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Supanova 2012


by Nalini Haynes

It was Friday 13 in Melbourne when, somewhat late due to circumstances outside my control, I arrived at Supanova for the opening ceremony. After checking in to get my wrist band to show valid entry, I wandered around the site getting the lay of the land for tomorrow. The main exhibition hall was still being set up for the next day. The biggest theatre outside the main exhibition hall hosted the opening ceremony where many of the guests were introduced briefly before the charity auction. A lot of people spent the Friday evening organising their passes and tokens for photographs and autographs for the next few days, booking and paying in advance on Friday instead of joining the mob on Saturday.

Richard Horvitz, also known as the voice of Invader Zim, not only featured as a special guest but, using his Invader Zim voice, he conducted a significant portion of the auction to the delight of fans. Some friends of mine cosplayed Invader Zim characters on Saturday and were delighted when Richard rushed up and hugged ‘My tallest, my tallest’. Although everyone focused on Invader Zim – obviously a crowd favourite – Richard has a truly impressive list of roles on IMDB.

Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz
Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz

After the opening ceremony some masterclasses were held for comic book creators and fans. The first was a combined panel with Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz followed by Brian Bendiss while movies and anime were shown elsewhere. Kris and Scott were part comedy duo, part mutual admiration society while they gave a run-down of their careers to date, discussed development of ideas, maintaining standards and themes and discussed the issue of income. They were honest about needing to get paid: facing issues of piracy on the web, they make their primary work available for free while merchandising and calling for financial support in other ways. Without the financial support of fans Kris and Scott would be unable to continue with the work they love or, at best, would have to get day jobs leaving far less time for the work that is their passion. When I asked, Kris and Scott agreed with Brandon Sanderson’s comments (in my interview of Brandon Sanderson) about how fans are the new patrons. They pointed out that one thousand enthusiastic fans supporting them with $100 each per year provides enough for them to live on so they can continue creating their comics for the enjoyment of all.

They talked back and forth about a number of topics. Apparently Kris is incredibly creative, coming up with lots of ideas that Scott uses because Kris’ parameters for his comic strip are so narrow. While Scott dissed Kris for this, he’s really happy to be able to use Kris’ ideas, knowing they’ll go to waste otherwise. This exchange was worthy of being used as a skit in a comedy show.

After this entertaining panel I began the epic journey quest that was the trip home, knowing that the weekend was going to be very long and tiring. NonCanonical Comic Book Podcast interviewed Brian Bendiss in episode 106 , so go there to listen to guys who really know comics interview a comic book icon.

The queue for Supanova early on Saturday morning
The queue for Supanova early on Saturday morning

The next morning I arrived at Supanova bright and early, with a plan to make sure I didn’t miss anything important. Walking around, taking photos while everyone was fresh and before the stores were ransacked by enthusiastic fans, talking to people, the time went so quickly that before I knew it I’d missed Edward James Olmos’ panel. There should be a rule against putting very important guests on so early on the first full day [sigh]. The minion went looking for me and assumed (?) that I would be in Edward’s talk, so he caught the second half. Apparently Edward presented an articulate, intelligent speech about humanity and caring for the environment. Later I interviewed Edward briefly, so I managed to capture a portion of his passion and zeal for presentation to Dark Matter’s audience. Sadly the audio is very poor quality, due to background noise from the crowd and using a cheap Dictaphone, so I doubt I’ll be able to clean up the recording to a standard fit for presentation in audible format. A written version of the interview is in this issue of Dark Matter.

Having done the Supanova event before, we’ve learnt a few things. For example, eating lunch is important to avoid that energy low in the afternoon. Instead of purchasing the food in the overpriced cafeteria we walked about 100 metres down the road to buy fresh souvlaki before interviewing Ben Chandler. I missed Summer Glau’s panel while waiting for the opportunity to interview Edward James Olmos.

Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson reading from 'Legion'
Brandon Sanderson reading from ‘Legion’

After interviewing Edward, a brief break then into Brandon Sanderson’s segment on the Wheel of Time. Some of Brandon’s speech here is more or less repeated in the interview but more is added. He explains that he can’t say much because fans parse down minutiae in an attempt to extrapolate the story, which is intended to be confidential until its release. Brandon told the story of how James Oliver Rigney, aka Robert Jordan, sold his original plan for the Wheel of Time. Jordan originally spruiked it as a trilogy but the publisher seemed to know him better than he knew himself. Having heard the story outline, the publisher signed him up for 6 books thinking he was being smart and would thus ensure his publishing house would own the entire series.

