The thousands of people that enter Comic Fiesta will almost immediately be overwhelmed by the wide range of activities we have to offer, from doujin sales and cosplay competitions to industry talks and stage games. Due to the ever-growing scale of Comic Fiesta, it is sometimes easy to forget that we have not always been that way.
There was a time when the venue can barely contain hundreds of people, let alone thousands. There was a time when the organising committee consisted of only ten people. Indeed, it was a long and painful process rife with trial and error, blood, sweat and tears.
To rephrase an oft-quoted tourism slogan, “To love Comic Fiesta, you have to understand Comic Fiesta”. To learn the origins of this beloved event, we must start from the very beginning.
1. The Very Beginning
Like all great things, Comic Fiesta was borne out of disappointment with the status quo. Founders Pin, Sakana, Xengk and Tenkawa decided that they could organize a better ACG event that would cater to the needs of and demands of the audience.
In an era before the ever-encompassing reach of social networks, the founders had met each other as doujinkas (doujin authors) via Weekly Comics, a weekly Mandarin-based manga magazine that serializes many of Japan’s current popular manga, and mainly communicated through instant messaging clients (like ICQ and mIRC). They gradually roped in a few of their friends, and eventually the number of members broke into the double digits.
The first Comic Fiesta was held at the Kuala Lumpur Chinese Assembly Hall, only capable of accommodating 150 people. As it was a new event, there was a limited array of activities and booths. Still, it received a warm welcome from the local ACG community, and this was enough to convince the team to organise the second iteration the following year.
2. Third Time’s The Charm! (Or Maybe Fourth… Or Fifth…)
2003’s Comic Fiesta fared better, the venue being changed to the Impiana Hotel (now known as Ancasa Hotel and Spa). With the larger space, the standing capacity was bumped to 300; double the amount of its predecessor! If this were any other normal organisation, we’d have patted ourselves on the back and moved on to other projects.
Thing is, we’re not a normal organisation. So we tried something very different for CF 2004, by having it at the National Art Gallery. Luck was on our side, as we managed to get prolific Malaysian cartoonist Datuk Lat (of Kampung Boy fame) as our guest-of-honour.
The next two years saw Comic Fiesta setting up shop at at the prestigious Sekolah Sri Sedaya. Due to its strategic location (close proximity to Sunway Pyramid and easy access by public transportation), many believed that the event had finally found its home. It did not, but it did become the birthplace of Cosplay Chess in 2006 (now a common fixture at many local ACG events).
We decided to move again for Comic Fiesta’s 2007 iteration, choosing to head straight for the heart of KL, right inside Berjaya Times Square.
3. Hitting The Big Time
2008 was when we went big.
The seventh iteration of Comic Fiesta was held at the Sunway Convention Centre. Over 3,000 square metres of unobstructed function space certainly played a major role in the record number of attendees for the event. 2008 also saw the debut of the Live Art Demonstrations and the Portfolio Review Pavilion, proving to be big hits with aspiring artists looking to break into the competitive Malaysian comics industry.
The decision to keep and expand the Live Art Demonstrations and Portfolio Review Pavilion certainly played a part in pushing the number of visitors for CF 2009 (also at the Sunway Convention Centre) past the 7,000 mark. Representatives from Imaginary Friends Studios, Pekomik, Big Beak Productions, The One Academy, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology and MDeC participated in, and contributed to, our industry seminars. CF 2010, held at Berjaya Times Square Manhattan Ballroom, continued the trend and attracted 11,000+ people!
4. The Big One!
Here’s an interesting question: what do you get when you combine more than a thousand cosplayers, more than 400 participating artists selling self-published graphic novels, plushies, badges, artist commissions, posters and other assorted merchandise?
You have Comic Fiesta 2011, which attracted over 15,293 visitors over 2 days.
5. What’s Next? (The Future Of Comic Fiesta)
The future of Comic Fiesta begins on December 22, 2012. We are expecting almost 20,000-25,000 people to enter the halls of Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and be part of the amazing experience that Comic Fiesta has painstakingly created over the past 10 years.
With the humble beginnings of an ACG convention created by fans for fans, Comic Fiesta will be a unique experience, a birthplace of new ideas and concepts, created by our talented local artists. We hope to be the catalyst in pushing the Malaysian creative industry until it is recognized worldwide as a force to be reckoned with!
Special thanks to Tenkawa for helping with this retrospective.