Oz Comic-Con – After the Event

Posted by David On July 4, 2012 2 COMMENTS

Hi Guys

As you all know, I was pretty damn excited for Oz Comic-Con Melbourne. The chance to meet Stan Lee and Patrick Stewart was unbelievably exciting. Especially Mr Stan Lee, a true living legend. And I did get to meet them! Mr Stewart clearly wanted to be somewhere else so that meeting didn’t go exactly as I thought it would, but Mr Lee was a delight. I was limited to only one signature (which I had done in my Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1), but I took a moment to show him a cheesy item I got from a visit to Dreamworld when I was in my early 20’s – a photo of my head, on a drawing of Spider-Man’s body, with a background made to look like a cover of a comic. Like I said, friggin cheesy as hell, but it’s a treasured item of mine and the look on Stan’s face when he saw it made all the years I have kept it worthwhile. He held it in his hands, looked up at me with a smile and said, ‘Gee, that’s great.’

I can now die happy. ­čÖé

There were other great moments. I got to meet Francis Manapul, who I interviewed the Thursday night before, and he was as friendly in real life as he was on the phone. I also visited honorary Crew Member Jason Frank’s table to say hi and met some interesting people while in lines and taking photos. And a huge thanks to everyone who came up and said hi!

But despite these cool things there were aspects of the event that I am forced to describe as disgraceful.

First, let me say that Blue Planet PR, the company behind promoting the event, did an amazing job. Their campaign to get the word out there and their handling of the online community was outstanding. On a personal note, they didn’t break any promises and gave me the opportunity to interview 3 terrific people. Unfortunately the same praise can’t be given to Hub Productions, the actual organisers of the show.

Much has already been said online about the situation at the show so I wont go into too many details here, but I do want to raise a few points.

Obviously I have never organised an event of this size, but I have been to quite a few Cons in my time and what I experienced at Oz Comic-Con almost forced me to re-evaluate whether I would be attending any Cons in the future. Hub Productions have since issued a weak apology in which they state that they were unprepared for the number of attendees but that simply is not true. I know that based on ticket pre-sales they were in fact expecting around 30,000 attendees. That’s only 10,000 less than the 40,000 they claim actually attended the event. They had 2 bays of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre for the general area (where the booths were) and what looked like another 1-2 bays for the stage areas. According to the Exhibition Centre website, 2 bays holds a maximum of 10,000 people. Only the hardcore fans come both days, so a fair estimate of a daily attendance based on their own figures would be around 15,000. So, if you KNOW you are going to have more than the amount of people allowed in the venue then surely you make the decision to hire out another bay and make a couple of slight adjustments to the layout. I understand that the maps would have already been printed out by then, but surely a slight modification to the floorplan would have been preferable to the deluge of negativity the event received? And then they wouldn’t have had to stop people from entering because of health and safety laws. And an extra bay would have opened this up a bit and given people somewhere to relax and/or eat before diving back into the chaos.

In any case the floorplan is my next point. At some bottlenecks I was unable to move due to the amount of people. My uncle and cousin drove for 2 hours to get there, was there for an hour and left because he couldn’t stand the crowd. there is no other word for it, it was bedlam. People have complained about the queuing system of lining up for tokens to then line up for an autograph or photo, but this is normal Con setup and I have no problem with it. But what I did have issue with was the layout of the queues. I’ll use Stan Lee as an example. Firstly, Mr Lee was in a booth. Not with the other guests in their special area, a friggin’ corner booth on the other side of the room. This man is 90 years old. He probably wont be back to Australia so this is a once in a lifetime chance for true comic fans to meet him. He was advertised as the headline drawcard but was relegated to a little booth. It was a disgrace. Not only that, but the area he was in left no room for the obviously huge lines he was going to have. To be fair an area was left clear for apparent use of a line but no one was organizing this space and it basically became a jumbled mess. Not to mention the fact that 3 other lines then formed down the corridors leading to his booth and soon enough it was chaos. I waited 2 and a half hours to meet him and I stupidly consider that a good result, because some people waited longer than that and didnt get to meet him at all. I was in line for Patrick Stewart for 90 mins, and Francis Manapul an hour. Because of this, I was unable to meet Armin Shimerman, Jason Momoa, and Sharon Taylor because I didnt want to miss out on Stan Lee, and that simply is not good enough. My only choice was to return the next day, but there was no way in hell I was going to face that mess again. All of the lines problems (and there were many more that I haven’t mentioned, like the terrible Platinum/VIP/General system that simply didn’t work) could have been avoided with a better floorplan.

