Game of Thrones has ended for another year leaving fans begging and crying for more, and thankfully they will get it. And get it in real life. They’re called comic conventions (or comic-cons) and they are big business.
Australia has a growing industry of events at which fans can gather and share tales of the tales they love. Game of Thrones: The Exhibition opens in Sydney on July 1, opened by Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) and is just one more in the line of fan events. Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) recently attended Supanova in Sydney and Perth. Hodor (Kristian Nairn) will attend Oz Comic-Con in Melbourne in July.
It’s basically a room full of stalls selling merchandise and the chance to meet and pay for an autograph or a photo with a star.
So what do people do at comic conventions? It’s basically a room full of stalls selling merchandise and the chance to meet and pay for an autograph or a photo with a star. Fans dress up as their favourite characters – which has moved on from being all about comic heroes to include TV characters from shows like Game of Thrones.
It’s not just the fans of Westeros that are being served by, nor flocking to, these now massive three-day uprisings. Comic conventions are booming in Australia with six Supanovas and five Oz Comic-Cons held annually.
This past weekend stars from Game of Thrones, Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Battlestar Gallactica, Arrow, Charmed as well as The Hobbit movies were all in attendance at the Supanova convention in Perth backing up from the weekend before in Sydney.
Young, attractive, famous and geek-friendly they amounted already to one of the best guest line ups in the events 12 year history, however they were dwarfed by a slightly built 91 year old.
Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and a multitude of characters from The Avengers and X-Men is regarded as the father of Marvel, a giant in the comic book and now cinema world. So the announcement that he would be attending Supanova as part of his last ever trip to Australia sent shockwaves through fans around the country.
The result was the biggest ever one day turn out for an Australian comic convention with over 35,000 people in attendance.
The result was the biggest ever one day turn out for an Australian comic convention with over 35,000 people in attendance on the Saturday in Sydney. Organisers estimated over 50,000 attended over the three days in total.
A few days before his arrival, the man who has written in speech bubbles for most of his life was delivering zingers down the line from the US. “Oh I guess it’s alright,” he deadpanned when asked his feelings about the forthcoming trip. “Yeah, I guess I could do that.
“To tell the truth, I’m as excited as hell. I love the Australian fans. I was there two years ago in Melbourne and you’re just about the greatest people.”
While it’s safe to assume fans of other, if not all, nationalities have been paid a similar compliment by the consummate promoter, there was no doubting the sincerity of Lee’s dedication to his fans once he hit the ground.
Lee was the first star to attend the photo booth, the first on station at the signatures desk. As the event opened at 1pm on Friday, Lee was the sole star to be found behind a long line of desks, every other chair with a name placard behind it sat empty. He was far from alone however, a queue numbering well over 600 already serpentined around the hall in front of him.
Event director Daniel Zachariou who began the day surprised at the size of the crowd in attendance from the start, was thrilled to see Lee still there with a smile on his face at 8pm making sure not one fan left without a signature or a photograph. Lee then repeated the feat for two full days Saturday and Sunday.
Usually people say to me who’s you’re favourite character? And I usually say Spider-Man. And they usually say wow – Stan Lee
For any who missed out on seeing Lee, he was happy to reprise the conversation he usually has with fans: “Usually people say to me who’s you’re favourite character? And I usually say Spider-Man. And they usually say wow, we thought so. And that ends the question.”
The organisers knew what they had in Lee. His was the most expensive photo with attendees charged $100 for a snap standing next to Lee (the next dearest was Game of Thrones’ Coster-Waldau at $70) and the equal priciest signature, at $60 per item.
The next tier of celebrity guests included John Barrowman from Arrow whose signature cost $50 and photo $60, and the $40 signature / $50 photo club: Katie Cassidy (Arrow), Manu Bennett (The Hobbit), Ming Na Wen (S.H.I.E.L.D.), and Rose McGowan (Charmed).
One Australian rounded out that club, George Lazenby, the man who famously played James Bond just once, was also trading at that rate. A first time Supanova attendee at 74. Another 74 year old, Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in several Bond movies sat alongside Lazenby, only $10 cheaper in both categories.
The giant Kiel now has restricted mobility and gets around on a scooter, but he was the perfect find for fans who treasure anecdotes, as he happily told tales of his work with Roger Moore, Harrison Ford, Burt Reynolds or Adam Sandler as the mood took him.
It is away from the desk that Lazenby seems the biggest hit. Jim Jeffries, his co-star in the US series Legit, recently appeared on Conan O’Brien’s talk show and told the world that Lazenby had been intimate with many a Bond girl. Not on set, but at the fan conventions.
Such candor is common from the actor who is happy to talk to Bond fans and tell them anything. “I haven’t got such a great memory,” he explains. “If I don’t stay candid it doesn’t work for me. I tell my life and some things I wish I hadn’t done but I’m not ashamed of them.”
His most common question is how he got the role of Bond, one to which he says he has to set the record straight. “It’s not true on the internet. I’ve never seen a factual thing about how I got James Bond.” The real story unsurprisingly begins with a date.
The Sydney and Perth events may have finished, but the senior stars of Supanova aren’t done yet. Neither has retired to the signature circuit. Lazenby is still an actor foremost and is gearing up for a film in Poland. Lee would be happy to join him. “I would love to be an actor,” he says having gotten a taste for the profession through his cameos in the Marvel films that began with the first X-Men movie. “It was fun. I just wished they gave me a bigger cameo each time.”
So what’s stopping him? “My energy is there to stop me! I get tired a little faster than I used to. But luckily no matter how old you are you can still think and still come up with ideas. The nice thing is I can always write. I think if I were 120 years old I might not be able to see, or move, or hear, but I’ll always be able to write.”