Okay so of course this is an absolutely ludicrous comparison which no journalist worth their salt should even attempt to make. Apples and Oranges. Dogs and Ponies. Capes VS DVD’s.
Hell, Even a blogger like myself would be expected to know better, as one convention is ostensibly a large mainstream pop culture event which casts a wide net across every fandom possible to attract a crowd, while the other is targeted specifically at one subset of pop-culture, albeit a growing and economically powerful one. It is also largely run and promoted by Australia’s largest chain of retail and online gaming stores.
Oz Comic Con is generally seen as providing the worlds largest circus tent for all the most popular, widely venerated and newest cultural icons to come together and be enjoyed by their respective fans.
EB Games Expo is unfortunately seen by some as a cynical marketing exercise. They claim that by charging exorbitant ticket prices (from $60 for one session to $750 for a VIP Gamer pass) so that gamers can come and watch preview footage of games already leaked on YouTube, buy merchandise they can already buy in store and play games that are either already in stores (or are going to be released imminently) that its all just a huge ‘con’ (no pun intended).
Well, I beg to differ, if you’ll allow, I’m going to run through a few things that both con’s share in common and why the new kid on the block maybe doing better than the old girl (OzComicCon) in various ways and that its far too easy to be cynical about the slightly higher entry fees.
Sure I should probably drag Supanova, PAX, Avcon, Armageddon, SMASH and any number of other conventions on the Australian circuit into the mix and eventually in another article that WILL happen.
For now though I’m going to keep it simple, and just between these two giants. This is partly for the sake of clarity and partly because they were the last two conventions I attended. Also they were the very last in 2015, at least in this tiny ‘one horse town’ of Sydney, Australia.
So let the games begin…
Location and Layout
This is an important and often overlooked category, the ease of getting to and from a venue is a huge multiplier when it comes to crowd numbers and repeat business.
Having tried to host events in a location that was a little out of the way myself I know how much of a factor little things like say, proximity to a major transport hub can be.
EB Games had a clear advantage here in using the established home of Supanova once again in 2015, it is literally one hundred metres from Olympic Park railway station, just a little further again from endless swathes of land dedicated to car parks, picnic areas and surrounded by cafes, popular fast food outlets and other amenities.
OCC while going all out in providing frequent shuttle buses and ferries to and from their venue in the wilderness of the port district of Nowheresville, Glebe Island really are up against it here.
Despite the prettiest harbour in the world being just metres away there really are no other redeeming features to speak of.
Independent and competitively priced food and beverage outlets? Nope.
Ample and competitively priced parking nearby? Sorry buddy.
Want plenty of green parkland to wander out into for a picnic or lazy at photoshoot? Look elsewhere please..
Okay so we know this wasn’t the organisers fault and contractual obligations to the old venue in Darling harbour have kept their hands tied until the new exhibition centre is built but this unfortunately doesnt change the fact that in terms of location EB Games expo has them beat hands down.
The only thing left to mention in this category is layout, again Comic Con is at a disadvantage with so much more to squeeze into one space with everything from childrens play areas to dozens of artists stalls, even more retail stalls, gaming areas, four different stages and even a very popular dance floor!
It did its best but couldn’t avoid the odd bottleneck during the busier times of the day, the ‘peak hour’ seemed even longer than Supanova with the narrower sections of the hall jam packed from at least 1130 am all the way out to nearly 3pm.
Being con veterans we knew to steer clear of the more popular area’s until later in the day but we did feel for some of the newer attendee’s and spotted the odd frustrated mother trying to keep all of her children in tow or wheelchair user battling their way through the crowds.
My heart goes out to the poor middle aged woman who tripped over me with her crutches when i stopped for a second to take a photo, her curses while voluminous and colourful were more than understandable.
EB Games in contrast barely suffered any congestion, the only time I saw a crush of people was immediately before or after a show like the cosplay comp when the entire theatre left at once or in the ‘ Video games Museum ‘ which was a little cramped considering the number of people enjoying the delights hidden therein.
Generally though the main halls were spacious, well thought out and a pleasure to wander. The only frustration I could imagine was if one had the patience to line up for a play on one of the many upcoming games. I heard talk of three hours for the latest iteration of Halo and similar wait times for a few of the other big games.
Here is a quick list of what was on offer..
Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Assassins Creed: Syndicate, Rainbow Six Siege, Guitar Hero Live, Just Cause 3, Battleborn, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Halo 5: Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Fallout 4 and Star Wars™ Battlefront™ which was named game of the show.
Then again people waited similar times at Comic Con to get photos and autographs with their favourite stars and everyone knew this going into it. As long as their portable gaming machine of choice and/or smart phone was fully charged, or they lined up with a friend then most people seemed content to wait their turn.
The other advantage EB has in keeping the crowds from getting too crazy is the lower turnout, 36,000 gamers turned up to worship at this altar to the gaming gods, while more than enough to put a smile on the organiser’s faces it is a drop in the bucket compared to the near 100,000 who walked through the doors of Oz Comic con over their three days.
So that’s that. Now lets assign some completely arbitrary scores to this ridiculous comparison..
Comic Con 3 out of 5 Capes
EB Games 5 out of 5 Capes
Quality and Quantity of Cosplay
Okay this is why you’re all here right? At least for a lot of us anyway, I know without the eye candy that is ‘cosplay’ my trips to events like ComicCon would be a lot less interesting.
A convention without it would be like a Toys ‘R’ Us without children or a beach without swimmers. Comic Con is going into this battle with a clear advantage due to its long held association with the community back in its homeland of the United States.
Its expansion overseas was both rapid and inevitable, that its popularity has spread to other events like the EB Games Expo should come as no surprise to anyone.
Still cosplay upstarts like EB have a long way to go before they can match the big hitters like Comic Con right?
What are a few the most obvious wins in the ‘Comic Con’ column?
Well, outright numbers for a start, nearly one hundred thousand visitors drove, bussed or ferried themselves out to Glebe Island over the weekend, whereas EB had closer to forty thousand.
Then we have the ‘quality’ of the cosplay on show, whether on the floor or the stage. This is harder to quantify as ones enjoyment of the costumes on show is a purely subjective thing and as always with any kind of ‘art’, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Still to our more and more discerning eye the higher stakes of the larger con meant that cosplayers were always going to push that little bit harder to try and take home one of the grand prizes.
To wit, this excerpt from the Comic Cons own press release:
“Having done her state proud, Major Sam (who politely declines to reveal her real name) will now take on the world, having qualified to represent Australia in the 2016 C2E2 Crown Championships of Cosplay to be held in Chicago.
Major Sam will be flown to Chicago in March 2016 with $1000 spending money, and automatic entry into the final round of the Crown Championships of Cosplay, competing against the best cosplayers in the world.
Her livery of choice took over 350 hours of work over the space of two months which included both a corset constructed from quilted gold satin and a brilliant red silk skirt which weighed in at 1.5 kilograms.”
While the EB entrants were fantastic in their own right, most notable among them the Bioshock ‘Big Daddy’ making another appearance after taking honours at Supanova in Sydney in July, none took home anything other than a really nice glass paperweight with their respective title inscribed on it and a $100 voucher for EB Games.
Compared to smaller local events that pop up here and there that’s still pretty impressive, but falls way short of the money being thrown around at Comic Con.
Not to mention they had Yaya Han as a guest judge! Eve Beauregard and Variable are big hitters in the scene both locally and internationally, and have huge social media followings but Yaya freaking Han!
She basically had her own TV show!
Okay so it was Reality TV, and its not exactly prime time stuff, but anyone serious about their cosplay should watch ‘Heroes of Cosplay‘. Sure the first season overplays the drama but it’s still a fascinating insight into the world of the veteran cosplayer who will stop at nothing to win.
That Yaya also had a booth in the ‘Cosplay Central’ section of the conm, and hung around all weekend to pose with fans and sell signed prints, is another big tick in the win column for the big boys.
So Comic Con definitely has the cache and the bankroll to attract the big names.
Thats not to say that EB let the team down completely. We personally preferred their ebullient host John Robertson who kept everyone entertained and somehow made yet another Deadpool, Black Widow or Altair cosplayer come to life.
His interrogation was always relevant, on point and conducted with as dry and quick a wit as any interview seen on late night chat shows like ‘Conan’ or ‘Jimmy Fallon’. Seriously someone out there give this man his own show!
(In fact he does have a rather popular YouTube channel, and staged a live version of one of his games later on in the day which had the audience in stitches).
It wasn’t all about a funny host though, the darkened venue and clever use of spot lights transformed the large hall into a very cool place to be. The music was done right, the timing and pace of the cosplayers entering and exiting the stage was perfect, overall it was a slick and well oiled machine and the team behind it should be congratulated.
In comparison, on the Saturday of the cosplay parade at Comic Con we had cosplayer after cosplayer strut their stuff proudly for all of the four seconds it took them to cross the stage.
It was only a handful who stopped long enough for any of the photographers to grab a decent shot and we had to wait for them all to pile back on stage following the awards for us to take a few of them again. All squeezed together like really attractive sardines in a can.
So in summary, while EB is up against it in getting a critical mass of cosplayers together under one roof they still managed to pull of a successful show and ComicCon could even learn a few things from the younger upstart!
