At a comic books and gaming convention recently organised by Comic Republic, a comic book start-up based in Nigeria, social media experts gathered to discuss various issues affecting the comic and creative enterprise and helped to nurture young aspiring comic artists, Raheem Akingbolu reports

 

The dateline was March 4, 2017. The venue, Freedom Park, a memorial and leisure park area in the middle of downtown Lagos Island, buzzed with fun and excitement all day long when it played host to the Comic Book and Gaming Convention themed ‘Comic Connect Africa.’

Like the famous San Diego Comic-Con International and other notable comic conventions across the globe, ‘Comic Connect Africa’ is a multi-genre entertainment and comic convention held annually in Lagos.

In the fashion of comic-book conventions the world over, Comic Connect Africa featured a sizeable floorspace for exhibitors, which included comic book dealers, collectibles merchants, artists and media companies. There was also an autograph area, as well as the Artists’ Alley where comic artists could sign autographs and do free sketches.

High point of the occasion was the panel session titled ‘Comic Connect, Let’s Talk’ where both experts and professionals in the comic business value chain discussed and interacted with budding and established comic entrepreneurs, artists and art enthusiasts on the future of comic books, gaming, animation and how to collaborate and distribute products in the creative art.

Place of technology in arts

In his presentation, which centred on how technology is changing the face of the art profession, the Public Relations and Communications Manager, Google West Africa, Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade, advised comic artists on the need to reinvent their works. He demonstrated how to create a 3D content for their work and how artists and other creatives can leverage some new technologies for storytelling to enhance their profession, such as immersive storytelling. He encouraged them to explore those technological devices which he said are within their reach – laptops, tabs etc.

“The mode of storytelling of artists is entirely different now. They can now use technology to reach a lot of people. There are limitless opportunities in technology, especially in virtual reality. You can create a work of art that the world has not seen and have it recorded. VR is just another technology that artists in the world are using right now,” he remarked.

Kola-Ogunlade noted further that art does not just exist for art sake but can be a “part of the way that we pass on culture and stories to generations to come.”

Speaking on ‘How to build strategic relationship in a partnership’ the CEO, A2Hub, Adaora Mbelu-Dania, advised artists to be strategic in their choice of partners when going into partnership. She urged them to look out for partners that can complement their skills.

“You should think of people that have the skills that you don’t have; that’s what you really need. You should put on paper whatever agreement you reach in the partnership deal. Partnership should be taken seriously and not be formed just on the basis of friendship. Don’t be afraid of disagreement; rather than build resentment, talk about your disagreement,” she said.

Speaking further, she urged creatives not to be afraid of selling themselves: “Creatives must understand the business side of creativity. They should know their value proposition and work towards their goals together.”

Between creativity and knowledge acquisition

A veteran in the comic business and Chief Executive Officer, Imperial Creations Studios, Ibrahim Ganiyu, spoke on how to withstand tough conditions in the comic business. He noted that “creative people set the pace and every other people follow therefrom,” adding that, “you can’t create without knowledge; creativity does not exist in a vacuum.”

Ganiyu remarked that the purpose of any comic book should be more of educating than entertaining. “There is a lot of story that haven’t been told. Comic can fill the vacuum in education,” he quipped.

He advised comic artists to begin to explore animation series.

On the issue of protection of intellectual property, the CEO Comic Republic and host of the Convention, Jide Martin, advised comic entrepreneurs that one thing they must ensure when starting out is to contact a lawyer. However, he advised creatives that rather than being bogged down by people who steal or plagiarise their intellectual property they should innovate and constantly improve themselves so as to be ahead of them.

“Don’t try to fight people who copy you; it is a futile effort, since nothing is really new under the Sun and it is difficult to establish a case of intellectual property theft. Besides, a stolen intellectual property can be cast in a different ways or slightly modified,” he charged them.

Martin refuted the perception that it is only people who can draw that can thrive in comics, noting that technological advancements provide the latitude for many others who are not artists to thrive in the comic business. He observed that comic books create a medium for people to express themselves.

Also available at the convention were free business consultations in a first of its kind Comic Clinic where artists received one on one business counsel from lawyers, illustrators, marketers and investors.

Guests at the convention got free comic books from publishing houses in the country, while Naija Game Evo provided a platform for gaming. This is in addition to the free virtual reality sessions, free speed art competition, free notebooks and posters and a local Wifi network connection, among other freebies provided by Comic Republic. There were also free ‘Heroes as Icons’ classes on how to make comics books freely provided by Comic Republic.

The convention also showcased an awards night, which was sponsored by Wacom and Wakanow. The award was headlined by Dj Sose who dished out superhero themed songs, and few other entertainers like MC Shakara who lit up the stage with his rib-cracking jokes; as well as up and coming musician, Ajuka, who serenaded guests with her songs. The award of ‘Best Comic Book of the Year’ went to Esteria, while Chinedu Chukwuka clinched the award of ‘Comic Artist of the Year.’ The awards night was designed to recognise fan’s choice of best art, stories and companies supporting the art form in Africa.

The introduction of a Cosplay competition this year added a spark of excitement to the convention. Cosplay, which is a portmanteau word for costume and play, has become its own culture at comic book conventions all over the world. It gives cosplayers who are very passionate about their favourite comic characters the chance to bring them to life by dressing in their costumes.

The winner of the Cosplay, Jamil Yesufu costumed as Black Panther, walked away with a grand prize of N200,000. The WACOM team gave out some free styluses to winners of the various awards categories, while Wakanow gave return tickets to any destination in Nigeria to three winners: Godwin Akpan ‘Best Concept Artist’; Xavier Ighorodje, ‘Best Cultural Themed Comic Book Writer’; and Akintoba Kalejaye, ‘Best Cultural Themed Comic.’

Speaking on the objective of the Convention, the CEO, Comic Republic, Jide Martin, said that the convention seeks to connect the various forms of art with Comics as well as art enthusiasts with the right platforms and people to cause their businesses to thrive, hence, the name Comic Connect Africa.

Comic Republic is the only Nigerian comic book publishing house to go into partnership with a major notebook manufacturing brand. Its African Superhero stories are currently available as cover pages and back pages in over 2 million notebooks nationwide.