ShapeShifter

How proudly South African Supa Strikas became the biggest comic book on Earth

(Click here for more "Shapeshifter" articles such as this one.)

X-Men, Superman, Spiderman… These comic books are huge, but they pale in comparison to world’s biggest monthly comic book, South Africa’s very own Supa Strikas.

The creators of Supa Strikas, Strika Entertainment, consist of 40 people who create their magic in a modest office in Woodstock, Cape Town.

Strika Entertainment publishes the 14-year-old Supa Strikas weekly and monthly, and gets about 720 000 copies out, mostly in family magazines Huisgenoot, You and Drum.

Strika Entertainment also creates a 30-minute TV show that airs in 120 countries.

“Supa Strikas was born out of the idea of creating local heroes that South Africans would fall in love with,” says Strika Entertainment Managing Director Richard Morgan-Grenville.

Worldly, yet proudly South African

“It was a conscious effort to make the characters authentic,” says Morgan-Grenville. “This is a South African idea. The team represents, for all intents and purposes, a PSL team.”

Supa Strikas might be proudly South African, but the themes are universal and the stories are as relevant here as they are in Lagos or Sao Paulo.

“Our plots are about training in the most intense environments,” says Morgan-Grenville. “It’s about adventuring to the most wonderful places in the world, about how you work together as a team and about leadership. Those things are cool whether you’re in Tel Aviv, Panama City or Johannesburg.

“Some of the characters are black guys, some are white guys and others are very difficult to define in terms of ethnic origin. Many of the brands who sponsor us – Umbro, Stimorol, KFC and others – are global brands.”

Perfecting the art of product placement

Strika Entertainment struggled to sell advertisements, forcing them to innovate.

“Like any great football team; ours got sponsors,” says Morgan-Grenville. “We put the main advertiser on the jersey and supporting sponsors went all over the place.”

It was pure genius. Characters started using the advertisers' products and the money started flowing in. “Those guys went to the Spur a lot!” says Morgan-Grenville.

“Nowadays they prefer KFC! We have a lot of fun. The guys will eat a Zinger one day and the next, on their way to a big game; they’ll shoot through a drive-through in Kazakhstan.”

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