Benny Blow AKA Bwanga Kapumpa is a writer, content manager and entrepreneur. He is currently a Social Media and Digital Manager at Dagon Media, a growing digital marketing agency.
Benny, in collaboration with illustrator London Kamwendo, publishes a webcomic, known as ‘Mundane Kid’, that is gaining a cult-like following in the online community. His consummate skill in creative writing earned him a short story publication in the esteemed Caine Prize anthology for 2016. Benny has written for a number of magazines, blogs and online publication, and has interviewed iconic international acts including South Africa’s Freshly Ground and Nigeria’s legendary Femi Kuti.
KAPA187: Tell us about yourself.
BENNY BLOW: I’m a storyteller. I used to tell stories with pictures, but I discovered I’m better with words. I work as a copywriter and social media and content manager, and also write freelance articles. I love learning new things; especially from friends I meet, both new and old.
KAPA187: Tell us about the webcomic Mundane Kid; what was the motivation to come up with it?
BENNY BLOW: The Mundane Kid is about a kid with an overactive imagination. He embodies the child inside all of us. He turns everyday activities into over the top adventures. His episodes draw from my friend and co-creator London’s experiences, as well as my own and all the stuff we’ve watched and read.
The motivation was mainly from the love of comics and cartoons. London initially came up with the concept of a kid that would eat something and imagine he was a superhero, but the project the character was developed for was shelved. I was in a meeting one day and began to doodle the kid’s first adventure. I gave him a name, an exciting tagline, goggles and he’s been leaping off web pages since.
KAPA187: Explain the process of coming up with a comic strip.
BENNY BLOW: I’ll come up with an idea for an episode, usually in the bath or on the porcelain throne, and then script it. Sometimes the inspiration comes from something I read, or even a real life Mundane Kid I may have seen in a grocery store.
The scripts describe panels and the story, and then London proceeds to pencil these based on my description and his own overactive imagination. Afterwards he’ll ink the episode and then scan it to be uploaded. Stories are usually a page long but ‘specials’ can be anything from two to five pages.
On occasion, London will do both scripting and illustrations with me on editing duties.
KAPA187: Mundane Kid is now on its 81st episode and is growing in popularity, when you first started did you think it would last this long?
BENNY BLOW: Well yes, and no. When we started, I knew we had something fun on our hands. I knew London and I could create stories for as long as we wanted to and probably never get tired of the idea. However, I didn’t expect that people would respond this positively. Now I feel we can’t ever stop because it’s bigger than just London and I.
KAPA187: What does the future hold for Mundane Kid, will there be a physical comic or animated series in the future?
BENNY BLOW: Of course! We have plans to publish annual volumes. Volume 1 collects the first 30 episodes, plus new artwork. We hope to publish it this year.
An animated series is also in the plans for the near future. We might start with some YouTube shorts and then a show and an adrenaline-juiced movie will follow!
We also have plans for lots of merchandise. We just rolled out some T-shirts at Lusaka Comic Con, and we want to do lots from bookmarks to pyjamas.
KAPA187: Zambia’s comic book culture is slowly growing with a number of local comics coming up. Do you feel we are headed in the right direction, what more can be done?
BENNY BLOW: We are heading in the right direction, but we could do with more original stories. The artwork is great, but we’re mostly influenced by European and Western pop culture. That’s not an entirely bad thing; we just need to adapt Zambian (or African) folklore and culture to create our own contemporary stories.
KAPA187: Apart from comics you are also an accomplished creative writer. Your short story “ The Wandering Festival” was published in the book “The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things (and Other Stories)” by The Caine Prize for African Writing 2016. How did that make you feel?
BENNY BLOW: I felt nothing at all…. I kid! I was excited! I still am. There were times in my life it felt like I was chasing a futile dream, but then I’d put in the work, the stars aligned and I got my short story published in a renowned anthology. It’s motivating.
KAPA187: What themes and topics do you tackle in your writing? Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?
BENNY BLOW: With my short stories, I mainly write genre fiction. Stuff with ghouls, ghosts and tokoloshes; aliens, superheroes and weirdos. When it comes to my articles, I write about events and try and give people a vicarious experience; to make them feel like they’re sitting with the person I’m interviewing, or like they can smell the reefer at a music festival.
My inspiration comes from many sources. Firstly I write stories I feel I’d like to read. It also comes from writers like Stephen King, Hunter S. Thompson and Shakespeare. Lots of it comes from nineties cartoons and movies too.
KAPA187: In your opinion is there truth in the common saying “Zambians don’t read” or is it an exaggeration?
BENNY BLOW: It’s not that black and white. It is true that we do have a poor reading culture in Zambia, but there are plenty of Zambians that do read. This is evidenced by the number of popular blogs and even gossip sites. People are reading those, right?
I’ve met a number of well-read people. Most of them were encouraged to read from a young age, at school and/or at home. If this could be done more today, we’ll have a better reading culture.
KAPA187: There was a time when you quit your white-collar job in order to follow your passion. Tell us about that.
BENNY BLOW: A number of people glamourize quitting your job to pursue creative aspirations. I’m guilty of this too. But don’t quit your day job without good reason or a back-up plan.
I was working as a junior accountant and realized I was sad. This may have been due to the working conditions too, but I felt my creativity was being stifled. I quit to complete my accounting qualification and write more. My short story blog garnered more popularity and I found some freelance writing gigs. This all helped me get a job at a PR firm. So I found my balance.
KAPA187: What advice would you give to young people who want to venture into “non-traditional” careers?
BENNY BLOW: Go for it. Learn as much as you can about your desired field and work smartly. If you can go to school for it, even better. But always remember that passion can only get you so far. You need to keep learning and putting in the work.
KAPA187: Besides your writing, what else are you involved in?
BENNY BLOW: Other than my day job? I’m involved in an elaborate scheme to take over the world using my Twitter account, charming demeanor and possibly a sandwich and ice cream franchise.
KAPA187: Any last words…
BENNY BLOW: Like ‘The Mundane Kid’ on Facebook. Read anything and everything. Watch cartoons. And eat your vegetables. I’m dead serious about that last one.
Follow Benny Blow on Twitter : @Benny_Blow