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Supanova Sydney

Thursday, 21 June, 2012

I'll get to part 3 of my series on self-publishing soon. But first, I wanted to write about Supanova Sydney while it was still fresh. Err … I didn't flag on this blog that I'd be going to Supanova Sydney last weekend, did I. My bad. Anyway! I went to Supanova Sydney last weekend. Compared to Melbourne, everything was a billion times easier: obviously I didn't have to pack luggage, worry about luggage weights, work out transport or book accommodation. But of course there were still things I had to do in the lead-up to the event—things like:

Anyway, the show went something like this:

Friday 15th June

I was really excited that David Mack was coming and was keen to attend his masterclass on the Friday night. (David Mack is an artist and writer who is best known for his work on Kabuki and Daredevil—among other things. I first discovered him when I saw an issue of Kabuki: The Alchemy at Kings Comics, which I bought based on the art alone. I had no idea what was going on as I had come in only part-way through the series, but the art just blew my mind. When I left my job at Matthias Media, they gave me a voucher for Kinokuniya as a farewell present, and I promptly spent it on the entire Kabuki series. Unfortunately I didn't get around to reading it [because new parenthood and baby were so all-consuming]. But when I found out David Mack was coming, I swore I'd read all the books before he arrived. And I almost managed to do it—all but the final volume, which I started on the day Supanova Sydney began but still have not finished. Right, better get out of these parentheses …) Table registration for Artists Alley includes three exhibitor badges that allow you to attend Friday night events. (Usually with Supanova, you cannot attend Friday night events on day passes.) Given I was going to attend David Mack's masterclass, I thought I would also go in and set up on the Friday night instead of doing it on the Saturday.

Friday was an incredibly busy day. I made most of a pasta salad in the morning. (That was for lunch on the weekend.) Then Kel came over with her two kids (which made things a bit easier as I had originally been planning to go to her house, but she had to drop off Dave anyway so was sort of in the area). They stayed until Astrid went down for her day sleep. Then I packed things, made lists and did other organising until she woke up—which was later than I expected. I got her up and dressed and in the car, and we drove to my mum's. But there had been an accident on the Gore Hill freeway, so traffic was gridlock and it took longer to get there than usual. I dropped Astrid off (Ben would pick her up after work), then turned around and headed back. But I needed to get food for the weekend, so stopped by a shopping centre to get groceries. I raced home, dropped off the groceries, picked up the other stuff I needed for our table at Supanova, then headed out to Sydney Olympic Park.

It was raining and there had been a breakdown on Parramatta Road, which shut down one lane. Also, the M4 was gridlock. So it took much longer to get out there than expected. I knew I had time though. I made it there by 6:15pm, headed over and meet a guy I sort of know through the Sydney Comics Guild just outside. We had to don safety vests to go into the hall, which is fair enough as the major exhibitors were setting up, so there were boxes and packing materials everywhere. We soon found the table where they were distributing the exhibitor badges, as well as the place where the Kinds of Blue table was going to be in Artists Alley. Supanova had very kindly provided us with a proper sign this time! I set up while chatting to Dave (and I think I was a bit incoherent because I was also distracted, thinking about what I needed to do). Fortunately it didn't take long.

We located the room where the masterclass was going to be held. But I still needed to claim parking passes. So because there was still time, Dave went with me to find the Sydney Olympic Park reception desk. It was shut, but security let us in. The woman behind the counter couldn't find our parking passes though. She also said that reception would be shut all weekend. I thought that was a really stupid system as surely not all exhibitors could be there within office hours on Friday to pick up passes. Fortunately before I could get irate about the situation and the woman's refusal to do anything to help me (after all, I had clearly paid for the passes and had the receipt and email to prove it), some other people from security came by. One of them had the key to reception, and went and got the parking passes for us.

We headed back to the seminar room to wait for David Mack. The ushers told us to sit near the front, so Dave led me to the front row. I didn't mind, but it was a bit weird as the table where David Mack would be sitting was basically within an arms length of where I was sitting. We were soon joined by another member of the Sydney Comics Guild named Yonas.

It got to 7:30pm and David Mack still wasn't there. The folk behind us (who turned out to be some of people involved in the Beginnings anthology who had come up from Canberra) noticed that the official Supanova Twitter feed had posted a picture of David Mack at the opening ceremony, so wondered whether we were in the wrong room. We weren't though; soon someone came to tell us that David was on his way; he was just getting a coffee. And soon enough, he was with us.

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He had brought some of his books—art books and beautiful hardcover copies of Kabuki: The Alchemy—as well as a portfolio of prints and a box full of his original artwork. He invited us to come up and flip through them, so I took him at his word and started going through the original art page by page while he was speaking. It was absolutely amazing: I had just finished reading Kabuki: Scarab that afternoon (which I totally loved); that evening, I held its original art pages in my hands. And they were stunning.

David Mack very kindly answered all our questions. There were only 20 or so of us in the room, so everyone who wanted to ask something pretty much got to. I don't remember everything David said, but I did take the following notes:

I think everyone in the audience was sad when the seminar had to end because there was a car waiting for David to take him to his hotel. He told us he would be at the Kings Comics booth and to come visit to get things signed, or to buy art or prints.