And that brings me to my next point. The amount of time waiting in lines was the main problem but some of the other layout choices were completely baffling. I’ve already mentioned my disgust at the placement of Stan Lee, but I also have to mention the other comic talent and the Stage areas. If you are going to call your event Oz Comic-Con then surely your focus is going to be on comics. So why then place the comic talent in a booth facing a wall (that no-one is allowed to congregate around by the way) about 3 metres away from them? It is not only unbelievably rude but it also means that their fans cant even line up to meet them! People crowded around in front of the guest they wanted to meet and had to devise their own numbering system in order to keep things organised while the event staff sat on their arses and ate Pringles. If it wasn’t for the kindness of the fans there allowing me to jump ahead (because I didnt want to wait for a sketch and was only going to get an autograph), I would have probably given up on meeting Francis. Also, how about not putting the Info Booth directly in front of the only entrance. You want it to be close by sure, but not right in front. People are going to congregate in this area as they ask for maps, or check in their coat, or sign up for the cosplay competition. Congratulations you have just bottlenecked the entrance. Finally, almost as bad as those 2 examples was the Stage areas. I spent a bit of time walking around (when moving from queue to queue) and poked my head into any of the Q&A sessions that I could, and I never saw one more than half full. So essentially this huge area was going to waste, while people on the other side of these removable walls were crammed in like sardines. I have no doubt in my mind that some of the people attending these sessions didn’t give a crap who was talking and just wanted a chance to sit down.

There are many more examples, like the poor volunteers who had almost no training and had to put up with being abused by angry customers without complaint & total mismanagement of the premium tickets system, but I’ve already gone on too long. Just to re-iterate, this is all my opinion. I’ve never organised an event like this myself, and I’m sure if I did I would make mistakes. But I’m not a professional event organiser like Hub Productions claim to be and unfortunately there was no evidence of that at the first Melbourne Oz Comic-Con.

I’ll just finish up by saying this – as incredibly frustrating an experience last Saturday was, at least I got to meet the living legend Mr Stan Lee. Hub Productions made that happen and for that at least, they have my thanks.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Jason Teng says:

    Your summary echoes my thoughts almost exactly. Clearly the use of the name “Comic-Con” was to con people into thinking it had something to do with the San Diego event, even though I remember seeing somewhere on the website a disclaimer saying it had nothing to do with it.

    Of course, as you metioned, there are countless expressions of dissatisfaction on Oz Comic-Con’s Facebook page re tokens purchased but unable to be used due to the queues, and just plain poor organisation of the event.

    I’m sure this will leave others making seconds thoughts about attending next year’s event, as it has with me.

    The DragonCon website at http://www.thehubproductions.com/?page=Dragon-Con-Odyssey-The-Team describes Oz Cominc-Con’s organiser, Rand Ratinac as:
    “This comic, fantasy and gaming nerd is better known in comic circles as the creator and writer of the brilliant Small Gods, Helios and Emissary. Rand is an avid traveler within the USA and regular professional attendee at San Diego Comic-Con, as well as conventions throughout Australia and New Zealand.”

    If he truly was a professional, how could he get organisation of this event so very, VERY wrong?

    • David David says:

      Hi Jason, thanks for the comment!

      Actually all negative comments have been removed from the Facebook page, which is a shame because Hub Productions should accept that they made some mistakes, listen to the positive feedback, and then respond to it positively.

      The show wasn’t a complete disaster. They made some people very happy and they should be acknowledge for that but they shouldn’t try and sweep all negativity under the carpet because it simply wont work and makes them look look they just don’t give a shit.

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