Above: The New Zealand Comics booth, manned from the left by Aimee Cairns and Kelly & Darren Sheehan. photo by Karl Wills.
The Armageddon Expo returned to the Auckland ASB Showgrounds this year for another successful Labour Weekend celebration of all things pop culture related, with an estimated 45,000 punters through the door! The global credit crunch and recent tax increases clearly didn't stop fans from turning out in their droves to enjoy a weekend of sci-fi overload; with two Doctors Who in the house, a variety of web and comic guests, the voices of Goofy and Bender, and because no Expo would be complete without a pseudo-celebrity, that washed up kidult from Married With Children.
This year New Zealand Comics had it's strongest showing yet, with a large 'new and improved' NZ Comics booth, the Blastosaurus booth, Drake's Ninjet booth, Coal Powered Press, Drawfest and a variety of solo artist booths.
Above: The cover of Gridley Stones #1, by James & Aimee Cairns. Copyright James & Aimee Cairns 2010.
At the New Zealand Comics booth there was a wide variety of great books on sale for the weekend: including two new novellas from the Sheehan Bros, Into the Dark Woods and Frozen; part two of The Impostor by Lee Yan Marquez, Connie Radar PH D by Karl Wills, the latest issues of NZ comic anthologies Funtime #25 and Bristle #7, the debut issue of Gridley Stones by James & Aimee Cairns, and a great selection of back issue favourites.
Above: A signed sketch from Living with the Dead by artist Ben Stenbeck.
There were also some booth exclusives: the Dylan Horrocks and Emily Perkins collaboration, All Hail Elle: Destroyer of Worlds!, previously only available at the Orcon Great Blends event; and signed and sketched copies of Witchfinder and Living with the Dead by local superstar artist Ben Stenbeck.
Local comics guests appearing at the booth over the weekend included: the Sheehan Bros, Lee Yan Marquez, Karl Wills, James & Aimee Cairns, Isaac Freeman, Brent Willis, Marc Streeter and Jianran Pan.
Above: Funtime editor Isaac Freeman at the NZ Comics booth. Photo by Karl Wills.
Above from left: Richard Fairgray and Drake drop by with a note....Brent Willis hiding out on the right. Photo by Karl Wills.
Above: Richard Fairgray at the Blastosaurus booth. Photo by Karl Wills.
Meanwhile, over at the Blastosaurus booth Richard Fairgray had a large amount of new material on offer, which virtually sold-out after the first two days. This included a new Blastosaurus Halloween Special, a DVD collection of Chewing Zombies, new volumes of I Fight Crime, and Clip Show a collection of his earlier high school stories.
Above: Drake manning his Ninjet booth.
Drake did brisk business over the weekend at his Ninjet booth, with a new issue of his ninja-cat series to promote.
Above: The cover of White Cloud Worlds. Copyright Paul Tobin/Harpercollins 2010.
The Weta Workshop booth provided a hidden treat, with a Expo preview of the new fantasy art anthology collection White Cloud Worlds, featuring among others, fantasy and comic artists Ben Stenbeck and Greg Broadmore, edited by artist Paul Tobin. It will be available at all good booksellers from the 1st of November, and you can also check out the official website HERE.
It was a great convention for NZ Comics, with a noticeable increase in sales across the board. There was a competitive nature in the air after Day #1, which led me to proclaim the NZ Comics booth as the best in show on Facbook, which lead to an ominous note, left at the booth for me on Sunday morning:
Unfortunately I had the day off, so any retaliation, or a Star Trek inspired death duel would have to wait till Monday.
While attendance was healthy with punters ready to part with their cash, retailer and promotional spending appeared to be down, with less 'wow' factor than previous years. The usually elaborate video-game and console area seemed noticeably smaller, with fewer screens and less advertising. In general there seemed to be more blind-spots than usual inside the pavilions, as if the Expo was stretched thin to fill the entire complex to capacity. Unsurprisingly, major sponsor Warner Bros were a late no-show (possibly to avoid public backlash from the ongoing Hobbit controversy?), leaving a gap in pavilion #1 which was quickly filled by an extra artists alley. The presence of a fairly large NZ Army/Navy recruitment stand was a little alarming if you ask me, but I suppose it places them in slightly more interesting company than the usual career expos.
Another cause for concern was the amount of repetitive stores. There were at least six booths selling the same imported novelty T-shirts, caps and other nick-knacks. This lead to a repeated feeling of 'sameness' when walking through the Expo as a whole, making it feel more like Victoria Park Markets than a special event you payed $20 to attend. I think some decisive 'culling of the herd' next year could well improve the Expo's image and make way for some fresh stands and new exhibitors. One big improvement though, was the speedy entry point with multiple ticket booths, which prevented any timely delays, like last year's killer two hour entry line!
Overall, it was a pleasant weekend spend with friends: talking comics, tripping over R2-D2 and watching kids over-dose on mini donuts and candy-floss, while the monolithic Burning Man watched on.