Earlier in 2014 GES-SA visited Icon 2014 and as I was wandering around the stalls in the main hall, I came across a gentleman selling a locally written and produced comic book, AZANICOMICS. Turns out his name is Simon Webber and he’s the man responsible for the main concept of the comic book and together with the artists, they take care of getting the comic boom out there to their fans. Intrigued I starting speaking to him as I believe in supporting the local comic book artists and their efforts and Simon agreed to tell us more about AZANICOMICS and how it all started, and where he is heading to in the future.
Tell us a bit more about AZANICOMICS
Azani Thuli Bhika is the main character. Mr Lee (who is an undercover operative for the Chinese Anti Human Trafficking Directorate) saves Azani and her mother from muggers. He is also the one who trains Azani in the martial arts. Colonel “Wysie” Wagenaar inducts her into the SAPS and the story mainly focuses on fighting human trafficking. She works undercover as the chief editor at a local newspaper and her colleagues are Jane and Ken (who has guessed her secret life as a super heroine. She also runs Mr. Lee’s Chinese restaurant in Newtown JHB since he had to return to China to work on a big case. I published the first issue back in April 2003. The way they look now is how I imagined them in 1990.
Who are the members of your team?
I have worked with some fantastic artists on AZANICOMICS: Alby Mavimbela, Dave Blatch and Ntengo Sanele Mpinga. I count myself as very fortunate to have these talented people on my team.
What brought you to this moment as a creator? (For example, the first comic that blew your mind or artist or writer. Or a film or TV show or book, magazine, etc.)
It actually all started 1990 when scumbags tried to sell me kids in Hillbrow. Many years later I launched issue 1 from Melville Library. I have always been a comic lover, and The X-men and Spider-Man were my favorites.
What are your future plans for AZANICOMICS?
Eat, Sleep, Eat, Sleep, Relax, Chilling and more chilling! Hahaha no, it has been a bit rough on me to say the least! Do I mind? NO! I knew it would be rough but when I see how the comic looks now I am satisfied that I did the right thing. I took a gamble and landed up with a really cool comic. I’m planning on focusing on the website right now www.azanicomics.co.za Comic book lovers can get the issues directly from me via the website in future. Everything is heading towards the digital age in any case right? The goal is to get the digital platform ready to go by December 2014.The formula has been 50% of proceeds from the sale of the comic go to buy books for the Library and 50% towards printing the next comic. And by printing I actually mean photocopying as I have never been able yet to have a large enough print run to justify printing. The product also has to grow and become more polished and it must to go from black & white to color printing for this to happen.
Were you influenced by any other writers or artists?
There are a few authors I like – Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert and I was influenced by quite a few writers, Kirby et al.
Who comprises your support group? Who means a great deal to you as you continue to be a creator in comics?
My Mom is an absolute star, for me she is still the best artist I know, even though she had stroke, she pulled through and she’s fine
What is your experience of the South African comic book scene, and how do you experience the average South African comic book reader?
I can tell you this, it’s HARD to sell comics in SA. I believe South African comics have a great future and I want to be a part of it. I am keen to help other artists turn their work into a commercially viable product through AZANICOMICS.
Remember to visit Simon and his team at their website www.azanicomics.co.za and show some love for South African comic books and their artists You can also be on the lookout for Simon on the local convention scene.