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Supanova, We Need To Talk

Fear. Hate. Prejudice. These are some of the core themes that drive the characters of X-Men. Whether villain or hero, how the world sees these characters determines their action and inaction. Professor Xavier, creates a boarding school for the Mutants of the X-Men, to keep them safe, to teach them how to own who they are. And the villain, Magneto, takes the fight to humanity, to those that have oppressed him, for vengeance. I was nine years old when I first saw X-Men, and at nine years old, X-Men would be the media that helped me to understand why people treated me differently.

I grew up fully immersed in “Geek Culture.” You would find me watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer every morning before school. Or reading Archie Comic books in my downtime. Or just playing video games. Every aspect of the media I was consuming was political. They would speak into different aspects of my life and inform my identity, and help me understand the world and society around me.

While Video Games were a space for me to practice Emotional Regulation, as someone with ADHD; And Buffy The Vampire Slayer helped me understand and develop into my Queer Identity; there wasn’t much media that was informing my racial identity. There certainly wasn’t anything to help me understand racism. That was until X-Men. Now you’re probably wondering. Why am I reading an article about X-Men. This isn’t about X-Men, it never was.

This article is about the importance of safety in “Geek Culture” and fandom spaces. As an Indigenous Person, I found myself naturally attracted to topics about Identity, about prejudice, because even though at a point in my childhood, I wouldn’t totally understand prejudice, I was still experiencing it. And these topics of identity, society, and bigotry were all found within the pages of a comic book and the scenes in a film. Especially a film about Mutants. 

It’s this attraction to these topics that allowed me to enjoy “Geek Culture” as much as I have, and it’s because of nerdy media’s unapologetic approach to topics of racism that I found that I might be able to communicate safely within that culture. Eventually, this would lead me to participation in fandoms and regular discussion of these subjects, especially with other Mob. And before long, I would be finding that organised hate had made its way into those spaces that were meant to be safe for me as a young Indigenous Geek, and for other Mob too. 

Supanova Pop Culture Expo is a hive for people with interests in Film and Television, Cosplay, Gaming, and overall “Geek Culture.” You will also find that that this convention is a great place for people to display and sell art, books or any merch. And Supanova is greatly visited by diverse groups from First Nations People to LGBTQA+ People. Which is why it is surprising, and awfully shocking to find out that a stall at Supanova was selling Nazi and bigoted hate-filled merchandise.

Supanova’s Sydney Expo ran from June 19th-20th on a weekend, and it was on the day before, on Friday, that reports started to come in about the stall, Celtic Panzer, selling nazi merchandise.

Asaria, a cosplayer in Sydney, reached out to me with a statement of what she observed. “The stall was first noticed during Friday night during setup while other artist alley attendees were setting up.” Asaria stated, noting that people were concerned of the content on display. However, with the concerns being raised by people, the stall was still permitted to sell on the first day of Supanova.

Some of the content on display include the Eureka flag which has been displayed by Neo-Nazi groups within Australia and historically known for its presence during the Cronulla Race Riots. Other merchandise includes conservative shirts with one stating “Sniper – If you Run. You’ll only die tired.” However, the most alarming content on display was a banner with various Nazi and bigoted statements.

This banner includes, but is not limited to, swastikas, referencing Nazis; a yellow star to reference the Jewish Prisoners of Nazi concentration camps; and large yellow text reading “Pink Fascism Out of Oz.” Some confusion has been drawn from this statement saying that fascism should be kept out of Australia, however, the terminology here is important. Pink Fascism.

Pink Fascism was a conspiracy theory that came from Nazi Germany and was popularised among conservative circles in the 90’s when the book “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party” was published. This book alleged that people who were gay were Nazis, and they were the ones behind the atrocities and genocides that occurred in Nazi Germany. It also alleges that the leadership of the Nazi regime were all gay. Of course, these claims have all been refuted by historians, however, that did not stop the book and the theory from being adopted into conservative circles.

The Author of this book, Scott Lively, a “Pastor” and “human rights consultant” seems to be the key advocate for the theory of pink fascism, and has an entire website dedicated to homophobia, and even a small section on calling White Supremacy, a lie. These worldviews are persisting from Nazi Germany, to the 90s to today, and continue to persist in conservative groups. This banner with its statement “Pink Fascism Out of Oz” is a dog whistle for Homophobes and White Supremacists and directly translates to “Keep the Gays Out!”

This brings us back to Supanova, a space primarily frequented by diverse groups, including, as mentioned previously, LGBTQA+ People, Jewish, POC, and First Nations People who are being confronted by a stall showing and selling racist, homophobic and antisemitic material. Apart from this material being sold at the stall, the Cosplayer who contacted me, Asaria, detailed an experience of harassment.

