Comikaze Expo’s first year kicked off this past weekend, an event that I’ve been looking forward to since summertime! Los Angeles hasn’t had a decent comic book convention in several years. Yes, there have been conventions in Anaheim and Long Beach, but none that have made the Los Angeles Convention Center their home since Wizard World (and as much as I enjoy the Wizard World cons, they shouldn’t call it Wizard World L.A. if they’re relocating to Anaheim; that city isn’t even in Los Angeles County).
Despite my sinuses making life miserable for me leading up to the convention, I pulled my health together long enough to make the rounds and explore what will hopefully become L.A.’s version of SDCC in the coming years. I met some amazing people, attended some great panels, and even got a few pieces of information on the future of DC Comics and their New 52. For someone who hadn’t fully recovered from being sick, however, it was a loooong weekend…
SATURDAY 10 AM – 10:30 AM: I arrived at the convention center and gawked at the amazingly long line of people waiting to get into Comikaze Expo. The line called to mind Hall H at SDCC, which made me glad that there’s such an amazing turnout, and it wasn’t even afternoon yet! I picked up my wristband, took some pictures and video of the line, and met up with friends Jessica Mills and Eric Campbell. If you’re not familiar with Jessica, she’s the actress/writer/creator of the webseries Awkward Embraces, which was recently mentioned in L.A. Times as “a really sweet comedy” by Felicia Day. Eric is an actor/writer for Comediva, a website that focuses on female-centric comedy. We were soon joined by Dina Kampmeyer (Lady Steam Designs, steampunk enthusiast), amongst other friends, and entered the convention hall for a day of geeky fun!
10:30 AM – 12 PM: We got our bearings on the Comikaze Expo floor by finding the League of Extraordinary Ladies booth. For those unfamiliar with the LXL, they’re a collection of very creative ladies who joined together last year to support each other’s creative pursuits, and they form the core of a network that spans across the U.S. and beyond. Our group expanded to include some of these lovely ladies and we set off to explore the convention floor. While not as crowded as the bigger conventions like SDCC, there were isles that were just as difficult to navigate (like the one in front of the LXL booth) and others that were plenty wide enough for our sizable group to navigate through without having to go single file. Dina peeled off to take part in the Steampunk 101 panel at 11 AM, and the rest of us winded through the booths to our own first panel of the day.
12 PM – 1 PM: Geek Chic Daily Presents the Geek Renaissance – Branding, Marketing and PR in a Pop Culture World was a great panel about how to make your voice heard in the current geek culture boom. Jessica was one of the speakers on the panel along with Mel Caylo (Archaia Comics), Emily Gordon (NerdMelt), Emily McGregor (Comediva) and Sam Humphries (Our Love is Real), moderated by Brian Walton. The importance of social networking was central to the discussion, as well as authentic interaction with your community. Pushing your product, be it a podcast or blog or what have you, is fine in moderation, but making non-promotional posts to invite discussion with your fans will go a long way. If you’re not getting to know your community, you’re missing out on a chance to create a very loyal fanbase! Toward the end of the panel, Comikaze Expo co-founder Regina Carpinelli dropped in to make sure everything was going smoothly… and, I would imagine, to respond to so many of us tweeting about the noise level intruding on the panels. Also, we connected with Alan “Sizzler” Kistler (actor/blogger/comic book historian) at the panel and assimilated him into our entourage as we made our way out onto the convention floor again.
1 PM – 2 PM: We grabbed a bite to eat and momentarily split up to cover more ground before the next panel. It’s fun seeing the various vendor booths in attendance, such as the Zombie Research Society and Dumbledore’s Army sharing the same floor with Top Cow Comics and Archaia Comics. Traffic moved pretty well in my explorations, except when I got to the area that contained Stan Lee and Elvira. Thick crowds do not agree with me, so I made my way around it to get to the next panel and reunited the entourage.
2 PM – 3 PM: Character Studies – Geek Girls in Popular Culture was an amazing panel with some top talent. Jessica joined Jane Espenson (B:TVS, BSG, Torchwood: Miracle Day), Amy Berg (Eureka, Leverage), Sarah Watson (Parenthood, The Middleman), Sarah Kuhn (writer/blogger) and Stephanie Thorpe (Night of the Zombie King) for this exploration of female geeks in film, TV, novels and comics, moderated by Amy Ratcliffe (writer/blogger). The wide range of creators on the panel really drove home just how prevalent geek culture is becoming in today’s entertainment. All of these ladies are doing their part in ensuring that women are noticed just as much as guys when it comes to geeks in multimedia, to the point where the gender line is being blurred to the point of elimination, resulting in one unified geek community. There’s still a ways to go, however, and each of these immensely creative ladies are doing their part to further the geek cause, be it in a webseries, a fan-trailer for a beloved comic series, or mainstream shows like Eureka and Once Upon A Time. Fun fact: M*A*S*H had several female writers on its staff along with the male writers, though you’d never know it from how well it was written, which inspired Jane Espenson to become a TV writer. Though I’ve met Jane previously, I connected with Stephanie at long last which was a real treat!
