Supanova Pop Culture Expo 2015

Melbourne

Another year, another Supanova Pop Culture Expo and of course another round of feedback from its patrons. This years guests consisted of Star Trek superstars such as George Takei, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig, Buffy favourites James Marsters and Charisma Carpenter, Tyler Hoechlin of Teen Wolf, Tommy Flanagan from Sons of Anarchy, the ever amazing Christopher Lloyd, action star Dolph Lundgren and that’s just some of the actors who attended not to mention all the voice actors and artists.

Leading up to Supanova there was a lot of controversy about a certain attendee at the Sydney and Perth events, Adam Baldwin, who played Jayne in cult favourites Firefly and Serenity. After some controversial remarks and twitter content, including Mr. Baldwin being the first person to the use the “gamergate hashtag”, petitions were formed to try and ban him from the event. This lead to prominent figures in the Cosplay and Australian “Geek” community standing up to say they would be boycotting the event in all states as a show of disapproval to the organisers, feeling that their decision to allow him to attend was an insult to the community and showed a disregard for their patrons safety.

Another issue for the community was that a guest replacement was not announced, and many fans were disappointed to miss out on the opportunity to see Bob Morley, some stating that they would have gone to see him alone meaning that the event lost sales due to lack of communication. Controversy aside, once again the event seems to have come and gone from the city of Melbourne with little lasting impact, other than the opinions and memories of those who attended. I contacted the wonderful Melbourne Cosplay Community to find out what they thought of the event and responses were largely positive with a few minor grievances, many saying that they felt at home in a place where many shared their interests. Space as always was a major concern, some praising the new organisation for fenced off areas negating the need for more constant wrist band checks, where others found it closed in the area too much, taking away space and leading them to feel claustrophobic.

Another patron Belinda Kaitlyn Pagram commented on the event as a new Cosplayer, “I thought it was amazing. It was my first time cosplaying and everyone was so friendly!” This was echoed by a few others, who stated they felt safe to cosplay and encouraged by staff, once again the space concern came up with some worrying their costumes were getting crushed in crowded areas but the general consensus was positive. The Cosplay competition is often a big draw and that was no different this year, with some fantastic Cosplays and Skits, including an amusing Mortal Kombat skit by “The Magical Outworld Theatre Troupe “ who took out the Saturday “Best Skit” award in the advanced category.

Food has been an issue in the past, with lines being ridiculous and the options limited, this year they improved this with better spacing and more food stands however lines still crossed walkways, an issue that is hard to manage with limited space but a show of working on improvements is positive. Another point of change was the location of autographs and photographs, this year having them outside the Traders Hall which led to a more relaxed environment for sellers and buyers alike, and while lines were long they were at least primarily out of the way. Many patrons had a lot to say regarding the VIP system, lines and issues with guests’ timing.

Katie of Toast Wizard Cosplay said, “Didn’t love standing 15th or 20th in an immobile line for 2 hours for one autograph as the guest had to duck out and VIP passes waltzed up to the front. That system is totally unfair – the guest is faced with a massive backlog of increasingly grumbly fans, and those of us who can’t throw $300 away on a VIP pass (not including tokens!) are walked on a bit. I think a better system would be to have a different VIP system – such as having their own signing session, perhaps with refreshments and a little chat with the guest or some other perk than just cutting the line of impoverished chumps.” Which seems to be a popular opinion.

While some felt the Traders Hall was clearer this year thanks to repositioning of autograph and photograph areas, the arrangement of stalls left something to be desired. It makes sense to have popular stalls and attractions near the entrances however it caused a lot of congestion, creating concerns for those with larger costumes or issues with crowded spaces. It can also cause a loss of profit for stalls, people getting overwhelmed by the crowds and giving up. A bit of repositioning to allow better access to artist’s lane is what one patron hopes for, but was happy overall. In happy news the stall holders felt they received far better treatment this year with lunch orders organised and the ability to skip lines, giving them the opportunity to get autographs and photos taken with celebrity guests. Being volunteer run management of crowds was tricky, and it appears Supanova didn’t put a lot of money into security, one Cosplayer admitting he had an oversized prop yet was allowed into the Traders hall.

As far as kicking off the Convention season here in Melbourne, Supanova has given us a taste of what to expect in the year ahead and the venues an idea of what scale of patrons these events now attract. For those of you in other states you still have a chance to get in on the Supanova fun, the Gold Coast event is this weekend the 17th– 19th of April at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition centre, to find out when Supanova will be hitting your state check out the website for tickets and timetables. For Melbourne convention goers 2015 has only just begun, with Oz Comic-Con in June, AMC Expo (formerly Armageddon) in October and PAX Australia the first weekend of November.

Want to share your Supanova experience? Head on over to Geek Mountain Base Camp to discuss!