Note: This is the first in a series of interviews with comic creators whose work I find interesting, unusual or exemplary of larger trends in the evolution of global graphic storytelling.
Over the summer I received a mysterious note on the Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture Facebook wall, expressing interest in my global perspective and suggesting I check out a new Brazilian webcomic called Obrigado Futebol. The strip was billed as an exploration of the social meaning of futebol (soccer), Brazil’s national obsession, and its inspiring effect on three kids who eventually become superstar players. The writer goes by the name “Wai of the Wave,” with art by Giulio Mariotti.
I clicked over to the site with few expectations. The first strip, “The Story of Little Ant,” had been posted in June, 2012. It tells the story of a kid from the favelas (slums) of Rio, from the tragic and heartbreaking circumstances of his birth and upbringing to his efforts to find escape through mastery of the soccer ball. The painterly almost folk art style, highly unusual for a comic, is detailed, compelling and extremely effective. The storytelling is confident, mature and sophisticated. It is emotional without being melodramatic. Sports comics as a genre in North America are typically nothing special, but Obrigado Futebol’s approach to the potentially corny “futebol as salvation” theme deftly skirts platitudes and stereotypes.
The complete “Story of Little Ant” is currently available in English, with plans for Japanese, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Chinese versions announced on the site. Because it’s on the web, it’s instantly available to a global audience. Several other chapters in the story are announced but not yet posted (as of September, 2012).
Obrigado Futebol is as serious, ambitious and accomplished a work of graphic fiction as you’d find published anywhere in the world, telling a story that could only come from Brazil. The art is an intriguing synthesis of global and local styles. The story represents a voice and perspective that readers in North America and elsewhere might not ever hear, but it’s finding an audience through self-publication and digital distribution.
In short, it represents everything about the optimistic “Expanding Multiverse” scenario from Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, in combination with the spirit of Millennial entrepreneurship in the emerging world that I wrote about in my previous book, Young World Rising. Seeing it gave me the idea to pursue similar stories from new global voices in comics – those taking advantage of the the spread of digital technology and the new self-publishing business models that it makes possible to reach a worldwide audience with innovative graphic fiction.
I reached out to “Wai” for more information about his project. Here are his responses to my questions. Read more