The Great Oz Comic-Con

"Comic-Con comes to South Australia in 2012" read the headline, as part of an "internationally recognised comic-book convention" continued the article. Fans, media outlet: everyone was excited. Even Gail Gago, the Tourism Minister for South Australia let her enthusiasm get the better of her: "[t]he San Diego convention started with 300 people in 1970 and last year attendance exceeded 130,000," she said, fully believing that this Oz Comic-Con was affiliated with the globally renowned Comic-Con International. But it's not. Not even close. We decided to investigate: was this a genuine misunderstanding, or a great Oz comic con?

"I'm 13 years old. I have been asking my parents to go to Comic-Con in San Diego for over a year. I found out in the papers today that Comic-Con was coming to Adelaide, and I stood up and screamed. I'm sure a lot of other fans that have been wanting to go to Comic-Con got the same reaction — I'm going as Green Lantern and I know that I'll be spending quite a few bucks. This will be the biggest event in SA history. Well, that's what I think."

Thirteen-year-old Jack Bloomfield is excited. As far as he knows, Comic-Con International is reaching across the Pacific to Adelaide, providing him with an event he has waited a short lifetime for. A dream come true, Jack Bloomfield is excited, and he’s far from the only one.

If you happened to stumble across this article in Adelaide Now, you might have gotten the impression that Jack's dream did actually come true; that Comic-Con International, the globally renowned company, was bringing the Comic-Con brand to Australia.

But that is not the case. Comic-Con is not coming to Australia. And some people are a little angry at the confusion.

The Main Event

The event is Oz Comic-Con — a completely different event to the US show, put together by a completely different company, yet using the same brand as the 15-year-old San Diego event.

Immediately after our initial report on Oz Comic-Con we received a number of comments — emails, phone calls, messages — none of them were complimentary.

“This is purely two Australian businesses trying to use the Comic-Con brand, without permission, mind you, to raise awareness of their event,” read one comment.

The drama centred around a single woman: Carissa Avenhouse of Hub Productions — the company behind Oz Comic-Con, a woman who has been extensively involved in the local Popular Culture Expo scene for the last decade.

The 'Comic' Con

“I've been seeing this stuff coming and it's... well I'm biased, but I've certainly seen the press release which is blatantly trading on Comic-Con and its reputation.”

Bill Geradts is the creator of Armageddon and has been running events since 1995. He has worked with Carissa Avenhouse and Hub Productions before. In his own words, he was “glad to see the back of them”. He doesn’t understand why Hub’s event even uses the words Comic-Con to begin with.

“The people who are running this Oz Comic-Con are not connected with Comic-Con international in any way,” says Bill, “they are not even running a Comic-Convention. They are running an event. It's not a Comic Con regardless of what they call it. If it's a comic convention, it would just be comics and stuff. Fair enough San Diego Comic-Con and others have evolved — but they have their roots in proper comic conventions.

“They have been involved with Supanova, with Gen Con, with Armageddon. Not one of those people running those events is working with them in any capacity now.”

The Active Hub

The Oz Comic-Con reveal caused a stir in the tight knit Pop Culture Expo scene when it was announced. When we decided to investigate, there was no shortage of people willing to share their distaste for the event and the way it was broadcast across Australia. Very few, however, wanted to go on record, and those that did wished to remain anonymous. Bill Geradts was one of the few willing to talk openly about his previous relationship with Carissa and Hub Productions. Their business relationship did not end on good terms.

“I've dealt with them, put up with them, and got nothing but grief in return,” he claims.

“We did Adelaide and Sydney — Armageddon was getting a bit of grief for not doing these cities. Financially it was a problem for us, and there were many reasons why we didn’t want to go there again in 2012. There's no point in going public as to the reasons beyond behind-the-scenes stuff.

“However it certainly didn't help when we started looking into doing a show in Adelaide and, as soon as Hub heard we were looking into doing the show, they promptly sent out a press release saying they were doing Adelaide in April. They even handed out flyers at our shows. So there was no way we could run a show in Adelaide ourselves. How could we possibly do a show two weeks after theirs?

“It pretty much killed any hopes of us doing another show there. Their first act was to sabotage another event coming to Adelaide.”

