Growing up in Malawi, Mzatiwathu Banda used to make little comic books as a child.
He would draw the books in the anime style of “Dragon Ball” and write his own stories. His mom hated it.
Apparently, like most childhood interests, his mom only needed to wait a little while before Banda abandoned the idea. Once in high school, Banda became concerned with sports and realized that “writing is not getting me women. And I stopped,” he says.
But this childhood interest in comic books turned out to be different than say playing the trombone, disco rollerblading or starting a garage band. It instead became a renewed passion following a tragic event in his life.
Banda was hacked with a machete during a nighttime robbery by two men when he was a sophomore in high school. “I almost died,” Banda says.
In addition to his injuries, Banda also developed malaria during that time.
Surprisingly, the 22-year-old, who has a big smile and an easy laugh, talks casually about the event. He even points to the scars on his head, arm and shoulder over a Zoom call while sitting in his Fort Wayne apartment.
But the fact he almost died is not lost on Banda.
“When I came out of that, I was thankful for living and thankful for life. So I just started to write again.”
What resulted was “Eye x Foot,” a self-published manga book in a Japanese comic book style.
He came up with the idea after realizing that while there were anime books about basketball and other sports, there was nothing for soccer.
The book focuses on two players – Keisuke and Dieudonne – who use their skills to work together to win in futsal, a soccer-like game played mainly indoors on a hard court smaller than a football pitch.
As Banda describes it, Keisuke is better at thinking about the way around the court – the eye, while Dieudonne is better with fundamentals – the foot.
The first chapter of the book was released on Amazon in December, and Banda is working on additional chapters. So far he has written 30.
The theme of the book is that the characters are trying to figure out who they are, something Banda has had to discover in his own life.
In fact, the story is filled with characters who are inspired by people in Banda's life, including himself. The main character has Banda's middle name, Dieudonne, and is based on Banda, while Keisuke is modeled after his high school best friend. Even the dog Peaches is in memory of his dog back home.
The book was No. 11 in the Sports Manga category on Amazon in the first month of its release and has sold more than 200 copies.
Banda came to the United States in 2017 to attend college at Huntington University, where he graduated in May with a degree in marketing and management. While at Huntington, Banda played soccer for four years. His passion for the game is evident in “Eye x Foot.”
But Banda admits that playing soccer was a given for him as that is “the” sport back home. “(Young boys) eat, breathe, poop, sleep soccer from the minute we're born,” Banda says.
When students were sent home last year because of the pandemic, Banda had time to work on the book. He took pandemic relief money he received from the university and hired an artist to draw the book. He also spent the summer editing the chapters.
The goal is to publish a new chapter online every few months.
Banda is now waiting on his work card from the government so he can put his degree to use. And although he is hoping to work for a marketing firm, his real hope is that the manga book takes off.
It has been hard for him as he has not seen his mother, siblings or grandparents for four years.
It's another hardship that he has had to overcome to see his dreams realized.
While there's no doubt his main goal is to make money and have “Eye x Foot” be successful, he also wants the book to be a sign to others to pursue their dream and passion no matter what difficulties they face.
Oh, and as far as attracting women with his writing? Well, that still hasn't happened yet, Banda says, but he's working on it.
Terri Richardson writes about area residents and happenings that affect their lives in this column that publishes every other week. Email her at email@example.com or call 461-8304.