'The Avengers' as you've never seen them before
The characters of "The Avengers," one of the most popular and lucrative movie franchises in the world, have received a makeover courtesy of Brazilian illustrator Hugo Canuto.
The fictional band of superheroes has been reimagined as Orishas, gods that are central in the Yoruba religion predominantly practiced across Africa and South America.
Canuto, a longtime fan of the franchise, recreated the famous comic book cover as a tribute to Avengers' creator Jack Kirby on his 99th birthday.
But in Canuto's version, the main characters are depicted as Orishas.
The cover was so well-received on social media that Canuto decided to reinterpret popular Avenger character Thor as Shango, the Orisha god of fire and thunder.
"Then things exploded," Canuto told CNN. "Thousands of people added me on Facebook, the Brazilian press was interviewing me. I was completely dazed."
"A lot of people felt represented by that art. Many black people from Brazil said they want to see the Orishas in a comic book. They said, 'Why, why do people say that Thor is a hero and Shango is a devil?'"
This question spurred Canuto to create "The Orishas," a comic challenging both "racism and the eurocentric nature of comic books."
"Brazil is a very racist society even if we have 70 to 100 skin tones here," Canuto said. "Media, films, TV shows in Brazil show blacks as being poor, always late, as drug dealers... It's a terrible cultural oppression."
"I show blacks as kings, warriors, wizards, sorcerers, gods... It's changing the way people think about it."
Born in the northeast state of Bahia, the main center of the early Brazilian slave trade, Canuto has had a longstanding interest in Afro-Brazilian culture.
"It's something that is part of our identity," Canuto explained. "Salvador was the biggest slave trade port. Slaves came from Nigeria, Congo, Benin. This mix has produced this culture."
"We have monuments of the Orishas, buildings in Orishas' names, restaurants in Orishas' names...The Orishas survived in people's minds through enslavement. It's a strong concept."
After a successful crowdfunding campaign, Canuto raised enough money to bring "The Orishas" comic book to life and it will launch in August, along with an additional book in which 30 Brazilian artists contribute pieces about Orishas.
"Life is a mystery," Canuto added. "We artists must try to rediscover parts of the mystery and understand the others. It makes life richer than only hearing one part of the story."