Back in early March, music superstar Ed Sheeran drew a crowd of 65,000 fans to Adelaide Oval on a balmy Wednesday night, each paying either side of AU$100 to see the English crooner live for a few hours with all his “white guy with acoustic guitar” stylings (Oh shut up, I enjoy some of this music don’t @ me). This was smack bang in the middle of “Festival Time” here in Adelaide or as we like to call it “Mad March” when everything is happening all at the same time and the energy of our sleepy little city is elevated for those few weeks.
If you’re thinking I’m trying to make a point about Oz Comic-Con then you’d be right but on the surface it sort of shits on my theory about people not being able to always afford a fun day out, especially families who can’t always throw money at an event. But I’ll get back to that…
With “Mad March” over, the international performers, comedians, rev heads, artists, cabaret acts, and all manner of wonderful strangeness now gone from the city, Adelaide has reverted back to its sleepy self. It feels even sleepier now that April has arrived and there’s no major local event for the geekier amongst us.
Normally, around this time we’d be coming down from the high of convention weekend, catching up on sleep, checking the holes burned into our wallets, tagging and deluge of photos on social media, and returning to the monotony of the working week. But not this time.
Over the last few months, I’ve heard plenty of those in the Adelaide fan community lament at the hole left by the departure of Oz Comic-Con. We had grown accustomed to having something to look forward to in our schedule (for me conventions are important sign posts in my year). Some folks have looked at the glass as half full and are somewhat relieved that they have more time to work on their cosplay for later events and others have jumped on the opportunity to head over interstate to satiate their geeky needs.
But still, the general mood around here seems to be one of emptiness.
A trip down memory lane
My entry into the convention life began in 2009 with AVCon, which was still at the cusp of things growing at getting bigger for lil’ old “Radelaide” (urgh, I hate myself). It was still a time where those with geekier passions still had to haul their arses across the border to enjoy the pop-culture fun their interstate colleagues had been basking in for the better part of decades.
And then Armageddon Expo happened in March of 2011 and change the course of things.
A few people may point to the expansion of AVCon in 2009 as the start of it all but that was still too niche and narrow for most fans. In reality the true watershed moment in terms of broad pop culture was when the Aussie arm of New Zealand-based Armageddon Expo set its sights on Adelaide.
I had only been to one pop culture con previously in 2010 and that was Melbourne Armageddon and I absolutely loved it so I was stoked at the event coming to our fair city. It piggy-backed on the energy of festival season and by most accounts it was a fun and successful weekend with international celebrities, costumes, and of course the general geekery.
But ‘Geddon’ decided not to return the following year. Depending on who you ask, another event made a bit of a dick move and usurped their spot in the Adelaide schedule for 2012. I’ve pretty much outlined the timeline of events previously here but sufficed to say, we were pretty excited by the announcement of Oz Comic-Con launching a new series of events right here in Adelaide. Even those of us who knew full well that it had zero to do with the more famous versions in the United States, we couldn’t help but get caught up in the buzz even if most of that had to do with name recognition only.
I went into 2012 broken.
It wasn’t a good time for me. The year began with a breakdown in a personal relationship that favoured a bully who thought it was a good idea to taunt and coerce me into taking my own life when I was already at my lowest. I didn’t want to be here.
But I knew I had to go on. I refocused myself and tuned into one of the few things I thought could distract and hold my attention away from the filth that was banging on the door. I escaped into my cosplay. I dug my heels in as best I could and tried my best to hammer out an Iron Man costume.
As one of my maker idols Adam Savage says, the wearing of the costume is the fulfilment of the costume’s destiny. You breathe life into the creation when it’s worn and so I needed somewhere to showcase my work and I had decided the inaugural Oz Comic-Con would be that venue.
I had a pretty solid lead-up of progress on the build and it was looking rather promising but obviously I was working slower than I needed to. It didn’t help that I was still struggling with that other stuff. I had only recently, at the time, developed anxiety from it all and it evolved into fearing for my own safety because of certain individuals. But I kept going.
Of course I rushed it toward the end and it looked like shite. It didn’t matter though. I was tired, sleep-deprived, armour parts were falling off of me but despite all this I was happy. Just happy.
