GAUTENG, SOUTH AFRICA – Clad in an array of capes, masks, pointy elf ears and spectacular face paint, comics fans gathered in South Africa’s biggest city this weekend for the second edition of Comic Con Africa.
Dressed as their favorite superhero, fans of cosplay — a portmanteau for costume play — strolled around Johannesburg’s Gallager Convention Center, meeting writers, illustrators and fellow enthusiasts.
“It’s the first time I’ve been here. I have heard so much about it so I wanted to experience it,” said Nishen Deepchand, peering out from a black Batman mask.
“I’ve teamed up with Tinkerbell as well. It’s a special love affair but nobody knows about it so make sure you don’t tell Batgirl.”
Sponsors of the four-day event, which opened Saturday, are expecting 60,000 attendees — a unique opportunity for new creators to showcase their work.
Guests of honor this year included Loyiso Mkize, the artist behind South Africa’s first superhero.
Mkize’s three-volume illustrated story of “Kwezi” — a 19-year-old boy in South Africa who discovers he has superpowers — has been a hit in the country.
“The fan base has grown to now in the tens of thousands,” Mkize said. “That’s an amazing feat, particularly for an industry in South Africa where we thought there was no industry.”
Mkize is among a growing movement of African illustrators striving to bring more diversity to the global comic scene.
Since 2013, Nigerian start-up Comic Republic have created a series of superheroes referred to as “Africa’s Avengers” by fans.
And in 2015 Nigerian-born Roye Okupe launched the futuristic saga “E.X.O. — The Legend of Wale Williams.”
Last year, Marvel studios released the first superhero blockbuster featuring an entirely black cast.
“Creating South Africa’s first superhero was the first leg,” said Mkize. “But continuing that legacy and continuing the story and the narrative along with our readers has been the journey.”