If you’re stuck, then you probably haven’t been following the creative explosion that’s been happening in South Africa’s comic book scene over the last few years.
Not only are these all the subject matter of locally-produced comics – including Rebirth, Cottonstar, The Number 1 Game, Ma – The Tree of Life and The Souvenir – they’ll also all be featured at the legendary San Diego Comics Convention this July.
Or at least, they will be if you can help. A team of South Africa’s leading and most experienced artists and experts is hoping to crowdfund their way to ComicCon, cyber-hitchhiking across the Atlantic to put SA comics on the map. They’re doing that at this Indiegogo page right here.
Last year, South Africans Ray Whitcher and Moray Rhoda (Whitcher helped to launch the awesome Spliced magazine, amongst other things) plus Oz-dwelling, Pretoria-born Neville Howard made the pilgrimage to ComicCon to host a panel discussion about the local industry. Off the back of that, they got the Velocity Anthology into US stores.
“Last year we presented a panel on South African and Australian comics in a broader context,” explains Rhoda, “This year we are focussing on specific South African comics and how local creators are bringing in our local mythology, legends and culture into fantasy tales. Just as Neil Blomkamp did with District 9 and Elysium except with a non-existent budget.”
Since ComicCon 2013, the three have been breathlessly active in their work to promote South African comic book artists and writers, getting the message out there that locally-made comics are actually quite good.
“[Last year] was massively successful,” says Whitcher, “This time round, we hope to take things one step further. Not only will we be discussing and demonstrating local books featuring a series of artists, but we’ll also be attempting to obtain distribution by approaching publishers and retailers from the US side – we already have an arrangement with a great printer that side. The big task in our hands is to get international buy-in of Southern African and Aussie comics. It will have the knock-on effect of ‘Well, if an SA comic is good enough for and American audience, it can’t be all that bad…’ to break that awfully archaic notion of locally produced things not being up to scratch.”
Ultimately, Whitcher says, South Africans are rightfully proud of the international success of Neil Blomkamp, Warren Louw and the exceptional Lauren Beukes (whose latest book, Broken Monsters, is out next month). But “we want more people to rise to [their] ranks”.
In addition, artists from New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Argentina have also been represented in Velocity.
The thing is, in order to get to San Diego and make all these wonderful things happen, they need money. It’s a chicken and egg situation – in order to increase sales and boost the SA comics industry to the point that it can afford a trade body to represent it, in the short term it’s largely self-funded. So the three are turning (again) t0 crowdsourcing to get them on a California-bound plane.
If you want to help out, the Indiegogo page for contributions is over here. As is the way of these things, there are gifts for backers including digital and print versions of comics. Personally, it’s the $40 offer that looks favourite (I still haven’t read the 34-artist international collaboration that is Darker Forces, which comes with this contrib) but for $80 you also get a copy of the forthcoming Velocity Anthology Volume 4, which will be launched at SDCC.
For a mere $125, one of the artists involved will draw an original artwork to commission. Whitcher also says that large corporations wishing to help out a non-profit organisation can get in touch directly.
Still not convinced? If Whitcher, Moray and Howard are successful at extolling the virtues of the South African scene, they hope to reverse roles and bring international stars here in the near future. Well worth supporting, we reckon.
[Image – Velocity]