History Aside

For those involved in the local convention scene, the major problem — history aside — was Hub Production’s use of the words ‘Oz Comic-Con’ despite the fact Comic-Con International has officially denied any affiliation. It was use of those words that led press outlets to cover the show’s announcement, and many in the community resented that.

“They're clearly and obviously leveraging off the Comic-Con brand despite no affiliation to any of the North American events that use the name,” claimed one high ranking expo organiser.

Another organiser, Rob Brown, from Culture Shock Events, doesn’t necessarily blame Hub Productions for the confusion, but admits that Oz Comic-Con has benefited from the confusion.

“Hub never really stated that they were affiliated with Comic-Con International,” he said. “But the use of the words 'Comic-Con’ has confused a lot of people — that's why I came home to a barrage of calls and emails. But Hub is just running their own show that's similar to Armageddon and similar to Supanova and all the other expos that run in Australia. It's no different to any of them.

“If people automatically associate Oz Comic-Con with the US Comic-Con, then that's obviously from the press release. As for Carissa's intentions, I don't speak to her, so I've got no idea.”

Bill Geradts is far less forgiving.

“Should it be called Comic-Con? No,” he says. “It's not a Comic-Con and it pisses in the face of the two established events that are in Australia.

“I have no problem with her wanting to do a show. Fine. But call it something that you own! The amount of press they've gotten based on that name... and they've gone, ‘oh no, we're not saying we're Comic-Con’, but in practically everything they've been doing they're saying it's Comic-Con.

“It's like pointing at someone, accusing him of murder and then saying, ‘oh we weren't accusing you of murder. But if you want to take that implication because I was pointing at him and screaming 'murder'...’”

On the Defensive

“Do you realise that the Comic-Con name is used by 37 companies over the world to describe an event which is a comic convention?”

Carissa Avenhouse is defending her use of the Comic-Con name. She believes her use of the brand is no different from the way in which multiple other events use the Comic-Con brand.

“We use the name because it immediately advises people what the event is about. It’s not meant to infer that we have any connection to New York Comic-Con or London Comic-Con, or any other Comic-Con. The press release sent by our PR team also does not mention anything like that at all.”

She says any inference that Oz Comic-Con is affiliated with Comic-Con International is purely the fault of those misreading the press release.

Having looked at the document, it’s a fine line.

“Adelaide has been chosen to host the Down Under debut of Oz Comic-Con in 2012,” reads the press release.

“In the spirit of Comic-Con events throughout the world, globally recognised as entertainment industry powerhouses, Oz Comic-Con will be a pop culture expo like no other.”

The press release clearly doesn’t directly affiliate Oz Comic-Con with Comic-Con International, but it hardly dissociates itself either.

“That press release was sent out to the Adelaide tourism board, and it has been forwarded on from there,” claimed Carissa. “People have taken their own understanding from that. It’s out of our hands. They didn’t even contact us directly. The press release went to the tourism board and they moved on from there.

“We’ve never claimed that [we were affiliated with Comic-Con International]. No one in our office has ever claimed that. Our PR team has not claimed that. If people interpret it that way they are mistaken. If you look at our Facebook we have responded to comments confirming that we are not affiliated with Comic-Con, with San Diego or New York or London. We’re not associated with any of these organisations. But that is the name of the event because that is the kind of event that it is.”

Some Shape or Form

Others have raised concerns the event may not go ahead, pointing to a Twilight Expo that was cancelled weeks before the event due to low ticket sales and lack of star attendees. Instead of providing refunds, Hub Productions informed those with tickets that they had to transfer their ticket to another Hub event. For those with interest only in Twilight, this was hardly a fair solution, particularly so close to the date of the event.

“[Hub Production] do put on good events,” said one source, “but at the same time they have cancelled a lot of events due to lack of sales. Obviously, at this level of operation, cancelling an event takes on a whole new meaning. The show must go on regardless of whether guests cancel or sales are sluggish.”

Bill Geradts believes the show will go ahead, but wonders if the event is shaping up in the lead-up to such a huge convention.

