It’s the end of the world. Again. Armageddon Expo is coming.

Dust off your Daleks and polish up your Pokemon – Armageddon is early this year (9 and 10 March 2013). Our household is full of very earnest discussions about what shade of grey is acceptable for which character, and whether international shipping can be relied upon to deliver the necessary in time for the big weekend. The girl-child is attempting two different cosplay costumes, one from the insanely popular Homestuck online comic series, and the other from something that I am not even beginning to understand. There’s body-paint involved, and horns made out of papier-mache, and that’s all I care to know, frankly.

If you or your dear ones want to join the madness this year, fear not – the library has a range of resources to help sort out those pesky costume issues, study up on pop culture and comics, or just embrace your inner fanboy/girl.
Armageddon Expo 2010Armageddon Expo 2012

And if all else fails, and inspiration is still lacking, travel back in time and read our reports from previous years’ Armageddon visits.

Fantasy covers for December

A selection of covers from our Fantasy newsletter for December 2012. Subscribe to get the full newsletter in your inbox every month. Each month we feature some new titles and older items on a theme: December’s theme is apocalypse…

Red Country by Jow Abercrombie Dark Currents by Jaqueline Carey Still Life with Shape Shifter by Sharon Shinn Rapture by J.R. Ward Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks The Apocalyse Codex by Charles Stross

Armageddon, Christchurch, 2012

Card-gaming was just one of many diversions on offer to Expo attendees

Noting the proximity of this year’s Armageddon Expo to the ‘Star Home Show’, I couldn’t help but imagine the comic mis-steps required to necessitate the utter bamboozlement of your average denim and polyester-clad ‘Home Show’ couple. Literally one wrong turn, and their hotly-anticipated, yet coolly-considered morning of soft furnishings perusal and contemplation of the latest innovations in bench-tops would be irreparably ruined. I say irreparably, because confusing the two venues would necessarily result in said pair’s forced exposure to a largely impenetrable and perplexing display of pop-culture expression.

Quite apart from their inability to distinguish an Otaku from a Whovian, “denim-and-polyester’s” sense of social equilibrium would be assailed by any number of groups of maddeningly-specific sub-cultural devotees, not to mention those rogue niche enthusiasts whose alignment to the most arcane and obscure back-alleys of fandom manage to baffle even the initiated.

As it happens, I can’t verify that any such fish-out-of-water scenario actually occurred, but that may just be because I spent the majority of my time taking in the spectacle of several thousand people, predominantly young, but not exclusively so, having a fantastic (albeit uncomfortably physically intimate) collective time. It was both fascinating and inspiring to witness so many formerly marginalised enthusiasts, be they wargamers or cosplayers, participating in an event attended by a demographically-diverse crowd.

The ever-improving accuracy of Star Wars costuming on display by the Expo’s default maitre-d’s, the NZ Outpost 42 garrison leads me to suspect that it’s only a matter of time before the Empire calls these clearly capable troops into active service. although perhaps something will have to be done about their enthusiasm for posing for photos, which somewhat undermines the regime’s cruel totalitarian agenda.

But of course, for many Armageddon attendees, posing for photos is largely what it’s all about. It would be an unusual cosplayer, many of whom have clearly spent weeks or months planning and refining their often freakishly elaborate costumes, who would greet a photo request with coy refusal. Not that all costumers are equally invested in the hobby. For every painstakingly executed Naruto or creatively exemplary TARDIS/Woman, there’s someone who wants to show their geek-love, but can’t quite make that final leap of faith.

For once, the TARDIS fails to unassumingly blend in with its surroundings

Fortunately, pledging commercial allegiance to one’s chosen obsession/s is an attractive option for those costumed or otherwise. Armageddon regulars will be familiar with the companies which routinely set up shop at the Expo, offering everything from manga books, anime dvds, and merchandise from an exhaustingly broad range of licensed properties. They were there in force again this year, shilling everything from novelty button badges, to Death Note plush toys to pricey top-shelf anime statues.

