The commerce of comics: CCA’s insights into a career as a comic artist

With greater accessibility, comes greater desire. This has certainly been the case as more and more GenZ and GenY fiction fans discover the world of the graphic novels and comic books.

According to the Design Indaba site, the world is not short on the number of upcoming graphic designers, with more grasshoppers stepping into the kaleidoscopic industry every day – working their way to grandmaster status.

When asked what first drew them to the world of design, many offer answers like spending hours of their childhood reading or watching Marvel, DC, anime and Manga.

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With the advent of more online streaming services and e-reading portals that offer an array of choice in genre of what one chooses to watch and consume, the interest in comic books genres, anime and Manga has seen rapid growth, as contemporary readers now find greater access to these entertainment graphics. They have certainly come a long way since 1897, when the first comic novel was published.

As such, new profiles across social media platforms crop up every so often, with some rather exciting offerings from Africa such as Manga Ziyaad (an Afro-manga comic) and Bill Masuku from Zimbabwe.

But how does one go from aspiring to published artist? Comic Con Africa (CCA) shared some insight into this.

Passion paves the path

More often than not, as is the case with all artists, it seems to just boil down to a lucky break.

Local artist, Sean Izaakse, told of how he submitted his artwork to Marvel over several years. He said that he would send his latest artwork to them and they would reply back with advice and helpful criticism. Eventually he progressed to the point where he was offered the chance to illustrate a story.

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Another local artist, Jason Masters, worked as an art director until one day he tagged his favourite writer in a tweet of his latest work, and that opened a dialogue that ultimately saw him illustrating James Bond.

Each artist has a different story to tell, but there is one element that stands out and that is having a passion for comics.

Opportunity around the corner, or just up Artist Alley

Since its inception in 2018, CCA is now playing its part in helping to provide aspiring artists with a viable platform upon which they can showcase their work.

In a press statement, CCA told The Citizen: “An important feature of Comic Con Africa and one that is given significant floor space is the Artist Alley. Local and international artists are given spotlight booths where they meet fans one-on-one.

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“Independent local artists are also given an opportunity to apply to exhibit in the Artist Alley. Given that Comic Con Africa attracts tens of thousands of visitors, this is an incredible opportunity to meet potential fans, sell their artwork, posters, prints, or self-published comics, and get exposure to the local market.”

The organisation hinted that some of their visitors come to the Con actively looking for local talent.

VX Art Tournament

CCA also confirmed that it supports art tournaments such as the VX Art Tournament that called for artists from around the continent to enter. The show has also collaborated with art schools on t-shirt design competitions .

These initiatives have generated a success story or two. One example of such was the local success of Kwezi, South Africa’s first Superhero, by illustrators Loyiso Mkize and Clyde Beech, and writer Mohale Mashigo.

The first Comic Con Africa in 2018 coincided with the launch year of Kwezi (which saw a launch separate from the con), which was perfect timing for the trio, and for Comic Con Africa it showed just how ready South Africa was for its first major event.

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