My plan for Sunday was to see Wil Wheaton, James and Oliver Phelps, Christopher Kirby, a brief lunch break then Morena Baccarin and either another panel or some cosplay. By the end of the day I was exhausted so I took a few photos of people before or after they’d participated in the cosplay competition before heading home. Lionel had offered me an interview with Chandler Riggs of Walking Dead but I couldn’t find Lionel nor did I see Chandler at all that day, mostly because I was flat out going from panel to panel.

Wil Wheaton
Wil Wheaton
Wil Wheaton

High after his Star Trek reunion in Calgary, Wil Wheaton told his audience a story about helping Jonathan Frakes fix his CPU while both were using mobile phones that, in the 1980s, were like Trek technology. He went on to ask the audience about Australia before telling everyone that he knows drop bears aren’t real. He added that he doesn’t understand why we feel the need to make up stuff when the real stuff is so scary. He said we have spiders the size of cars so we don’t have to make up stuff to scare people from America. He’s also in love with Australian breakfasts with baked beans on toast (?). Wil spruiked Table Top, his new internet show that is part of the Geek and Sundry channel. Friends play table top boardgames on YouTube to illustrate that gaming is a social activity. Wil said we’re really lucky to have public transport that works, and talked about how bad public transport is in LA. He’s obviously only experienced trams in the inner burbs >:| . At the end of one of his tram rides he saw a penguin at St Kilda that he said spoke in an Aussie accent.

Wil was asked to sing Soft Kitty and, in spite of a roar of applause from the crowd, he declined. He was asked what he thought of Sheldon in Big Bang Theory. Wil differentiated between himself and Evil Wil Wheaton, going on to talk about how Evil Wil Wheaton doesn’t actually hate Sheldon, he just trolls Sheldon, who reacts. He went on to say that he adores Jim Parsons, who plays the role of Sheldon and who is nothing like Sheldon and is not a nerd at all. Wil had needed to explain nerd stuff to Jim who doesn’t understand references. Wil talked about how, in the beginning of Big Bang Theory, he felt that the show was making fun of geeks but then about half way through the first season the direction or flavour of the show changed and they were no longer making fun of us, they were laughing with us.

When Bill called Wil and asked him to play Evil Wil Wheaton, Wil’s first reaction was that he didn’t want to play himself. Bill said he understood that and if Wil wanted to come in and read for them when they were casting another role, they’d be happy to see him read but he is the only person who could play Wil Wheaton. Wil asked if he could think about it, so after hanging up he called John Rogers. When Wil told John that Bill asked him to be on BBT, John’s response was ‘And you said yes, right?’

‘No, wait, it’s a little more complicated-‘

‘What’s more complicated than yes?’ After hearing Wil enlarge a little on the topic, John’s response was, ‘Are you insane?! What in the world is wrong with you?! Did you know that a rerun of the Big Bang Theory was the highest rated TV show last week? A rerun, Wil, a rerun! …. Say yes and thank you!’

So Wil called Bill back and said, ‘Yes and thank you.’

Wil said that he met Felicia Day through an acting company. Someone asked if he would put The Guild on his blog so he did after there were 3 episodes up (many series don’t make it that far). Wil became a fan of the Guild then asked a friend to ask Felicia if he could get a part on the Guild. Since working on the Guild they’ve become good friends.

Oliver and James Phelps

Oliver and James Phelps are good-looking but easy to walk past in the street without the red hair and freckles. Although they’re adults now, they still seem bemused by the direction their lives have taken and their success. Instead of doing a talk themselves, they just took questions.

A friend of their mother’s saw auditions for the Weasley twins advertised in a national newspaper. They realised they could get a day off school, get into a film and have a day off school. (The repetition was deliberate.) They don’t think they would have tried acting solo, the attraction was auditioning and acting together, however they accept roles separately now.

When asked if they switched roles in the movie, they said they switched roles once during rehearsal, although there’s a rumour that they switched roles for filming and a lot of the film had to be shot again. When they arrived to read through for Harry Potter, not knowing who was playing whom. When they asked, a brief, quiet conversation took place between a few people before telling them who was playing who. They haven’t read any Harry Potter fan fic.

It wasn’t the normal thing for 14 year old boys to die their hair, especially ginger. They had to have their roots touched up every three weeks as well as having their eyebrows bleached. There were a number of photos taken with a lot of gunk in their hair and huge white streaks over their foreheads.

