By now, just about every fangirl, fanboy and geek across South Africa has probably seen the recent article in the Sunday Times regarding Comic Con Africa. And while a lot of the comments made in the newspaper were incredibly negative, you’ve probably also seen the overwhelming response and support from the geek community, with some calling the piece “unprofessional”, “nasty” and “sad”. It has been amazing to see so many stand up and express their dissatisfaction with how geeks were/are portrayed in South Africa.
Baring the cynical article in mind, we’ve put together another piece to convey our experience of Comic Con Africa 2018. And yes, we were geeking out. And it was pretty awesome.
What exactly is Comic Con?
A comic book convention or Comic Con is an event with a primary focus on comic books and comic book culture, in which comic book fans gather to meet creators, experts, and each other. These multi-day events feature a wide variety of activities and panels, with a larger number of attendees participating in cosplay. Comic book conventions are also used as a vehicle for industry, in which publishers, distributors, and retailers represent their comic-related releases.
The first official comic book convention was held in 1964 in New York City. Early conventions were small affairs usually organised by local enthusiasts, featuring a handful of industry guests. Nowadays comic conventions are huge, with recurring shows in every major American city and in cities across the globe. The biggest shows include a large range of pop culture and entertainment elements across virtually all genres.
The most prominent and widely recognised Comic Convention is the multi-genre entertainment event held annually in San Diego since 1970. SDCC is the largest convention of its kind and has become the gold standard for conventions across the world.
And now, almost 50 years later, South Africa hosted its first annual Comic Con.
Over the last week, the team at Fortress of Solitude has shared their thoughts on the event and all it had to offer. The general consensus from us, and everyone in attendance, has been extremely positive.
Here’s what a few fans had to say about their Comic Con Africa experience:
“This was my very first time attending a Comic Con and I quite honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a bundle of nerves, but the second I entered the gates I knew I found my haven. The spirit of unity and kindness was everywhere. It was impossible not to get fully immersed in the spirit of the event. It was absolutely the best experience for fans of just about everything you can imagine! I felt like I was surrounded by love and friendship that truly embodied the spirit of South Africa and I cannot wait to go back!” – Nikita Doorgha (Vlogger/Fan)
“For an inaugural Comic Con in Africa this was unbelievably perfect. The Cosplayers were so amazing. Everybody made sure they dressed to kill – which they did. The people were so amazing and genuine to each other. I’m a huge gamer, I even won the VS Gaming tournament in 2017 and I just didn’t want to leave the gaming section. The local and international celebrities could not get enough of the African Spirit.” – Loyiso Mlandu (Podcaster)
“For me comic con has always been the dream. I met the warmest, most amazing people ever. The convention itself was amazing. The panels were brilliant – I just soaked up the atmosphere. If I could sum the entire event up in 3 words it would be awesome, fantastic and brilliant.” – Farishtha Sahadew (Fan)
“As an artist, this was such a major stepping point up in my career. A milestone that I thought was years away showed up right in front of me and I’m really happy that I was able to showcase my work and get such a great response to Captain South Africa. As a fan, I was swept away. The venue was more massive than I could have thought. I wish I had more time to meet everyone and see all the stalls. Looking forward to next year – and the next!” – Bill Salazar Masuku (Artist)
My Comic Con Experience:
Pro Tip: The first thing to remember when attending an event of this magnitude is – you have to be prepared to hit a few stumbling blocks along the way. Things usually never go according to plan.
It is going to be hot. You will get lost (hopefully not too lost). You will have to wait in very long lines. You will have to walk – a lot. Time schedules will change. You will be tired and uncomfortable at some point.
These things usually go without saying for day-long events. But for first-time attendees, I’m sorry I didn’t give you a heads-up earlier.
The key to surviving is the contents of your bag which should include…
- Sunscreen (obviously)
- Sunglasses (also obviously)
- Tissues (duh)
- Wet wipes / Hand sanitiser (because everyone is touching everything and post Con-flu is a thing)
- Band aides (because if you’re like me, you will find a way to injure yourself)
- Hair ties (anyone with long hair will understand)
- Headache tablets (having these on hand will save you after a long day in the hot sun)
- Power bars (you will need all the energy you can get)
- Rain poncho (because what if it rains)
My day went pretty smoothly (I only got lost once). I got to the venue very early and didn’t have to wait all that long to gain entry. The event was massive, indescribably massive. But I managed to cover every inch of it while keeping a close eye on the time (I had an autograph and photo-op tickets so prioritizing was a necessity).
The cosplayers were wonderful, stopping to take photos with anyone who asked. Some of them looked like they stepped right out of the movies, or of the comic book pages. The merchandise was a collectors dream. Too much stuff to mention but the action figures were my favourite. I wish I could have bought everything I saw. The vendors were amazing, the artists and other local creatives on the show were also fantastic.
I methodically made my way through every section, every building, every stall – and have the battle wounds to prove it (sometimes even the best sneakers won’t save your feet from bleeding – this is why you carry band aides).
The biggest highlight of my day was the celebrity photo-op and autograph sessions. And the Hollywood stars did not disappoint, making each person they met feel loved and special.
I’m not going to bore you with the details of the process. Just know that the staff on site made everything super easy, stress-free and fun.
Meeting Kevin Sussman
Kevin is literally the nicest guy ever. We talked for a few minutes during autographs. He told me about his day at a game reserve were he got to play with a baby cheetah and asked me how my day was going so far. He hugged me and thanked me for coming to see him. It’s was over in flash but I’ll treasure it forever.
Meeting Travis Fimmel
Travis is the sweetest human in the world. He’s as kind as he is handsome.
It’s easy to get a little star struck in his presence. When he asked me my name, it took me about 3 seconds to remember what it was (awkward much?). He hugged me and told me I was the prettiest girl he’d seen that day. If I could loop time, that’s the moment I would loop.
Meeting Ricky Whittle
I didn’t. And that missed opportunity will haunt me forever. He completely stole the show with his enthusiasm and kind heart.
I had the best time at Comic Con Africa. The entire event was very well organised and a dream to attend.
A special thank you to Steven from ReedPop for all his help, from the moment I decided to buy tickets, to personally breaking the Anthony Mackie cancellation news to me. If you didn’t manage to get there this year start saving up for 2019. You won’t be disappointed.
Here’s what Comic Con Africa organiser, Carol Weaving had to say about the recent comments in the newspaper:
“I have been reading your comments with interest and understand why this has caused some angst. As the Organizer of Comic Con Africa I have a slightly different approach and opinion. Five years ago Comic Con Africa would not have even got a mention in the listings page let alone a full page dedicated to Comic Con and pop culture in the biggest national newspaper in SA. What does this tell you? It tells you that our community has come of age. It is hitting mainstream media. This is good news for our community which is gaining unprecedented popularity and support. The fact that we had the first sold-out show in South Africa’s exhibition industry also tells you something. There will always be haters in this world. However, what we can’t condone are personal insults. It shows a lack of maturity both as a human being and a writer. That being said we should not stoop to his level but rather rise from the ashes and stand proud and tall.”