Telkom’s VS Gaming announced that South Africa would host the continent’s first-ever Comic Con from 14-16 September 2018. The Kyalami International Convention Centre in Johannesburg will host this mammoth event. The convention is brought in partnership with ReedPop, the division of Reed Exhibitions that organises Comic Con 33 other pop culture shows worldwide. This is great news for all aficionados of series, movies, comic books, anime and manga. However, it might not be the best news for the still-developing South African pop culture scene.
The Comic Con
The convention will feature popular American actors from the Big Bang Theory and Game of Thrones series. More than this, there will be a massive e-sports competitions, cosplaying and intense panel discussions between industry role-players. The big problem, however, is that the event may be hosted in South Africa but it certainly won’t be a South African event. This is not necessarily the event’s fault. Comic Con is giving South Africa what South Africa wants – America and American pop culture.
Don’t get me wrong. A Comic Con in South Africa is great news for the development of the industry. It means that some local industry members will be able to spotlight themselves on the platform. However, it also distracts from the work that local platforms which already exist. The Open Book Festival, which also occurs in September hosts a mini Comic Con which spotlights locals in pop culture. But more than this, the local pop culture scene has struggled to craft its own identity. Local pop culture stems from a westernised ideal of pop culture. With Comic Con exploding in South Africa, creating that unique identity will become ever more difficult.
But the real dilemma that local emerging pop culture scenes face is how to convince South Africans of their value. We don’t want anything to do with South African pop culture unless its a replica of the American pop culture we already love. So, while a Comic Con might look like a step forward for pop culture on the continent, it’s an entire leap backwards. The fact that most of us outright reject local arts is something to think about before September and all the Americans roll around.