First Time Comic Convention Goer Reviews Comikaze Expo

The Comikaze Expo debuted at the Los Angeles Convention Center at the beginning of November. This brand new comic book convention joins a crowded field to get a major comic con in the city. Many have come and gone over the years. Will this be the one that sticks? Guest-blogger Cindy Marie Jenkins attended Comikaze and shares her thoughts.

Cozying up to Alex Leavitt's laptop

I truly went to this on a whim. A friend threw it out on Google+ and I thought it sounded like fun, and a low-key way to introduce myself to attending conventions. For various reasons in my storytelling world, I need to stay involved in the larger industry.

So I went expecting….what, exactly? The website gave detailed information about the panels and that was encouraging. I knew I would have to decide between some very interesting topics. Scanning through the guests and vendors, I found a lot of brand names or people that I knew and looked interesting. The Guests of Honor, though, left a weird taste in my mouth. I am new to the details of this industry, but I had no idea that the Nickelodeon show “All That” fell into geek culture.

Yeah, that’s because it doesn’t. They were the main attraction though. Stan Lee – very cool – and Elvira – a respectable mainstay, I’m guessing?  – also headlined. I can understand needing a more mainstream attraction like an “All That” Reunion except that, actually, I can’t. Again, I’m new to conventions, but in what alternate universe should Stan Lee be overshadowed by “All That” at a comics convention?

That aside, the event itself was fun. I didn’t know there was a program which is good because they apparently ran out of them in the first hour. I had printed the panels, but no map to the floor. That’s not a big deal; I could wander around the room to decent effect. However, at the entrance they only let people inside two at a time, which left a little excitement to be desired. Translation: way too orderly an entrance to rouse anticipation. It felt like we were being let into a museum.

Jane Espenson *swoon*

On the comics note, I noticed I’m more inclined to risk $1-10 for an issue rather than pick up a free one; most likely because I don’t want to seem like a swag free-loader. Also, cheaper trial issues assured I had enough money for a few of them, rather than blowing my whole budget on one new title to try. That feels more in the vibe of a convention, so new audience can experiment with what they read. I have already enjoyed many of the titles and webseries I found there since last weekend.

The two panels I attended were definitely the most interesting parts of the day. The first was run by Alex Leavitt from USC Annenberg on otaku and the role of anima, manga and otaku in Japanese culture. He braved through a largely visual presentation with no projector, thanks to the Expo simply not providing him one, according to Leavitt. We crowded closer to his laptop, which was actually quite a lovely setting, and we saw the visuals if not the video well enough. Poor young Leavitt also battled the consistent overwhelming cheering of the “All That” Reunion. Overall we got the gist of the topic; I do wish he’d delved deeper into the very interesting examples he gave. I learned what otaku means and have a better idea of how close their geek culture is to ours. We are the world. I would have liked more meat.

The next panel I attended was Character Studies: Geek Girls in Popular Culture, with Jane Espenson, Amy Berg, Cecil Castellucci, Sarah Watson, Sarah Kuhn, Jessica Mills and Stephanie Thorpe. Moderated by Amy Ratcliffe. (Here is a general conference pet peeve: why are panelists’ Twitter addresses not listed anywhere? I missed one of my favorite Twitter personalities, Black Nerd Comedy, because of no program/map, and wasn’t lucky enough to catch his tweets about the event*).

Back to the panel. I am now the biggest fan of Jane Espenson, but that doesn’t take much. She’s awesome and a role model for many of her fellow panelists. This panel was kept kind of upbeat and light, which wasn’t hard with six women incredibly happy with their lives and work. A very humorous moment came when the ASL Interpreter was asked what the sign for “D20” is. She made a motion like rolling a die, and then was careful to demonstrate the difference between that sign and one not quite as G-rated.

These guys are seriously my favorite from MAD magazine of yore

CosPlay fascinates me, but my only venture into it involved east coast renaissance faires so I could show off my sword. At Comikaze, I snapped a few shots while others posed, and had a hard time asking for anyone to pose just for me. The one character I did have the guts to ask was an absolutely stunning Witch King of Angmar; however, by the time I found my courage, his helmet was off so he can eat lunch with his son. I didn’t want to intrude on the Witch King’s lunch. I do wish I’d gotten that picture.

Since one of the biggest reasons I attended was to get a sense of the culture and be prompted to read or watch new stories, Comikaze Expo earns a rousing success. In no particular order, I discovered the League of Extraordinary Ladies, Reed Gunther, The 36, reMind, Shelf Life (had known about through Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt but prompted to watch after seeing writer on panel), Awkward Embraces (another I heard enough about but actually watched all of Season 1 yesterday), ran into Comediva again after an intro at the Broad Humor Film Festival (they win for best hook to get people to their booth), Jefbot, The League of S.T.E.A.M. (donated to their kickstarter for Season 2 but first time seeing them in person. They get the best carnival barker award), Americana: The Book Series, Elizabeth Watasin, Jody Houser, Eliza Frye, the Winner Twins (haven’t checked out yet but they self-describe as “identical twin teenage dyslexic scifi authors”), and Olivia Dantes.