I myself was fiscally obliged to make a decision between a thirty-dollar Sylvester McCoy autograph, and a slightly more expensive, though considerably less articulated six-inch simulacrum of the man himself, outfitted in one of the least offensive of the generally offensive 1980s Doctor Who costumes. In the end I plumped for the autograph, but I’ve since had buyer’s regret. Not just because face-to-face encounters with my childhood heroes, despite my high expectations, are unfailingly disappointing, but the little Sylvester also came with his TARDIS.

Inside Christchurch’s Death Star command post

With so many events and festivals cancelled over the last months, it was  a huge treat to be able to go to one event that has managed to rearrange itself – the ironically appropriate  Armageddon festival.

With its usual venue both red-stickered and red-zoned, the Armageddon organisers managed to not only find another venue, but also to put on a show that, in terms of both attendance and spirit, feels just like any other end-of-the-world party.  Over 7000 bodies through the door, and most of them human, or at least human-ish (not sure about the dudes in the white armour, and I definitely have doubts about the guy in the corner who was oozing intestines).

Although the “names” were mostly lacking this year (except for a signing panel from The Almighty Johnsons), the teens turned out in their hundreds, with the usual complement of bewildered-looking parents being towed along by nine-year-old boys holding lightsabres and sonic screwdrivers.  Outpost 42 stormtroopers were everywhere, although Darth Vader only arrived on Sunday, probably to check out his Death Star command post (really truly impressive, built here in Christchurch by a group of very clever guys).

And there was heaps to do: commission your own artwork for as little as 10cents; buy whatever you want to eat as long as it’s deep fried; learn about MMP, the Greens party or organic popcorn snacks; plan your career at NatColl; buy a model helicopter and try out all the new PS3 games; watch anime on the giant screen; see Princess Leia dance a saucy dance (my goodness, she must have been cold in that!); cuddle up to any number of comic or manga characters; buy a katana or hire a replica machine gun, or just hang out with the Doctor(s).

For fun, entertainment and forgetting about the New Normal for a few hours, it’s the best $5 I’ve spent in ages, and I’m already diarying the 2012 event.  You should too.

Armageddon – cosplay, comics and cat ears

Photos from Armageddon Expo

So we’ve made it through Day One of possibly the most unusual convention that Christchurch sees each year.  For those who don’t know, Armageddon is a yearly sci-fi/ fantasy/ comic /anime /manga /gamer /f an-based event that runs in two or three cities around New Zealand.  It’s a chance to dress up (or cosplay), to see tv and movie stars, watch anime on a big screen, buy really cool stuff, beat people up with giant inflatable sticks, or just hang out and talk nerdy.  There are teenagers EVERYwhere, and I am very jealous.  They get to wear cat ears, bear suits, capes, wigs and wings, while us grown-ups have to make do with buying steampunk jewellery and talking to internationally famous authors. 

Robert Rankin is here, promoting his latest book Retromancer, and happily having his photo taken with librarians.  We talk about kiwi book events, and he says he is astonished and appalled at book prices here.  No wonder we don’t buy his books in the shops here, he says – he wouldn’t either, at more than $40 for a paperback.  He is charming, and witty, and we rush off to the library to get a FREE copy of one of his books to take home. 

We also stop by the main stage to hear Paul McGann talk about Doctor Who, Hornblower, Withnail and I, Aliens and dozens of other movies and shows he’s been in.  The level of fan love is scary, but also kind of inspiring. 

There are signing tables with voice actors from Naruto, X-Men and Dragonball Z, comic artists Christian Gossett, Michael Allred and Francis Manapul, and, mesmerisingly, a large wrestling ring with mostly naked men leaping around and yelling a lot. 

Best costume of the day:  my pick is L from Death Note, just because he really does look just like him.  Most classic moment:  a fan asks Paul McGann to sing the Doctor Who theme tune, AND HE DOES. 

Day Two brings the cosplay competition, panels with Star Trek and Heroes stars, an Easter Egg Hunt and a giant pillow fight.   And possibly some more of that steampunk jewellery …