from cape town to donning a cape

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From Cape Town To Donning A Cape

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Pierneef, J. H. Composition in Blue. 1928. Oil on Canvass. Kentridge, W. Other Faces. 2011. Charcoal and coloured pencil on paperCramer, J. Super-Dud. 2014. Comic Book.

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Soweto, 1976. Thugs and gangsters ravage the town. A hero was needed, and policeman Danny Ndlovu answered.

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(Left) Lee Falk, The Phantom. 1936. (Right) DC Comics, Superman. 1932.

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(Left) Strika Entertainment, Supa Strikas. 2000 present. (Right) Mamba Media, Soccer Warrior. 2000 present. SA COMICS CIRCA 2000 (GOOD SPORTS)

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At the time, both Mamba and Strika felt that the most accessible content for profitable comic venues is sport, and more specifically, football. Projected audiences can generally relate to one of the most popular sports in the country, and the sport-comic was a proven favourite with youth, with British titles like Tigers Roy of the Rovers and Skid Solo being regularly consumed by South African youth from the 80s onwards. Corporate sponsorship was also much easier to attain, with both Supa Strikas and Soccer Warrior trading hands with various brands, ranging from Caltex through to Lucky Star and even KFC. The popularity of the titles guaranteed exposure and in return, the sponsorship funded the titles.

Supa Strikas proved to be so popular that it even has its own animated series on the Disney Channel, a first for South African comics.

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Luis Tolosana, Falcon Comics. 2015

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Igubu pioneered a significant journey for the face of South African comics, and included renowned Graffiti artist Faith47, DC and Marvel comics artist Jason Masters and Image Comics Joe Daly, amongst many others within its fold. These artists have come to be sources of immense inspiration for the community at large, showing local artists that they could achieve global success with enough passion and hard work. Soon, the now-defunct Clockworx forum (followed by Comicworx and then, finally, LegionInk) arose, leading the way for artists to collaborate and learn together as a community, rather than in isolation. Then, in seemingly rapid succession, new titles began to appear, mostly beginning around the 2007 mark with the advent of Media 24s Mshana Magazine (which featured comics by Beat Comics, another studio founded by Rhoda, see Figs 2 and 3.) and increasingly growing since, to nearly 40 titles at present.

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The industry is looking really healthy right now. I remember just a few years ago how incoherent a lot of it felt and how difficult it was to connect with collaborators or see what everyone was doing. Thats changed rapidly in the last few years and I think, like with a lot of scenes across the country, the internets helped a ton with making things a little easier to follow if youre willing to put in the effort.

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To be honest I almost had a mental breakdown trying to get Super-Dud #2 finished. It was actually affecting my marriage. I would be upstairs inking and colouring from the minute Id get home from work till about 3am the next morning. Then still getting up for my day job I guess thats what you get for been a one-man comic creator.

An inherent issue that becomes prevalent within the local scope of work is that aspirant artists tend to want to create high quality, massively detailed work that is the equivalent to its foreign counterparts, but in doing so, often feel frustrated by the time it takes to produce the work without the large creative teams that American comics use (as the majority of artists generally work alone and after work as a hobby, rather than as a sustainable career). The problem isnt a lack of talent, but rather in that we currently simply dont possess the capacity for those teams. Cramer elaborates on this, as he is the sole creator of all of his work, from writing through to illustration and lettering. 17

Cramer mentioned in his interview that one of the most important issues the comic deals with is bullying and bully-culture (refer to Figure). A significant portion of the book is dedicated to stories derived from his experiences in school, but projected in the format of an awkward youngster standing up to far superior enemies using wit (and luck) rather than a heaping handful of violence.

The local spin of Super-Dud generally manifests itself in its colourful array of villains, based off of parodic takes on South African tropes, with characters like Vuvu Z (a vuvuzela-toting antagonist, see Fig) and Die Biltong Boer (a rather unsubtle stereotype of Afrikaans culture, with the added twist of knife hurling and sentient Drowors minions) proving to be foils to the maladroit protagonist. Super-Duds light-heartedness works in its favour here many people hate the guttural sound of a vuvuzela (almost as much as the Madam & Eve cast despise the screeching call of the ibis, or more commonly known as the hadeda), so having a villain that uses them as his, to use the rather appropriate colloquial term, shtick, makes it that much more pertinent, and no less valid than Batman villain, Crazy Quilt, for example. 18

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For a South African comic industry to grow and thrive, we need to worry more about content and storytelling than quality of visuals, the reason behind this being that a piece of work can have the most stunning imagery, but fail on a basic level simply because its story is dull or poorly-written. SECTOR adopted and modified this output slightly to a quarterly basis, as Rhoda mentions that a weekly output: would need an army and lots of free time to pull that off, with time being somewhat of a premium when the majority of comic artists complete their work after hours. One of the most important factors to consider in working with a more lo-fi approach to work, is that, as Hoosen mentions, it allows room for experimentation artists can modify and grow their styles with every issue, stories and characters can be tweaked, because they have no history or exposure just yet and audience feedback can immediately be factored into work as it progresses.20

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Now is the best time EVER to do comics. Start small and put it out there and no matter what the feedback - learn from it and do some more.the real beauty of being creative is making the work, angst, depression, triumphs and all. So make comics and make them now.

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No country proves that comics are an extension and expression of a nation's psyche more than South Africa. Historically, local comics have never been able to move out of the shadow of national events and the cultural stresses that form our country. Politics, sport and societal concerns dominate our society and this is reflected in the comics South Africans create and identify with.

This paper is an all-too brief glimpse into the potential of comics as an artistic medium that tells the tales of the masses modern day myths packed in glossy covers in a combination of text and image that holds the appeal of a far more digestible narrative content than a typical novel and the visceral imagery of film. Comics can be picked up and consumed easily and briefly, and because of their use of text, easily translated into any language (cultural implications can be a little more problematic, but can generally be handled with relative ubiquity) and most importantly, speak to their reader in a vernacular. This vernacular isnt just contained in colloquialisms of dialogue, but also in character mannerisms, locations, visuals, and, in some cases, even the characters themselves. Africa, as a continent, has a deep and rich history of visual narrative art, from the earliest cave paintings to Hieroglyphics to a Kentridge stop-frame we as African people inherently thrive on tales of adventure, fables of how animals grew to look the way they do and cautionary tales on the foibles of greed (as seen in the many tales of Rabobi, the Spider Man), so comics are an ideal and logical next step in further the encapsulation of our time and our tales.

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