Comic Con 4 Capes
EB Games 3 Capes (4 for their Floor Show)
Overall Entertainment Value
The final and most nebulous category of all!
Yes, ‘general’ entertainment value, what does that even mean? Well lets try and be serious about our fun here for a second.
We only get a finite amount of free time to spend with our family, friends or significant other these days, let alone disposable income to blow on posters, comics, videogames, foam swords, weekend passes and parking.
Some of us like to see a decent return on our investment, if the price gets too high and the lines get too long or the ‘shows’ get too boring we’ll just chuck it all in and go to the beach, or more realistically stay home and binge on the latest box set of our fandom of choice.
There are good reasons while otherwise sane people not only throw large sums of money at these events but spend the months building up to them in pent up states of excitement sharing with anyone who’ll listen how much their looking forward to the next one.
Cosplayers kick this up a gear, not simply content to wait on the sidelines they go out of their way to arrange social gatherings around the event, spend months and thousands of dollars on costumes.
They learn all sorts of skills from make up to seamstressing to justify spending even MORE money on said costumes. Their choice of a particular costume maybe as simple as their favourite game avatar or film/TV/Comic character or a friend maybe assembling a particular group, ie the Sailor Moon gang, The Suicide Squad et al.
For a lot of that last group of people as long as they get to hang out with their friends, get a couple of photo shoots done, all eat together at some point and garner a few more ‘likes’ on their respective facebook page their happy.
You could stage the con in a giant barn with nothing but a few ageing posters on the wall and some hay bales and they would swoon about what a great ‘location’ it is for a ‘shoot’.
I am one of those crazy people.
For most however a little more sizzle on top goes a long way.
- Gaming tables, both table top and LAN based.
- Wrestling shows using semi professional athletes, preferably with at least one retired American pro wrestler to give the older kids a brief surge of nostalgia. I digress a little here as neither con being reviewed had this little bonus, lets give Supanova at least ONE exclusive shall we?
- Cosplayers acrobatic enough and with decent enough costumes and skills to pull of a short stunt show filled with nail biting close calls and recognisable heroes and villians going at right there in front of us.
- All the best cosplayers crammed together on stage and forced to pose and sometimes even do clever little skits for our viewing pleasure.
- Celebrities from Z list to A list hitting the stage with a microphone ready to answer YOUR questions and spill the beans on their past adventures. Want to hear Richard Dean Anderson go into excruciating detail about his behind the scenes fart wars with his offsider Christopher Judge on the set of Stargate SG-1? Look no further than Comic Con!
- Fireworks and performers who wouldn’t look out of place in Circus De Soleil? EB Games has them in spades.. or rather on top of a giant spinning spade riding a unicycle and juggling flaming chainsaws. I’m not even kidding here.
- Thankfully both cons went out of their way to provide PLENTY of entertainment and those who paid careful attention to their respective free guides were amply rewarded.
While the method of delivery varied slightly with Comic Con concentrating more on the odd big name, a trivia game (both during and after the con) and craft centered panels.
EB Games instead went all out with the razzle-dazzle of things like the ‘Awesome Experience’ featuring the aforementioned acrobats wearing costumes familiar to anyone who has as much as a working television, sneak previews of games with the developers themselves on hosting duties, an interactive museum exhibition with videogames and other media all the way from the early eighties up to contemporary times and of course those damn fireworks!
The only real organised entertainment both events had in common were the cosplay competitions and the limited PC LAN gaming available at ComicCon.
We were worried that having one so soon after the other with EB Games literally one week after OCC would leave us a little jaded by the time it came around, that we would see all the same cosplayers and not have enough to keep us interested.
How wrong we were. Having only planned to attend EB on the Saturday, I was devastated when my work called on the Sunday and I had to miss the second and final day of the con. There was so much to see and do that one could easily spend the entire weekend doing it all and have still missed something amazing.
While EB’s ticket prices are a little higher than Oz Comic Con, and you need to leave the main arena for an hour of the day before a second ‘twilight’ session begins, I would still recommend going as all out as you can afford if you have more than a passing interest in cosplay, pop culture and especially gaming!
Oz Comic Con itself is a no brainer, with rising but still affordable ticket prices, transport options that overcome the slightly out of the way location and enough going on that, despite being there from open till close every day of the con it still didn’t seem like long enough.
I can’t wait until the Australian convention scene is big enough to support an event that lasts almost an entire week like the fabled San Diego Comic Con.
Will it happen in our lifetime dear readers? We can only hope, like a new season of Firefly, a black James Bond or a female Doctor Who not everyone is ready for it.
We’re always going to be able to pull off a two day extravaganza like Comic Con though and as long as they are hosting it we will be there covering it and we hope to see you there too!
Comic Con 5 Capes
EB Games 4 Capes
More epic photos over here