Adelaide Supanova 2018

It was a long wait but the one remaining large-scale pop culture event in Adelaide has come and gone rounding off the end of “con season” and I have to say that it was quite honestly the best time I’ve had at a convention in a very long time.

That’s not to say other big events haven’t been enjoyable, as I keep repeating they’ve all been fun to varying levels (all the ones that count as conventions anyway), yet Adelaide Supanova Comic-Con & Gaming 2018 had an energy and vibrancy we had not seen for ages (that didn’t involve the presence of Stan Lee).

Before I get to the nitty gritty, I want to thank everyone for making it such a wonderful weekend… The friends, the staff, the volunteers,the exhibitors, everyone that stopped for photos, and every punter that came up to say “hi” and just simply enjoyed their time at Supanova. That enjoyment can be infectious and helps to enhance the experience for everyone.

While we’re at it, go check out my mate itsameFigaRo’s fantastic video from that show!

As for this write-up, by laying out how my weekend unfolded it allows me to express my observations and provide feedback on the event. It also allows others to chime in with their feedback and share their own experiences, good or bad, in a manner that may be less confronting.

Previously on ‘Lost’…
Since its arrival in Adelaide back in 2012 (the same year as the very first Oz Comic-Con) Supanova for us has always been, generously speaking, a quiet and laid back event.

Normally taking place in the middle or tail end of November at the same time as schoolies, university exams, as well as heading into the festive season, “Novalaide” seemingly struggled to attract the same size crowds as Oz Comic-Con and even AVCon. The majority of the target audience either being busy with other priorities or saving their cash for Christmas (the biggest and most notable exception to that would be last year’s Supanova).

Without access to specific numbers (just vague values thrown about, which is more than some events), Supanova kept rolling into town despite under-performing in Adelaide thanks to it being paired with the much larger Brisbane leg of the show (a lesson ReedPop should have learned), which itself often attracts over 33,000 punters over its two and a half days. Supanova themselves admitted that they almost didn’t return to Adelaide and things hinged upon the success of the 2017 show.

Last year’s event saw an explosion of Adelaide fans flocking to the Showgrounds. Many of us theorised that the presence of the the late great Stan Lee (may he rest in peace) as headline guest and what was announced as his final overseas stint was a major contributing factor.

And apparently it worked
It was always going to be difficult to top the “godfather of comics” as a celebrity guest (also taking into account the understandable priority actors place on their actual paying bread-and-butter careers), finding the right draw cards was going to be a challenge. So for the 2018 show they had to make a few adjustments.

The most notable is that the November show was pushed forward by two weeks making it before the Brisbane leg of the tour in order to avoid schoolies and exams. By the looks of things that may have helped because there appeared to be a much bigger crowd that packed the Goyder and Jubilee Pavilions (apparently it was busier than Brisbane Oz Comic-Con but that’s for another time).

While it didn’t seem as packed as 2017, there was a vibrancy that had been lacking at Adelaide Supanova’s before the 2017 show (for various reasons I’ve gone into many times and will do so again). And it’s that fun energy that I think helped make this year’s event so enjoyable.

As I said in the intro, it’s perhaps the most fun I’ve had at a convention in a very long time and I’ve tried to parse that sentiment and figure out what other factors may have contributed to that… I did wonder whether it was because I wasn’t invited to judge the contests this time around (I’m neither popular nor relevant enough anymore) so I had no official duties to attend to therefore more free time. Except for the fact I really enjoy judging contests and never thought it a chore.

No official duties also meant I had to buy my own ticket for Novalaide for the first time in ages and yet that didn’t put me off like it would some folks.

Perhaps my lack of cosplay deadline going into this event freed up any stress I might’ve felt but then again that’s not entirely accurate. I did have plans that I had to put aside early on, just like every other time over the last few years (and I haven’t stressed about cosplay plans for yonks!).

I should have been more annoyed that the only guest I sort of wanted to meet had to cancel but it didn’t put a damper on my weekend at all. Anyway let’s get into that…

Guests
As much as we romanticise other aspects of these conventions such as community and what not, the reality is that big name guests are the true draw card for the majority of attendees.

One of the parts of being a fan (casual or otherwise) attending these events is being able to connect with the people and creators involved with the very things that we’re passionate about or that simply interest us (this is lost of the more cynical folks who think it’s about “ZOMG famous people” ).

Despite not being a fan of the many shows being represented, I feel as though Supanova did a great job with the variety of guests, not just for the Adelaide leg but for all their events this year. And that can be difficult to achieve with the way booking international guests works but I was buoyed at the positive reactions fans had to the likes of Christina Ricci, Ian Somerhalder, and John Barrowman (who is always a delight).

