Supanova 2018

Cassius Sonoda

by Cassius Sonoda

YouTuber, blogger, PC hardware seller, and PC gamer.

As the chill of winter descended upon Sydney, this weekend proved to be a busy one with people variously scrambling over to Supanova and/or the adult expedition.

I wasn’t going to go to Supernova this year, but gave in at the last minute.  So I won’t be modelling a costume this time!  But I’ve returned from the field with a bit of inspiration for a new blog entry.  (This is a multi-authored blog by the way, so you’re invited to contribute if you’re a cosplayer or anime enthusiast reading this.)

Sam Cameron as Harley Quinn and Phoenix Rai Wonder Woman
Costume credits: Sam Cameron as Harley Quinn and Phoenix Rai as Wonder Woman.

Supanova, the Event

For those who don’t know, the annual event is something of an annual pilgrimage dedicated to the holy trinity of nerdom: fiction, cosplay and gaming.  (Here, “fiction” can be understood to encompass comics, anime/manga, sci-fi, fantasy and video game narratives.)

The event consists of merchant stalls and informal as well as paid photo ops, signing events, famous appearances, cosplay competitions, gaming tournaments, and Q&A panel sessions featuring cosplayers, actors and game developers.

There are maybe a couple of hundred stalls, most of them being merchandise-oriented or promotional in nature.  The Artists’ Alley is almost entirely dedicated to purchasable artworks.

There are also some craft and repair stations for cosplayers who need a pitstop.  And you can stock up on cosplay materials, as Lumin’s Workshop has a stall there.  I noticed several armoury stalls also where you can buy katanas and medieval armour.

Although dressing up is optional, it seems like much of the fun derives from rocking up in an outfit to amuse others and create photo opportunities.

Costume credits: Vera Chimera as Ms Marvel.
Costume credits: Vera Chimera as Ms Marvel.

If you haven’t been before, the event is hosted at major Australian cities at different times over the space of several months.  In 2018, the times and venues are/were:

Melbourne, VIC Royal Melbourne Showgrounds April, Friday 20th, Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd
Gold Coast, QLD Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre April, Friday 27th, Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th
Sydney, NSW Sydney Showground, Olympic Park June, Friday 15th, Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th
Perth, WA Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre June, Friday 22nd, Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th
Adelaide, SA Adelaide Showgrounds November, Friday 2nd, Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th
Brisbane, QLD Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre November, Friday 9th, Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th

In Sydney, the event is hosted at Olympic Park’s Dome, and is divided between the Artists’ Alley – where artists can display and sell their works – and the main exhibitor’s hall for general merchandise.

Supanova Map
Supanova featured two large arenas in 2018, one being the Artists’ Alley and the other being the main Exhibition Hall, housing many merchandise stalls.

Spending budget?

Trading with Genghis Khan.
Trading with what looks like Genghis Khan and his Slavic war captive… Edit (20/06/18): these are probably not for sale! This stall represents the Sydney chapter of a medieval re-enactment society: http://rowany.lochac.sca.org/

Admission is charged for entry, with standard entry priced at $32 if you book online beforehand. Otherwise, it’s $40 at the door.  There are special VIP passes that cost more and include access to exclusive features.  Children under 12 are admitted for free.  Aside from that, you might want to allow a spending budget, as Supanova is, in large part, a trade fair.

There’s really no limit to how much you can spend, but a budget of between $40 to $200 would probably serve as a good guideline for most people.

If you want to take advantage of professional photography services, you’d probably need to allow between $120-240 or more, depending on how many services you wanted to take advantage of.  For example, CGI-manipulated photography might set you back a little over $100 or more  per shoot, but represents a rare opportunity that’s hard to top.  Availing of these services, you can commandeer a military jeep or insert yourself into a Jurassic Park scene.

The crowd

Supanova crowd
Supanova crowd lining up for a celebrity encounter.

As one of the premiere calendar events of its kind, unique to Australia, the event is well-attended, and the crowd is charming and very obliging when it comes to photo requests.

