Comic Con Africa In A Day

By: Fazielah Williams
Posted: 28 September 2018
Category: Feature Comments View Comments


The inaugural Comic Con Africa was held earlier this month at the Kyalami Convention Centre in Johannesburg. Although there were some first day glitches, and there is definitely room for improvement in some areas, it brought South Africa's geeks together in a grand, and ultimately satisfying, celebration of comics, film, television, gaming, e-sports, and cosplay.

Comic Con Africa In A Day

Comic Con Africa, the continental edition of the widely popular comic book, science fiction, and gaming convention, was precipitated by a deluge of huge promises and daily news updates: 40 000 tickets sold, a revolving roster of much anticipated international talent, photo opportunities, exclusive launches, and so much more. The opening day on Friday (the only day I could attend due to family commitments) opened to rousing and well deserved fanfare. This, despite there being few technical glitches in the gaming section, including a breakdown in the Doctor Who immersive experience's technology, less than amazing film and TV marketing events, and yet another star - this time The Avengers' Anthony Mackie - dropping out at the last minute after Justice League and Aquaman star Jason Momoa had previously disappointed fans by having to cancel his appearance at the convention.

Comic Con Africa In A Day

Having said all of the above, it's been more than a few days since I attended the event and I am still overwhelmed by the sheer force of geekdom Comic Con Africa proved to be. From the minute I set foot onto the exhibition floor I felt as if I had died and gone to geek heaven. FanCon Cape Town Comic Con had given me a small taste of what it was like to walk among my fellow fanatics but it did not sufficiently prepare me for the magnitude of Comic Con Africa.

Everything was on a grandiose scale: the exhibition stands, which featured everything from a Fear Factor display with real-life stunts and a huge, scary snake to a larger-than-life TARDIS, complete with an accompanying VR setup for an immersive experience that allowed you to travel through time and space just like Doctor Who (although it wasn't working by 3pm - first day glitches only, I hope); the main stage, a huge e-sports arena, an over-the-top outdoor entertainment area, and a food-stand selection that would have left even the biggest of music festivals green with envy.

Comic Con Africa In A Day

Comic Con Africa In A Day

The Artist Alley, set up in a massive marquee on the racing track was, as at similar events, a trip down the rabbit hole for fans of local illustrators and writers. I had to fight my way through a steady flow of excited fans and media to pop by the stands of Bill Masuku of Enigma Comix Africa and Ziyaad Rahman of Awali Comics for a quick chat and to hear their thoughts on the event.

YouTube link

YouTube link

The main stage, which was home to the panel discussions, the international guests' appearances, and trailer screenings, was the epicenter of all of Comic Con Africa's general events and the site for the cosplay competitions for the weekend. I attended the general cosplay event on the Friday (the championships were held on the Saturday) and, while the number of entrants was quite small, the costumes themselves were impressive.

A Star Wars cosplayer walked away with the first prize at in the general cosplay competition but my favourites, dressed as Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas and Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, as first and second runner-ups respectively, were just as deserving.

Comic Con Africa In A Day

Comic Con Africa In A Day

Comic Con Africa In A Day

Being so short on time and having just one day to cram in everything I wanted to see at Comic Con Africa, I wandered quickly between a special Bumblebee movie activation (a modified 1979 Beetle was unveiled on site and is up for grabs in a competition that's open to anyone who purchases the new Bumblebee toys before the movie opens on 21 December 2018); Sundance TV's super creepy tunnel of fear (The Walking Dead in the rotting flesh), and Netflix's Disenchantment jumping castle, jousting competition, and beer stand.

Comic Con Africa In A Day

Comic Con Africa In A Day

Incredible illustrators, exhibition stands, film and TV marketing events, and merchandise that did not come cheap aside, Comic Con Africa attendees were, of course, there for the chance to meet their international TV, movie, and comic book heroes in the flesh.

With the disappointment of Mackie not being able to make it palpable in the air, I really felt bad for the American Gods stars Ricky Whittle, Demore Barnes, and Yetide Badaki but I needn't have. The trio made a rock star entrance on the first day and kicked off the official opening with gusto: Whittle's impromptu Magic Mike-style dance on stage got the crowd energised while Badaki and Barnes warmly welcomed everyone to the first day of Comic Con Africa, which set the excited tone for the rest of the convention.

Comic Con Africa In A Day

My day at Comic Con Africa flew by so incredibly quickly and I am still trying to process it. I certainly could not find any fault with the logistical arrangements (the crowd management and communications before, during, and after the event were outstanding).

That said, the event definitely has room to grow in a few key areas:

• Parking: Drop-off zones and parking areas were quite a distance from the entrance and meant that Comic Con Africa attendees had to walk for at 20 minutes to get to the event. Even as early as 09:30 it was a sweaty and long walk for me in jeans and a short-sleeved Wonder Woman T-shirt. I can only imagine what a torture-filled experience it was for cosplayers in full costume. There were shuttles available from nearby malls but at an extra cost. It bears keeping in mind, though, that if one has to add the shuttle ticket price to daily mall parking fees over three days it becomes one pricey trip to and from Comic Con Africa.

• Alcohol At A Family Friendly Event: At 10:30 on the first day of Comic Con Africa a cosplayer dressed as a pixie was swaying and dancing uncontrollably in front of the DJ box. I've seen some reports of her being violently ill later in the day. While the majority of the Comic Con Africa attendees were adults, there were plenty of children around and, surely, they shouldn't have to be exposed to this kind of behavior? At the very least, alcohol should only be available for sale after noon to ensure everyone enjoys the event in a responsible manner.

• Film And TV Marketing Events: I can't speak for what the Doctor Who meetup, autograph, and photo opportunities events were like but the Bumblebee unveiling was a complete non event. The unveiling, after all of the buildup during the trailer screening and a countdown by the organisers, was a slow, agonising affair with the container door taking forever to drop, smoke billowing, out of the container and... just the reveal of the car that followed. My fellow Transformers fans and I were expecting an animatronic, several of which were on display at the Transformers Animatronics: The Exhibition event in South Africa in 2017.

Comic Con Africa In A Day

However, like Wonder Woman arriving on the shores of the World Of Men to discover and accept her destiny as a superhero, I discovered my inner geek chick - sans a corset and a lasso of truth, of course - at the inaugural Comic Con Africa at the Kyalami Convention Centre in Johannesburg. I had a super time at Comic Con Africa and I look forward to seeing the improvements in 2019.

Fazielah Williams was a media guest of Comic Con Africa.

Tags: Arts And Culture, Comics, Cosplay, Games, Horror, Screen, South African Comics, South African E-Sports, Speculative Fiction, Zombies

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