As I implied before, I’m mostly about the cosplay and piss-farting about with friends, guests are a lovely bonus but I have to observe that Supanova have often brought out guests who appeal to me more than any other event has in the last 6 years. That’s not to say other events haven’t had guests that I’ve wanted to see but the strike rate so far is in “Nova’s” favour.

Unfortunately, one of the guests I was sort of looking forward to seeing this year had to cancel under very unfortunate circumstances. I’ve been debating whether or not to discuss it here but seeing as though it was due to a classic case of “toxic fandom” and not the fault of the event perhaps I’ll leave it another time (you can easily look it up elsewhere). For now I will say that more than a few bag eggs did indeed ruin it for everyone else.

From Ray Park’s Instagram from the 6th October 2018

There’s the often complained about cost of “meeting” the guests, which is slightly disingenuous and mainly used by certain other events as a selling point for their own “free” guests. And having a look at this year’s price list it’s an understandable criticism… to a point. But another reality is that buying tokens for autographs and photos with the “supa-star guests” is how these events make a lot of their money. You can’t have this variety or level of guests if you can’t afford to pay for their flights, accommodation, or their appearance fees.

Ticket Prices
Speaking of prices, I spotted a lot of people not happy about the “on the door” costs and I guess I don’t blame them.

For a single day, $40 does feel like a gamble, even more so for a $70 weekend pass. This is one of those things where preparing ahead of time is beneficial as those costs feel significantly cheaper especially at $55 for a weekend pass bought ahead of time.

However, I do understand the hesitation for many people as work or other life commitments may get in the way of planning ahead (I have a similar hesitation when it comes to forking out for a weekend pass for PAX AUS so far ahead of time). Although keep in mind, parents, kids under 12 do get in for free if that helps.

But at those prices you really do have to have something you want to see at these events. Handing over $40 for a “browse” is not really for everyone.

Friday Night
Unlike Brisbane, where they have a half day starting at 1PM on Friday, the Friday night of Adelaide is really about getting your pass, picking up a wristband, and checking out the “Supa-Star Showcase” (aka opening ceremony) and a few guest panels… maybe.

It’s also a chance for people to purchase tokens for autographs and photos with the guests but what with the ability to purchase them online now, the need to be there in person is diminished. In fact, Fridays are very quiet apart from the panels and those bumping in the main hall. I only pop in on the Friday to get my wristband and catch up with friends during the calm before the storm (I’ve never bothered to cosplay but more power to those that do).

This year was perhaps the quietest Friday I’ve ever seen. But then again getting to the showgrounds after work for most people is going to be tough.

Saturday
I arrived bright and early to the Adelaide Showgrounds and found a nice shady car park not far from the main entrance (I don’t know why I like mentioning that wherever it happens, I just do).

As is my Saturday morning tradition, I got suited up as Master Chief. I usually do this because Chiefy is a nice mix of elaborate and comfortable. It’s a cool looking suit that’s easy to get into unassisted and move about in, which allows me to get a good lay of the land if I do decide to change into another costume later in the day.

It was probably 9:30am by the time I finished suiting up, and the line to get in to the pavilion had snaked around almost to Goodwood Road. Fortunately, and I was told that they’ve been doing this at their other events too, instead of having people wait out there in the heat until doors open at 10am they would allow pre-booked ticket folks into the atrium where it was more comfortable. And I think it really helped break up the waiting times and keep people cool and out of the sun (we tend to have odd weather whenever Supanova rolls through town). I’ve known events that have deliberately kept the line waiting and building up outside just to make things look good.

Layout
For the most part, the layout of Supanova was identical to last year, which I was pleased with because it worked really well. Main stages, guest signing tables and photo booths, as well as the Cosplay HQ were all on one side. Vendors, exhibitors, artists alley, smaller panel stage, as well as the food trucks were located over the other side in the Dealers Hall.

From what I could see this helped to spread the crowds across the two pavilions instead of the punters crowding in one section.

I did notice there appeared to have been fewer exhibitors and vendors this year. There were large swathes of empty real estate toward the rear of the dealers hall, which to my memory was normally taken up by LARP and recreation groups in previous years (this time full of people needing somewhere to sit). Mind you, on the flip side I think there were more food trucks so as far as selection that’s an improvement (if only there were more seats available to enjoy the food).

Vendors
I think a few of the usual local retailers were missing this time around but considering the rising cost of doing anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if many opted not to set up shop this year. With that said, there were a few interstate sellers giving Adelaide ago for the first time.

