Comic Con Africa has come and gone, but it’s left a mark on this industry

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:

Abigail:

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.

Ash:

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.

Charlie:

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.

I loved that the event was split up into different sections, separating the stores and gaming and exhibitions from each other. Having the food stalls outside also made a huge difference. The venue was great, the vibe was great and I can’t wait for Comic Con Africa 2019.
Garth:
The vibe at Comic Con was just so different from the other events that we have here in South Africa. Things were not such a frantic pace and stalls weren’t shouting for attention with massive PA systems (bar one, you know who you are). I really enjoyed the event, but I can think of a few things I would change or look into: Not enough places with water to stay hydrated, some better signage of where to go and what else is on offer. I liked exploring but I wonder if I missed out on something cool because it was somewhere else. The Kyalami Convention Centre is nice but has a lot of stairs. I saw many wheelchairs and baby-strollers and I wondered how they managed with lots of stairs, uneven ground and the long distances. Not enough dustbins and not enough place to sit in the shade while eating. Of all the halls, the downstairs area in the Pit lane felt very cramped, making shopping unpleasant as people pushed into stalls that were too small for the number of people. We could also do with a few people learning to be more accommodating of others, and not deciding to stand and have a fat chat just inside the only door between two areas, or turning every entranceway into a smoking facility. Two days at the event gave me a lot of time to think, okay? I loved the cosplay and variety of things on show and for a first event, this was absolutely great.
Tim:
My wife and I visited Comic Con on Saturday on what turned out to be a blazingly hot day. We had very simple Mario and Luigi Tennis outfits on that luckily consisted of shorts and shirts which saved us from the worst of the heat. The event had a really great vibe, and the friendly faces of like-minded people were everywhere. It was great to see the number of families and couples that attended the event. The stores were fantastic with enough comic/movie and gaming paraphernalia to make almost every kind of fan happy. The best of these stores in our opinion were those located in the art section, and with so much talent on display, it was hard to leave this area without something to put on your wall or adorn your ears.
The oddest store had to be the Singer booth where sewing machines were on display. Of course, the idea was to appeal to the cosplay and craft crowd, however, with very little Comic Con themed signage it simply looked like the Singer company had set up shop at the wrong convention. In the future, some more physical space for popular booths would be great – as at times the sheer number of people made it near impossible to comfortably enter a booth to peruse or buy. Food stalls suffered from ridiculously long lines for the same reason. Also, more booths with activities for the public to engage in would be great, as the these were limited. (Well done to Sony and Netflix (Disenchanted) for giving us some of that.)
However, as can be somewhat expected the highlight of the day for us was the Cosplay. The sheer fun it was to be involved even in just a small way was exceeded only by the great joy we had from admiring the time, effort and skill others put into their various costumes – and seeing your favourite characters from your favourite worlds pop up all around you was great fun and well worth the admission price.
Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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