Many will welcome the event as an outlet for creativity and it’s hardly the place where you’d be judged, whatever form you should choose to turn up in.  Everybody there is kindred in their passion for anime, comic and science fiction and fantasy, a passion expressed in the mediums of art and cosplay.  The event has a family-friendly vibe to it and is universally inclusive.

Supernova crowd

What to do

  • Flaunt your cosplay (optional)
  • Shop around for souvenirs
  • Attend panels and events
  • Participate in games
  • Take photos
  • Meet celebrities and persons of significance

Tips

Amazing 4-legged cosplay
I don’t know who or what this is but that’s some dedication…
  • Book online to save; tickets slightly dearer at the door.
  • If you’re after a specific stall, use the exhibitor’s directory and map, which can be found inside the programme booklet you were issued at the entry gate.  (A shame there weren’t more goodies inside the bag – just the booklet itself this year, making the bag feel a little redundant…)
  • After food?  Plenty of permanent food stands just outside the venues, with limited seating available.
  • Want to break up your day a little?  It is possible to leave and come back in the same day, as long as you can flash your wrist band on the way back in.
  • Make sure your phone is charged up the night before if you’re going to rendezvous with others – the place is big, busy, and full of people, and there are so many stalls.

Features for gamers

Counter-Strike competition
A Counter-Strike competition under way.

I did pass by a Counter-strike tournament and there were limited gaming facilities for public access.  You can expect to find a few PC and console stations, but you might have to wait your turn as these are limited in number.  Apparently, some of the Overwatch developers were also giving a Q&A session, and you can just casually stroll in, join the audience, and put a question to them.

Gamers should note that gaming isn’t going to be represented broadly at this event. Counter-Strike and Overwatch had an official presence, and there will always be League of Legends cosplayers, but I didn’t really see much else. As mentioned before, there will be console and PC stations for your enjoyment, but these will be limited.

Jinx from League of Legends
Jinx from League of Legends.

My angle

Well for starters, it should be obvious from the title of this blog that I am an avid gamer, mostly in the PC platform.  I like the MOBA genre (e.g. League of Legends), and enjoy real-time and turn-based military strategy (basically Warcraft/Starcraft, and the 4X genre), tactical games (e.g. XCOM 2), city building simulations (e.g. ANNO series) and RPGs (Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Dishonored).

An anime stall on Artists' Alley
An anime/manga stall on Artists’ Alley.

Personally, I like anime a great deal. I think it appeals to a weak spot in human nature – they are sentimental and invite a great deal of audience sympathy.

Gandalf and Saruman
Gandalf and Saruman?

In contrast, I view Western comics are much more masculine, with a preoccupation with heroism, virility, and exaggerations of powerful physique, whilst fetishizing superpowers.  I’ve been somewhat less interested in Marvel comics owing to their predictability and morally black-and white-treatment of characters. Granted, Kingpin (a.k.a. Wilson Fisk) was presented rather sympathetically in Daredevil, the TV series, as was Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).

Credits: Elizabeth Carpenter in all her splendour as a character from Supernatural
Costume credits: Elizabeth Carpenter demonstrating her retractable wings as a character from Supernatural.  To have pulled off a complex functional construction like that, she’s done much to affirm her surname.  Take care that the next train doesn’t clip your wings as it goes by!

Conclusions

In short, Supernova is an Australian fiction fan convention with an equivalent instance in most major Australian cities, and one that has gained iconic status among subscribers to Marvel comics, anime/manga, sci-fi and fantasy, cosplayers, and video gamers.  The convention is most notable for its strong element of costumes and play acting, and prospers culturally from the crowd’s involvement in bringing their favourite characters to life.  Any given day is one marathon of a photo opportunity and mass spectacle.

I spent between 4-5 hours at the expo on the Sunday and met a wonderful assortment of cosplayers.  For me, a day is enough, but if you’re a completionist and want to see and do everything, you could go for the multi-day pass.  Likewise, if you’re a cosplayer, you’d probably want to maximise your exposure and make all that hard work count for something!

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