You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Part of the parade at Oz Comic Con

AAP logoAAP 12/09/2016 Michael Wayne

Twenty years ago, my father took me to OzCon, a comic convention at the Sydney Exhibition Centre. It looked like the trade show it was: middle-aged men in suits pawing through cartons of comics and the occasional model hawking cheesy promotional stuff. As a kid, I was in the minority.

How times have changed.

Oz Comic Con, held in Sydney over the weekend, provides pop-culture enthusiasts with a safe place to indulge their heroic (and villainous) comic fantasies. Spandex and brightly-coloured wigs are de rigeuer. So are safety, respect and acceptance.

Signs implore photographers to ask permission to take pictures: "Cosplay is NOT consent."

Comics are booming, particularly at the cinema, but in the wide world adults still suffer stigma when they dress up as their favourite characters. Comic Con, however, is a giant love-in.

And no one loves it more than the vendors. Comic fans love of collecting, and the shops at Comic Con oblige. At one point, I lost my pen. I couldn't buy a replacement, even though this convention celebrates hand-drawn art. But if I'd wanted a plastic bobblehead of the Hulk, I was spoilt for choice.

One of the stalls is called 2nd Childhood Toys. Has anyone here outgrown their first, I wonder, looking at the milling crowd of Ghostbusters, Stormtroopers and superheroes.

At Comic Con anyone who doesn't wear a costume - or at least a comic-character T-shirt - is the outsider.

I'm given a shifty look by one worker, a dead ringer for Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark, when I ask about his astonishingly detailed outfit.

"I'm working, sorry," he says, and goes back to man his empty stall and serve non-existent customers.

I ask a young man called John why he has come dressed as The Joker. "It's an escape," he says.

But why dress as particularly disturbed mass murderer? "I just identify with him, except for the killing bit. Did you know I made this gun myself?"

It's a land of contradictions. Parents in full superhero attire are accompanied by children dressed as Batman, the world's most famous orphan. An Iron Man made out of cardboard wins the "cosplay" competition. Darth Vader eschews the heavy breathing and ducks outside to vape.

For Aiden, however, it's sweet release. "I'd always wanted to LARP (live action role play), but I had no idea where to start," he says. "The internet was no help.

"In the end, I came here and asked around, and now I've been LARPing for a year. I love it."

Aiden is wearing leathery battle armour covered in scratches. "We use real swords when we battle," he says. "It really hurts!"

Reality is blurred at Comic Con. I ask a Stormtrooper if I can take his photo, hoping he'll leave his helmet off and continue smoking a durry.

Turns out he's from the 501st Legion, a worldwide collective of Star Wars fans who build replica costumes. And he's prefer to put his helmet back on: "Getting as real as possible is so important to us."

Here's a guy dressed as Kyle Reese, the hero in The Terminator. "I spent $240 on getting just the right shoes," he says, pointing to his sneakers.

How often will he wear his screen-accurate costume? "Twice a year, pretty much. I keep making improvements so it'll look better by the next con."

As Comic Con winds down, the cosplayers prepare to cross the threshold back into society. Not everyone is enthusiastic.

Tanya, a teenager dressed as the Joker's girlfriend Harley Quinn, is worried about leaving: "Last time I went to Supanova, I was bashed at the train station on my way home."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon