Marvel Comics has released the newest member to its universe, in response to the 2014 kidnapping of Chibok girls in Nigeria by the militant group Boko Haram. Ngozi, a teenage girl from Lagos, will appear alongside infamous characters such as Black Panther and Venom.
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Ngozi will debut in the new comic “Blessing in Disguise,” according to Reuters. The title is the first Marvel comic to be set in an existing African nation, further expanding the company’s international diversity.
Nnedi Okorafor, an award-winning Nigerian-American author, was recruited by Marvel Comics to create Ngozi. She was inspired by the Chibok girls because “their story of perseverance is so powerful.”
Nnedi Okorafor is working on a story set in Lagos about a young girl, Ngozi, titled "Blessing in Disguise" for Marvel's Venomverse. pic.twitter.com/ny5OrCp7ET
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According to CNN, 276 schoolgirls were abducted from the Chibok Government Secondary School in 2014 by the militant group Boko Haram. Gunmen engaged in extensive crossfire until they were able to load the girls into vans and other vehicles. The state government closed down 85 secondary schools in March of that year, leaving over 120,000 students without safe access to education.
Boko Haram, which translates to “western education is sin,” is known for suicide bombings, sexual enslavement and kidnappings of school children. According to The Washington Post, the group has destroyed several towns and cities, resulting in the displacement of two million people and the deaths of 200,000. Though dozens of girls were able to escape the night of the abduction, over 200 still remain captive.
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This tragic event sparked international outrage, especially on social media. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls increased awareness and pressured the Nigerian government into making the Chibok girls its first priority.
Now, Marvel’s Ngozi is building awareness to the lack of representation in pop culture.
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“It was an important decision for me to base Ngozi on the one of the Chibok girls,” states Okorafor in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Okorafor is also an English professor at the University of Buffalo in New York.
Okorafor goes on to say she wrote the title “in response to the lack of nuanced representation she found in the superhero world,” as reported by OkayAfrica.
This past summer, Wonder Woman debuted as “the first female-led superhero film to be directed by a woman,” according to BBC News. Director Patty Jenkins is considered to have broken box office records, generating $620 million worldwide within the first few weeks of the movie’s release.
Although millions of viewers around the globe received this nuanced display of female empowerment very well, Okorafor argues that female representation should go one step further.
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“I’m a huge Wonder Woman fan,” Okorafor says to Reuters. “But we can really push it further when it comes to diversity.”
Now, Ngozi will act as another source of female empowerment and perseverance on an international scale.