Comic Con Africa returned with a bang this year, after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Crowds of
thousands flocked to the Johannesburg Expo Centre for the convention’s four- day run, with almost 20,000 people attending on 24 September alone.
The event boasted three halls dedicated to gaming and pop culture, including hundreds of stalls selling artworks and merchandise, activities such as trivia quizzes and retro arcade games, and celebrity guests who took to the main stage to speak about their latest projects and answer fans’ questions. The guest who drew the largest audience was Jamie Campbell Bower, who most will recognise as villain Vecna from the latest season of Netflix’s smash-hit series Stranger Things, and who has also appeared in the Harry Potter and Twilight films. Stranger Things had a strong presence in the convention as a whole, with a tent that advertised a Stranger Things experience being one of the most popular attractions, and cosplayers arriving in sailor suits or “Hellfire Club” shirts to represent different characters from the show.
There was a diverse array of cosplayers in general, ranging from simple outfits that evoked a character’s style to fully-fledged, intricately built costumes that closely imitated the appearances of fictional characters. From anime characters to Disney princesses, comic book villains to Jedi knights, the cosplay was perhaps the most impressive element of the convention – though many of the con-goers had to brave the heat in order to look their best. However, in spite of the vast array of cosplay choices, the most prominent IP that everyone and their eldery family decided to cosplay was: Demon Slayer’s endless sea of Nezukos, Tanjiros, Inosuke’s and Zenitsu’s. That said, a welcome cosplay was the family that came as Minions and Gru, as well as the couple that came as Rick and Morty.
Though the main attractions of the convention were located in the three halls, the outdoor areas were also extremely busy. There were many food stalls to cater to the con-goers, though the unprecedented number of attendees on Saturday certainly caused strain, with long queues for refreshments and the sweltering heat detracting from the overall experience of the convention. Though drawing such a large number of people is an impressive feat for any event, this created a somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere; the crowds were reportedly much more manageable on Thursday and Friday. Perhaps a recommendation for next year is to hire more food stalls and position more tables with better options for shade.
Another impressive attraction at the convention was Artist’s Alley, an area dedicated to various artists both local and international. Guests included renowned comic book artist Steve Ellis, who has worked on both Marvel and DC comics and published his own series, as well as Johannesburg-based artist Sean Izaakse, whose work includesruns of Marvel’s Thunderbolts, as well as the Pathfinder RPG comics. Another artist worth speaking about was comic book veteran Zach Howard. Howard shared his experience within the industry and how it has shaped his approach to life: “you can be a hobbyist, you can be a professional, there are a lot of people who focus more on the fact that they suck at the beginning but who cares.Just jump in.” In addition, Howard went on to explain his experience working with Mike Mignola, saying, “he’s a master in this craft. Even on the bad days, you realise what a genius he is.” Howard’s biggest achievement came in the form of a collaborative project of turning the actor/celebrity Common into a comic book hero.
The Artist’s Alley also had stalls where fans could buy trinkets, clothes and other items from local businesses though in many cases, the perfect piece of memorabilia did not come cheap, with some stalls engaging in blatant price gouging. Many stalls offered unique artworks and collectibles, as well as some beautiful handmade items (including jewellery and dice sets), so anyone interested in attending the convention in 2023 is advised to be financially prepared beforehand.
In all, the convention was a whirlwind of activity at an impressive scale. Though the crowds on the weekend strained the capacity of the venue, their excitement and enthusiasm indicated the enduring popularity of events such as this, and ensured that the first Comic Con Africa post-pandemic was a huge success.
Image: provided by Comic Con Africa