While we’re on he subject, a common criticism people have about conventions in general is how overpriced things are or that they could easily buy this merch elsewhere. The problem with that way of thinking is that it’s an incomplete observation.

Yes there are a few vendors who may be over-charging compared to elsewhere and many others seem to be going by the RRP for most of their stock. But there are plenty who are offering some amazing deals on a variety of items too (which I would have bought if I didn’t already have it), some do that all day and some wait until the end of the Sunday. There are even retailers selling goods that you wouldn’t normally find locally.

As an example, Geelong-based Popcultcha,one of Supanova’s sponsors and so they get a prime location, was overflowing with stock they brought with them from over the border (a massive effort). This year they so happened to have with them a stack of San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive TMNT movie figures as well as the matching street scene diorama by NECA Toys. Both these have been coveted by Ninja Turtle fans worldwide.

TMNT movie figures and diorama by NECA Toys. Previously SDCC Exclusives

Because of their exclusivity, eBay prices are exorbitant with either set going for a minimum of AU$400-$500 before postage (often these are starting bids). Popcultcha were asking only $400 for the paired bundle! And there were other random items at their booth with odd and amazing discounts too.

This was the haul from my entire weekend. So many bargains!

Okay so this is one of the more extreme examples but as a collector and bargain hunter I’ve become a little more attune to these things and trust me when I say that it isn’t as scammy as people make it out to be. What most don’t realise is that getting a stall at a con isn’t always about making money, sometimes it’s just about advertising that they exist. Some will be lucky to make the cost of the stall back and they can chalk that up as an “advertising budget”.

Once upon a time, Artists Alley used to benefit from being placed near the signing area and theoretically that traffic would flow into there. Since the signing area had been moved to the other pavilion last year I don’t know how that has impacted sales and traffic or whether being set up near the food area (a high traffic area also) has made up for this?

I was made aware of a couple of businesses that have allegedly duped unsuspecting folks in the past, which seems to be more and more common at all conventions. Now I don’t have a horse in this race but I encourage those who have first hand knowledge of this to inform the organisers. But when you do it’s very important to keep a few things in mind:

Make sure you have the receipts to back up your claims. If you were genuinely scammed out of your cash then a paper trail is always helpful.

I’m a proponent of the public name and shame BUT ONLY when the situation warrants it so be very mindful of the people you rope in with those accusations (be they victims or other vocal people) and be careful not to drag them into anything they weren’t prepared for.

Examine very carefully if what this business did was illegal or not?Unfortunately, dubious business practices often find legal loopholes or some people are just very good at selling a dud deal. Immoral as it may be if it doesn’t break the law then you may not have a leg to stand on and there’s not a lot conventions can do to ban those businesses.

In any case, it is important to make sure that these events are absent of such shady folks but you really have to be smart about things.

Volunteers
My few interactions with volunteers and organisers was pretty much positive just like last year. Everyone was friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. Most people seemed like they wanted to be there and apart from one or two organisers looking a little rushed off their feet and possibly stressed at random points, everyone kept up the positive vibe that is vital to the experience of these conventions.

However, and it’s just a minor nitpick, one or two members of security could learn to relax a little. By no means were they bad, in fact they were rather alert and performing their job as they were meant to and they did it well but I think a couple of them were a little too “into” the authority it gave them. Safety and peace of mind are important but because there are interactions with attendees there also needs to be a “customer service” aspect to the role of security, which most seem to handle just fine. A couple of them may need a refresher. Save the stern attitude for the potential troublemakers not the parents with the hyperactive kids in tow.

Again, it’s such a minor nitpick it comes off as pedantic (I mean it is me after all). Hell, from what I heard it could have been worse, it could have been like the Sydney show… which is a story for another time.

CosplayHQ
The location of the cosplay repair station, weapons check-in, competition registration, as well as displaying a few examples of cosplay and prop-making, Cosplay HQ continues to be a great addition to the event. However, if I’m finally getting to anything that resembles a proper criticism in this long-winded word spew then it would have to be that the display area doesn’t feature enough examples of cosplay and prop-making.

A few wonderful examples from local makers

What’s there is most certainly excellent but because there are so few examples on display it feels like an afterthought (even though I know for certain it isn’t and can only assume it’s an issue of allotted space).

This is one of the problems with another event doing the same thing but not wanting to look like them. Supanova has always appeared to be playing catch up with the likes of Oz Comic-Con (except for the fact that many department organisers have attempted to get these ideas off the ground for ages yet the higher-ups only allow it when they see it working gangbusters elsewhere).