We headed out and got to say hi to the Beginnings anthology people. Dave went off with them and I dropped Yonas home. (We swapped stories about what it's like to study Fine Arts and Creative Writing at Uni.) Then when I got home, Ben and Leigh were trying to watch Alien (but were having trouble downloading it through Apple TV). I ate dinner (and realised I hadn't eaten anything since lunchtime), did more food prep and finalised the packing list for Saturday, had a shower (so I wouldn't have to in the morning), then went to bed.

Saturday 16th June

I woke at 7am, had breakfast, finished packing, got in costume, accidentally woke up Leigh (who had stayed over on our couch and freaked out slightly when he saw this blue-haired person), packed the car and went to pick up Guan from his house. It was raining but the traffic was pretty good, so we made it out to Sydney Olympic Park in good time. Walking over from the parking station to The Dome in the rain wasn't too bad: I had a spare umbrella, and Guan took the food bag while I had the wheelie suitcase with all the books in it.

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We were in Artists Alley by 9 am or so, which gave us time to get settled and say hi to the Sydney Comics Guild folk who were in the table next to us. (I asked to be placed near them because I knew Jemima would be helping out on the table and also because I wanted to hang out with those people all day as I rarely get to meetings.)

Here's Jemima with her Guimelpod badges. (Jemima was the artist on “A friend in need”.)

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Here's Alex and Hilary from the Sydney Comics Guild:

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We also met our neighbour on our other side (Paul Abtruse).

Guan went to have a wander around (it was really the best time to do that as once the show opened, it was hard to get around) while I caught up on social media and messaged Bec to find out where she was. When Bec arrived, I went out to meet her. She looked fantastic in her cat ears and dress!

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Here's all of us behind the table:

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Once the show opened, it was crazy: there were people going by all the time. (Some of them even knew who I was dressed as and asked to get a photo, which tickled me pink!) The aisles weren't as wide as at Melbourne Supanova, which meant that more people were forced to slow down and look at things because it was just so difficult to get through. (So I think we handed out more postcards than we did in Melbourne.) However, Artists Alley was bigger: it was probably close to double the size of Melbourne!

Given the crowds (and our aversion to them), it was really nice to have a sort of oasis from it all behind the table. And I loved the parade of sights going passed. I captured some of it on my phone:

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I didn't wander that much because the crowds were pretty much constant all day and it was hard to get around (which meant that I would have been away from the table for too long). (Apparently Saturday had the biggest attendance of any day in Supanova history!) I also didn't attend any seminars because I wanted Guan to go to things as it was his first ever Supanova. (Bec said there wasn't anything she was keen to see.) But I did take a quick walk around somewhere part-way through the day. I saw the beautiful steampunk jewellery:

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and these gorgeous parasols that I resisted buying:

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I also saw the Kapow! hosts Sonya and Al at their booth. (To refresh you, Kapow! is an Australian comic book review show. They interviewed me for Episode 7.)

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Ray (the third host) had stopped by our table earlier in the day before the con opened, which was lovely as I hadn't met him properly at the filming. Sonya and Al both remembered me—even with my blue wig—and we all got a photo together, sitting on the giant LoveSac:

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(You can see my Coraline freckles more clearly in that shot. They're applied with permanent marker!)

And of course I also went to visit David Mack at his booth to get some books signed and to purchase a couple of his prints. (I was seriously tempted to get a commission too, but then kept repeating to myself, “You need to fix your car. You need to fix your car.” [My car was visiting the smash repairers the following day.])

The crowds also made me glad that I had organised food for us, which we ate in shifts behind the table. However, something that was really lovely was the expo organisers very kindly organised runners who came up to the table and offered to get food for all of us in Artists Alley. That made us feel well looked after! We didn't need is because there were three of us, but I'm sure it must have been a welcome help to those looking after tables on their own, or those who were too busy to get away.

By the end of the day, we'd sold a whopping 15 copies of Kinds of Blue! That was better than Melbourne Supanova's first day. (We did a little happy dance behind the table every time we sold one.) I sent Bec home early as she was clearly failing and not coping with everything. Then Guan and I handled the last hour by ourselves (me dashing off to the bathroom to change for the wedding part-way through. Then I discovered that my wig cap had given me a really awful red scratch on my forehead. Fortunately it wasn't visible). When the con closed, we packed up and headed back to the car.

I dropped Guan at his house, then went on to the wedding, which was in the city. Fortunately I arrived just in time for the ceremony. And it was a lovely evening, even though I was so tired and people-d out; it was seriously the coolest wedding I've ever been to (with Siamese Fighting Fish in glass jars, arcade games and a photobooth complete with a suitcase full of dress-up accessories). It was also nice catching up with friends.

But weddings being what they are, we didn't get home until midnight (bringing Leigh with us as he was going to stay over again). And then I still had to pack for the next day, so I don't think I got to bed until 1 am.