The quidditch scenes were filmed with them harnessed securely on their broomsticks, suspended from cranes.

James discovered Fred Weasley was to die while reading on a train in Japan. The ticket inspector wanted their tickets while James was saying, ‘I’m dead. DEAD…’

Neither of the Phelps twins have read the Twilight books.

Christopher Kirby
Chris Kirby
Chris Kirby

Christopher Kirby was the next guest speaker. Read or listen to Chris’ interview here. Apart from what is covered there, Chris mentioned his acting career began on the stage. Chris’s mother was a model as is Chris’s character in Iron Sky. He made self-deprecating remarks about not knowing how he was cast as a model for Iron Sky: gorgeous, tall and lean, and can’t figure out why he’s cast as a model. Chris specifically referred to my interview in this talk, mentioning the colour-blindness of science fiction. Chris went on to talk a little about Star Wars, geeking out at being on the Star Wars set, meeting George Lucas and acting on a set where people in green bodysuits were going to be green-screened out to create the illusion of drinks trays floating.

Lunch break

Around midday I realised I hadn’t factored lunch in to my plans for the day. Having interviewed Brandon Sanderson on Friday (thanks to Laura Hanly of Hachette Publishing!) I decided I’d reluctantly forgo the Warbreaker segment in order to eat. Lunch was, once again, souvlaki. I couldn’t believe that the café was practically empty while the queues in the showgrounds were appalling. Sadly I heard later that Morena Baccarin and Cliff Simon posed for photos outside the blast doors the Rebel Legion and 501st brought. Friends looked for me and my camera but, alas, I missed this spontaneous event.

Morena Baccarin
Morena Baccarin
Morena Baccarin

Morena Baccarin (Inara from Firefly, Anna from V and Jessica Brody from Homeland), was the next guest of honour. Morena has a reputation for being the first to accept and the last to cancel, never attending Australian functions but this time, against all odds, she made it. Morena explained that if she hadn’t cancelled the last two times she wouldn’t have been in V or Homeland; her changes of plans were due to being cast in both shows and being required to work. This time, however, she nearly didn’t make it to Australia because the day before she was due to fly out she was called in for jury duty.

Morena showed up for jury duty and explained that she was booked on a plane for Australia the next day, no-one could replace her and she really needed to be able to go. She was told she had to stay put and go through the process. By the end of day one she hadn’t been selected nor had she been released. She was told to come back for the second day, with her concerns brushed aside. The second day she showed up and tried to explain that she had to be on a plane that evening, she had work and no-one could replace her. She was told to sit down, shut up and go through the process. By that afternoon Morena was getting frantic. With only hours to go before she needed to board the plane, Morena broke convention, appealing to the judge to listen to her story. She explained how she’d had to cancel before, how no-one could take her place, how the plane fare was booked and so on. She was told to sit down and go through the process. She burst into tears. Ten minutes later she was released from jury duty so she just made it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you get out of jury duty.

Early on Morena addressed the issue of Firefly and Serenity. She made it clear that it’s been ten years, she really doesn’t think the TV series Firefly is coming back, and besides, Castle and Homeland would have to end for Firefly to return. She also joked that if she went back to the role of Inara she’d be an aging sex worker and that would not be pretty. In contrast she said that if Joss Whedon managed to get a sequel to Serenity off the ground, she’d be there. She’s been part of some of Joss’s Shakespeare readings and other events but has missed out on other opportunities with Joss because of other work commitments.

During question time I asked Morena which of her challenging roles – sex worker, transsexual or battered wife – was the most challenging and why. Morena brushed the question aside, saying they were all ‘great’, but I think she started thinking about the question afterwards. Later she started to open up about how difficult it was playing Jessica Brody from Homeland, the battered wife in an emotionally charged drama, and how Morena and Clare Danes have shared a lot of wine to wind down and de-role after heavy days at work.


After a heavy weekend I took some time out with a coffee, took some photos of cosplayers and headed home myself. It was an enjoyable, busy weekend, impossible to fit in everything as usual. I didn’t even venture near any of the movie or anime screenings and didn’t manage to talk to everyone I would have liked to have seen. I also met Deborah Abela and her publicist Dot from Random House and set up an interview with Deborah to talk about her children’s books and working in children’s television. That interview took place a few weeks back and will be in issue 10 of Dark Matter. I left Supanova having had a busy, productive weekend but also with plans on how to make better use of my time next year. I learn something at every convention and every expo I attend, and with every interview I record. It just keeps getting better and better.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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