Cosplay HQ did seem larger this year or at least better spaced but it needs to be more than just a “registration desk”. Make the call out, offer an exhibitor’s pass, bring in a bit more colour and interest to an area that can be more than just a practical space. Make it a space that really does celebrate the work of local makers.

Last year was the added photo area with Steamkittens in attendance. But I was also glad to see organisers going out of their way to find an appropriate space inside for another of Adelaide’s fantastic cosplay photographers too.

As for weapons check-in I’m told that went rather smoothly. In fact, Adelaide is apparently the most amicable when it comes to abiding by the weapons policies. So pat yourselves on the backs, kids!

Cosplay Ambassadors
For the longest time, Supanova was resistant to the idea of “cosplay guests”. That of course changed what with Kamui Cosplay as part of the 2017 roster (and returning again for the April 2019 shows) but in the meantime, as a way to still cater to cosplayers and do something different, the “Cosplay Ambassadors” were created and they’ve been a great addition.

It allows Aussie cosplayers to tour the country via these shows and be the face of cosplay for Supanova for that year. Also the the process of picking the ambassadors is akin to a job application in a creative field so you can be sure those who represent the hobby and the event are right for the gig (and avoid the early OzCC cosplay guest issues).

This year we had TJ Cosplay as well as AndyCAM Cosplay whom I think are fantastic at what they do and fill the roles perfectly.

TJ Cosplay and ANDYCAM Cosplay

There were no official After Dark events. Even if there were I wouldn’t have been able to attend as I had a mate’s buck’s night to go to (which was really fun by the way despite being a bunch of blokes in their mid 30’s going on a bender in the CBD).

Sunday
For the most part, my Sunday shenanigans were much the same as the previous day. By the looks of it the crowd was at the same level too (although I kept getting different responses from some vendors, some said they were doing well and others said they were doing a bit slower).

I arrived an hour later than the Saturday and unfortunately missed out on a spot in the closer car park (even though there were spots free they closed it off early). This would be quite the problem for me as I decided the previous night to bring my Optimus Prime cosplay out of retirement (I woke up early Sunday morning, sans hangover, and did a few repairs).

I had a long walk to the entrance with all that weight on my shoulders but honestly, I am so glad that I brought Optimus out again because the reaction people had to him was wonderful to see again. It’s always an excellent motivator for this sort of work.

After a couple of hours of clomping about I did get changed into Russell, another last-minute decision. Russell was only ever meant to be a one-time, secret, surprise cosplay but he’s been brought out quite a few times and more than any other event he too seem to be very well received.

Cosplay Odyssey and Cosplay Dash
I had missed out on seeing the Saturday Cosplay Competition, strangely, but I made sure I went to watch the brand new national contest called Cosplay Odyssey.

Again in a case of looking like they’re playing catch up, this is Supanova’s version of a national cosplay competition a lot like Oz Comic-Con’s Australian Championships of Cosplay, despite it being in the works for years but apparently only approved when the other comp became a success.

And I really enjoyed it. Yeah I have a few nitpicks but overall it was an enjoyable and thorough showcase of fantastic local cosplay. It was an impressive display for an inaugural contest.

It follows what I call the “fashion show” format, where the cosplayers step up on stage, pose and move about, while the MC describes to the audience what went into the costume. It’s an enjoyable format even if I have a personal preference to hearing from the contestants themselves but from memory it appeared to go swimmingly.

Supanova host Rebecca (aka Ardella Cosplay) is a fantastic MC who knows how to guide the show as well as the audiences’ attention and keep up the energy of the room (the latter always a tough job with a sleepy ol’ Adelaide crowd).

I appreciated the choice of judges, of course you’re going to rope in the Cosplay Ambassadors, which further re-enforces that they are capable and talented makers. But also having past ambassador, Floksy Locksy Cosplay, who has won a number of awards herself and whom I’ve had the pleasure to judge with, rounds out a panel that you can trust to make excellent decisions.

But like any first show there are a few kinks to iron out and like most everything else these are but a few nitpicks I have.

The Cosplay Odyssey is described as an “advanced-level competition with high stakes” and what I’m about to say next will sound incredibly unfair and I will completely cop to how judgemental it is but there were perhaps a few entries that were out of their depth on this one (having said that Oz Comic-Con  had the same issue at their first national Championships too). But then again it’s more than I’ve managed in the last six years so honestly good on them for stepping up there and giving it a crack. I’m not privy to the approval process for contestants but I am hoping that gets developed more in the coming months. With so much at stake you want to make sure the work being judged is of the highest quality, especially if they are to represent on the national level. 

