Everyone likes free stuff. And while it may not compare to Free Lunch Day or Free Dentistry Day, Free Comic Book Day, this Saturday past, sounded like too good an opportunity to pass up. So, fighting off the fatigue of a late night poker game, I made my way to Stadium-on-Main, to join the nerdy masses for the 11th annual Free Comic Book Day, hosted by Readers Den.
[As a disclaimer, I will say at this point that I am new to the world of comics, although I enjoy a good graphic novel as much as the next guy.]
Free Comic Book Day was started in 2002 in the USA, presumably in an attempt to draw in new readers with the offer of said free comics. Generally associated with the release of a big-budget superhero movie (this year it’s The Avengers, as if I needed to tell you), it has grown into a global event that sees comic book fans across the world converging on their local stores for cheap back issues, discounted figurines and general comic- and graphic novel-induced geeking out.
Stadium-on-Main was overtaken with excited fans when I arrived, milling around tables of comics and graphic novels, as well as several gaming tables and figurine display stands. Many of those attending had grabbed at the opportunity to dress up as their favourite character, and I saw plenty of well-known superheroes and anime characters, as well as some more obscure ones. Of course, the prerequisite Jedi Knights, Sith Lords and Trekkies were in attendance, and I’m pretty sure I saw a Power Ranger.
Amongst the stands of discounted comic books, I was happy to see that there were a number of locally-produced comics on sale, as well as local artists presenting their work. These included They Did This, Pete Woodbridge, Christopher Beukes, as well as a couple of others that I can’t do the justice of remembering the names of. I thought that the quality of the local talent, at least to an uneducated eye like mine, was really impressive.
As for overall impression, I was surprised and happy to see that the comic book culture here is thriving, in Cape Town at least. I know that comic old-timers will tell you that the new generation has been lost to the movies, and that the golden years of the comic book format is over. However, after Saturday I can attest to the fact that the culture is alive and well, with converts both young and old.
"I thought the quality of talent, at least to an uneducated eye like mine, was really impressive"
A final point, which is more of a personal observation than hard fact, but worth mentioning nonetheless: it is very rare to see any kind of gathering in South Africa with the level of diversity (racial, gender and age-wise) that I saw at our very own mini Comic-Con this Saturday. With all the transformation rhetoric that we hear around us every day, who would have thought that all we needed was the lowly comic book to bring us all together?
Written by: Paul 'Kenni' Kennedy
Images: Kerry Beetge
Editing: Jannie Pretorius