With hundreds of movies and TV shows currently airing, or due for release, there is no debate that comics in their real or mirrored form have taken prominence over all things pop culture. The superheroes from the 1930s have catapulted from the pages of comic books and graphic novels to join a new generation of superheroes diving into our lounge rooms, theatres, video games, convention centres, hearts and psyches and now streets.
And, the Gold Coast, despite being a few years young, is not that far behind.
In 2018 over 30,000 flocked to the Supanova Comic Con & Gaming on the Gold Coast to get their pop culture fix but what has changed drastically in recent years is the acceptance of this niche culture into the mainstream. On this weekend thousands ventured beyond the comfort of the convention zone to integrate with the rest of the community. Integrating a fascinating niche group with the rest of the community has vast opportunities for exploration hence the creation of The Gold Coast Superhero Weekend.
This is actually a real ‘thing’ and the prospects for increased business across multiple industries including tourism Is very real.
It is literally like watching another world come to life through the streets. And, by ensuring that the lovers of this phenomena, such as the growing numbers of Cosplayers, feel at home and celebrated via their integration with locals and tourism visitors has a significant on-flow effect for the tourism of the region. As social media is the prominent marketing tool for players in this genre, the reach opportunities are enormous.
Today is a completely different story and an opportunity for a new era of tourism capitalising on the biggest brands in current pop culture and attracting starkly diverse yet passionate audiences. The sci-fi and fantasy genres that were once deemed uncool are now the inspiration for some of the highest grossing films and highest -rated TV Shows E.g. Game of Thrones (GOT) and Stranger Things.
Game of Thrones (GOT), now in its 7th year has a staggering 22 million followers on facebook and the GOT brand estimated at a net worth of $130 million. The cast of GOT were a significant draw card to 2016 Supanova and Comic Con festivals around the world.
In 2016, following the success of GOT, Netflix introduced a new style of sci-fi show positioned to a younger audience that went straight to the hearts of the teen market and, surprisingly, pulled in their parents too. Stranger Thingslaunched a bunch of unknown youth actors from oblivion into a cult following overnight and, in just a few months, attracted 6 million followers on the youth social channel of choice, Instagram. Matt and Ross Duffer’s sci-fi horror homage to 1980’s pop culture took the U.S. by storm, with more than 16 million people watching the season premiere of Stranger Things 2. And, once more, it made Dungeons and Dragons look cool!
And lets not get started on the cult following of the Marvel franchise with it’s latest offering Avengers: Infinity War bringing in a record-breaking $630M worldwide on the opening WEEKEND and ensuing global conversations, heartbreak, outrage and the most incredible outpouring of love for the people in the movie that long ago transcended from being characters into actual people that lovers of this franchise deeply embraced into their hearts and lives.
Not being a big fan I struggle to get it (well except for anything that Robert Downey Junior plays) but, believe me. I am in the minority!
My own thoughts about this phenomenon go deeper though and I am intrigued at the superhero phenomenon’s ability to strike such a deep chord with millions of individuals from all walks of life. Creating fictional personas, often misfit and flawed yet so intensely powerful, invite us mere mortals to take on their hurt and hardships as if it was our own but by doing so also embrace their light, never say die attitudes and enormous capacity for love as our own too.
Moving back to business. Increased yields in broadcast and merchandise are normal but the superhero genre has also opened opportunities for new breeds of business; one in particularly called Cosplay.
Literally speaking, cosplay is the combination of the words “costume” and “play.” Cosplayers, the people who partake in cosplay, dress as their favourite characters from comics, video games, anime, manga, movies and television.
Today, cosplay is a favourite ritual of Supanova attendees, where thousands turn up in their hand made costumes depicting their favourite superheros.
I asked one man at Gold Coast Superhero weekend why he does this and his response was much more profound than I had anticipated.
Life can be really tough and sometimes you feel like you need to possess superhero qualities just to get through it. Taking on this persona makes you actually realise that you do have what it takes plus provide the opportunity to not take life so seriously.
220 Cosplayers walked in the 2018 Supanova Superhero Parade, and some already have die hard fans of their own, which was fascinating to watch.
Cosplay Chris, who was the ambassador for Gold Coast Superhero Weekend, has a YouTube channel with over 200K + followers and has been involved in the world of Cosplay for longer than he can remember.
As a former employee of Qantaslink, Chris realised approximately 19 months ago that his passion for Cosplay could become a profession. Whilst still not a full time, consistent income (most of his wages comes from a combination of YouTube, etsy and appearances) Chris is almost there and feels that due to the rapid unprecedented growth and popularity of Cosplayers, this could soon lead to full time careers, in the same manner that other art forms such as acting does.
Speaking to Supanova about their core purpose and what it was they were trying to achieve they said:
We provide opportunities to aspiring talent, artists and creators as a local national platform to showcase their work to an adoring public that enjoy and enthusiastically embrace newly invented worlds. Where our community of fans are at the ready to jump on for another adventure in helping catapult projects towards the stars!
If recent indicators from our leading broadcast content producers, the mass following, the digital marketing opportunities and the numbers flocking to our Cities to get a taste of this phenomena are anything to go by, we are certainly moving in the direction to maximise the superhero phenomena across multiple industries, including tourism.
And, with so many still stuck in expressing their voice or lacking confidence to be who they truly are, maybe the positives of playing dress ups with the fictional world move way beyond the notions of business.