Another minor nitpick has to do with the placement of the judges’ table. I’ve never been a fan of the panel being seated right up on stage. This is often seen at US conventions and mainly because the judging panel will consist of a celebrity guest. Now I don’t dislike this arrangement because it’s an American trend but I feel that the entrants should always be the focus of the contest. Judges have already had a close examination of the costumes they don’t need to be up there. If anything they should be at the front of the audience looking back up so they can see the contestant performing upon stage and appreciate and evaluate from there instead of an awkward position behind them.

Also you need more than two awards. The judges themselves had to create a “special mention” award (sadly with no prize) because they felt there was work still deserving of being highlighted. This is important as there was plenty of excellent work worthy of special commendations. Maybe do three award categories highlighting different aspects of making and then an overall winner.

Look, cosplay and making is my thing. I’m always going to be more critical of such but overall the Cosplay Odyssey had a marvellous introduction that could only be as successful as it was because of the hard work put in behind the scenes. I enjoyed what I saw and if I had to choose which one to enter myself between the Cosplay Odyssey and the National Championships of Cosplay it would be the Odyssey (sorry to my dear friend who hosts the other contest). With a first prize for the national winner of a trip to DragonCon in the US that is a more than just a big deal. DragonCon is viewed as Geek Mecca, Nerdy-Gras. While San Diego Comic-Con is massive and more of a trade show these days, DragonCon is truly a four-day party to celebrate everything pop culture and makes for a more appealing prize.

Seeing how well this went I am certain it will only get bigger and better through 2019. Congratulations to all those that took part as well as the winners.

As for the Cosplay Dash… meh. I normally enjoy parades but this one didn’t quite do it for me. It’s called the Cosplay DASH for a reason and I’m not sure I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of it as it didn’t give me much time to appreciate all the costumes on show (that’s possibly down to how the other host guided them on stage like an assembly line?). Although it does make for a good filler while the Odyssey judges make their final deliberations.

Originally, I didn’t have a problem with this part until a friend brought it up, and apologies to my friends who were part of the judging panel, but I don’t think the Dash needs awards (and therefore no need for judges). Just give each cosplayer a voucher or a goody bag for participating and that can be it. It’s a parade not a contest, those things should be separate.

As always, one of the many highlights of the weekend are the various cosplay on show (you can view my album of all the photos I took here).

I don’t mean to trivialise the efforts put into new things such as the Cosplay Odyssey and what not but technically speaking, Supanova didn’t really offer anything drastically different to last year, or for that matter the year before. What it had to offer was done well and done efficiently and from at least my point of view, I think that’s all it needed.

Like my observations with AVCon (which some people had issue with despite my being mostly positive), this show did well simply by doing what it does and focusing on and fine-tuning that. It made one minor tweak, the shifting of the date, which I think had a tremendous affect. But again, like AVCon, it also benefited from the absence of Oz Comic-Con. The punters were starved for something like this.

Supanova has struggled in Adelaide in previous years thanks to the time of year and perhaps a few resistant individuals either reacting to imagined slights or their loyalty to other events (individuals who have since either disappeared or been appeased). Most of all Supanova has struggled because of certain folks up the chain and their personal politics, which is why I feel conflicted at being so glowing about the event. Yet here we are…

In terms of broad pop-culture events and celebrations, Supanova is the only show in Adelaide now. With all due respect, AVCon is niche and very specific in who it caters to (despite the desire for the broad audience), whereas Press Play isn’t a family-friendly event and really only serves as a way to “house” or “present” the Adelaide and Perth legs of the Australian Championships of Cosplay.

I wasn’t able to travel interstate for any other events, so I wasn’t worn out by conventions. When you combine that with hanging out with friends, finding some incredible bargains, seeing some great guests, as well as appreciating the wonderful and fun work of the fans in cosplay, you get a better understanding of why I had so much fun at this year’s Adelaide Supanova.

I mean, I could list those very same things about any event from the past 10 years but there was an extra satisfaction to this year’s show. A feeling of contentment perhaps. And to see other fans there, families, kids, all having a fun time really did boost that enjoyment and, as I said before, it can be infectious.

And that’s probably why this write-up took so long to finish, other than sheer laziness that is. I spent the last few weeks simply basking in the post-con glow.

However, changing from “expo” to “comic-con & gaming” is still kinda tacky.

Please feel free to chime in with your own experiences, good or bad, as that’s the only way we can learn.

If you enjoyed that nonsense as well as my other work then please consider contributing to my tip jar at http://ko-fi.com/oldtrenchy so I can spend more time turning out more of these word spews.

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