THE Supanova Pop Culture Expo is a bizarre blend of geek fandom, cosplay, celebrities, gaming and creativity. Stuart Ellis and Simon Tay stepped into this fantastical world when it landed in Melbourne over the weekend.
At Supanova, even standing in the queues was interesting. Everyone was wearing or doing something unusual – many people were dressed in detailed costumes inspired by sci-fi, fantasy and video games and even the attendees who were wearing more “everyday” clothes still had their geekiest shirts, badges or some faux weaponry out.
As a rule, if anyone at a Supanova expo appears to be dressed normally, it probably just means you haven’t recognised a reference somewhere. Admittedly my own “costume” was severely limited. I didn’t have time to get a knitted Jayne Cobb hat straight out of Firefly, so I had to settle for growing a Jayne Cobb beard (it happens at will) and wearing an unspecified Planeteer T-shirt. For my transgressions, I was stabbed with an inflatable energy-sword
The queues themselves weren’t too bad – depending on what you were there to see. Movie and television celebrities were busy with autographs and photos and if you wanted to see the big names in sci-fi and fantasy culture – like Oliver and James Phelps (the Weasley twins from the Harry Potter films), Wil Wheaton, Morena Baccarin or Summer Glau – you had to get in line.
But the truth is, it’s not like standing in a queue at the supermarket or the bank. It’s a queue with a bunch of zany dressed-up characters and it’s almost impossible not to be entertained just by looking around. I was surrounded by people dressed as stormtroopers, comic book characters, mad hatters, various princesses (including the Zelda and Bubblegum varieties), a Katniss Everdeen, and many characters I couldn’t even recognise.
Books, posters, artwork and props were everywhere and the echoing murmurs of an enthusiastic crowd were occasionally punctuated by a booming thud from the nearby (and somewhat inexplicable) Australasian Wrestling Federation ring. In this environment, it was normal to see a conga line of alien invaders dancing past. At one point, R2D2 rolled up out of nowhere, as if wanting to just watch people go by.
A few other attendees recognised my Planeteer t-shirt, which earned me some nods and muttered greetings of “Captain.” Even so, I still wished I’d gotten that Jayne Cobb hat as I milled about near the Firefly and Serenity paraphernalia, giving covert smiles of acknowledgement to other browncoats before remembering that I hadn’t managed to dress up as a fan.
Summer Glau or Morena Baccarin would totally have recognised it if I had.
But Supanova isn’t just about costumes, photos and merchandise. The expo also had seminars and Q&A sessions so you could listen to writers, artists and actors talk about their careers and inspirations. My friends and I had a good chat with Joel Heyman, Marshall Rimmer and Kris Straub – all creators of popular web videos. And the crowd loved hearing Morena Baccarin’s story of being summoned for jury duty, just hours before her flight to Australia was due to take off. She told us how after her initial tactics of “acting disagreeable” for the juror selection process didn’t work, how the judge refused to let her go as the hours went by, and how she finally started “crying”. Very soon after that, she was eventually released and managed to catch her flight.
“And that’s how you play it!” she exclaimed.
One of the few downsides to an event like Supanova is that you probably don’t have time to see everything you want. Not in one day, at least. For instance, I didn’t find time to see the young Chandler Riggs (who plays Carl Grimes in The Walking Dead television series) even though I’m an avid viewer.
But it’s definitely worth attending expos such as these. You get to see not only the talented creators behind popular culture but the enthusiastic fans who love it as well. Carl Grimes would probably be the only person I’d advise to just stay in the house but if flesh-eating zombies can’t convince him, some random Planeteer probably couldn’t either.