It’s Time you Met “Hawi” and the Growing Etan Comics Universe
If you havent’ already, meet Hawi, Ethiopia’s first female comic superhero. Hawi is the second comic book released by Etan Comics and tells the story of a young Ethiopian woman named Emnet Legesse, a 20-year-old Ethiopian American, who returns to Ethiopia for a visit only to have her mother kidnapped by a mysterious stranger. This event takes her on a life-changing journey layered with historical conflict. Hawi is the second superhero comic book to come out of the country following the debut of Jember in 2018.
Hawi’s story is inspired by the 10th century Ethiopian Queen, Yodit Guidit. Yodit is known for her role in the destruction of the Axumite Empire and was nicknamed “Esato” in Amharic, which means “fire,” after her reputation of burning architectural landmarks as well as churches following her great conquests. Hawi explores if there may be more to her story than meets the eye. The comic features stunning colorful visuals and captures the vibrancy of Ethiopia. It is ultimately a story about returning to one’s roots and finding the courage to rise above the challenges that come with seeking reconciliation and belonging. One that many of us in the diaspora can relate to.
In the opening scenes of the comic, it’s clear Emnet is desperate to visit Ethiopia on a guided tour but her mother is not supportive of the idea. She says Emnet can hardly speak their native Amharic language and is fearful for her safety due to the many girls who had been abducted in Ethiopia. Emnet is visibly frustrated by her mother’s refusal to allow her to go back to her home country to visit. Eventually the two end up going to visit Ethiopia only for Emnet’s mother to be abducted. And that is where the story really begins.
Etan Comic’s founder and writer, Beserat Debebe seeks to normalize the idea that Ethiopians and Africans in general can have an impact on the world through an Ethiopian superhero. “The fact that Hawi is Ethiopian means a lot to me,” Debebe told OkayAfrica. “I wish I had seen an Ethiopian superhero growing up. I would have embraced my ability to make a difference earlier and acted on it.” Debebe touches on the important topic of representation. Having representation can change the trajectory of the lives of youth who see people similar to them in media and entertainment. Debebe believes that people are their own barriers to progress and their perceptions of themselves are ultimately the culmination of what they see and internalize. His hope is that his superhero characters will begin to break down these barriers and inspire limitless imagination among African youth. All while having “as much fun as possible doing it!”
Etan Comics aims to “expand your imagination” and is on its way to establishing Etan Comics Universe, similar to Marvel Universe, as the home of African superheroes. The entertainment platform is a 100% community funded production company with emphasis on comic books, animation, television and feature films, video games and a variety of other consumer products. Hawi was made possible because of a successful kickstarter created by Debebe. Etan boasts a nomination for this year’s NOMMO Awards for African Speculative Fiction for Hawi, in the category of “Best Graphic Novel.” Their first comic Jember also made it onto the long list of the same category.
Jember was Etan Comic’s first comic book release, and the first Ethiopian comic book ever. The story follows a young college graduate named Ammanuel who is disappointed in his non-success after much effort in trying to solidify his career. His pursuit of the ticket that would grant him the opportunity to chase the façade of the American dream, in connection to his American girlfriend, comes to a halt. But that quest brings him face to face with decisions involving sacrifice and leads him on the journey of discovering self-worth, power, responsibility and hope. "Amanuel's story shows that a hero is not defined by where he/she comes from, or by what he/she has accomplished, or his/her (super) abilities. Heroes are defined by the choices they make, their will and desire to do what is right, despite the difficulty of circumstances and irrespective of the recognition they might get," said Debebe.
Jember is available for purchase, and Hawi is now available for pre-order on Etan Comic’s website. Hawi will be made available in November 2020. Issues of each comic are available in both English and Amharic and can be purchased as physical or digital copies. Etan Comics is proving to be a game changer in the world of Ethiopian and African comics. You can also be a part of the journey and fuel Etan Comics Universe by donating. Donations go towards paying staff and creating new content, not to mention it helps the company maintain creative freedom and notably avoid industry gatekeepers.