A few cool combinations of art and social good, which is a very public crusade of mine: The Winner Twins tour the country with Motivate 2 Learn, “a nonprofit inspiring students to read, write, overcome obstacles and teach their creative writing method.” Princess Leah postcards were everywhere, asking for donations towards medical bills to help a young baby Leah suffering from a mysterious illness; lastly, the California Browncoats have fun fan memorabilia and artist-donated fan calendars that go to different charities. Check them out – support art – help a cause. Everyone wins!

Mandalorians vs. The Leage of S.T.E.A.M.

There were definitely first-year problems. I’m a novice to conventions but not to events or performance, and rather than dwelling on the criticisms I know they’ve received (thank you Facebook), I want to offer some solutions.

*Continue of pet peeve:
Help tweeting loudmouths out and reap the promotional benefits: put the event hashtag everywhere and encourage all speakers, vendors, etc, to post their Twitter addresses as a sign. Point everyone to your business and give them all the tools to help a vendor, and direct everyone following the hashtag to find vendors and artists of their choice. I mostly found out at least ten of my friends were there thanks to the #Comikaze hashtag, and although most intermediate Twitter users pick up on it, encourage its use with signs.

Overall, the flow felt adequate and kind of like an indoor swap meet. I do wonder why more like-minded vendors aren’t placed together. Is it a quandary over competition? I bet if I’d walked through all five steampunk vendors at once, I would have bought something. Ditto for independent comics section. Has this been tried at other conventions and discarded? The autograph area was packed together for sci-fi specific actors, but that left poor Claudia Wells (original Jennifer Parker in Back to the Future) all by her lonesome and way on the other side of the hall. I wasn’t looking for signatures myself (although “The Voice for The Archies” Ron Dante almost got me to buy something), but I can’t imagine the original girlfriend of Marty McFly means much by the time you pass the Lasik Eye Surgery booth, take a left at the guy selling all his Star Wars memorabilia, and finally get to hers.

These pumpkin sculptures were way more impressive when I thought they were real pumpkins

I will absolutely return next year, with a larger budget and more room in my schedule for panels. It’s looking good that many of the titles and series I’ve enjoyed since our introduction are keepers, so the artists get more fans. Multiple crafts vendors got my attention and money, but special artisan beauty goes to Sev’s Wood Crafts, “Where one good turn deserves another!” according to his card. I’m writing about scribes right now, and had a massively difficult time not buying half his stock instead of paying my student loans. The very happy purchase I did make was a dragon-shaped bookmark, created out of turkey vertebrae transformed into beads.

That, plus encouragement for female writers garnered during the Geek Girls panel, was well worth my time and budget. I am confident they’ll listen to the very vocal feedback to improve next year.

———
Cindy Marie Jenkins admits her childhood playmates were Gilbert & Sullivan. She works as a Storyteller and Director of Online Outreach for Social | Impact Consulting LLC. Current writing found at the Blue Dragon Scribe Shoppe and MYTHistories. @CindyMarieJ. She is a big fan of beer. CindyMarieJenkins.com

8 comments

  1. I’m glad that there are new conventions cropping up, but it’s just kinda weird to me that there’s such an interest surrounding comics and its culture but not the comic books themselves.

    And… who’s Jane Espenson?

    I’m also confused as to why there are no pictures or even a mention of what Stan Lee had to say. Was he actually even there? It’s hard to tell from the article.

  2. Hi dailypop, thanks for your comment. I found the emphasis on culture vs actual comics a little bewildering as well, and did try to keep returning to the artists’ tables. I was primarily there to find new comic books to read and really enjoy some of the new finds.

    Jane Espenson is a writer for TV and the webseries “Husbands”: http://www.janeespenson.com/ . I was familiar with her work but not necessarily the person before hearing her thoughts on the panel.

    I didn’t get to hear Stan Lee speak, and don’t really collect autographs, even on their titles. The Comikaze Expo Facebook page has many pictures of him, though, and very entertaining ones as well. Corey and I chose visuals that best reflected my experience. if I had thought to get a picture of the line for Stan Lee and “All That” reunion to visually enhance that paragraph near the beginning, that would have been a good idea. If Corey ever lets me onto his blog again, I can surely work on that!

  3. I can only imagine what the “All That” reunion looked like. How very very weird. What’s next, a Small Wonder Symposium crammed between panels with Bruce Timm and Paul Dini?

  4. Hey dailypop,

    Thanks for reading and posting! Stan Lee’s production company POW! was aggressively promoting Comikaze through their email newsletter for a number of weeks leading up to the event. I don’t know if there was some kind of partnership worked out, but Stan definitely made an appearance. He’s pretty good at showing up when he says he will.

    I noticed on your blog you just reviewed The Starmind Record. Not sure if you noticed, but I played one of the “overcome zealots”. It was lots of fun working with Gerard again. Glad you liked it!

    1. “I noticed on your blog you just reviewed The Starmind Record. Not sure if you noticed, but I played one of the “overcome zealots”. It was lots of fun working with Gerard again. Glad you liked it!”

      Oh yes, I noticed. You were great and it’s a superb project. I look forward to next 8-Sided Films project, Quantum Theory.

