Saturday, June 27, 2015

OzComic-Com 2015: Day 1

My kids spent today at my parents' house, while my husband and I had a novel experience for us - we went to Oz Comic-Con for the first time ever.

Cons are one of those nerd rites of passage that has somehow managed to pass us by until now. It's been an odd parade of circumstances that has led to this omission, but it is now rectified.

I was a hair's breadth from going to the uber-con - San Diego Comic-Con - back in 1994, when I was in the US researching my Honours thesis, but somehow it just didn't come together. (I think, from memory, that I had to be somewhere else to do some interviews the day after, and I decided it was all too hard).

Then, when we were younger, the Australian cons were just really getting started, and we did not have spare disposable cash for stuff like that (not so much the entry fees, which aren't generally heinous, but the inevitable purchasing of cute but unnecessary pop culture paraphernalia). Then we had babies, and although yes I know people take babies and toddlers to these things, it wasn't something we wanted to do. Then I developed more intense claustrophobia and was concerned about how I'd cope with crowded venues, etc etc etc.

However, today, the non-con streak was finally broken as we ventured to Jeff's Shed (The Melbourne Exhibition Centre) to spend the day assisting a friend run his stall at Oz Comic-Con. Our friend sells a range of pop culture collectibles and toys, and the nerdventions are always big business for him. We volunteered to help out.

It was an extraordinarily busy day - sales were manic and constant, and the number of people surging through was immense and overwhelming. I don't know how well I would've coped if we had come in at 9am with the flood of general admission (badly, probably ... tooooo maaaaaaany peeeeeeeeople) but we got in at 8am with our exhibitor's wristbands while the floor was still sedate and empty, with stallholders pottering around setting up their gear. Being inside the stall and therefore protected from the horde worked pretty well for me psychologically; I recommend it to nerd claustrophobes everywhere :-)

Aside from working pretty hard, we did each get a chance to walk the floor a little, and in my case, I spent $40 on having my photo taken with Jewel Staite of Firefly fame (she played Kaylee Fry). Now, my love for Firefly is deep and enduring, despite its undeniable weaknesses, and Kaylee was my favourite character in the show.

The photo came out really well, Jewel was very nice, and frankly, it was worth the money to me as a once-off experience. That said, some of the punters there were getting photos and autos from multiple guests, and my mind started boggling adding up what it would all be costing. To each their own, I guess, but [instead loud arggggh noise as cash computation completes]

My favourite bit of today was undoubtedly the cosplayers (or, as my 6 year old called them, "the grown ups in dress ups!") There were some terrific costumes - so much effort went into them and they made the whole show floor seem colourful and playful in a way that events that are actually just huge markets rarely do.

I was annoyed not to get a photo of the fantastic Groot (from Guardians of the Galaxy) in costume - on stilts, this person had recreated Groot in such detail that they could've just walked off the set. (At 8 feet tall, they were somewhat hard to miss, too!)

Because I was working on the stall, I didn't get to go to any of the panels or talks today, or look properly at many other stalls. This probably wasn't a bad thing - it meant that other than $15 for a salad, water, and a piece of fudge, the only money we spent today was the $40 photo fee. It also underlined the part of Comic-Con that is less explicable and less comfortable for me - the quite staggering amount of consumption on what are, no exceptions, profoundly discretionary items.

Of course there is no particular moral value or dis-value in spending money on a boxed set of Star Wars figurines rather than high literature or a piece of art - tastes and passions differ, and nerds will be nerds, til the end of the world, amen. And you could well argue that these items represent a democratisation of collecting as a hobby - entry-level pieces for those with a collecting bent can be afforded, and enjoyed, by people on very modest incomes. (One of the bestselling lines was the Pop Vinyl figurines, which go for $17 each - not a king's ransom. Lots of them were bought by kids, using crumpled up Christmas-money notes, or by parents who wanted to give something fun TO their kid, but clearly weren't overburdened with disposable cash).

I guess, for me, it probably comes down to the fact that I don't have a collecting bent or an acquisitive instinct when it comes to objects. I do, however, value experiences, and things that remind me of them - which is why I wanted the photo, and why I enjoyed the cosplayers so much.

We're going back tomorrow, but taking the kids - I expect that to be a very different experience indeed!

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