The 4-day-long Comic Con Africa festival of popular culture sold out all tickets ahead of Saturday, the third day of the festival, with more than 20,000 visitors arriving at the Johannesburg Expo Centre on the day. on Sunday, the venue was packed out as the event revealed the extent to which comics and gaming culture had gone mainstream.
Numerous professional cosplayers, in expertly designed costumes, rubbed shoulders with casual fancy-dressers and regular individuals and families in one of the most colourful gatherings this country has seen,
The event saw probably the biggest gathering yet of comic book artists in one place in South Africa. International stars like American Zach Howard (Marvel, DC and Image Comics) and French artist Stephane Roux (DC, Marvel Dark Horse) were joined by numerous established and up-and-coming artists and writers.
Cape Town-based Karl Mostert, who has become a regular artist on Batman comics for DC over the last four years, told us that he had been discovered at a previous Comic Con by a DC talent scout. He left Cape Town for Comic Con this year minutes after he had delivered his latest work on the Batman title. (see video)
New independent comics by local artists and writers represented not only the talent of South Africans but also their courage in putting out new titles under their own steam. For example, Bill Masuku put out a preview volume of a comic book called Captain South Africa, while Tathokoza Khoza had the first two issues of his “mixed culture” comic, The Calling, on display.
Street art also made a splash at this year’s Comic Con Africa, anchored by art supply company Grayscale and its owner, Rasty Knayles, doyen of South African street artists.
On the show floor, Marvel fans could step into Disney Plus’ mirror dimension inspired by Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The Netflix Stranger Things activation continued to pump, and cosplayers filled the aisles. SpongeBob Squarepants paid a visit to fans in the Link.
The Cricut Artist Alley Stage brought an all-African panel to give comic fans insight into the realities that African artists face in the industry. The likes of Kudwashe Rwizi, Tafadzwa Shumba, Charles Adesanmi, Bill Masuku, Gerald Basaka, Somto Aljuluchukwa, Moises Junior, and Daniel Oluwale joined the panel for a heartfelt discussion on the importance of empowering African creatives.
Internationally acclaimed Cosplay artist, Taryn Cosplay joined fans for the first time in the Pop Culture Hall for a Q&A session. The Cosplay artist engaged with the audience and answered questions about how he rose to fame. US actor Ross Butler attracted hundreds of fans as he appeared at the festival for the first time. The star chatted about his latest project Shazam 2, and his past projects with Netflix and Disney Channel.
Unplug Yourself hosted the tabletop gaming section of the festival, teaching fans to play board games, miniature games, trading card games, and much more. Fan favourites Pokémon, Magic The Gathering, and Yu-Gi-Oh! were on the tables.
At StreetCon, urban influencers appeared on stage with Bathu SA to chat about how street culture influences pop culture, followed by the highly anticipated finale of Barber Wars.
The Røde Microphones’ StreamerCon stage in Hall 7 hosted panel discussions, content creation sessions and workshops on how fans can elevate their content. Said Cameron Nyce, Røde brand manager: “Røde’s major focus is to bring studio quality equipment on the market at an affordable price. Being at Comic Con Africa, it’s been a great opportunity for us to connect with content creators of all forms, and we’ve had an amazing time meeting like-minded individuals .”
At KidsCon, the Board of Little Experts, who helped plan the festival for the past few months along with the team, made their way to the KidsCon main stage to share what they’ve enjoyed the most at the Con so far, and give away tons of prizes to the kiddies and their parents in the audience, awarded by Bela Bela’s Warmbaths Forever Resort.
Show director Carla Massmann said: “We moved to the Johannesburg Expo Centre because we needed a bigger home for Comic Con Africa.
The show offers over 256 hours of content across three halls and seven stages – there is so much to learn and experience at Comic Con Africa. It’s the coming together of so many diverse yet intersected communities and it is our goal to showcase these awesome fandoms that are the very heart of pop culture.”