Politics vs Fandoms: Comic Con Asia’s Troubled Backdrop

As you may have heard, Comic Con Asia 2018 is already promoting a formidable lineup of celebrities from comics, cosplay, and more. But the event’s troubling link to its partner – and several other issues – continue to affect its perception in the public eye.

So what’s the deal?

Let’s talk first about what they have going for them: a lot of star power. Not only are they pulling in legendary comic figure Stan Lee (who was originally invited to the country for Toycon in 2016 during the opening of his exhibit, but didn’t come), but a veritable plethora of superstars, such as:

– Cosplayers Linda Le/Vampy Bit Me (who also happens to be quite the Gundam enthusiast), Enji Night (who has done Xayah/Supergirl/Lara Croft, among others), and Nana Kuronoma (check out her Spider-Gwen!)
Walter Jones of Power Ranger fame
Chad Hoku, cosplay propmaker extraordinaire
Ray Allen, NBA star (who, incidentally, is here to promote his 20th anniversary)
Jay Tablante, cosplay photographer to the stars
– and a rumored attempt to get the Overwatch voice actors, already popular thanks to their APCC appearance, as guests for the convention

In addition, they’re running cosplay- and comic-related events, including the Project X search for a new Philippine comic superhero & the Great Filipino Graphic Novel contest. To be fair, this lineup (should it be fulfilled in its entirety) is a very formidable roster of personalities that any local con-goer would kill their budgets for.

And therein lies the rub: if you had the opportunity of a lifetime handed to you by a friend of someone whose beliefs were completely opposite yours, would you take it?

I’ve already written about the issues surrounding Comic Con Asia in a prior blogpost, and the biggest issue remains present: rabidly anti-LGBT, conservative-leaning, pro-Duterte politician (and former boxer, now senator) Manny Pacquiao. The politician is a close ally to the present administration, and is quite vocal in supporting their policies (including their stance on the controversial surge of extra-judicial killings in the country). To make matters worse, the organizers have doubled down on him as their primary endorser, believing that “Pacquiao will be instrumental in presenting the Philippines to foreign exhibitors and investors as ‘the destination of choice for international conventions'”, end quote.

But it gets more complicated.

Comic Con Asia’s superhero search – the Project X contest – has a troubling clause buried in its legal requirements to enter. By submitting your entry, you give all the rights to the organizers forever, with no royalties required on their part. Note that this happens whether your entry wins or not (Terms and Conditions, Item 11) – an act that has some netizens crying foul. In an event aimed at promoting local and regional talent to the world, one would think that protecting the rights of budding artists (and recognizing that they could benefit from their work, even in the smallest of ways) would be a priority in the matter.

Then there’s the small issue of prices – both for exhibitors and attendees alike. Spaces for booths are said to be priced at $272/day, versus APCC’s $250/3days. As for tickets, they’re practically astronomical: in a country where $10/day tickets are already considered expensive, Comic Con Asia’s asking for $16/day versus APCC’s already pricey $12/day.

As I’ve mentioned before, events focused on the comic scene already exist: we have Asia Pop Comicon (which is a fine regional contender despite its flaws) and Komiket. While Comic Con Asia does have some promise, the circumstances around its founding and promotion still leave a bad taste in some people’s sensibilities.

Yes, it’s a fine hook, one that people would pay a lot for – and that has them up in knots. So, what are you to do?

1) Don’t go. Yes, it would suck. Yes, it means giving up on potential opportunities that, knowing this country, might never happen again in a long time. Yes, you might regret it. But in the long run, whether Comic Con Asia delivers on its promises or not, could you live with yourself knowing these things?

2) Go, but know what you’re attending. Remember that there is no guarantee that a significant part of the money you’ve paid the organizers will actually make it to the pockets of Filipino servicemen (the alleged beneficiary of the event’s revenue). By the act of attending, you have – in your own way – affirmed the actions by its organizers. Document everything.

In the end, whatever choice you make, I hope it makes you sleep well at night.


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