism and irresponsibility are the norm. June stands as the only hope for the people against such decadence. There’s no origin story and we’re quickly pulled into the present.
We glimpse June’s powers early on too. He mysteriously appears and reappears, a spook technique that works well in his favor. Add teleportation, energy absorption, mind-reading and exorcism to his ever frothing soup of abilities and you have one very powerful vigilante, or god, the comic isn’t very clear.
Which brings up who June actually is. We don’t know. What we do know however is, June fancies himself the embodiment of justice and his own words, “I have existed in time for eons, light has no end” leaves us even more clueless. If that’s true, that puts him at the fore of creation. Does this mean there are other June’s across the world fighting darkness? If there are, it’ll be cool to see what their costumes are like.
Costumes. June’s costume is complex in its simplicity. Contradictory, we know. But just look at it. The beauty of the Nigerian flag lies in its simplicity which allows for several creative iterations like June’s outfit. We’re however curious about his mask. Nigeria and Ghana share similar climates and the weather lately has been ablaze. How can he stand the heat and how in the world does he breathe? Perhaps all that will be explained when his origins come to light.
Light. June is a walking glow in the dark (and sometimes light). It initially seemed ridiculous but reading his many proclamations of light over darkness, it makes sense and is almost excusable. In spite of its light over darkness anthem, June XII is rather dark. Its brutality isn’t as subtle as anticipated. You actually feel the seriousness of the bad guys when they do their thing. Take the demon possessed villain in red for example.
Demons. Laalu. The exploration of the African metaphysical for nefarious purposes isn’t hidden and reinforces a long held belief of juju talismans around political (and religious) figures. It is reminiscent of Nollywood flicks with its allusion to university occultism, ritual sacrifices, demonic possessions and healing. In light of news constantly circulating on social media about ritualistic homicides for respectable men of god and honorables, one can’t help but make a connection between politicians and pastors. They’re both leaders who need to stand their grounds after all. We wonder if June is gonna pick off such religious figures as well.
It’s interesting how seamless each issue is. It doesn’t feel like a new issue at all, just one continuous flow of ideas. The art has transitioned from gritty, that evoked a sense of realism for us to slightly glossy.
The biggest issue with the comic is its lack of diverse characters, which might be explained by the limited number of issues. We are after all, waiting on the fourth. Secondly, things so far look pretty straight forward. That’s good and bad. Its simplicity means we don’t have to be inundated in a sea of characters but that also makes it a little unmemorable. Besides June’s mystique, and perhaps the unfolding politics, everything else is a ruler.
XII is too simple a character. He’s such a square. He’s an exorcist, a police officer, a spy, and a counselor. He’s a goody-two shoes with no demons whatsoever. Just a lot of badassery. He seems too self-righteous.
Junes’ bad-ass aggression must stem from the failure of structures and their incredible red-tape which could explain some people’s desire for a return to military regimes over civilian ones where the rot of officials, that will leave the devil puking over jollof in dismay isn’t as profound and is swiftly dealt with. Never mind that there’s equal amounts of canker in military regimes as well.
June is a radical and radicals are usually only understood after they’ve chalked success, sometimes decades later, take Kwame Nkrumah for example. June so far has managed a few letters. With sponsorship from the Youth Against Corruption NGO, it’ll be interesting to see how far this comic goes and how impactful it will be in the fight against corruption.
June XII is for everyone dissatisfied with continued reports of corruption, open to alternative solutions, however fantastical and desirous of an iconic rebel.
June XII is on a mission to exorcise society’s corruption laalus and we throw our weight behind him with plenty vim.
Get a load of June here.
By Kadi Yao Tay