“I'm doing shows in New Zealand — the Wellington and Hamilton shows — two weeks after she's doing her shows. We're 80 per cent full, we've been selling the show for two months. We've got all our details up. You go to the Oz Comic-Con site and, as far as I can tell, they haven't booked any exhibitors, they haven't sent out exhibitor packs, they don't have sponsors, they haven't confirmed their venue for Melbourne, but they've got dates up.

“They haven't done anything they need to do to run a show. And they're out there saying how awesome they are.

“I've dealt with Hub Production, and I don't like them, but I'm willing to admit I'm biased. My hope is that they will run the show well. Don't get me wrong — I hope, for the sake of the fans that this event is run smoothly, but my expectation is quite the reverse.”

Rob Brown, of Culture Shock Events, is the first to admit that his previous dealings with Carissa Avenhouse Productions ended badly, but still thinks that Oz Comic-Con will run in some shape or form.

“Our dealings didn't end on the best of terms, that may or may not be headed towards legal action,” said Rob. “Would I do business with her again? No.”

“Running these events is an extremely difficult thing to do; financially it's a huge undertaking. Adelaide is a difficult market in that it has a relatively small population compared to the eastern states. I know the event they're planning to run there is similar in size to the one Armageddon ran before, and I know that financially we had a tough time of it.

"I think it will go ahead. If anything Carissa will do everything in her power to make sure she doesn't look stupid. She's a smart girl. Just because we don't get on in terms of business relationships it doesn't mean she isn't capable of putting the show on. She's knows how these things work. It didn't work with her on Armageddon, it didn't work with her at Supanova, but she has seen how these things are put together.”

Enough Time

We asked Carissa: Will Oz Comic-Con run as scheduled? Does she have enough time to put it all together?

"I’ve organised events within three weeks," claimed Carissa. "I’ve been doing this for a very long time. The Adelaide one is booked in, everything is done. The packs will be sent out in the first week of the new year, so it will absolutely be an amazing event. We’ve been working on this event longer than anyone else has before they announced them. I’ve been doing this for a long time — we know what we’re doing.

"It’s not going to get cancelled," she continued. "Everyone that we’ve announced has signed contracts. We would not announce a guest unless we have a contract."

Carissa expressed disappointment that more people within the community haven't been supportive of her efforts.

"It’s very difficult when you aren’t trying to do anything except provide fans with something they like and you’re being attacked by people who are bitter and unhappy because they had the opportunity to work with us and chose not to," she said.

Bill Geradts has a different view.

"Frankly there is already Armageddon in Australia, there is already Supanova in Australia," said Bill. "There is already this kind of event in Australia. This is not anything new. This is not a revolutionary new event. This is the same old thing from people who think they know better than everybody else."

Ian Houlihan is the ex-director of Gen Con — his company went under, partly as a result of issues between partners in the Pop Culture Expo business. He doesn't understand why there can't be more co-operation between bodies.

"In the last 10 years, almost every major city in Australia has had some type of expo or convention from anime to gaming, from comics to Gothic Horror, and everything in between," he said. "What a lot of people don't realise is that there is a certain amount of antipathy that many of the convention organisers have towards each other."

"These conflicts historically have eroded many of the good events causing them to disappear, and in some cases prevented new ones from ever seeing the light of day. As a convention organiser in the past, I have certainly seen this first hand.

"All conventions should be benefiting from each other, not going out of their way to eliminate the competition in any way possible."


Comments

    Man, I've been to a number of Supanova and Armageddon events, Oz Comic-Con is nothing but an attempt to copy them using the name Comic-Con to bring in the numbers.

    Surely “Adelaide has been chosen to host the Down Under debut of Oz Comic-Con in 2012” is intentionally misleading.

      I mean, it's technically true. They have picked Adelaide, it is the Down Under (and world-wide) debut of something called Oz Comic-Con. It's just that without knowing the event, it's hugely easy to skip the "Oz" in the sentence and construe it as "hey, that big con you wish you could go to is coming to Adelaide!"

    I've been going to Supanova's for 11 years now (technically 10 years and a ComicFest, but who's counting) and every year they do a fantastic job. Went to Armageddon last year and enjoyed it as well, although I'm disappointed they're not continuing their Sydney events for now.

