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The Oz Comic-Con experience

Grace Yew

Wed Jul 18 2012

Oz comic-con courtesy Jun-yue Mah Photography

Meld’s Grace Yew conquered a giant queue and battled her way through bustling crowds – all to attend Australia’s ultimate sci-fi/ fantasy convention, Oz Comic-Con and check out the likes of Stan Lee, Patrick Stewart and more. 

The first thing my friends and I noticed about Oz Comic-Con was the queue.

It started within the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, trailed out to the street, looped around the bridge, and snaked back along the side of the building. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of increasingly irate people were in line for the event.

Fortunately, the queue was fascinating to behold, given the number of fans in eclectic costumes.

I spied a girl dressed as Sherlock Holmes (complete with hat and harpoon) from the recent BBC adaptation, and a miniature Darth Vader with his mother.

Another small child gaped at Spider-Man, evidently under the impression he’d just met the real Peter Parker.

Some distance behind me stood the most convincing Batman döppelganger I’d seen in my life.

We eventually gave up and dashed past the queue. Perhaps it was because we had pre-ordered tickets, or because everything was in disarray – but no one tried to stop us.

Having cemented our seats in hell, we got our wristbands and stepped through the doors.

The event hall wasn’t as large as I expected the average Comic-Con to be, based on what I’d seen of the official conference in San Diego. But given the Hub Productions’ Oz Comic-Con bears no relation to the official brand, that made sense.

Nevertheless, Oz Comic-Con lined up an impressive guest list, and the attractions looked legitimate. Upon entry, we found ourselves at the edge of a small maze of stalls, bordered by an overcrowded LAN station and some inflatable tunnels for laser tag.

Navigation was complicated by the oppressive horde of families and fans. I trekked through the chaos with my friend, snapping endless photos of people dressed as characters from sci-fi, fantasy and video game series.

And with the recent resurgence of comic-based films it wasn’t surprising to see the heroes from Marvel and DC comics come to life with people donning Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man costumes.

Queues for celebrity autographs looked manageable, until we realised the actors were absent and the lines hadn’t moved for hours. This was understandable; as some of the famous guests included Game of Thrones‘ well-built Jason Momoa, Firefly‘s Sean Maher, Sir Patrick Stewart, and the venerable Stan Lee. Actors and characters any dedicated fan would happily stand in a non-moving line for.

My friend got in line for Patrick Stewart, while I shuffled obligingly to another booth for to get her an autograph token. Strangely, Sir Stewart’s general access tokens sold for $40 – twice the price of others. Jean-Luc Picard’s fans must be a dedicated bunch.

On the way back, however, I passed Patrick Stewart himself. It was only a glimpse, and he seemed shorter in person, but there was no mistaking him. Shell-shocked from being within arm’s reach of Professor Xavier, I wandered off to meet my other friends – who had surpassed my celebrity encounter by managing to get close-up photos of Stan Lee.

Once my star-struck reverie wore off, I examined the stalls in earnest.

There were established distributors like Dymocks, Critical Hit, and anime store MoeMall, but a number of independent comic retailers and fan artists had also set up shop.

We were surrounded by a dizzying variety of art, vintage comic issues, goth-lite apparel and general memorabilia. One vendor sold some realistic yet overpriced sword replicas, while a young artist manned a booth dedicated entirely to Nintendo art. Another stall offered a variety of apocalypse-themed posters featuring some impressively endowed ladies. The staff for a new paintball arena had their kiosk near a company of zombies, where a friendly corpse wandered up to groan her greeting.

After picking up some merchandise (a Stormtrooper bobble-head, Game of Thrones postcards, and Brony Deadpool), I set off for our designated meeting point: a specially imported 1967 Chevy Impala of Supernatural fame.

But any convention worth its salt has more to offer than costumes and fan commodities. Oz Comic-Con had its fair share of artists’ and actors’ panels, which were set up in a cordoned-off area near the token booth. Sadly, I missed them.

It was no great loss: I’d already seen Stan Lee and the Stewart family, and was unfamiliar with the rest of the visiting talent. Going by hearsay, though, Stan Lee’s Q&A was delightful. In a further testament to his character, he and Patrick Stewart stayed back for hours to sign autographs.

I never attended fan events back in Singapore, so Oz Comic-Con’s maiden outing was my first convention as well. My $20 ticket didn’t break the bank, and I had a little left over for gifts. The event was woefully disorganised in parts and it likely deserves the bad press it got. But for me, it was worth it.

We saw the great Stan Lee, my friend got her Patrick Stewart autograph, and left with a few token goodies from my adventure. All in all, I had a good time, and am looking forward to the next OZCC.

Melbourne’s next Oz Comic-Con will be held in July 2013 at the Royal Exhibition Building.