By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu
Come Saturday, on the 16th of September in Lagos, Nigeria, fans will throng the annual Lagos Comic-Con. About 5,000 attendees expected from around the world. And to think the first one held in 2012 had about 300 guests. The numbers of guests continue to grow, as the comic book industry continues to expand in the African nation with an estimated population of 200 million people.
Ayodele Elegba, 37, has been active in the Nigerian comics and animation industry for over 17 years, and in that time has created and co-created some of the most widely-followed intellectual property in the country. Among many other things, he is also the founder of the Lagos Comic Convention (now called Lagos Comic-Con). When Bleeding Cool asked him what cosmic symbiote possessed him to begin the annual show, he said: “Comic conventions all over the world from Canada to Germany, have been about growing the comic and animation industries, and giving fandom a great time. So I asked myself, ‘is there is any country in the world whose comic industry needs a comic convention more than Nigeria?’ The rest is history.”
Even with a modest attendance, many guests were visibly happy. “Now every Nigerian fan and creative is proud to boast of a comic convention they can call their own,” beamed Elegba, who added that the show also challenges creators to do more, and better.
When Bleeding Cool asked Elegba about the urban legend that he cleared out his savings account to put the first one together, he smiled: “It’s not an urban legend.” There were no sponsors, as many corporate bodies who could have helped with sponsorship scoffed at the idea. Eventually, he was fortunate to find some good-hearted individuals who helped. But as the show grew over the years, the sponsors showed up. “But there’s room for so much more, because there’s so much more we could do,” he added.
And how will Elegba and his team ensure this year’s con is bigger and better than last year’s? “We went all-out on logistics, exhibition space and exciting content, as well as partnerships with almost all the publishing companies.” He said while the excitement and crazy geek spirit of the convention remains, the marketing is screaming it out that even non-comic fans are welcome. Then there’s also the Fist Awards, which will reward the best comics produced every year, including a category for Best International Comic.
Elegba also said this year, there will be additional focus on the business end of things, as creators need to make money from their craft, and many need to learn how. “We’ll do this via exclusive seminars crafted by some very big names,” he said. But the best part of it all? He told Bleeding Cool: “It’s going to be different kind of con; Attendees will find the coolest comics released in the past year, including animation, games and more. They will get to meet the creators and mix up in what is probably the biggest pop culture event in Africa. What could be better?”
Abdulkareem Baba Aminu is a newspaper editor and award-winning journalist based in Nigeria. He has reviewed comics, novels, movies and music for a variety of platforms and is currently the Editor of the Saturday edition of the Daily Trust, one of the most influential newspapers in his country. You can follow him on Twitter: @KareemReal