    In America, there are a lot of events called Something Comic-Con, sure. That's true. But that press release is, if not intentionally misleading, then at the very least very poorly written, and every report I saw on it clearly misunderstood it as being an arm of the big San Diego thing. Even if it was meant with no malice, they should have stood up sooner and said "no, that's not us, we're just another convention."

    I read the whole thing and being someone who knows some of the people involved in putting together Oz Comic-Con but not the whole story of what has been/is going on I will only say that the comments at the end from Ian Houlihan are the most honest of the whole article. The organisers all pretty much dislike each other intensely and will say whatever they can to try and discredit the others.

    I don't really like that they're using "comic-con" as part of their name and think it's only caused them trouble, but the Hub people who are organising it have a great relationship with the celebrities they bring out, the best of any convention people in Australia, so that's obviously at least one thing greatly in their favour.

    Considering she's using the name AND the font with just a recolouring of the letters it's pretty shady.

    And when she says, "I've organised events in three weeks", that doesn't fill me with confidence, was that the Twilight event that got canned by any chance?

      Maybe I'm pedantic, but having "Oz" instead of "Aus" also seems aimed to look like Americans named it.

      Sounds like Samsung lol.

    Something else to see in Adelaide is always fun :)

    “Do you realise that the Comic-Con name is used by 37 companies over the world to describe an event which is a comic convention?

    Yes comic conventions do use the term "Comic-Con" because they are comic conventions. This is not. This is, according to their site, "the ultimate pop-culture and fan expo".

    And looking at the lineup, there really isn't much going for it especially the Adelaide show.

      I agree with the comic idea, and it being a pop culture event, rather than comics, but the line-up, even if very small, is pretty good, the Adelaide one has goofy and riker from star trek next gen, and Melbourne has Stan lee, Tia Carrera, Patrick Stewart, to name a few.
      Although small in the amount of stars, the one's they've got will definitely attract a very dedicated audience. (Although Melbourne line-up is definitely better than Adelaide)

    Negativity is sad. I am hoping to have a table at this event.

      That reminds me -- thanks so much for sending me a copy of your comic book. Haven't managed to blast through it yet, but it looks awesome.

        No worries - I hope you enjoy it! :)

    HI IF ANYONE IS GOING TO THIS PLEASE MESSAGE BACK I WILL PAY YOU TO GET ME STAN LEES AUTOGRAPH

    The article that printed on the Adelaide newspaper was not a press release. It was the journalist who wrote the stories take on the press release. Comic-Con International is not anywhere to be found in their press release. Once you tell a journalist to run a story, you have no control over the content.

    All I can say for Bill, Rob and Ian is sour grapes.

      The part I quoted was directly from the press release. I think the article made the seperation clear.

    This does not surprise me given previous antics of the Hub - customer service (lack of), complete lack of organisation, insanely high admission prices (over $2000 dollars for platinum tickets in some cases) for cons and threats to websites to remove *links* to youtube vids, not the videos themselves, mind you - simply the links to them. Why not try and deceive fans too. Not impressed.

    Do not make any mention of the fact that Culture Shock Events are partners in Armageddon in Australia. Nor that Armageddon and Supanova used to share guests between each other before Bill moved his events over to Australia... Nope, just try and make out like everyone is out to get the folks at Hub/Oz Comic-Con.
    Frankly anyone that thinks that San Diego Comic-Con would head down to Australia and to the minuscule market of Adelaide needs their head seeing to.

    What is obvious from the bias in this article is that all of the convention organisers in Australia/New Zealand dislike each other, but to use their arguments as supposed proof of a 'con' or that the events will be cancelled... Shoddy work.

