If you’re a fan of cosplay, esports, gadgets, comic books and the movies inspired by them then Comic Con Africa 2019 was the place to be. The four-day event featured a wide selection of artists and exhibitors selling everything from collectables, comic books and games to clothing, accessories and toys.
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Comic Con Africa also introduced an entirely kid-focused angle to the convention, aptly dubbed KidsCon. With an entire hall dedicated to kid-friendly fun and games, young attendees were encouraged to be expressive and embrace their individuality. KidsCon mixed creativity with playtime as children engaged in different activities like creating new worlds in the Play-Doh Creations area, showing off their blasting skills in the Hasbro Nerf Zone and more.
The Biggest Highlights
One of the coolest, unscheduled surprises of the event was the march of the White Walkers. Attendees looked on in awe as The Night King and a troop of his White Walkers ominously made their way from Hall 1 to Hall 5. The makeup and effects were amazing and the actors stayed true to their characters throughout the walk. And much to everyone’s delight, the actors posed for photos with fans after the stint was over.
The biggest highlight of Comic Con Africa 2019 was actor and Star Trek legend, William Shatner. For any non-Trekkies out there, Shatner is most well-known for his role as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek franchise. Living up to his legendary status, Shatner ruled the main stage on Saturday. He told stories, answered questions from fans and wasn’t afraid to poke fun at himself. He had the crowd roaring with laughter as he joked about how it’s been 55 years since he landed the famed Star Trek role. When the audience cheered he said, “What are you applauding for? It’s no feat. Fifty-five years have gone by, I’m ready to fall off this stage and die. What an opportunity for you, ‘I was there when he died.’”
Shatner also talked about how a previous trip to South Africa in 2017 inspired him to start a charity called Ubuntu Discovery. He described how he was moved by the spirit of humanity. This led him to create a grassroots charity based on the principle of neighbours helping neighbours through social media. He said, “We’ve done miraculous things. There wasn’t any organized charity it was just suggestion through the social media.”
The Low Points
If you were a die-hard fan lining up to hunt down a copy of that formative comic book from your childhood, or a collector trying to find a rare edition the event was rather underwhelming. Most of the exhibitors catered for mainstream fans only, with an abundance of merchandise that didn’t date too far back.
Fans attending for an annual dose of pop culture would also have found themselves a little bored. Other than a signed Iron Man suit, a few signed movie posters and the Friends couch there really wasn’t all that much to take in. A lot of the props and figurines on display were just recycled from last year’s event.
But the biggest hit was experienced by fans that planned their vacation time around the event to take optimal advantage of the star-studded panels and photo-ops. These fans treat the wait outside the photo-op and autograph area like an adventure in itself. For them, celebrity indulgence is the whole point. And whenever a movie star cancels their appearance, they die a little inside.
While some may argue that, “If you’re going to CCA for the celebrities then you don’t know what CCA is about” that really isn’t true. The inclusion of international celebrities is one of the major draws for Comic Con events around the world. It’s not something that should be underestimated, with most of the marketing campaigns leveraging that star power to sell tickets.
But poor planning and coordination by “the powers that be” meant Comic Con Africa 2019 experienced a slew of cancellations again. Although the talent on hand did their best to pick up the slack, it was just too much for them to handle.
Here’s an example of what that meant. William Shatner’s photo-ops and autograph sessions were extremely over-booked. So if you spent R845.00 (in total) for a coveted 90-second meet and greet moment, you didn’t get one. People were just jostled through the process. You weren’t given a chance to say anything more than thank you.
The logistics and organization of Comic Con Africa 2019 were great. There was more space, better parking, more indoor areas and a good vibe in general. For first time attendees, it was the best experience ever and you probably can’t wait to do it all again next year.
If this was not your first rodeo and you were so over it in about six hours, here’s what you need to know. Through the years all Comic Conventions have seen a shift in what the event is about. Just like SDCC has evolved into a pop-culture pilgrimage, Comic Con Africa has taken on a more social angle. It’s a great place to dress-up, play games and socialise with like-minded people. But if you’re hoping for more than that, you will be left wanting.