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“During Apartheid, Comics Were Sanctioned” – Byron’s Story

Remember why you liked comics in the first place?

Our Comics Empower Project continues! 

This time, Byron from South Africa tells a very personal story: 

How Comics Empowered Me.

I grew up in a time where being a geek and a nerd was the worst things one could be… apparently.

Long before the days of Big Bang Theory and all things that have made geek chic. I picked up comics while I was young, my grandfather always knew how to get Batman comics which we would read on Sundays when we visited.

This was before the new South Africa so how he managed to get those comics I do not know, last time I checked I thought we were sanctioned.

During the Apartheid we had television a few hours a day and when it was on all you could end up watching was the news, cricket, or the broadcast signal as it counted down to the next screening, after the 1994 election things changed. We got 24-hour television with dedicated kids’ channels. This is when Spiderman and X-men The Animated Series made their debut in 1995 and changed my life forever.

I loved every aspect of these cartoons and made it my mission to learn more; I had to hunt down the comics. Being smaller than the other kids the only thing I could grow at the time was my mind and the concepts in Spiderman and X-men really blew my mind. I learned words that no pre-teen should have, I must have used the word symbiote in just about every piece of creative writing I was asked to produce. I learned about time travel, parallel dimensions, justice, love and so much more.

But all this did not make me very popular with the other kids; being dubbed “The X-man” my group of friends were few as we were treated as though we did not belong. I was faced with a choice: Turn away from comics and be with the cool crowd or stay true to myself and allow my love for comics to make me a better person.

I chose the second option.

Thanks to comics I never felt the need to change who I am to please others.

It might be awkward when people walk into my house and see hundreds of action figures; but this is me and it will always be me.

Comics helped me to set my goals. I wanted to be well-educated like many of the heroes we see on paper; so I made sure I got into college.

I wanted to be a prime human specimen like Batman so I got into gym and took up martial arts. I cannot draw no matter how hard I try so I picked up the pen and started writing instead.

Comics helped me stay true to myself and realise my potential. 

Have I reached my full potential? No and nobody ever should, When we are complacent we become a danger to ourselves and those around us. So make a difference or be the difference as long as you stay true to who you are.

Two years ago I would have never thought I would be reviewing comics, getting invited to premieres and printing for our local comic industry in South Africa; which is growing exponentially.

But the comic Gods have blessed me and granted me many opportunities that will hopefully lead me to realising my dream of being a household name thanks to the world of Comics.


Find out more about Byron by checking out his articles on Fortress of Solitude.

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Category: Comics Empower