FEMtrepreneur: Vanessa Alily – Comic Book Illustrator and Executive Media Director at Vanimax Comix

If there’s anything we’ve learnt from superhero movies, it’s that courage, self-belief and intrepidity conquers everything, and that above all, the faith we have in ourselves allows us to unleash our most unique and greatest power. 22-year-old Vanessa Alily has tapped into her own creative power, changing perceptions and altering traditional narratives by bringing a much-needed African overhaul to the comic world. As the Executive Director of Media Communications and Brand Strategy at her family-owned business Vanimax Comix, Vanessa not only manages the company’s PR, digital imprint and brand, she’s also a talented illustrator who creates her own comic books and characters. Championing the invincible force of ‘girl power’, Vanessa chats to us about her exciting career in the world of creative digital art.

How did the Vanimax universe come into existence?

Vanimax Comix is the great creative institution that was started by my parents, Jessica Alily and Valentino Alily, and our incredible family; my brother David, sister Christabelle and myself. The ‘Fabulous Five’, as my family is called in the creative sector, began the South African-based comic group that has spun so many online mega characters under the title of Vanimax Comix in 2010.

How would you describe your family’s business?

It’s a close-knit professional business run my parents. Vanimax Comix is a creative brand that aims to tell the stories of the African continent that have been buried with history. Our niche area is in content creation; storyboards, scriptwriting, illustrating and character design as well as graphic novel and comic book production.

What was the very first Vanimax project you handled by yourself?

My very first project was a comic book creation called Sarah Jones, which I illustrated and created in 2010. I think it was the very first time I realised my creative potential and began to express it through my illustrations. It was also one of my first comic book creations that was birthed into the Vanimax Comix universe. I felt fulfilled and excited to see my ideas come to life on paper and it was even more fulfilling to sit and brainstorm with the other members of my family on ways to develop and expand the story.

What challenges have you faced as a FEMtrepreneur and how did you overcome them?

TIME. I find there’s hardly enough time to sit and do the work as I please, but passion and dedication push me and it’s something I still have to work on daily.

Secondly, there are very few women in this field or line of work, and often I find that I am stereotyped with the ‘pretty face and no brains’ stigma when interacting with other industry professionals. However, my expertise is undeniable and my talent speaks for itself. Creativity has no gender or race.

What makes Vanimax comics stand out from other similar publications?

Our stories speak for themselves as they express the authenticity of our people and their history. They are uniquely AFRICAN and have a depth of spirituality conveyed in a way that brings enlightenment to our readers. Our stories are realistic and modern; they are relatable as they showcase African history with a totally new approach.

Lastly, our stories don’t take the route of portraying the African story as it is often portrayed; ‘Savages with spears and leaves between their hips’. They portray Africans as culturally advanced, and technologically ahead of their time. It portrays Africans as the custodians of humanity, which we rightfully are.

What inspires your creativity to generate new storylines and characters?

LIFE as we know it is my inspiration. LIFE is constantly recreating itself and evolving rapidly. I find that when I am in tune with all there is, in tune with nature, with GOD – I am inspired to create. There’s never an ‘off day’. My mind is like the universe at its beginning, bursting forth with new ideas constantly because it’s ever-evolving. I’m always inspired, and always creating because I’m connected to an unlimited source.

What has been the most effective way of marketing your business?

SOCIAL MEDIA!

Social Media has changed the way comic books are distributed to fans because of its ‘on-demand’ nature. By marketing our comics through social media, we are able to attract daily readers and keep them engaged.

What is the most courageous thing you’ve done as a FEMtrepreneur?

Speaking to a room full of industry professionals and pioneers about our products. It was certainly out of my comfort zone and required great courage.

Describe yourself in three words:

Determined. Multifaceted. Vivacious.

What do you love most about your job?

Creating new stories and evolving old ones.

Is there anything you dislike about your job?

Having to redo certain pages or panels of my comic book because it wasn’t well done before or it didn’t fit the quality and standard of our comic books.

 

What three things are essential to working in the field of comics and digital art?

  1. Art Supplies / Stationery (art pencils, art pen, erasers, rulers, etc.)

  2. Bamboo digital tablet for illustration

  3. Laptop

What has been your greatest career achievement thus far?

My family and I were recently featured on CGTN’s Grassroots TV special for our work, and it was quite amazing.

Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you would love to achieve?

Yes, to be invited to showcase our work at Comic Con.

What advice would you give to other young female entrepreneurs?

Be focused. Know what you want and how you want to achieve it.

Draw up a plan and stick to it.

Your gender isn’t a hindrance, push down doors or break them down if you have to.

Don’t be afraid to stand out, don’t be afraid to stand alone either, and most certainly, don’t be afraid of hard work.

Lastly, play as hard as you work and enjoy your life, sis!

Fun facts about Vanessa

Favourite business tool:

Flint pen

My personal style is…

Sophisticated and edgy

Heels or flats?

Heels

Favourite Vanimax character?

Amina Angels

I unwind and relax by:

Writing poetry and songs

Favourite shade of lipstick:

Red

Book recommendation:

African Progress Initiative by Ekos Akpokabayen

Three things I never leave home without:

Phone, hand sanitizer and USB/earphones

Favourite coffee shop or restaurant:

Social Parkwood, Rosebank

If I had an unlimited budget, I would shop at:

Avenue Foch in Paris

Dream destination:

Bali

The one thing required for success is…

Fearlessness

Vanessa Alily and her family have done far more than establishing themselves as trailblazers on the local graphic novel scene. They’ve given representation to an African audience where there hasn’t been any before. Young girls and boys across the continent can proudly open the pages of a Vanimax comic and find an accurate portrayal of themselves in it, which only serves as a reminder that whatever you can dream of, you can achieve. The Vanimax empire is built on the limitless imaginations of children (and adults) who needed heroes that they can identify with. We look forward to seeing the fascinating characters of Vanimax Comix light up the silver screen one day!

Keen on comic books?

To follow more of their thrilling storylines, check out Vanimax Comix on Instagram 

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