3 PM – 5 PM: I break off from the entourage to do a little more exploring of the convention floor and meet some other people. Since I’d spent most of the day being introduced to new people, I returned the favor by connecting my friend Jesse Freeman to America Young, actress/creator behind Comediva and a hundred other web-based projects. I also tried revisiting the Elvira and Stan Lee area, but the crowd was still too thick for me to make any headway. Instead, my trusty (and intimidating) cameraman plowed his way through the crowd to snap a shot of Stan Lee for me. I also visited the celebrity signing area and talked with Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica) and Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation) about their respective shows. After that, I encountered the one major hiccup in my afternoon plans. Scheduled in the same 5 PM hour were three all-star panels: the STAR TREK Q&A moderated by Jessica, SUSHI GIRL featuring Mark Hamill, and the DC COMICS NEW 52 Q&A featuring a massive panel of DC Comics’ top talent. How did the three biggest panels get scheduled in the same time slot?! Since I still haven’t figured out how to clone myself or gain access to a TARDIS or DeLorean, I could only go to one. And the winner is…
5 PM – 6 PM: DC COMICS NEW 52 Q&A was a massive panel consisting of Eric Wallace (Mr. Terrific), Mike Costa (Blackhawks), Mike Johnson (Supergirl), Phillip Tan (The Savage Hawkman), J.T. Krul (Green Arrow and Captain Atom), Brian Buccetello (The Flash), Joshua Fialkov (I,Vampire), Kyle Higgins (Nightwing and Deathstroke) and Blond (Red Hood and the Outlaws and DC Universe Presents) that gained a surprise guest: Scott Lobdell (Teen Titans, Superboy and Red Hood and the Outlaws)! Moderated by Emerald Knight Comics, the panel was a largely informal discussion of each of the New 52 comics and what was in store for them in the future. There were some notable highlights to the panel, though. As a Wally West fan, it game me hope to hear Brian say, “Sooner or later you will have Wally West, we just don’t know when.” Scott also revealed that Raven will be returning to Teen Titans in an upcoming issue and Kyle mentioned an upcoming appearance of Tim Drake in Nightwing, but not before Damian Wayne is reunited with Dick Grayson. Scott also discussed his original treatment of Teen Titans, which carried on the continuity of the previous run, but he was asked by DC to reset the team so that they’ve never met before. Lots of hints were dropped in regard to certain characters’s future storylines including the reveal of the top 10 smartest people in the DCU (relating to Mr. Terrific’s claim of being the 3rd smartest), a new and surprising job for Nightwing in Gotham City, and a more prominent appearance of the enigmatic red hooded woman that appeared in each first issue of the New 52. One thing’s for sure, DC Comics is poised to dominate the market for the next year!
6 PM – 7 PM: Bummed that I completely missed out on my Star Wars and Star Trek heroes, I still went to the BAD KIDS GO TO HELL PANEL. Bad Kids Go To Hell is a story of a group of private school kids called into weekend detention who, one by one, fall victim to terrible “accidents” until only one remains. Is it the work of one of the students, or is their school really haunted? Creators Barry Wernick (writer/producer) and Matthew Spradlin (director/producer) turned their idea into a graphic novel and then faithfully adapted it page by page into a feature film that will soon have a theatrical release. The panel featured plenty of tales of behind the scenes hijinks with the cast and crew, complete with a slide show and videos, and wrapped up with free signed graphic novels of Bad Kids for the attendees.
After the convention, many of us brought the party to the Blue Palms Brewhouse for a meet-up called BonCon in honor of Bonnie Burton, editor/writer at Starwars.com for Lucasfilm and crafter extraordinaire. It was awe-inspiring to see the kind of talent that Bonnie attracts when she ventures down to L.A., but after meeting her and finding out what a very sweet and wonderful person she is, it’s not surprising. Though my phone was dying by that point, I was able to snap off this one picture of a wild Dark Side unicorn before my battery ran out:
And that’s just the first day! Click here to read about the second and final day of Comikaze Expo’s first triumphant event!