Ethan Switch - Friday, 11 April 2003
Supanova 2003 embodied all that became of the Star Wars franchise - cheap whoring for the perpetuation of a fallacy. In that April weekend it was the exposition of popular culture. Or at least an attempt to. From the nearest train station the patrons were filtering through the costumed folly. Lambs to the slaughter in usual capacity they went looking for the abattoir. From the hint of the cooking to having your head down in the toilet, Supanova 2003 resembled a frankfurt. Like one of those filled with butter or cheese. Yet in this case the filling was the meat from someone's leg suffering from elephantiasis.
Blood on the Sheets
From the closest station volunteers stood aimlessly around occasionally dropping a flyer into a bin. People obviously dressed for the occasion were no doubt in mind for the convention. Yet they had no help in getting to the venue, a lot of them found themselves stranded on one wharf while the "action" was going on another. If the people who are supposed to show you the way lead you astray then you know their confidence in the event is rock bottom. Some people tried to buy their tickets ahead of time and online, but stopped when they calculated the fact that buying it this way was more costly. Tickets sold at Ticketek outlets were slightly cheaper than those at the door. No matter how people bought their tickets the mere souvenir and recognition would be denied them. Passing entry, all tickets were confiscated into a plastic bag. Evidence removed.
Hot Dog Meat
Not one to leave out the reason for some of the exhibitors, a mention was made in running subtitles of the fact that a part of the convention focussed on comic books. In terms of asides, this mention was loud and clear from the outset. Promise was made of Paul Jenkins (writer; Inhumans, Peter Parker: Spider-Man) but with only a day away, opted to forego the trip down under, imitating a move made by both John Romita Jr (artist; Thor, Spider-Man) and Bryan Hitch (artist; The Ultimates) of earlier conventions. Their notices of disappointment cited personal problems which precluded their attendance such as a broken neck and a death in the family, but their absence echo the general feeling artists and die hard comicbook fans have toward a flea market.
Arguably the best ever convention to hit Sydneyside was OzCon 5. Featuring such names as Marc Silvestri (artist; Darkness) and Jim Lee (artist/writer; X-Men, Divine Right) they were of a time when the focus of comicbooks was the same focus of the convention itself. Heavy on comics and light on the peripherally related. Things started to take a nose dive when by the seventh OzCon, they brought in the kiddie friendly market of Tazos and bubblegum. It was also the last year of the OzCon. But not the carpet. That would disappear later on.
John Cassaday (artist; Planetary, Captain America) was in attendance though, which for the most part correlates to the standard minimum meat product needed to have hot dog meat call itself meat. Or a pie.
Under Your Feet
Wall-to-wall carpeting in a comicbook store is paramount. No self-respecting store should be without it. It adds to the general feel of the whole experience. The absence of such a simple aspect can turn a hobby or specialist store into a convenience outlet. In the case of a convention, it turns the whole thing into nothing more than a flea market. There's a reason why computer swap meets are often held in places without carpeting, less chance of static damaging the products, but that doesn't hold water for comics. In fact, the lack of carpeting is close to an indication of a lack of effort on the organiser's part. While comicfest! did start off in a carpeted locale it soon thought less of the venue and moved like a fugitive on the run to hard floored venues. The Horden Pavilion, Olympic Park, Bankstown Town Hall and Wharf 8 in Darling Harbour.
Take a Seat, Buck Wheat
On each venue change the slice of graphic storytelling pie would be eaten away by the juggernaut that is Anime/Japanimation and tenuous cross promotion. Fanboys are often seen as hopeless nocturnal losers without girlfriends, which is I guess, the reason why there where a couple of hot promo girls in low riding jeans/skirts on the far side of the venue in the harsh light of day. Not unlike the ones found in nightclubs with lines that are deliberately staggered and slowed to create the illusion of a happening place past the velvet rope.
Trick or Treat
The April farce had a little bit of everything and a whole lot of Japan that weekend. Puppets and droid fillers charging $20 an autographed headshot, kids dressed up for cosplay, anime karaoke, the same old crappy comics for those looking to fill some holes, gaming guys on tables going over the top, a booth selling aliens in lava lamps, burger king choking hazards being sold as legitimate toys, console gaming stations, card game tables, a whole lot of Dragonball and some more cartoon related things.
All this and no real focus. Was it a science-fiction con? Anime? Gaming? Comics even? It was too diluted. Given it was held on a wharf, befitting.
Meet and Greet
The comicbook scene in Australia is rather small compared to other countries like Japan, UK and the States. There was only one new book on the tables, Tales From Under Your Bed, and even that was rushed to print with a glaringly obvious typo. With this in mind, a convention each and every year is nothing more than cruel. The artists have to take time out of their busy schedules from better paying jobs, like the dole, in order create these pages of profanity and malformed figures disguised as legitimate comicbooks and the customers of the day will feel ripped off that they forked over some of their hard earned only to see that that was the only thing of value. The Artists Alley had a few artists expecting people to pay for rushed black and white photocopies. If no one cares enough to put in a focussed effort, then no one gives a damn if they never come back.
But the optimism and enthusiasm of most of those stationed all day long in Artists Alley could not rally hard enough against the massive play on anything other than the comics.
For the Repeat
The event organisers should wait at least a year between outings. This gives more time for the local artists to actually take their skills and time off discussion boards and forums and into making quality products. Think of the Olympics. Held every four years the athletes and organisers strive to put on the greatest show on Earth knowing that their time in the spotlight might not come again for another four years, if at all.
Words to Eat in the Heat
An annual convention of the likes of supanova/comicfest only serves up complacency while sodomizing those who were expecting something worthwhile and enjoyable. Or focused.
Stay away the day did say.
By Ethan Switch
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