A Retrospective of FanCon 2018

According to Billy Pineapples, comic books are the best engines for storytelling. FanCon 2018 got him high af on billowing fumes of homegrown creativity and he couldn’t wait to tell the story of what went down at this annual gathering of creative nerds in Cape Town (although, sadly, it’s not in comic form).

 

 

Organized by Readers’ Den Comic Shop and now in its third year, the annual comic and pop-culture festival was held in Cape Town from 28th – 29th April, to its largest attendance yet. Local and national comic creators, cosplayers, artists and fans engaged with international guests in a big ol’ pop-culture hootenanny of superheroic grandeur.

 

Even in the most affectionate way, I hesitate to use the words ‘geek’ or ‘nerd’ to describe such events nowadays. Pop culture being so ubiquitous in our media and daily lives, these interests can hardly be described as ‘niche’ any longer… and events like FanCon show that these interests are alive and passionate in South Africa, in bright comic book colours and punch-out- the-page costumes.

 

The cosplay cruisin’ around the con ranged from amateur to professional, and there were some insanely imaginative and creative outfits paraded about. You’d be amazed what can be constructed outta some glue, a shoebox, a few toilet rolls and a broomstick, and I’ve got a heckuva lot of respect for the home-made effort put into some of those costumes. I sold comics to a Jedi while chatting to the Guardians of the Galaxy, and borrowed a light from Daenerys Targaryan as she shared a gwaai with ol’ Jonny Snow. Workshops from international professionals such as Riki Lecotey and Chris Donio, who worked on props for the new Avengers Infinity War movie, gave cosplay enthusiasts and casual visitors the opportunity to literally learn the tricks of the trade.

 

 

 

On the comic book side, international guests included Yanick Paquette, artist on the critically acclaimed Wonder Woman: Earth One, Laura Braga, longtime artist on the Witchblade series, and Declan Shalvey, award-winning writer and illustrator working for Marvel, DC and Image Comics.

 

Local comic celebrities also engaged with fans, such as Loyiso Mkhize, creator and artist of the immensely popular South African superhero Khwezi, and Zapiro, world-renowned and prolific political cartoonist.

 

Even yours truly participated in an extremely enjoyable panel with several other South African creators, taking questions from an engaging audience as we discussed World-Building in Comic Books.

 

 

One of the coolest things about FanCon is the approachability and accessibility of the guests; local and international. I was a seller as well as a speaker at this year’s event, and it’s so great being able to engage with audiences personally, as well as absorb the wisdom of the pros just by walking over to their table, introducing oneself, and having a chat about the shared interests we’re all there for.

 

For me, my personal favourite part of FanCon, is checking out all the indie ink. The stuff being created with passion and willpower and febrile imaginations. That’s the stuff that blows my duster up (‘cos I don’t wear no cape). And there’s a lot of it. So much talent, and much of it unknown because most of us gotta pay bills and maintain day jobs… but take a squizz below at just a few of the comics I picked up this year from local creators. There are only 8 titles here, in no particular order, and there are many more creators out there doing their thang, but these should be a good start to your comic book education. Go check ‘em out. Follow ‘em. Support ‘em. Contact ‘em and tell ‘em you wanna buy a comic!

 

The Souvenir (Geland & Hugo)

 

 

The Souvenir, an alternate history folktale rich in the mythology of the 17th century Cape of Good Hope, reimagines the myth of the cunning pirate Captain Van Hunks, who, legend has it, gave Devil’s Peak its name. Deftly penned by Jayson Geland, with intricately detailed illustrations by Daniël Hugo, this rich, atmospheric and meticulously-researched book is without out a doubt one of the best South African comics I’ve read.

You can check out more of The Souvenir and get in touch with the creators at their Facebook page.

 

Sophie Giantslayer (Kay Carmichael)

 

 

Sophie Giantslayer, written and illustrated by Kay Carmichael, is a coming-of-age story about an intensely curious and equally resourceful young girl who ventures beyond the tall walls of her

fortressed city to discover a much greater, and more dangerous destiny ahead of her. Kay’s writing creates effortless dialogue between her characters, and combined with simple yet evocative art, Sophie Giantslayer is a fast-paced and gripping fairytale for kids and adults alike.

 

You can visit Kay’s website at www.kaycarmichael.co.za and follow her on Instagram: @kay.carmichael

 

Trinetta Sky (Ben Geldenhuys)

 

 

 

Trinetta Sky, created by Ben Geldenhuys is an extraordinary piece of work. ‘Written’ would be the wrong description, because the bulk of the story is told with no text at all. Instead, Geldenhuys uses only his intricately detailed ink art to unfold the tale of a nomadic, spell-slinging cat traveling through a strange and hostile alien world. Bound in square format with a cover reminiscent of old pulp sci-fi novels, Trinetta Sky is a beautifully constructed comic book that literally transcends language.

You can check out Ben’s work at his Behance and order the comic from Etsy.

 

Wanton (Ray Whitcher)

 

 

Wanton is the debut comic book from Johannesburg creator Ray Whitcher, who, not content with just being a writer and illustrator, is also completing a PhD on South African comics. Wanton’s first issue is both a kickass burst of frenetic action, as well as an academic study of the mechanics of a comic book page. Ray’s style is colourfully kinetic, reminiscent of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack, coupled with a sumptuous, heat-hazy palette that gives it a distinctly South African taste.

