The Auckland Armageddon Expo
It’s been a long weekend here in New Zealand and there have been some gorgeous sunny days, so I have spent most of the weekend going through boxes full of $1 comics in a huge shed in the shadow of One Tree Hill.
The night before the first day of the Armageddon Expo, I kept having nightmares about getting there too late or getting kicked out before I even got in, and I was getting genuinely pissed off. I needed new comic books. I needed ‘em bad. And I needed to get into the convention to get them.
Reading comics can be a pretty lonely hobby, so it wasn’t really surprising that I only went to my very first convention last year, at the age of 33. I had never been anywhere near a city that held some kind of comic or pop culture convention until then, but it was pretty much exactly what I expected.
It was noisy and crowded and a bit full on, but there were interesting stuff to look at, and some new toys I hadn’t seen before, and loads and loads of lovely comics. This year, Auckland Armageddon moved from the ridiculously unsuitable Aotea Centre in town to a actual events centre and the difference for this con newbie was huge. It was actually possible to make your way through the crowd without effort, there was a lot more room for the wrestling and video games and the comics weren’t shuffled off into the side of a corridor.
And that’s what I’m there for. It might be interesting to hear the Robot Chicken crew do a panel or see how blood splatter has advanced in the latest games, but with so few places around here where you can pick up back issues published longer than six months ago, the convention remains the single best place to find those comics.
The comics are only a small part of the New Zealand Armageddon, despite being a part of the show since it started in the 90s. There were more stalls selling Twilight merchandise than those selling comic books, but there were still half a dozen decent retailers offering all sorts of weird and interesting comics, and that's what I was there for.
So it was a weekend where I could fill in some more of that gaping hole in my Hitman collection, while also picking up the odd issue of Following Cerebus, Angry Youth Comix and Kamandi. I was able to find issues of Strangehaven, Promethea, Mark Waid’s Flash and Frank Miller’s Ronin that I’d been after for a while, while also trying new stuff like the first issue of Godland or a whole pile of The Exterminators. I could pick up books like the Amazing Joy Buzzards or one of Joe Matt’s collections for dirt cheap.
I didn’t keep my head buried in piles of Brigade and Elementals comics for the weekend, and also enjoyed talking to people about all sorts of comics. It still feels fucking weird to talk to people about the most esoteric comics around and have them actually understand what I’m on about, and it feels even fucking weirder when they know more about it than I do, but as somebody who has scared people off with the amount of comic knowledge in the head, it is bloody refreshing.
Whether it’s heading along to a fairly sparse panel and hearing Peter David talking about the exact point he gave up on the Marvel style of scripting, or talking to the boys at the Kiwi comix booth and buying a few of their noble efforts, it is something I’m really not used to, but I’m getting better.
And maybe that’s what going to a convention is all about. Getting out of the house and talking to people about the stuff we all love, those tiny little joys we share in our favourite comics and the different kicks we all get.
Nah, fuck that. I’m only there for the comics so I can take them home and roll around on them on the floor, soaking up their four-colour beauty. That’s me for the next week or so.
I can see why people can get sick of conventions. It’s easy enough to see how it can all be a bit rubbish for the seasoned convention attendee. I still enjoy them, because I’m a total newbie. I just hope I will always feel like that.