10 May 2024

Come rain, hail or Optimus Prime, Comic Gong is a go tomorrow

| Dione David
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Person in Bumblebee Transformers cosplay for Comic Gong

Rain hail or shine, Comic Gong is on this weekend. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

In 2013, organisers of the inaugural Comic Gong booked Corrimal Library and the adjacent community centre, anticipating a relatively modest response to their first foray into the world of comic and pop culture festivals.

Figtree artist and comic creator Marcelo Baez, who had been asked to draw posters to advertise the event, tried to warn them.

“I said to them, ‘You’re making a mistake, this thing is going to take off. You can’t do it at Corrimal, you’ve gotta go bigger,'” he says.

“People don’t realise, us nerds are everywhere … we’re just a bit underground.”

Sure enough, the day came and the venues were bursting at the seams.

“People were still there at one o’clock in the morning; we couldn’t get them to go home – everyone was just on such a high,” Marcelo says.

“The next year we started holding it in major locations in Wollongong.”

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Produced by Wollongong City Libraries, Comic Gong is a free, immersive festival for people of all ages, capturing broad pop culture interests.

This year’s festival takes place on Saturday (11 May) from 10 am to 4 pm across three major CBD locations: Wollongong Library, Art Gallery and Town Hall. Though the rain has prompted a last-minute rejig to bring some outdoor events indoors, Wollongong City Council has declared the show – albeit with a slightly amended program – must go on.

Festivalgoers can expect exhibitions, live performances, workshops and stalls showcasing cosplay, comics and art, movies and television, collectables and toys and much more.

People in cosplay for Comic Gong

Festivalgoers can expect exhibitions, live performances, workshops and stalls showcasing cosplay, comics and art, movies and television, collectables and toys and much more. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

As award-winning comics creator and illustrator Louie Joyce will tell you, the festival punches well above its weight, attracting visitors and exhibitors far and wide. He has exhibited at every Comic Gong and did so even before he lived in the Illawarra.

“I lived in Sydney at the time and it was the very first comic show I had done as an artist. I had never even been to a Supanova or comic convention before that,” he says.

“I had just finished studying illustration and had just started pursuing comic making when I heard about this ‘small’ show in Wollongong.

“It was bursting at the seams, but there was plenty of time to connect with people who were passionate about that content. There was a lot of energy in the room, and it was an excellent introduction for me to that world.”

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For a day, Comic Gong transforms these pockets of the CBD into a microcosm of Illawarra geek culture, and festivalgoers can pick up limited run comics, books, limited edition prints, original artworks, stickers, pins and more from big name local artists like Marcelo and Louie, but also emerging talent.

They might even get first looks into exciting new projects featuring familiar backdrops.

“The comic I’m currently working on is called Godzilla: Skate or Die … It’s a story about four young skaters from Port Kembla that are wading into an epic kaiju battle to save their dinky, DIY skate park, which is in the Port Kembla Steelworks,” Louie says.

“I’ll be working on that at the table, ’cause I’m chasing deadlines, so people can get a sneak peek.

“The great thing about Comic Gong is you get a really wide range of creators at all different levels of the process. You have experienced people like myself and Marcelo, who have worked for the likes of Marvel. But you also have people for whom it’s their first-ever show, like me back in 2013. You might see the first comic they’ve made and they’ve stapled it together and are putting it out there. You might stumble on something really special.”

Comic Gong takes place this Saturday 11 May from 10 am to 4 pm across Wollongong Library, Art Gallery, Town Hall, Arts Precinct and the Lower Crown Street Mall.

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