Supanova is never everything for anybody. A monstrous beast in the horrid spirit of Dr Frankenstein's creation, one of seemingly disjointed and awkwardly fitting parts shopped wholesale under the nose. This year's effort proved to be another diluted exercise in outing the feral of fandom. Anime, cosplay, manga, gamers, comicbook fanboys and girls, science fiction/sci-fi fans; basically, the sidelined and closeted.
A "pop culture expo" was the claim and 2003 the date on the big plastic banner outside the gates on the King Street wharf. The early morning crowd buying tickets on the day tripled the number of suckers who forked out that extra for Ticketek's "booking fee." Greeting the stunned, a blonde in a skimpy tank-top and army print shorts handing out God remembers what. Those not dazzled were handed Batrisha the Vampire Girl on a sticker by someone who could have been a goth.
Noticeable straight upon entering is the Artists Alley. Their positioning much like the way retailers hide their wares. Along one menacing line, the tables hosted the local stars of the comic fraternity. Unlucky were those shunted down some corridor, tight fitting and lonely. Log jamming and way out of the place for the expected feeding.
Crowd lines were forming all over the place early on with no real cohesive connection. The look spilling from the placement of booths hosting Brian Michael Bendis (Powers, Ultimate Spider-Man) & Alex Maleev (Daredevil), Marc Silvestri (The Darkness) and Eric Vale placed so as to restrict movement of the browsers and rectified by having a line start somewhere else altogether. Long in the morning, shorter and quicker by day's end.
Atari showed off their V8 Supercars 2 and Transformers titles for the PlayStation2. The only thing wrong was the Atari honcho who spent most of the con letting the kids watch him play. Either that or the kid who wore inverted dish washing gloves with a pillowcase on his head. THQ had a neutered booth—hoping perhaps that the girl at the door would do them well enough—and EA stocked untouched piles of Ration Pack demo CDs. Props were at the WETA workshop stand and kept from greasy hands. Filmink tried to get in on the back issue mentality attempting to offload some of their older issues no longer wanted by any. Anime shown at the Madman Theatre section was presented under glaring lights and a weak sound system.
Sounds of which were felt over at the Tamarket and Seminar areas. The guests and speakers were fighting each other for who would be the loudest for their slot. Guests always coming off second best when organiser Danny Z started and never really stopped abusing the PA every five minutes between the last announcement. Kids in cosplay costumes were keeping mainly to one side of the convention with a few braver souls venturing across the floor space. A band of merry Star Wars troopers were dressed in full armour and short stature. Apart from standing around looking like they were admiring their costumes, they did jack all beyond milling around each other moving as a flock.
Nalini Krishan and Eliana Dona from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and a little from Star Wars Episode III were first up on the seminar schedule. Their session doing battle with the roars of the Anime quick draw with erupted bouts of cheer every other minute. The audience were cold and hard pressed whipping out the questions they wanted to ask these actresses. The frustration heavily apparent on their faces as the lull between questions grew and grew from five to twelve seconds. One of the volunteers later blasting the remaining crowd for being so sparse with the list. Who's fault that they might have been too cult?
With Megan Hollingshead on one end of the hall, Top Cow presented Marc Silvestri. An exceedingly tall man with his wife, Bridget. One member asked if it was hard working in comics. Humorous one-sided banter offset by the occasional answer continued throughout. Insights into the world of working on comics buffering slight plugs for the Counting Down to Wednesday DVD. Quizzed on the gratuitous nature of art inside the pages of comics he justly shot back with the fantasy/escapist angle and that their female characters (Sara Pezzini from Witchblade and Lara Croft from Tomb Raider) were always strong on the inside making them more than just eye candy. Glimmers of hope shone in the portfolio welding few when Silvestri recounted the prospect of an artist being hired by Top Cow from cons "just like this one." Shock horror when the man also remarked at the eight dollar prices charged by his host, The Phantom Zone, not realising that they were pretty expensive to begin with. Situated alongside another high-price retailer, Kings Comics, no doubt as he expressed gratitude and humility for the adoring monthly buying fans.
George Takei from Star Trek nearly fell over a cabling construct on his way to the stage. His opening ramble consisted of kangaroo steaks, a theory on the BridgeClimb being some kind of "scam" and how wonderful Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future was. Grand delight in his eyes as he noted the range of faces within the crowd. There were the questions and answers and Mr Sulu's time to shine and laugh. A laugh somewhat maniacal yet arresting. Enamour beaming through his voice punctuating the air as the talked for what seemed too short a time.
Choosing between Eric Vale from Dragonball GT and Ben Snow from ILM talking about Van Helsing lost out and ditched in favour of a food source outside the venue. Shortly before return, a Kiwi was left as lost as his index card of three digit numbers along the bus ranks and two lost Japanese tourists pointed to "somewhere that way" south in search of a Chinese restaurant. Or even East.
Marc Silvestri's signing session teased a long line coming out of the toilets as Bendis held the floor spitting back and forth with the audience. Upcoming Avengers and Ultimate Marvel happenings, a belief that AOL were monitoring his emails for bestiality, Powers and a love of dialogue the main topics. Engaging and enthused, foul language skidded to the curb when the writer spotted a kid or two lining the fray. Over at the other end, David Carradine of Kung Fu and Kill Bill, was described, from the mouth of a less than injected goer, as being "as boring as fuck."
Maleev followed Bendis. Enjoyably self-deprecating, he apologetically pleaded with stragglers to at least stay around for the first ten minutes before bolting. Those who did warmed with a relaxed talk with an artist who views the current state of comicbook art sameness as sickening and detrimental, a desire to kill off Foggy Nelson and a love of drawing women.
As WETA's Richard Taylor took after Maleev, Xenia Seeburg hosted the other end with questions ranging mostly from LEXX, auditions and her big, juicy—and natural—lips. Not many viewers outside cable subscribers and those with satellite hook ups. One hapless goer asked for a synopsis of LEXX not realising a concept pitch would have been clearer. She was up for goading the crowd into asking more questions more often. It was hard and she did her best to fill the void between questions with the standard fillers of conversation, "so" and "yeah."
Despite being the last speaker, Anthony Wong from The Matrix bounced around dripping with exuberance, energised and lapping up the questions he was fielding thick and fast. Swinging wildly from Asian caricature to stoicism on deeper philosophical meanings there was even a question about getting past that helicopter stage in Enter The Matrix where the bullets kept flying and health was at a premium, "I played you on hard," came a primer. "I wondered what that was during the night," the retort. Questions asked were pretty well done with a great understanding and knowledge of Ghost and the Wachowski Brothers. Past the allotted time, Wong wasn't going to leave until he parted with words of wisdom for anybody with a wish or dream and how they might go about achieving that. Inspirational in a sea of glum.
Comicbook trivia was a rather on-the-fly, play-it-by-ear kind of affair. The programme pointed toward the formation of teams as a component. Not to be as the handful still around with a half hour before closing certainly weren't going to make for easy team numbers. Questions were varied and half sourced from the convention talks, a theme song segment proved a highlight. Hosts Tim McEwen (Greener Pastures) and Chris Sequeira were reservedly energetic despite the dwindling minutes left before the closing of the doors. One contestant (this one) had his finger cut and bleeding from wayward plastic on clackers for a buzzer to come second with a fall of two points and two huge movie posters as prizes.
By then the crowds and guests were already gone.
Supanova Pop Culture Expo at Wharf 8, in Sydney on 1 May 2004.
Reviewed on Friday, 7 May 2004