On the 27th of November 2021, I had the privilege of experiencing something somewhat historical, a first of its kind. The First Comic-Con event in the city of Port Harcourt, and one of the very few in Nigeria. The brand Nerdwork hosted the Comic-Con, and I had the privilege of interviewing the founder and creator of Nerdwork, Benny Asitonka-Joe, before the event on Saturday. We talked about the brand, the event, and what this event means for creatives in Nigeria.
Benny Asitonka-Joe is an indigene of Rivers State who is the founder and creative director of Nerdwork. Nerdwork was first conceptualized in 2012/13 while Benny was still in high school; his thought process was to create a safe space where people like himself, whose love for sci-fi, comics and anime was a driving force, could come together and create a community.
Due to his studies, he put this adventure on hold until 2018/19 where he got his brand Nerdwork copyrighted and registered. The concept behind Nerdwork was to incorporate his vision into the name, basically a Network Of Nerds. By the end of 2019, they planned to host their first comic con in early 2020, but due to the pandemic and its restrictions, not much could be done.
By the end of the 2020 Otaku Connect, the annual gathering of Anime Lovers was hosting an event in Port Harcourt City, and Nerdwork decided to partner with them for the event. All this led up to the Comic-Con.
All the struggles and set back led up to the day where his vision was finally actualized, to bring a community of people together and break the stereotypes surrounding nerd culture. The event though, being the first of its kind to happen in the city, had an incredible turnout, with people going above and beyond in their costumes and make-up.
Who would have thought that a 23-year-old architect with a dream could make such an impact in the nerd and social culture of an entire state. Everywhere I went that day was filled with people connecting over their love for comic books, anime, and nerd culture; even today, every few groups of people at random places are talking about the event excited for the next comic con.
In all this, the excitement to see this event thrive, a community has been created. Especially in a country where Nerd Culture is still seen somewhat as childish by older generations, this is a big win for Millenials and Gen-Z Nigerian Kids, because in a way, the success of one nerd kid is an example for all nerd kids.
In addition to making history, Benny has shifted the tide in Nerd culture in Nigeria; I'm looking forward to next year's comic con and more events to come.