Sunday 17th June

I was up at 7:30 am or so—showered, dressed and out the door by 8:30 am. Jess G had been happy to catch public transport and meet us there, but then I realised that there was trackwork on the line, which meant her journey would take forever. (I later learned that she was also still sick, so I'm glad she didn't have to sit on trains and wait for buses for hours.) So I got in touch and offered to pick her up from Newtown. I felt like I was running late when I finally got my act together and left, but then found that we were making good time after I picked her up from Moore College and headed out on the M4. It also helped it was a spectacular day—one of those gorgeously sunny winter days when Sydney puts on a good show.

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We met George just outside The Dome and she was all in green as Princess Fiona from Shrek! She looked amazing. Here's us at the table:

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Here's Alex and Amy from the Sydney Comics Guild:

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Love the parasol!

I took a walk before the con opened to just look around since I hadn't had a chance to before. This is what the crowd looked like before they were let inside:

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Once they were inside, this is what the floor looked like:

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(In comparison to the Melbourne Showgrounds, it was really nice being The Dome—not so glarey, plus the high ceiling made it feel a little less claustrophobic, in my opinion.)

Sunday was pretty busy too, though not as busy as Saturday. (Apparently Sunday was the busiest Supanova Sunday ever.) We drew a lot of attention because of George's costume, and quite a number of people asked to have a photo with her, which I thought was really awesome.

Again, I snapped random pictures of cosplayers:

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(The alien is taking off its head!!!)

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Both George and Jess were quite happy to stay behind the table (though I did insist on Jess going to the Christopher Paolini seminar). Supanova isn't really their scene, so I was really grateful that they came and helped me for the day. It also meant that they were fine with me going off to a few seminars during the afternoon. I went to the “Manga and Graphic Novels with VIZ Media, Madman and Gestalt” panel, which had Queenie Chan and three writers who had done work for Gestalt Comics: Christian Read, Andrew Constant and Tom Taylor (whose book The Deep: Here Be Dragons won an Aurealis Award this year). I thought it was an interesting panel because there were so many writers on it. They did say some interesting things, but I felt that they didn't quite answer my question (which was about how to get longer comics published when you've already cut your teeth on shorter stuff).

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Later, I went to find them to see if Tom Taylor would sign my book. But they had moved from where they were. (They were around the corner from us in Artists Alley, but then Jennifer Hale's signing line meant that she got moved to that location and the Gestalt guys were moved somewhere else, and no one knew where they were. Fortunately one of the guys at Madman [who had MC-ed the panel] was able to point me in the right direction.) Tom wasn't there, but Andrew was. He was very tired, but he signed a copy of his book for me, which I bought, and he also very kindly gave me his card and told me to send me his script when I mentioned what I was working on.

Strangely enough, just outside their booth I met Emmet O'Cuana, who runs The Momus Report. He had heard of Kinds of Blue through the lovely Tim McEwan (who is one of Supanova's founders as well as their Art Director, plus he's one of the creators of Greener Pastures, a comic about a stud bull). He gave me his card and told me to get in touch about a review or interview.

I also went back to find David Mack and get yet another book signed plus a few more Kabuki prints (because Guan wanted one and hadn't been able to see him the day before). And of course, later in the day, I also went to David Mack's seminar. (Funny enough, I ran into a girl I'd met at the Comics Masterclass last year and we got chatting, which was really nice as I'm sure I've seen her at things before but I don't think I've ever talked to her.)

I didn't take as detailed notes this time (and also some of the stuff David talked about wasn't as interesting to me as I don't read Daredevil). But here are a few things that I remember from the seminar—mostly because they were answers to a double-barrelled question I asked him—firstly, that his working regime seemed really impressive and self-disciplined, but when on earth did he find time to do things like grocery shop or clean the house?—and secondly, what advice would he give to would-be creators wanting to make comics?

George left at around 5:15 pm to go to church (in full Princess Fiona makeup as there was no time to shower beforehand! Brave woman smile. Jess and I hung around until closing, but sales were almost non-existent. We only sold seven copies on that seventh day, which was a bit disappointing as a few people said they would come back and they didn't (or weren't able to for whatever reason). But I realised later that the difference between Melbourne and Sydney sales wasn't as big as I had thought previously. And it was hard to compete with everything else going on: Sydney Supanova had the largest Artists Alley in Supanova's history, so even though attendance was at its highest (28,400 attendees), there was more trying to grab everyone's attention.

The highlight for me was people openly and very generously sharing their stories with us about their encounters with the black dog. Although it's sad that depression touches so many people, it's nice that now there's a bit more of a culture of openness—that mental health doesn't carry the stigma that it used to. Several people told us they thought the project was terrific, and many promised to check us out online. So even though we didn't sell a lot of physical copies of the book, we raised awareness about Kinds of Blue and depression issues, and that's the important part.

Pack-up following the con's close was really quick. Jess and I were back at the car and on the road within 15-20 minutes—even accounting for taking Jemima's stuff with us. It was pretty quick getting to where Jess lived (I dropped her home), and she ran inside and lent me some Austen DVDs that I look forward to watching sometime when I can finally stop and relax. Then I drove home, ate leftover bread rolls, chicken and pasta salad and pretty much collapsed. It's probably a good thing too as Monday was (believe or not) even crazier—but that was all family/domestic stuff, not Supanova stuff …

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