I also felt safe and that’s because I was surrounded by friends and other like-minded fans who were there to have fun and let their geek flag fly. The energy in the air was intoxicating with the punters walking shoulder-to-shoulder in the dealers hall, lines winding out to the main road, costumes and fans and just all manner of folks out having a great time that weekend. Other cons have that same feeling too but this one had that little bit extra because it was still riding on the vibes of “Mad March”.
We were sold on Oz Comic-Con and were gagging for more.
As I said earlier, conventions and similar big events are my major sign posts of the year. I tend to schedule a lot around them and the following years we were treated to some great shows.
But of course that’s done and dusted now.
I want to state as immediately as possible that I am hopeful that the replacement event in May, Press Play, will be fun and enjoyable for all. I always want things like this to succeed because I want people in the local community to have something good to look forward to. I will be there dressed up and taking photos and doing what I can to be supportive and having fun with my friends as I always tend to do.
It’s just that experience can often be a cruel teacher is all.
I pretty much predicted this and already people have expressed displeasure at the 18+ age limit and it being on a Thursday night. That there has cut off a huge portion of the local fanbase that may have been interested in supporting the event. People have work, families, and maybe even an aversion to a pub atmosphere for their geekiness.
And I’m aware of the sentiment that we should be grateful we’re getting anything at all but really is that the type of attitude we should be instilling in one another? That we should accept any old table scraps and treat it like a three-course meal? And I’m not sure I buy the idea that this is the best they could come up with either considering how long it was known that Adelaide (and Perth) were going to have the rug pulled from under them (July 2017).
When I look back at how things unfolded over the last year I wonder about a few things *puts on tinfoil hat* Okay okay, maybe I’ll save most of that for another time (or if I’m actually pressed about it).
But consider this: if Press Play flops then it re-enforces the idea that Adelaide isn’t worth it at all.
If it’s a huge success, then what’s the guarantee that Oz Comic-Con will ever come back? ReedPOP will just look at the numbers and think that Press Play is the way to go to minimise their outlay as well as pacify us for a little bit longer. It’s sort of like the naïve myth about “trickle down economics”, there’s no promise of anything more than the bare minimum on offer.
Look, I know I’ve gone in with the cynicism already for something that has yet to happen but again I wish to reiterate that I want this to be a successful night and I’m also sympathetic at how challenging it can be to organise large events (I can repeat these things over and over but people will forget I said them) yet I tend not to play the fool in these sorts of things and it’d be remiss of me to not at least offer some understanding and voice to those that still miss out on these crumbs.
I’ve got friends directly involved (and I suspect there are a few people who shouldn’t be anywhere near this) and they’re already aware of my feelings. I want the best for our local fan community, I want us to be treated with the same respect as our friends over on the east coast. Whatever the outcome I’ll give my honest opinion about it as I always try to do.
Again, I’ll be there with bells on so let’s see what we can go to make it a fun night.
I credit cosplay among the few things that kept me grounded and sane during Oz Comic-Con’s inaugural year. But of course I needed somewhere to show off my work other than the interwebs and Oz Comic-Con just so happened to be that place. It was just the right time for me too and so I when I talk about these events I don’t just talk about them like it’s something for us to do, to keep us occupied and out of trouble. I truly believe they are a special outlet for fans as well as a forum for us to connect and share with one another.
As proven with Ed Sheeran (as well as Bruno Mars a couple of weeks later at the Entertainment Centre) Adelaide is not only craving entertainment and excitement but we also want to see an effort be made for us. We don’t want you to get complacent after only a few dates, we want flowers, dinner, thrill us, excite us, remind us we’re pretty, and maybe even a shower before you get us into bed. Make us feel special!
I mean look at the surge in punters at last November’s Adelaide Supanova at the presence of Stan Lee!
I think most people may have their own story of connection with either this or another event that they hold dear, that has meaning to them. Some folks may look at conventions in a cynical light as nothing more than businesses but even if that is the case they end up being more than that for many fans. And I want that to continue for Adelaide.
Here endeth the sermon
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