An official press release has been issued but fails to confirm the venue. Other event details are generally as below.
**END OF UPDATE**
Over the course of this weekend – behind what is best described as closed doors – Comic Con Cape Town was announced. It is a Comic Con brought to you by the same people behind Comic Con Africa – unlike some failed starts using the Comic Con name in previous years. The reveal was made at the annual Cape Town International Animation Festival (CTIAF) and confirmed as happening when we asked on Twitter.
It’s all currently a little vague, and without a press release, our information is gathered from friends in the animation industry, Twitter, Facebook and a (little) bit of detective work. It is odd that there has been so little information or official statements made about such a major announcement. Personally, I suspect it has to do with an obvious conflict between the new event and an already established Cape Town geek event. But before heading into that, let’s get to the known ‘facts’.
Currently, the Comic Con Cape Town website is not live. There is a Twitter account, which is saying very little but does offer a date and venue. Comic Con Cape Town will be hosted at the Cape Town Stadium on 1-3 May 2020. The event will be a partnership between CTIAF and Comic Con Cape Town (by Reed Pop).
That is it.
YAY! Cape Town
And I mean it. It is great for Cape Town that the Comic Con brand will make an appearance in the mother city. It is however a kick in the teeth for Cape Town’s already successful FanCon event. FanCon is hosted (generally) every last weekend in April at the CTICC. It was born from the Reader’s Den Free Comic Book Day event, and grew into the modern event that speaks to all Capetonians keen to quench their comic, movie, cosplay and geek fandom thirst.
But along comes Comic Con a week later. This. Is. Not. Alright. Comic Con Africa made no qualms about debuting just weeks before rAge in 2018. It made no issue closing that gap for 2019. While rAge and Comic Con may shrug things off (and claim to be very different events), the week between those two events this year always seemed a little like the brands posturing and jostling for position. Comic Con always claimed there is space in the local market for multiple events (as long as they were different) and even played the innocent victim. However, it seems a little like they have a clear goal here now. I mean, two cities and both events within a week of another geek event? You can’t claim announcing before the other means anything, when historically the established local brand used the same series of dates annually.
If the version of Comic Con Africa that appeared in 2018 made an appearance at the Cape Town Stadium, there could be an argument that it’s more gaming focused than FanCon so more a competitor to the Electronics & Gaming Expo (EGE). Or at the very least FanCon x EGE. But that’s not right either. Comic Con is not what was brought to life in Gauteng in 2018. It was a great event, but it was not one that was true to the essence of an international Comic Con. South Africa deserves to get what it says on the tin, so anything less than that makes one wonder why it should even exist.
Ain’t Got the Money For It All
So, the issue really is whether people can afford all these opportunities? Sure, maybe two event tickets in a week is achievable. But realistically, not everyone is able to afford it. Choices will need to be made. Some of those will be between which event to attend. Others are whether buying food and drink comes before supporting the artist, crafting and fandom vendors. Then these vendors in turn need to make a similar choice, and choose whether they can manufacture and sell enough product to recoup around R15,000 (if not more) in investment. One event is going to be hurt. Sure, Comic Con may pull in more large ‘anchor’ tenants but the smaller vendors are the ones with the real gems, and without them, an expo is actually just a glorified shopping mall. With specials. Sometimes.
And this goes for both cases where Comic Con clash. In Gauteng, the big distributors live on the doorstep of both rAge and Comic Con, making displaying at both (albeit in some form of watered down level) relatively easy. In Cape Town, EGE has struggled to convince the Gauteng-based distributors to take space, meaning Xbox has never made a showing officially, along with a number of other brands. FanCon has positioned itself squarely as a geek culture event without gaming (or esports) – something I have personally applauded. Over the years, they have hosted a variety of international celebrities from a variety of geek culture categories. They have also never charged to engage with those celebrities. Comic Con Africa had a series of additional charges after the ticket was paid for.
Sure, movie celebrities probably have additional costs, but if Comic Con wants to remain relevant in that regard, they may need to ensure they can offer attendees those celebrities to engage with. Or – as I keep alluding to – they are not a true Comic Con experience.
Cape Town has also generally not done well with clashing events – even when months apart. In 2015, the inaugural EGE in July surpassed attendance expectations. In 2016 rAge Cape Town made its first appearance in the March. Tellingly, rAge never returned, while 2016 and 2017 saw EGE attendance growth, peaking around 15,000 at the third event. Some have suggested that the Cape Town community sided with the original supporters of their scene in EGE. On the other hand, Capetonians aren’t ones to keep that support going indefinitely and EGE 2018 saw a downturn in attendance. Is it simply down to indifference or a smaller spending power? Either way, we’re back at questioning the rationale behind two events of such similar interests being a week apart.
Change the Dates
It seems pretty simple, but surely it’s best to simply change the dates. And in this case I’m talking to you, Comic Con. Would it not make sense to host Comic Con Africa (in Gauteng) in the May slot and Comic Con Cape Town in the September slot? That being said, FanCon has not announced their 2020 dates as yet and may decide to shift them. However, there may be a long-term agreement with CTICC meaning the FanCon dates are not movable.
I know that the costs for the big brands will increase getting around the country but I am also pretty sure the audience-reach payoff will improve. It’s all a bit late for 2019/2020 now that announcements have been made, but if the local scene is to keep afloat, clashing can not be healthy. Unless – as I am sure everyone is thinking but not saying – Comic Con wants to own the industry and, sorry for you others getting in the way…
That all being said, Comic Con Africa did appear to pull a different audience to rAge in 2018. So maybe there is a gap to reach more people than current events can. However, that attendance might have been due to people expecting to find a whole lot more movie and TV related things, which was not quite the case. The Comic Con brand is known by many more than some of the local established expos, but then, we need it to be more Comic Con than what Comic Con Africa achieved in its first event.