I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Oz Comic-Con Sydney is an annual pop culture event that celebrates the latest and most popular films, television shows, comics and games. International guests are flown in, competitions are held, a vast exhibition floor is filled with stalls, cool experiences and crowds of people dressed as their favourite characters, and it's all just one big weekend of family-friendly fun and celebration. One that I was lucky enough to enjoy recently.
Oz Comic-Con is a huge annual pop-culture convention. Its focus slants towards speculative fiction works (like superhero movies) but as these have become mainstream, the event has made an effort to be accessible to all kinds of fans. On the left side of this picture you can see one of the gaming areas and the scribble wall, which catered to children and demonstrate how open and family-friendly the event has become.
My day at Oz Comic-Con began early, with a panel featuring probably this year's biggest guest, Hayley Atwell. Atwell is best known for her portrayal of Peggy Carter in the Marvel film series and Agent Carter television series. She will also appear in the next Mission: Impossible movie (something I only learnt at Oz Comic-Con).
While starting slightly late, the panel was great, beginning with an interview with Rae Johnston before launching into the best part; a big Q&A session with the audience. People threw all sorts of hypotheticals at Atwell, like what power would she choose for Peggy (shape-shifting, because of the potential for hilarious moments when it only half-worked), but also asked interesting questions about Peggy's status as a role model (the line 'I know my value' from the television show resonates with women a lot, according to Atwell).
Panels with visiting stars are a major part of any pop culture convention. I was eager to get to this one but almost missed it because of train issues (Sydney Showground, where the event was held, is conveniently located next to Olympic Park Station and is on a line that prepares for big events, but I had delays on another line). I ended up slipping in right as the panel started, taking a seat at the back of a packed room.
After the panel, I browsed the stalls, which sell all sorts of cool merchandise, from props to clothes to toys to comics to autographs. During the morning this area was a bit crowded, so I didn't dawdle at most stores long enough to buy much, but everyone was in a good mood, wanting to see what this year's convention was like and stopping to get photos with people cosplaying characters they loved, so I didn't mind. I even stumbled across an event I hadn't planned on fitting in; a live drawing session with Wayne Nichols next to the Artist Alley.
Wayne Nichols is an Australian comic book artist who has worked on multiple Marvel comic series.
One thing I wanted to make sure I caught was the screening of Troll Bridge. This short film faithfully adapts fantasy author Terry Pratchett's short story of the same name, about Cohen the Barbarian, who's finally gotten round to proving himself against a troll, as his dad once told him he needed to.
The screening took place just after lunch and was tucked away upstairs, but I was still surprised it wasn't that busy. I wondered how many people actually knew about it. If you go to Oz Comic-Con, I recommend scouring the schedule for gems like this and taking advantage of the fact Oz Comic-Con doesn't just celebrate established films and shows, but is also a great place to find out about new ones. This year, quite a few screenings took place (another one I noticed was Aussie sci-fi film The Wheel).
Film screenings were held upstairs and the view from the walkway up there really captures the hive of stalls and activity that makes up Oz Comic-Con. Pictured here is Artist Alley, where independent artists sell their work.
Once the film ended, I headed to the cosplay competitions, where adults and children were competing (in separate categories) for prizes. I watched two back-to-back, which had Star Wars and Disney Villains themes. The Star Wars comp, in particular, was great to watch, even for someone who doesn't cosplay, as there was a variety of characters to see and cheer for; the first cosplayer to the stage was the Mandalorian, for example, from the new Disney series The Mandalorian (which hasn't come out yet), while the winner was a Darth Maul cosplayer.
While the Australian Championships of Cosplay would take place on Sunday, themed cosplay competitions (and meet-ups) were held across both days of the convention.
After the cosplay competitions I took advantage of the quieter crowds (I think people had drifted outside to eat from the food trucks and take a break) and explored the convention for a while, finding many things I hadn't known were taking place. In particular, I didn't realise how many stalls weren't selling things, but offered fun, free experiences. Nintendo had games for everyone to play (Just Dance seemed very popular), while Tik Tok had people engage in mock battles and Derwent had a drawing station for kids. Foxtel offered fun photo opportunities and Star Wars had probably the most eye-catching set up, with a large, life-size TIE Fighter ready for people to have a professional photo taken underneath it (a free experience, where the photo was emailed to you). Tamashii Nations also had an exhibition of their figurines.
One stall I really liked and hadn't originally noticed was a Marvel comic exhibition that was set up like a gallery. It featured large pieces created by Australian comic artists who have worked on Marvel comics, celebrating eras or characters they loved.
When creating this work, Patrick Brown was inspired by the 1940s and 1950s. He wanted to portray something, heroic, energetic and identifiable from afar, which these eras did well.
Areas I noticed but didn't explore too much (but others might be interested to know were here) include the Cosplay Central area, the ESL (eSports League Australia) series of events and the Gaming District (where you could try out games like Dungeons and Dragons).
Gaming was an area I didn't explore too much at Oz Comic-Con, but the event caters well to the people who love it.
I didn't make an effort to get anyone's autograph or photo this year, which is what I usually consider to be the main purpose of conventions (wrongfully, apparently), and it was interesting to see how easy it was to fill my day with other activities. I wonder how I would go if I wanted to add these sessions in, or attend more than one of the things I enjoyed, like the screenings (one reason I didn't watch The Wheel was because it ran for so long and I though I would miss out on too much).