Amongst the masses of OzComicCon

Posted by Matthew on April 13th, 2016

OzComicCon

The weekend just passed saw OzComicCon arrive in Adelaide. Two days of comics, movies, tabletop games and much more. Matthew was there both days, and had a small realisation about the convention and the experience it provides.

I’m sure you know about ComicCon. Who doesn’t at this point? You don’t have to be a comic, or even a movie, buff to have heard of it.

ComicCon first came to Australia a few years back. At the time it seemed odd, why was New York ComicCon expanding into Australia, of all places? But since it first arrived in 2012 the event has quickly grown in scope, scale and location. The first year it was held in Melbourne and Adelaide, and each year it has returned and added another city to its relentless march. Now it hits five of the countries major cities.

There is obviously a demand for this convention. A very big demand. But is the only reason it has seen success because Australia harbours vast and secret armies of comic and movie geeks? Enough to fuel an event that happens once in New York five times over the Australian continent?

Just for fun, let’s look at some numbers. There are a little over 23 million people living in Australia. That is over the entire country. New York State boasts around 20 million people. That is New York State, not all of the USA. Just a State! New York City itself houses a bit under 9 million people. That is over one third of the people of Australia living in 790 square kilometres, about half the area of metropolitan Sydney.

That’s all well and good, but what does that mean?

OzComicCon

Even though the OzComicCon total attendance for each location is far less than the single New York ComicCon, the Australian version continues to go from strength to strength. There are obviously numerous factors to take into account in the USA, the existence of San Diego Comic Con on the opposite coast, first of all. But still, Australians seem to have taken to OzComicCon with a particular zeal and fervour. I think this has been because the fundamental values of New York ComicCon translated well to the Australian sensibilities.

New York ComicCon is a mass of activities and sights. There are comics, and the now ever-present hanger on of comics, movies. But there is so much more. Artists, game demos, cosplay, exhibitions. The focus has broadened so widely that another event called Special Edition NYC was started just for comics. The convention is open and inviting, accessible to hardcore comic fans, casual readers, families, whoever might have interest in the many goings on.

This broad approach has been transplanted into OzComicCon, where it seems to have taken hold with immense strength. People go to the event not just to buy some cool swag, but to experience it. To be among others who share their varied interests, and connect on some level.

OzComicCon

Both conventions, New York ComicCon and OzComicCon, were conceived and are run by the company ReedPOP. I think this is where OzComicCon gets its sense of self from.

It seems like such an odd thing, to attribute the heart and soul of something to a business entity. But I think that ReedPOP operates on the belief that if they employ passionate, interested people then their events will all the better for it. Certainly, it seems to be working.

The real strength, though, appears to be OzComicCons ability to leverage local enthusiasts. At OzComicCon Adelaide, the console and tabletop free play areas were run by staff from the local anime and video game convention, AVCon. Most conventions would shy away from giving their competitors exposure like this, but OzComicCon embraces it. It is this realisation, that OzComicCon is not alone, that its audience doesn’t live in a cultural vacuum, which has allowed it to prosper as it has.

OzComicCon

At its core, OzComicCon is as much about giving as taking. It provides its audience with a community, not a marketplace. The fans become contributors, rather than customers. Creators, and not consumers. OzComicCon tries to provide a positive experience for all its attendees, by giving them the chance to be as involved or uninvolved as they like.

Of course, OzComicCon isn’t for everyone. As with anything, faults can be found. Issues raised. Problems encountered. But I don’t think this diminishes the intention behind OzComicCon. And that is probably one of the things I like the most about it.

OzComicCon is put together for you, whoever is reading this, whether you go or not. It is made and run by friends you have never met.


You can learn more about OzComicCon on the website. Check out The Campaigner’s gallery of OzComicCon Adelaide on the Facebook page.

Special thanks to E Niveous Rayside for his insight and knowledge about New York ComicCon. Sometimes it pays off, have friends on the other side of the world.

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