Comics are a serious business.
That much was apparent at Singapore's annual comics bash, the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention, which ended at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre last night.
More than 210 exhibitors from 13 countries took part this year, up from 180 exhibitors last year. As of 3pm yesterday, attendance figures had crossed 40,000. Organisers were targeting 45,000 visitors in total. More than 40,000 attended last year.
The convention, which aspires to be the Asian edition of established international conventions such as the San Diego Comic Convention and New York Comic Convention, started out as a toy fair six years ago. It aims to bring together the best from the Eastern and Western worlds of toys, games, comics, anime, manga and collectibles.
Well-known comics creators also make guest appearances and, this year, Mexican artist Humberto Ramos, known for his Spider-Man work, and Alex Solis, creator of The Famous Chunkies line of overweight superheroes, led the charge. Both were mobbed by fans as they walked around the venue.
Aside from posing for photos, Ramos signed autographs and drew Spider-Man cartoons. Famed for his manga-influenced style, he is known for his work on the comic books The Spectacular Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man and his own series, the fantasy-horror work Crimson. It was his first time in Singapore and he found "fans here very polite".
Chicago-based Solis, one of the popular designers on T-shirt website Threadless, showcased his superheroes. These included the first toys based on the tubby characters, which he created with Singapore-based toy producer Mighty Jaxx. Fifty pieces of The Chunky Knight figure priced at $150 each were sold out by Sunday morning.
Solis lauded the event for "its energy" and said the only difference compared with other comic conventions was seeing "how cosplayers respond to characters in different cultures".
Indeed, cosplayers thronged the venue throughout Saturday even though the cosplay parade - a staple at the event - took place only yesterday at 5pm.
At the ticketing counter, witches, phantoms and even a tree made normally dressed folks look completely out of character. While some cosplayers opted for popular Western superheroes such as Spider-Man and Cat Woman, most seemed to gravitate towards manga and anime for inspiration.
Comics creator Jerry Hinds, 49, president of the Association of Comic Artists (Singapore), who has been participating in the convention since 2008, says the event has grown over the years. "When it started, the majority of the visitors were hardcore comic buffs. It now appeals to more as you can see from the mix of people around."
Visitors included not just young comic buffs, but also adults and families with children.
First-time visitor Zac Koay, a 25-year-old surveyor, says: "There are a lot of things to see. I can see why this event is so big on the comics calendar."
This year, the spotlight also fell on Artist Alley, a space reserved for creators, which grew in size from last year. Participants came from as far as the United Arab Emirates. All 166 booths were taken up, with 33 of them newcomers to the convention.
Singaporean superheroes of SupaCross made their debut at the convention as part of Artist Alley.
Created by United Kingdom-born, Singapore- based artist Hinds, the comic books feature the adventures of D Temasek, an art student from Lasalle College of the Arts, and Singapore Sling, an
"academically challenged" female Secondary 3 student, among others. The series of comic books, launched earlier this year, were on sale for $5 and were selling well last Saturday.
Teacher Geraldine Cheng, 24, who has visited earlier editions of the convention, says: "This is definitely better. There is more energy, more cosplayers as well as several exclusive toys. If you are a comics buff, this is a must-visit."
Who dressed as what
Who: Clarissa Yeo as Izuna from Japanese anime series No Game No Life
How she put the outfit together: "I found props and stitched most of it myself."
She dresses up because: "Cosplay is about human skills. I not only have to understand my character to portray her properly but I also learnt how to sew to put my costume together."
Who: Tan Su Sheng as the dark magician of chaos from Japanese manga series Yu-Gi-Oh!
How he put the outfit together: "By getting a tailor to sew it for $250."
He dresses up because: "I can understand characters better."
Who: Pinifari Jafri as Iron Man Mark 39
How he put the outfit together: "My father made it for me."
It took his father four to five months of weekend work to make the costume using PVC foam.
He dresses up because: "Everyone takes photos with me. I become popular."
Who: Crystal Chan as Euphemia from the popular anime series Code Geass
Occupation: Procurement assistant
How she put the outfit together: "I found it online."
She dresses up because: "I like the learning process of bringing a character to life."
Who: Jon Dei Goon as one half of French electronic music duo Daft Punk
Occupation: Event planner
How he put the outfit together: "By asking my aunt to help stitch it for me."
He dresses up because: "Life is serious. Might as well spread some cheer through music."