Last night the doors of Comic Con Africa 2019 closed for the final time, but the buzz and excitement generated by four days of the greatest celebration of pop-culture that South Africa has ever seen shows no signs of abating. The sheer magnitude of this Con was something to behold – Reed Exhibitions and Reedpop promised that Comic Con Africa would be bigger and better, and on that promise they delivered. With an astounding 71,000 visitors, seven halls packed with 300 exhibitors, four international film, TV series, and gaming celebrities, 12 international comic artists and writers, 12 local comic creators, one international cosplayer, two international DJs, competitions, specials, and giveaways, an esports prize pool of R1.3 million, 26,000 square meters of event space, 120 hours of content, and one incredible Wingman in the form of KFC, Comic Con Africa 2019 exceeded all expectations.
This year the guests in Artist Alley tripled in numbers and the incredible line-up left fans spoilt for choice. In the feature area artists and illustrators engaged in live drawings and sketch offs, sharing anecdotes and artistic tips as they did so. Ecstatic fans watched their favourite characters drawn in real time on large screens mounted above the easels. Under the grading organisation CGC’s watchful eye, comic books were signed and sent for evaluation and protective casing to preserve investment pieces. Alongside in the Writers Block, local novelists and authors signed their books and spoke on educational panels to encourage local writers to pick up their pens. The Block was filled with handmade creativity including pop-culture inspired clothing, décor, and jewellery.
The Cosplay of Comic Con Africa 2019 was a visual feast. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d bumped into Iron Man or Wonder Woman walking straight off a Marvel film set, such was the level of detail and skill evidenced in these pieces of walking art. Cosplay Central was buzzing all weekend long with skits and well-known local and international Cosplayers signing prints. Fascinating panels for newbies and pros alike gave insight into crafting the perfect wig, applying make-up, or how to cosplay with confidence. The Cosplay Karaoke Café was a real hit with Cosplayers belting out magnificent renditions of well-known songs. Casual Cosplay competitions took place every day on the main stage, and on Tuesday the highly anticipated Championships of Cosplay winners were announced. The overall Cosplay winner Jinxkitty, who wowed with her Priestess Bathory cosplay, will be representing Africa at the Championships of Cosplay Quest for the Crown at C2E2 in America. Leon de Bruin of GES, Comic Con Africa’s Cosplay partner, was blown away by the level of this year’s Cosplay and called on any interested Cosplayers to sign up for 2020’s competition.
Hall 5 housed Pop-Culture retailers and exhibitors, many of whom had special deals that were snapped up by happy visitors. Comics, figurines, collectibles, clothing and other merchandise absolutely flew off the shelves and into the hands of thrilled collectors. Radio partner to the Con, 5fm provided the musical vibes with live broadcasts from their DJs who were happy to chat with fans. TikTok’s WoahTikTok competition on the main stage was a fun addition from the Con’s digital media partner. Television Media partner Viacom celebrated 25 years of the series Friends and brought THE show’s couch where fans queued up to have their picture taken. There was one particularly special exhibitor in this hall. The presenting sponsor of Comic Con Africa 2019, The Ultimate Wingman, the makers of finger lickin’ goodness KFC, made their home here with a gigantic KFC bucket housing a greenscreen set up where visitors could photograph themselves in a setting of their imagination. Also on their stand was a caricaturist and a special edition of local arcade game Boetfighter, along with cosplayers in the costumes of the especially commissioned Comic Con Africa KFC Captain Colonel.
Hall 5 was also the location of the KFC main stage where panels, Q&As, competitions, and interviews were held with international film and TV series celebrities like Star Trek’s William Shatner, The Originals’ Daniel Gillies, and video game voice actors Nolan North and Troy Baker. Audiences were awed in the presence of these pop-culture giants. The stars themselves were charmed by our South African audiences – in the words of Daniel Gillies, we are “the most polite people I ever met… the fans are so warm, and kind, and polite.” Just off the main stage, Hall 6 was the scene of photo ops and autographs with the celebrities, and fans came out ecstatically gripping these souvenirs and treasuring their
Comic Con Africa’s 2019 gaming offering was nothing short of a paradise for both casual and avid gamers. The absolutely enormous esports set up of the Con’s gaming and connectivity partner Telkom VS Gaming filled an entire wall, giving Con goers a panoramic-like view of the action. Featuring nail-biting finals of the likes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota2, local esports teams kept their cool playing for their share of a R1,3 million prize pool – the largest prize pool at any esports event in South Africa. The spectators were captivated, their eyes glued to the live action. Freeplay areas had gamers trying their skills on the latest titles such as Mortal Kombat, PUBG, and Fortnite, while Xbox exhibited exclusively at the Con. Playstation gave away a highly sought-after limited edition 20th Anniversary PS4, and ATK had state of the art equipment on display for players to test run. Red Bull’s Hit the Streets, a nationwide contest of the best Street Fighter V players from across the country, hosted their finals on last day of the Con. In line with Comic Con Africa’s aim to uplift and develop local talent, Project Springbok provided a platform for up-and-coming developers to showcase their work.
Comic Con Africa’s newest addition, the first kid-focussed convention in South Africa, was KidsCon. But don’t be fooled – KidsCon delighted adults too. The African continent’s largest LEGO® activation saw visitors swallowed up in pools of LEGO® bricks surrounded by LEGO® characters come to life. Kids could meet the My Little Ponies and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Nintendo brought Mario and Luigi along with the opportunity to play Splatoon, Mario Kart, and Supersmash Bros Ultimate. BIC and Exclusive Books were there to encourage creativity among other edutainment offerings from Hasbro and ToyZone. Sponsored by Jaguar Landrover, KidsCon was masterminded by our Little Board of Experts, 11 kids who shared their ideas and made KidsCon an event for kids, by kids. Those little experts were very much a part of the Con and strutted their stuff on the KidsCon main stage in the Cotton On fashion shows.
The Ballroom of Gallagher Convention Centre was the scene of a tabletop gaming extravaganza. With bottomless coffee supplied by KFC, tabletop gamers met and engaged in epic battles with cards, dice, and miniature figurines. As the organising partner of this impressive battlefield, Solarpop encouraged players to engage in the connection and creativity of Tabletop Gaming with their Unplug Yourself arena. Next door in the auditorium were exclusive screenings of Abominable, along with The Angry Birds, films by Black Sands, and many more exciting showings. LARPing took place in the trees of Gallagher Estate, with players battling each other with safe play swords, giant shields, maces, and jousting lances.
The Business of Gaming Forum, now in its second year, was held on Monday. Fascinating keynote addresses, panel discussions, and shared ideas from the gaming industry were the order of the event. Speakers from South Africa, the African continent, and international thought leaders flew in for the day, sharing fascinating content on maximising the value of gaming as a marketing tool or a commercial product, and the direction of the modern gaming ecosystem.
There truly was something for every fandom at Comic Con Africa 2019. As positive feedback comes flying in from visitors and exhibitors alike, Reed Exhibitions and Reedpop are thrilled to have hosted a second successful Comic Con Africa that remained true to our driving force: always put our fans FIRST! And what comes next? Comic Con Cape Town of course. Put 1 – 3 May 2020 in your diaries to experience the inaugural Comic Con Cape Town at the Cape Town Stadium.