You can follow Ray and his work on Instagram: @raywhitcher

 

 TechNoir (Kerry Von Lillienfeld)

 

 

From Cape Town creator Kerry Von Lillienfeld comes TechNoir, a debut comic that lives up to its descriptive title. A gritty cyberpunk tale set in Cape Town, with a Sam Spade-ish antihero and a smoky voice-over to complete the atmosphere, Kerry’s comic skilfully wires up the hardboiled detective genre into an action-packed narrative of sci-fi circuitry. Each issue of TechNoir is written by Kerry, using different illustrators for the interior art to create a diverse and intriguing world. Added to some arresting cover art streaked in neon fire, TechNoir is a grimy journey through near-future dystopia for fans of crime thrillers and hard sci-fi.

 

Learn more about TechNoir at the website, www.technoir.co.za and follow Kerry on Instagram: @kerry_technoir

 

The Rusty Bolt (Tasmin Naidoo)

 

 

From the pen of Durban’s own Tasmin Naidoo, comes the debut issue of the robo-noir sci-fi The Rusty Bolt. Set in a robotic society where class and caste(-iron) still clash, the Rusty Bolt bar is a speakeasy dockside haven for all manner of nickel ‘n tin fugitives and runaways. Tasmin’s layered, watercoloured greyscale art creates an atmosphere of tarnished tech in a stainless steel world, with elements of both steam and cyberpunk. Her writing is an affectionate homage to classic sci-fi, coupled with an undertone of endearing whimsy. Keep an eye on this one, she’s gonna be bigtime!

You can follow Tasmin’s art and comics on Instagram: @tazbedevilled

 

Gofu (Deon De Lange)

 

 

Another Durban expat in Cape Town, Deon De Lange is a prolific artist currently working on various collaborations including the American sci-fi comic Liberty. However, it’s his homegrown stuff that’s still my favourite. His creator-owned title Gofu tells the extraterrestrial tale of a gentle behemoth fleeing extinction across distant galaxies. The art is meticulously hand-inked in black and white, and Deon’s extensive experience in world-building is evident in his Gofu universe – elements of high space opera combine with some Miyazaki-esque character design to create a fast-paced science-fantasy comic tale for children and adults alike.

 

Check out more of Deon’s work at his website, www.deondelange.com and follow him on Instagram: @deondelangeart

 

Sunday’s Slave (Luke Molver)

 

 

Then there’s this guy, Luke Molver. Defective Nexus 6 replicant, time-traveller from two minutes in the future, the greatest swordsman in the Seven Kingdoms and all-around odd duck. This is his new comic, Sunday’s Slave… a Faustian horror, drenched in blues & voodoo, based on the myth of Robert Johnson, the musician who made a deal with the devil at a midnight crossroads.

Luke will be doing a Durban launch of Sunday’s Slave sooner than later, follow him on Instagram @lukemolver for updates and check out his website at www.lukemolver.com

 

 

Tragically, most of these comics are unavailable in Durban stores at the moment… but let’s make some efforts to remedy that, shall we?

There’s a super-simple thing everyone can do to make a big change in SA comics, and it’s this:

 

Next time you go into your local bookstore, the more mainstream the better, ask them where their local comic books are. If they shrug and shake their head, as they very well may, suggest to them they should get some of the said local comic books. After reading this article, you may even be able to suggest some titles.

 

If every person did this just once, next time they visited a bookshop, those bookshops might start realizin’ that local comics are a burgeoning market and a damn viable investment.

 

Ain’t all doom ‘n gloom though, there are a few Durban spots that DO stock local comics – shout-outs to the Unseen Shoppe, the Batcave and more recently Khaya Records for supporting local graphic literature. Let’s support them in return, and get more stores to stock SA comics!

 

If you would like to order any of the comics  I’ve mentioned, its best to contact the creators directly.

There are also  a few other  stores in Cape Town that deliver nationwide and internationally (so itworth buying a bunch to save on shipping)… see their websites below:

Blank  Books Bibliophilia

http://blankbooks.co.za/423-south-african-comics

Clarke’s Bookshop

http://www.clarkesbooks.co.za/artbooks/browse/60

Readers Den

https://www.readersden.co.za/

 

To whet yer whistles for more South African comic events still to come this year…

ICON Durban goes down from the 27th – 29th July right here in Durban, better see y’all there. Then the big one, the debut Comic Con Africa in Johannesburg is shaping up into a damn formidable-looking event. I ain’t gonna miss it. Neither should you.

 

Check out the websites below for more info and to grab yer tickets:

http://www.icondbn.co.za/

https://www.comicconafrica.co.za/en.html

 

And finally, you can scope out the official FanCon photographs (better than my shaky camerawork) at their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pg/FanConCapeTownComicCon/photos/

 

Remember kids, support SA comics! We’re alive and kickin’!

 

Comments
2 Responses to “A Retrospective of FanCon 2018”
  1. KGR says:

    Nice pictures, pen pusher.

  2. Harry Fokker says:

    Cool article! Local artists on the up!

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