Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Okupe, who goes by Roye, moved to the United States at 17 to attend college. He eventually earned a master’s degree in computer science and took a job as a web developer. “My salary literally doubled in three years,” he says. Okupe was a success by almost any measure of the word. But no matter how much money he made, he still felt unfulfilled. Okupe couldn’t stop dreaming about superheroes.
An “aha moment” is often described as a sudden insight or epiphany that radically changes a person’s perspective. It can be a decision-making moment, spiritual realization or creative breakthrough. Something clicks in the brain and — pop! — things just seem to fall into place.
Growing up in Lagos, Okupe fell in love with cartoons like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Transformers,” and superheroes including Batman, Superman and Spider-Man. “I’ve been a total nerd ever since then,” says Okupe, whose passion only increased with the first wave of the Hollywood superhero boom. But even though more African-American superheroes were slowly becoming mainstream, the characters didn’t reflect Okupe’s own experience. “If you’re not a hardcore comic book and superhero fan, you probably cannot name five superheroes that you know that were born in Africa,” he says.
Since 2008, Okupe had been quietly developing a mental image of his own superhero — the Nigerian-born Wale Williams — who would defend his home of Lagoon City from the forces of evil. After taking stock of his situation, and seeing other independent comic book writers succeed, everything came into focus. ”I saw other people doing it and I believed in myself,” Okupe says. “I decided I had to take the risk, quit my job and follow a passion that I’ve had all my life.”