    I have been going to Hub Productions events since 2006 and have only seen them go from strength-to-strength. Whereas the Culture Shock Events (trading in Sydney as Friends of Science Fiction) seem to be more of a friends only club, the same people... Every time. And really, really REALLY annoying MCs!! Hub events are fun and have allowed me to meet some of the biggest stars of science fiction such as William Shatner, Richard Dean Anderson, Scott Bakula, Nathan Fillion and Claudia Black.
    Yes, they have cancelled events. So have Culture Shock and all the other smaller event organisers out there. I recently attended The Hubs Eureka/Warehouse 13 event, which had a tiny amount of people in attendance. I cannot imagine that much, if any money was made on that. I can only guess at how low ticket sales must have been for Twilight to be cancelled. That is a financial reality. And people... read the terms and conditions BEFORE you buy anything!
    I have also attended every Armageddon in Melbourne since the first one and was extremely disappointed with the organisation of this years event.
    Frankly I am not sure how Supanova has survived given the shambolic events they put on, with rude, ill-informed volunteers and printing a large logo on photos that cost upwards of $40 (sometimes around $100 iirc!).
    I for one am really looking forward to attending both Oz Comic-Con events in Adelaide and Melbourne from Sydney.

      Hello Hub employee!

        Heh... I wish. At least then I might actually enjoy my work, instead of stuck doing bloody tech support!

          So are you a paid employee of Hub or just one of their close friends?

      I guess finding out all the facts only counts when we speak with Bill Geradts, the "honest man" that he is. Bill and Armageddon have disappointed people many, many times as have the Hub, but disappointed happens in life. The writer of THIS needs to LEARN to READ EVERYTHING before passing judgement.I have enjoyed the Hub conventions I have attended, i have met amazing people, and I have enjoyed Armageddon events but mainly for the people HUB bring because the AMRA guests never interested me, but for what its worth, i wouldnt listen to anything that came out of Bill's mouth after all he is biased to his own brand!!

        I think you'll notice, if you read the piece, that I didn't pass judgement on anyone.

    Damn. While I am stoked by the line-up for both the Adelaide and Melbourne conventions, finding out that Hub Productions is running the show will definitely make me think twice about laying down my cash. I have had friends who have saved all year for their first con, but then lost hundreds of dollars after Hub Productions stuffed up their photos and refused to re-shoot or refund them. Apart from that incident, other sci-fi loving folks I know say it's a coin toss as to how their cons are run. Half are passable, but half are a complete shambles. But most of all, labelling it Comic-Con screams of dodgy marketing. Why not just call it Hub Con if you're proud of your company and its reputation?

    As an aside, I do approve of them holding onto the money from people going to the Twilight Con - those people deserve to be taxed, if not locked up for the safety of con-loving people in general :)

    Has anyone bothered to look at the Wikipedia page for Comic Con. The very first line states "Comic-Con, Comic Con or ComiCon may refer to any of the following Comic book conventions, none of them affiliated to any other". A variety of things take place at each of these events, and not all of them are strictly comic related. They are pop culture events, just like this one. Suggesting this event will have nothing to do with comics is also plain stupid. Aside from the various comic book artists and authors in attendance, has Stan Lee been totally forgotten? The man many would consider to be King of the comic book world?

    It appears to me that some people are just bitter and scared that this will do well, so they're out making statements and trying to make others look bad.

      /sigh

      As Bill Geradts said, those Comic-Cons including the SDCC actually started as comic conventions and have evolved from there...

      Scared it will do well? I'd be shocked if it happened at all at this rate. Another employee of Hub?

      While that's true, and they can say that, it doesn't stop the average person from seeing the name and instantly associating it with San Diego event.

    I only just "got" the title. And laffed.

    Very nice :P

    This seems terribly biased, largely quoting people who seemed to have an axe to grind. Getting negative statements from competitors seems like fairly lazy journalism.

    I agree with the statement that we should be pretty happy that we're getting some amazing guests coming for these events.

      You could just ignore the fact that I spoke to Carissa?

        My point was more that contacting competing businesses for an opinion is pretty much going to give you the response you'd expect. I don't think Pepsi would have a ton of glowing things to say about Coke.

        Damnit Mark, stop trying to be even handed, your supposed to pick a side on face value and argue loudly and with a red face. Aren't you a journalist?

    Regardless of how the presser was written, if it was reported as being affiliated with Comic-Con then that`s *at least* partly on the reporter(s) for not doing any more research than reading the presser.

    ZOMG Oz comic con isn't affiliated with San Diego Comic Con?? ...You mean the same way how New York Comic Con, Dallas Comic Con, Phoenix Comic Con, Baltimore Comic Co, Emerald City Comic Con, Montreal Comic Con etc etc aren't affiliated to each other?