  5. Hey you were a bit harsh. I had a great time. I go to about 6 Conventions a year since 1999. I have seen it all. For a first year show Comikaze was awesome . Ya, they had some problems but thats to be expected. I have been to a lot of first time cons, and have seen way worse problems. . I have also seen Cons try to break in to LA and fail miserably any one remeber the Wizard shows of yore? or that rockin pasadena mess? I am glad Comikaze came to LA. Also since you are a first timer you probs didnt realize that Comikaze has one of the lowest prices I have ever seen, $12 a tickets is unheard of. The week before Long Beach had their yearly little show and that was $25 a day and had about 20 vendors and 5 really bad panels. Comikaze did something fun for the community that was affordable. I liked that Comikaze is family run, and they donate a lot of proceeds to charities. . I look forward to their next show!
    As far as twitter and facebook go, I have been following Comikaze since May. They update and interact all the time as well as retweet. You cant blame guests for not retweeting. You really think Comikaze has power over that? Also that Nickelodeon thing you blasted, Black Nerd was the moderator. As a fan I think it was great they did a All That reunion, its pop culture and Comikaze is all about pop culture. Besides if you think about it, Isnt comics and horror and sci-fi , just popular culture? Even after the show, the Comikaze peeps tweeted and facebooked about wanting to hear from fans on what they you would like to see different. NO SHOW does that. I have email San Diego Comic Con about some REAL complaints and never heard from anyone. The fact that the Comikaze peeps care shows a lot.
    As far as comics go are you friggin kidding? Did you see their artist alley? it was jammed with amazing comic artists and creators. Great indie ones and some of the mainstream guys as well. I found and met some great people and picked up some really new books Plus they had a bunch of indie publishing companies in booths. Um HELLO TOP SHELF was there, and Robert Venditti signed my Surrogates book FOR FREE. Just because Marvel and DC were not present doesnt take away from the Comic factor. they also had some great Comic Book and graphic novel dealers.
    I think big things will come to comikaze. They had a great guest and vendor list for a first year show. I really hope Comikaze sticks around and keeps bringing a good show thats affordable and focuses on the indie community!

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

      I chose Cindy to guest-blog on this because she hasn’t been to a lot of conventions. I think it’s important to get the perspective of people not deeply enmeshed in this world because every con is someone’s first.

      Having said that, it’s great to get your perspective added to this, as well as to the larger context you provided.

      The only other thing I’ll add is that I think you might’ve misunderstood what Cindy was getting at regarding Twitter hashtags. She isn’t saying that Comikaze should force its guests to use the #Comikaze hashtag. You’re right, that’s a ridiculous expectation. What Cindy is proposing is that Comikaze include guests’ Twitter handles on the name placards of panels. Or display Twitter handles of exhibitors on the show floor. The guests would need to provide this information, but why not ask for it on the exhibitor and guest forms? The other thing she’s suggesting is to have the #Comikaze hashtag displayed on the show floor, panel rooms, etc. Not everyone attending the convention is following Comikaze on Twitter and Facebook – that would be a great way to encourage attendees to join in the online conversation during the convention, which in turn can be a very strong (and free!) marketing strategy.

      I too hope Comikaze sticks around, and I don’t think Cindy’s review is a total slam. While she sees room for improvement, she also discovered some great comics and enjoyed some great panels. That’s a victory to me.

  6. Hi Corey,
    I am not a great writer nor am I a journalist. But a good journalist goes to things and looks at the good and the bad.They focus on highs and lows and should try to end on a positive note. Cindys article probally turned some people off to what could potentially be a great show, I read a little positive and then negative because she did not enjoy her time do to twitter handles and that All That (a pop culture show) was at a pop culture convention. I think you should give Comikaze some more credit. And of all the Comic Book Vendors and Artists she said they had none. WTF? No show has twitter handles on placards or on the floor. Not everyone has a twitter. Comikaze had all their guests and panels listed on the site for months. Again, for a first year show they did awesome. I spoke to one of the founders the day of the show as I had issues, first the fact that one of the founders took time to speak to me was amazing. She told me they were not expecting that many people and were super understaffed, despite the little bumps it was still great. No first year show has maps or programs. I went their and paid $12 had a better time then at SDCC, yes it was a bit unorganized but again they were understaffed and when is San Diego even organized? The fact is you had a newbie write about a topic and she did a poor job. There was so much more positive going on then what cindy let on. she could have given a lot more credit, if you have ever been to a convention what show is that big with that much going on and only $12? I saw a lot of little kids with wide eyes of wonder, i heard a lot of vendors and artists talk about how they made more money at comikaze then any other show, i saw first time meet ups and got to meet my personal heroes, i did all my christmas shopping,found new books, I made new friends, saw old ones. Comikaze was what SDCC felt like before the big studios moved in. It was personal.

    All I am saying is its a real shame that anyone would complain about a show they paid $12 for. We all know most shows cost a lot more. Look at San Diego and their $175 price and Cast of Glee? All That fits more the geek realm then Glee does. Comikaze tried to do a nice thing for the community, and as geeks we should support it.

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