This Year’s Southeast Asian Comic-Con ‘Sexier’
Nicholas Yong – Straits Times Indonesia
Singapore. A shorter event and complaints of a perceived shift towards Eastern pop culture did not stop almost 30,000 fans from flocking to Suntec City last weekend for the annual Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention.
Organizers say the visitor numbers for the fourth edition of the convention surpassed last year’s, despite being reduced to two days from three. It drew 28,000 fans last year.
Reed Exhibitions organized the convention in conjunction with ReedPop, which is also behind the New York Comic Convention, for the second year in a row.
In the build-up to the event, fans had griped about a lack of big-name comic personalities.
Last year’s convention saw well-known creators such as Matt Fraction, Alex Maleev and Salvador Larocca.
The guests of honor this year were DC Comics contributing editor Paul Levitz and Marvel Comics writer Kieron Gillen. Japanese pop culture personalities included cosplayer Kipi, illustrator Kishida Mel and voice actress Itou Shizuka.
Comics fans, such as blogger Christina Gan of pop culture blog Red Dot Diva, say: “I thought the mix of booths and events was better this year, even though I could do with slightly more Western pop culture-related stuff and guests.”
Gan, in her 40s, also found the booths from main exhibitors such as DC, Marvel and Hot Toys “a little sexier and more colorful than what was offered last year, with its size and primary colors and illustrations of superheros like Superman and Thor.”
“To me, this year’s atmosphere felt more like a geeks’ village. I almost didn’t want to go home,” she added.
Marketing manager and toy fan Shaun Wong, 31, was also greatly impressed by the Hot Toys booth, calling it a “showstopper”. One of the largest booths in the convention, it included dioramas, placards of superheros and movie posters.
“I think the organizers did a great job this year in terms of comics and toy offerings. I went for the toys and got great deals so I can’t complain,” he says.
Retailers such as Andy Ho, in his 40s, manager of Bruce Toys & Collectibles, were also pleasantly surprised by the buying crowd as he did better business than last year.
He and his fellow retailers had been apprehensive about the prospects of the event as it coincided with Ramadan as well as the Hungry Ghost Festival.
The cost of renting a booth at the event, a four-figure sum which organizers declined to reveal, went up by 10 to 20 per cent, despite the fair being shortened from three days to two.
“It was better than expected but I wouldn’t say it was fantastic from a business perspective as we will break even at most. Most of the stalls around us also had brisk business,” says Ho, who has been at every convention since 2008.
He adds that he usually does not recoup the rental fees, and that the convention is more for meeting new customers and reorganising his inventory.
The rental fees were also an issue for artist and animator Ong Ean Keat, 33, who was exhibiting at the Artists Alley for aspiring artists for the second year in a row. He paid $600 for a table at the event, an increase of 50 per cent from last year.
He feels that more artists from the region could have participated if the cost had been lower.
But he adds: “It was really good exposure for me, and it’s great that the organizers are bringing Marvel and DC here to get some hype into the local industry.”
Nevertheless, cosplayer Victoria Ng, 24, who works in social media, was still “mildly upset” even though she considers the event a success.
She says: “In Singapore, there has always been a great amount of events dedicated to Japanese pop culture but so few that are truly dedicated to the West.
“My greatest fear for the event is that due to the success of integrating Japanese pop culture into this year’s event, they may choose to focus more on it as opposed to trying to improve the Western component.”
When asked if he will be back for next year’s convention, Mr Ho of Bruce Toys & Collectibles says with a laugh: “Every year, the exhibitors moan and groan that it”s too tiring and costs are going up, but we still come back.”
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia. To subscribe to Straits Times Indonesia and/or the Jakarta Globe call 021 2553 5055.