I’m going to go out on a limb and call FanCon South Africa’s most well-organised of the major pop culture conventions. Typically a good few weeks in advance, attendees can plan their visit to the Cape Town event around the already-announced panels and events, exhibitors’ floor plan and guest list.
FanCon also remains the country’s most legitimate comic convention, with an unwavering focus on the medium as a global professional industry and pivotal component of Popular Culture. Cosplay, tabletop gaming and media production all have a significant presence at the event, but FanCon doesn’t suffer from the wild patchwork quilting of subjects that often defines South African cons and expos trying to draw in as large an audience as possible. No esports here, for example, thank God, which tends to turn events tonally cold and competitive.
Cape Town may have a reputation among the South African cities for being cliquey, but FanCon proves that to be a massive misconception. Maybe it’s because geeky types know what it’s like to be on the periphery, but FanCon is warm, relaxed and friendly at every level, from the exhibitors and administrative volunteers to the guests and other visitors. It helps that even during its busiest periods – Saturday is definitely the more well-attended day of the two-day event – FanCon is spacious and comfortable. No twisting sideways to squeeze between the stands (although the area around the main stage does jam up during the traditional Sunday afternoon cosplay contest). You don’t even have to leave the con floor to get a chai latte and monstrous brownie.
The other beauty of FanCon is its intimacy. Panel rooms are small, and creators are at their booths for long stretches, encouraging interaction. So we got to hear about international cosplay guest Ani-Mia’s misadventure hiking Lion’s Head, shake hands with and receive a comics writing pep talk from DC Daily host Sam Humphries, pose with John Higgins so he could send a photo to fellow Watchmen creator Dave Gibbons and just stand back and marvel while Monstress artist Sana Takeda draws headshots in her signature, painterly style right in front of you.
In 2018, FanCon shifted from a three-day to two-day event, and that feels like a better fit. A casual attendee would probably enjoy a single-day visit most, with Saturday having the most high-profile panels, best atmosphere and widest shopping opportunities before things sell out. While there is no shortage of cosplay on Saturday, on Sunday the activity dominates the FanCon spotlight. A special shoutout must go to this year’s Advanced Cosplay Competition Winner, Ludus Cosplay as Jiraiya from Naruto.
I had a blast at my second-ever FanCon. My only niggle is that in two years, the number of local indie comic creators has dwindled at the event. Staples like Kwezi and Sector remain present but the general shift in Artists’ Alley has been from books to original prints.
In 2020, FanCon shifts to a June date for its fifth anniversary. Here’s hoping it isn’t lost in the shadow of the first Comic-Con Cape Town, taking place in early May next year. As a Goliath approaches, this homegrown, heart-driven David deserves continued support for everything it has accomplished.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.
Last Updated: April 29, 2019