Asaria states that she approached people looking at the stall with concern that they did not understand what the stall was, however, they did, and they wanted an admission of guilt from the stall owners. “It was at this point the lady behind the stall engaged with us, asking the other girl where she was from. When the girl responded ‘Australia’ she continued to ask, ‘no where are you really from.’” Later on Asaria states that her friend observed another girl being harassed, and so with this information, reported it to Supanova security.

However, the response was less than ideal, as they observed the security still at the stall and that they “almost seemed to be protecting it.” At this point, posts started to pour in across social media about the stall selling Nazi Merchandise, however, despite it being raised, Supanova’s social media seemed dismissive. A final observation was made by multiple people in attendance of Supanova who noticed that the owner of Supanova, Daniel Zachariou, was seen being “friendly” with the stall owners.

Daniel Zachariou and Supanova, itself, are no strangers to controversy. Supanova had already in its history faced a boycott for Zachariou’s stance on Safe Schools and also an incident involving a guest being invited who was a key inciter of one of Internet’s biggest hate group. With all this information circling because of this incident, users began to call out sponsors of the event.

And by Sunday morning, the stall was seen being packed and the owners were leaving the premises, despite it being allowed to display and sell merchandise during Supanova’s busiest day.

Supanova’s social media pages then gave a standard response to all that occurred with most users calling the post out.

As a result, many people have now pulled out of Supanova, whether being regular stall-owners and merch sellers, or even workers of Supanova themselves, citing the incident.

From all of this, Supanova decided to issue a formal apology regarding the incident, however, for most people, this was far too late.

At the end of this incident, people started a petition to remove Daniel Zachariou as the director of Supanova, with a lot of people recommending a full boycott and to attend different conventions.

In the most recent update to the Supanova incident, an “Exhibitor Update” had been sent out by the now former Event Director Daniel Zachariou. In this update, Daniel states that details were inaccurately reported by some media outlets, and that his comments had been taken out of context. I am curious if he means his own comments showing him rallying behind petitions to “stop transgender education in schools” or the one where he alleges discrimination for being “forced into choosing between taking a COVID-19 vaccine or being incrementally shut out of society.”

As a former volunteer of Supanova, an Activist and the writer of this article, I myself have to express my absolute disgust that Homophobes and White Supremacists were allowed to push their propaganda at Supanova, and have decided to never attend a Supanova again.

There are much better conventions that showcase “Geek Culture” that are very safe for diverse groups of people. For Indigenous People, let’s talk about convention spaces that are safe for Mob.

I spoke to Yorta Yorta and Ngarrindjeri man Cienan Muir, the Director of Indigenous Comic Con, or better known as “IndigiCon” and the founder of IndigiCon’s hosting company, Indiginerd.

IndigiCon, which launched its first event in 2019, is a “platform celebrating and focusing on Indigenous creativity and that creativity within the pop culture space”, Cienan said. “IndigiCon is a vessel by which Indigenous storytelling can utilise as another medium, whether that be in gaming, film, song, art or cosplay”, Cienan went on to say, proudly stating that IndigiCon can be experienced by all age groups, from Elders to Young People. “Indigicon, is also a platform for all community to attend, a safe space of respect and nerdiness”, he continued.

IndigiCon is a platform which showcases talent from Indigenous communities and at the first event, it hosted some notable names like Aboriginal Actress Rarriwuy Hick, known for her roles in “Wentworth”, “Black Comedy’’ and “Cleverman”, and Actor Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, best known as Nick in Taika Waiti’s “What We Do in the Shadows”. When asked about when to expect the next IndigiCon event, Cienan remarked that the biggest hurdles he had found were finding sponsors, and gaining support. “We do have a few exciting things in the works, but I do hope these potentials develop beyond… just a conversation”, he stated.

Cienan finished by saying that the hosting company, Indiginerd, will be launching its new line of merch in August and will be celebrating the night “hosting this at the largest gamily arena in Australia, in the heart of Melbourne.” Tickets and information are available here

I would be wrong if I didn’t end this yarn on a positive note, and I spoke to Cienan on who his favourite Aboriginal Superhero was. “That’s a tough one, there’s soo many deadly ones! But I’d say Bishop”, Cienan remarked. 

I also reached out to Wiradjuri, Gomeroi, and Awabakal woman and TikTok Creator Meissa (@Meissa.com.au) who has a deadly series on Aboriginal Superheroes, and she provided me with some of her videos on Bishop, Manifold, and Thylacine. You can check them out here.

Through all this. It’s important to remember that Blakfullas are in Comics, and Blakfullas read comic books, and Blakfullas attend comic conventions, so Supanova, you had no excuse.

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