3. What are some of the major fan convention, when did they begin and how do they differ from each other?
Fan conventions have offered fans from different fandoms to express their love for their interests. Over time, there has been a variety of different fan conventions which have developed into annual and prominent events in their own right such as the Armageddon Expo and the San Diego Comic-Con.
The Armageddon Expo has been holding events for the fans for (approximately) the last 23 years. According to Mountfort (2018), “it began as a comics and trading card event” in Auckland with follow-up events occurring in 1997 (pg 91). Due to its popularity and demand, the Expo spread to Wellington in 1998 and then in 1999 to Melbourne, Australia. Additionally, the event has been running as an almost yearly event ever since. With the events running more frequently, the size of the venues also expanded. The Expo started in small community centres and then with the increase of its popularity, eventually moved into larger convention centres. Meanwhile, with the growth of the Armageddon Expo from a small trading card event, it has evolved into a convention which celebrates fandoms from different genres, such as sci-fi and comics, with the various events they hold during the Expo weekends. This is evident by the planned cosplay contests, tournaments and celebrity guest panels which allows fans to meet, get an autograph and attend photo sessions with their idols, just to name a few ways the event attracts people to attend it. So, without a doubt, the Armageddon Expo is a major fan convention in Australasia.
The San Diego Comic-Con in the USA is another extremely popular fan convention which started in the 1970s. Comic-Con was the result of a meeting between acquaintances in 1969 who were interested in comics and cosplay and the fandom culture. According to an article by the Chafin for the Rolling Stone (2017), the creation of the event was inspired because they “were all outsiders who worked together to make a place where outsiders could feel at home”. So, evidently, the purpose of Comic-Con was so there could be a safe place for fans to express their interests without being isolated. In fact, similar to the Armageddon Expo, Comic-Con also provides fans with numerous opportunities to meet their heroes, get their autographs, buy merchandise, and of course, to cosplay without harsh judgment. Over time, as this event managed to grow and develop into one of the biggest fan conventions in the world, and over time, also achieved their goal of mainstreaming and normalising such behaviour and events.
While the San Diego Comic-Con and the Armageddon Expo are both major fan conventions and are similar in many ways, there are also quite a few differences between the two events. One of the major differences would relate to the commercialisations Comic-Con utilises to their benefit, while the Armageddon Expo does not do so explicitly. While earning money from events like this is not unusual in the USA (Coachella does this very similarly), it has been raised as an issue for a lot of people. For example, the prices of the tickets to enter the convention centre have increased and “comics publisher Mile High announced they would no longer attend… due to the rise in the cost of a booth… from $40 in 1973… to $18,000.” However, regardless of this commercialisation, Comic-Con fans have a lot of loyal fans willing to go no matter what. Comic-Con provides rare opportunities for fans to get “sneak previews of highly anticipated new movies and encounter the likes of Gal Gadot, Chadwich Boseman and Tom Holland in the flesh.” (Sommerlad, 2018, for the Independent (UK)). Movie companies and TV channels and streaming services etc. also hold back their special announcements for plans, solely so they can announce it at Comic-Con – such as how HBO would previously promote Game of Thrones. That experience and prestige created by Comic-Con outweighs the monetary aspects of the industry and thus, continues to succeed and attract more attendees.
Chafin, C. (2017, July 19). San Diego Comic-Con: The Untold History. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/san-diego-comic-con-the-untold-history-194401/
Mountfort, P., Peirson-Smith, A., & Geczy, A. (2018). Planet Cosplay: Costume Play, Identity and Global Fandom. Chicago University Press.
Sommerlad, J. (2018, July 18). Comic-Con 2018: How the San Diego pop culture festival became a commercial juggernaut. Independent (UK). Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/comic-con-2018-san-diego-popularity-cosplay-cult-superhero-movies-marvel-history-a8452236.html