    The story should be Hub, who run the BEST small conventions in Australia are taking a step up to the main stage, and i couldn't be happier.

    I think the only reason Bill is on his high horse is because Armageddon IS actually associated with the end of days.

      End of days? Surely you're not implying Armageddon Expo is dying out.

        Technically they should only really be able to have on armageddon expo. Unless it's like the temporaral loop at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

    Before we get butthurt Sydney people I'd just like to point out that your last anime convention just passed the 2000 person limit while here in SA Avcon had over 5000

      That's an understatement, Adelaide was pretty close to hitting 8,000 at their last con. XP

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AVCon

        AVCon actually sold 14000+ tickets in 2011, and was bigger than EBexpo.
        We will be even bigger this year ;)

          AVCon had an attendance of over 14,000, and issued just under 8,000 tickets (day sales, weekend sales, volunteer passes, staff passes, vendor passes, press passes, free tickets, etc). Just under 8,000 unique people - attendees and workers - were in there.

    Eh, it's nerdy and in Adelaide and has Riker, I'll be there.

    I don't get the fuss, i see people going on about "how i've been going to supernova/armageddon for years' blah blah blah. Who cares what the name of the show is as long as it kicks arse? I think it was in 95 but i went to a show called OzCon, i still have all the memorabillia i got from that show, it was amazing. Met some amazing artists and collected several signatures from that event (including one of my favourites) as well as having had some custom drawings done by said artists. And i got to see the first 15 minutes of Ghost In The Shell before the movie was completed. It's this type of thing that needs to be put out there, regardless of what its called. People think that this thing is new but its been around a lot longer than Supernova.

      Hub Productions has no affiliation with OzCon. Hub Productions has never even run a full scale exhibition before. So yes, this thing is in fact new. Do your research.

        I was refering to the fact that festivals like these are not a new thing, not who Hub are or are not afiliated with, so how about you pull your head out of you arse and come to terms with the fact that they may just pull this off. Because at the end of the day thats whats important, not industry insider tit for tat bullshit, but ensuring that there is a kick arse festival for everyone to enjoy.

    Anybody here who thinks Carissa didn't deliberately mislead with her press release is naive. If you believe that - you also believe that this sentence

    "Adelaide has been chosen to host the Down Under debut of Oz Comic-Con in 2012"

    Had an unintended phantom double meaning that was absolutely, 100% destined to be taken out of context.

    If Carissa has indeed been doing this for quite a while, then Carissa knew what she was doing and she knows what's she's doing now - in pulling back and feigning innocence.

    I'll give you another example. A few days ago former Liverpool defender Gary Ablett died.

    Now.. what do you think the title of the fox sports article (an advertising revenue generating site) was:

    Was it:
    a: Soccer player Gary Ablett dies.

    or was it (the incredible misleading)

    b. Gary Ablett dies.

    Perhaps that was just another unintended permutation.

    I live in Adelaide and even with our small population, quite a lot of us do like our anime/pop culture and frequent such events. I reckon all these shows should go on and let the public decide. We have our AVCon which is always packed every year so don't think of us Adelaideans lightly. On the naming, just rename the 'Con' to another word like 'market' so we can also have our own Comiket. See what I did there?

    As someone who has access to AVcon's (Adelaides and Australias most successful Con) attendance and earnings numbers, I can say without doubt that Adelaide is the right choice for a con like this. They just need to market it properly. Supernova did very poorly here. Just lack of guests and content.

      You might want to actually check your facts buddy. Supanova isn't due in Adelaide until November. Only Armageddon has been to Adelaide :/

      Supanova did poorly in Adelaide? Was this perhaps an alternate universe? I'm only asking as this year (April) will be the first time Supanova has held a show in Adelaide...

        Actually Mal, it's November this year. Supernova announced it at their Brisbane show last year that they're moving Brisbane (and the Madman National Cosplay finals) to November in 2012 after which they'll do their first Adelaide show. According to their website, Gold Coast (first time too) and Melbourne are first up in April. I'll go to Gold Coast but not Adelaide :)

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now