Friday marked a big day in the history of our country – Comic Con Africa became a reality. Gone are the days that we would look from abroad how others got to enjoy a show that is tailor-made for the geek in all of us. Ahead of opening day, there were many people who thought that this would never be able to live up to expectations, but, if anything, it proved all the naysayers wrong. Comic Con Africa, to us, was a great success, and when you consider it’s only the first show then it leaves us with a positive outlook for the future events.
While we’ve had ‘that other’ show doing something similar for years, it seems that the general public has gravitated to Comic Con Africa. The name alone will bring the crowds, but it also seems that it brought all the cosplayers out of the woodwork. Boy, did we see some amazing cosplay outfits. There was a specific moment, early on the Friday morning, where a mom came walking in with her young son and daughter – all three dressed up for the event. It was beautiful. Families in South Africa have caught on very quickly. The demographics had people from all forms of life gathering to celebrate everything we love and seeing it from the sidelines brought a big smile to our face.
Having been to a show like E3, I can’t help but sense a small American vibe to the structure. First things first – like America, you get used to lots of walking. Depending on the time you would arrive you could end up parking down at the first turn of the Kyalami track it was hosted at. Taking 20 minutes to walk to the entrance was a reality for some. How they’ll get to improve that is unknown at this stage, but it’s not quite the nightmare we’ve experienced at other South African events where just finding a parking can be an event all unto its own. The food stands outside, with the smell of delicious foods sent my mind into overdrive. There was a fantastic variety at hand with quite a bit of seating. The downside to this was that attendees had to sit in the blazing hot sun and on Sunday queues were exceptionally long. There was no shade – something for them to consider next year.
The floors, though confusing at first, were split up where people who wanted to experience new content (be that gaming or any of the other featured exhibitors for other media) could do so on the first floor, while the various shops were found on the level below. It definitely helped with the flow of movement, but at the same time, it also became a bit of a headache. Everyone got word of all the awesome goodies that can be bought and that ground floor became a pain towards Sunday. Something that did stand out was the product quality of the various stores. Whether you were in it for figurines, T-shirts, mugs, clocks or other merchandise – there was lots of offer. There were also other areas, with board games, that we feel could have been represented a little better. It was situated on the first floor, but up the stairs where most people weren’t aware of it. Charlie, who discovered it first, told us that he found ‘a hidden stage’, which is exactly what it felt like. Hopefully, everyone got to see everything that was on offer.
Other than the above-mentioned issues, there isn’t really anything that we think went wrong. Comic Con Africa was actually an impressive first outing. We’re not sure how it’ll grow the size of the show going forward, but one thing is for sure – both exhibitors and attendees will be lining up when the show returns next year (13-15 September) and it can only get better from here on out.
Several of the SA Gamer members also attended the event. Here are their thoughts:
I’ll admit I was sceptical when it was first announced, as I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I was disappointed when some of the announced guests had to cancel their appearances, but there were many other guests in the lineup.
We ended up going through on Sunday, which I hoped would be a bit quieter than Saturday. It seems like everyone else thought the same thing, so by 9 am the parking area was already filling up and we soon found ourselves in an endless sea of bodies.
I was pleasantly surprised by the scope of what Comic Con Africa had to offer. As a geek of many trades, it was wonderful to see stalls for video games, board games, figurines, LEGO, movie memorabilia, RPGs, LARPing, a full-size TARDIS, and more. The artists’ alley was full of talented local and international artists, and we ended up with a whole lot of new art to decorate our home with. We enjoyed a presentation by cosplayer Yaya Han on her process for creating a Fire Emblem cosplay and met up with friends we don’t always get to see outside of conventions.
The highlight for me was the cosplay celebrating fandoms of all kinds (though I noticed a lot more Star Wars cosplay than usual, which was awesome). And although I ended the day with sore feet, back, shoulders (okay, pretty much sore everything) and a significantly lighter wallet, I thoroughly enjoyed the first Comic Con Africa. And okay, I didn’t get to be in the same room as Jason Momoa, but it’s not like my Stargate Atlantis boxset is going anywhere.
The very first outing for Comic Con Africa proved to be a better run than most expos in South Africa. Well organised, a well-equipped venue, tonnes of things to see and do with your favourite franchises and vendors sprawled throughout the Kyalami Convention centre, a venue with the ideal setup and location for such an event. There was something for everyone and you were never left feeling like your money was not well spent. Perhaps the spacing between booths could have been increased, but this might mean some vendors might be pushed to the rafters, a decent compromise to have more vendors than ample space.
The CoD competition series ran fluidly and nothing seemed out of place for the timed events/panels. The outside areas with food vendors might need a bit more shade, but you weren’t going to spend all your time there. Each individual type of media had its own space and did not feel like it was impeding on one another. Overall, it was a successful start to Comic Con Africa’s first appearance and we can be sure to see even bigger things next time around.
I think Comic Con Africa was a huge success. It was well organised and had a lot to see and do. I loved the overall vibe that went with it, with people genuinely seeming like they enjoyed themselves. It shows that there’s a huge interest in these sorts of things, and it was embraced by everyone. The cosplay was also damn good with a lot of effort put into it.