Local creators slam Comic Con Cape Town after it fobs them off

Update: Post-publication we were informed we had listed guests from Comic Con Cape Town 2023. We apologise for the error and have corrected the relevant paragraph.

This weekend sees the return of Comic Con to Cape Town with the event spanning five days from 27th April to 1st May.

The event is set to feature the likes of Tati Gabrielle from You and The 100, Kat Graham from Vampire Diaries Sean Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy and Veronica Taylor who has lent her voice to the English dub of Pokemon. The guests also include a litany of comic book artists and well-known faces. However, in recent days you may have seen local content creators announcing on social media that they will no longer be attending the event.

At first, it was two creators and following this weekend, more voices joined a growing chorus of creators pulling back from appearing on panel discussions at the Pop Culture stage at the event.

Why did creators decide to abandon what appears to be a great opportunity? The answer quite frankly shocked us.

Local creators back away from Comic Con Cape Town

Speaking to one of the creators who has now pulled out of appearing at Comic Con Cape Town this coming weekend, we learned that the event holders promised those appearing on panels at this stage one thing, before delivering another.

We spoke with two creators under the condition of anonymity about what went down.

Creator A – who spoke under condition of anonymity lest brands stop working with them after speaking out – tells us they approached Comic Con earlier this year to find out if they were going to be tapped up to appear as a panellist for 2024.

This is because the creator wanted to purchase tickets but wouldn’t if Comic Con was going to provide tickets to them. The organisers reportedly said they’d want Creator A to appear on a panel and not to worry about tickets.

“So I asked 3 or 4 more times since January if I would still get tickets and was reassured that it was fine,” the creator told Hypertext.

Except it wasn’t fine. Despite being promised a ticket that granted access for all five days, Creator A was sent a ticket for one day of access last week Friday. A clear departure from what was agreed upon.

“Their excuse was that the venue reached full capacity and couldn’t accommodate us,” the creator told us.

Since several creators spoke out and announced they’d no longer be appearing at the event, Comic Con Cape Town has now returned to its original promise of five-day passes for creators it said it would give them to.

When we asked the organiser why it was suddenly able to accommodate these creators for five days they said, “Organising an event of this scale is a very fluid process, and as we get closer to the show – policies and opportunities change regularly. We were able to make the adjustment to five-day passes based on the current state of the event at the time of replying to the creators.”

Perhaps this is as innocent as an organiser forgetting about the commitments it made to the creators appearing on the Pop Culture stage, but it looks terrible, especially when we hear that this exact same thing happened in 2023 when creators were promised one thing, and then given another.

The organiser tells us that the Pop Culture stage is intended to be a platform where members of the local community can share their experiences.

It absorbs the cost of this stage which we suppose means it loses money on a potential exhibitor taking that space instead. Creators appearing on the stage aren’t paid but Comic Con Cape Town says that it is open to the prospect however, in most instances, the payment comes from a third-party and not Comic Con Cape Town directly.

Perhaps this is a route Comic Con as a whole should consider exploring. The idea that content creators are doing the community good by appearing shouldn’t be followed with the idea that they shouldn’t be paid for their time and effort just because they’re helping people.

“You know how these things go”

Speaking with another person who was meant to appear on a panel to corroborate Creator A’s story, we were sent communications between them and the organiser of the panel

In those communications, we spotted something that deflated us.

“Obviously you know how these things go, there is no payment” reads the deflating line that organisers sent to the creator.

While we won’t name the participants in the panel, they are well-respected and knowledgable individuals for varying parts of the content creation ecosystem.

That is an alarming statement, especially from professionals in the sector and speaks to the culture that has been allowed to thrive in silence. Creators don’t expect to be paid for their time and effort when speaking at events. One could wave this off as local creators not having a large enough influence to command a speaking fee but that’s rubbish.

The Pop Culture stage at Comic Con Cape Town is important enough for it to feature on the Top 10 attractions at the event per a press release we received this morning and as such, it expects it to draw in at least a few attendees.

Local creators are not only creating their own content but are also used to create advertising, provide insight and more. Why then is talking at a live event something that is seen as only worth exposure? It’s a bad habit that needs to be addressed.

The folks from the local community are expected to share their experience, which was likely earned through hundreds, potentially thousands of hours of streaming and content creation for little more than a ticket to the event they are talking at. While we understand that this advice and guidance can help emerging creators, it’s bizarre that the speakers don’t get to enjoy a share of the profits that Comic Con Cape Town enjoys.

As mentioned, Comic Con says it will consider speakers who charge a fee but we highly doubt the organisers expect the likes of Tati Gabrielle to appear at the event for the love of the game. Why then are creators being asked to work (because preparing a speech, researching for a panel, and preparing a slideshow are all work) for free and payment will only be considered upon request?

This is common throughout the industry and while Comic Con isn’t the only event that behaves this way, this incident has inspired a conversation among creators.

While some may say that creators should charge a fee if they want to get paid, this is tough because the creator in question could be passed over in favour of somebody who isn’t going to charge a fee. To avoid this, the creator space in South Africa needs to collectively agree on how to approach compensation for events and the like at all levels.

This is going to be tricky as – from an outsider’s perspective – the creator space is incredibly fragmented and there appear to be fights about cliques and opportunities on a weekly basis.

Despite that, payment and proper compensation for contributing to events that draw in thousands of visitors should be the norm. Creators shouldn’t have to fight for scraps from the table just to benefit from a scene they are helping to build up and which big brands ultimately benefit from.

There needs to a be seismic shift in how creators are treated locally and more respect needs to be given to those working hard to advertise our country in gaming and technology. Until such time, there won’t be free lunches in South Africa, especially if you’re a creator at an event.


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