Pulp culture reigns: Armageddon's 20th anniversary draws 70,000

The rise of nerd-chic sees Armageddon attendance up 27%

Who'd have thought it? That an ultra-geeky comic and trading card convention started in 1995 by a self-confessed Dr Who nerd would, over the next 20 years grow, into the biggest fantasy event in Australasia.

Certainly not the event's founder, Bill Geradts. In fact, after losing "a hunk of money" at the 1995 Armageddon Comic and Trading Card Convention at Avondale Raceway, Geradts got close to abandoning the idea altogether.

This year, around 45,000 tickets were sold to the event, which involves a mix of fantasy, sci-fi, gaming, wrestling, celebrities, parties, Burning Man – and stalls selling stuff related to all of the above. The number of attendees reached 70,000, up from 55,000 last year. (The discrepancy is because of all the people who go for more than one day, with a multiple-day pass.)

"It started as a fun geek thing to do. It was just a short-term plan, but it kept going. We never gave it a thought that it might be a long-term thing."

But getting the show to where it is now has been an uphill battle.

"Armageddon is a 20-year overnight success."

Photos by Anita Hayhoe

It's not a cheap event to put on, Geradts says. You are talking tens of thousands of dollars to bring some of the top international stars to New Zealand; people like Natalia Tena (Nymphadora Tonks in Harry Potter and Osha in Game of Thrones) or WWF wrestling legend Jake the Snake Roberts.

Still, with ticket prices ranging from $21 for a single-day, pre-sale pass, to $449 for VIP passes (including special guest panels, celebrity photos, skip-the-queue autographs and a cocktail party), not to mention the quantities of merchandise available, the event has become a multi-million dollar affair.  

Photos by Ben Godden

For Geradts, a big part of the event is seeing a whole load of people enjoying the sort of geeky stuff that makes him happy – and that sometimes means shrugging off the financial side.

"Because we are nerds, geeks, we can justify doing some or the things we wouldn't do if we were only in it for the money."

Geradts says as well as a big increase in numbers, there was a noticeable increase in "cosplay" (people dressing up) this year, with everything from fairytale creatures to zombies and warriors. And there was also more gaming available, he says, which is fitting given the 20th anniversary of Armageddon is also the 20th anniversary of the Sony Playstation.

Thanks to MoBro.co.nz for the footage