Cecil Castellucci

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

Comics and Graphic Novels at this year’s West Hollywood Book Fair

10th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair

The West Hollywood Book Fair is this Sunday, October 2nd, and a good number of comic book and graphic novel authors, artists, publishers and retailers are taking part. There are plenty of panels and events, which all include signings immediately after. Here’s a look at what’s happening:

Programming:

The Comics, Graphic Novels & More Pavilion will have panels throughout the entire day. Good discussions will be held to examine how comics are attempting to diversify their readership, as well as the rise of graphic novel anthologies and young adult graphic novels. There will also be a look at comic book adaptations of the worlds of Jim Henson and a broader look at comics getting adapted to film and TV. The day is then capped off with a live podcast covering Superman’s impact on American and world culture.

11:00 am – 12:00 pm: Diversity in Comics panel. Former TokyoPop senior editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl moderates; panelists: author/illustrator Leland Myrick (Feynman), manga editor/writer Troy Lewter (Priest, Cabin in the Woods), and writer Kimberly Komatsu (Womanthology, In America’s Shadow).

12:15 pm – 1:15 pm: The Rise of the Graphic Novel Anthology. Comedy writer Asterios Kokkinos moderates; panelists: Kazu Kibuishi (editor of Flight, Explorer), DJ Kirkbride (editor of Popgun), Nicole Sixx (contributor to Womanthology), and Michael Woods (editor of Outlaw Territory).

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm: The World of Young Adult Grapphic Novels. Lillian Diaz-Przybyl again moderates; panelists: author Cecil Castellucci (The Plain Janes), writer Deborah Vankin (Poseurs), and editor Barbara Randall Kesel (Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives, Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales).

2:45 pm – 3:45 pm: Jim Henson and Comic Books: Putting Puppets to Paper. Writer/editor (and Henson specialist) Tim Beedle moderates; panelists: The Jim Henson Company‘s Director of Product Development Jim Formanek, writer Brian Holguin (Dark Crystal), consulting editor Joe LeFavi of Quixotic Transmedia (Fraggle Rock, The Storyteller, Return to Labyrinth), and writer Heather Nuhfer (Fraggle Rock).

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm: Comics to Screen & Back Again. Moderated by Sax Carr and Blair Marnell of Crave Online’s The Idiot Box podcast; panelists: writer/editor Len Wein (Swamp Thing, X-Men), executive story editor/writer Deric A. Hughes (Warehouse 13), and writer Sam Sarker of Johnny Depp’s production company Infinitum Nihil (The Vault).

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm: Inside the Comics Industry: Superman. A live broadcast of the Fandom Planet podcast hosted by comedians Tim Powers and Sax Carr; panelists: artist Jon Bogdanove (Superman: The Man of Steel), writer Elliot S! Maggin (Action Comics, Superman), and comics historian/cartoonist Scott Shaw! (Oddball Comics, Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew)

The Current Events & Hot Topics Pavilion will also include some comics mixed into their “traditional” book discussions. Writer Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier) will be one of the panelists for The Way of the Gun: Fascination & Fear in Fact & Fiction, moderated by writer Gary Phillips (Cowboys). Other panelists include novelists Naomi Hirahara (Blood Hina: A Mas Arai Mystery) and Adam Winkler (Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America).

The popular Amulet series of graphic novels by special guest Kazu Kibuishi

The Teen Stage has a live author interview with Cecil Castellucci (The Plain Janes, Janes in Love), conducted by blogger and book reviewer Chelsea Swiggett. The two will discuss Castellucci’s two graphic novels, as well as her popular young adult novels like Rose Sees Red.

Events:

Young Adult author Cecil Castellucci will also be exhibiting her collaborative narrative project Literary Diaspora at the Fair. She mails (yes, old fashion mails!) out words to visual artists and images to authors who then create something inspired by what they received. They then mail it back to her to add to the growing stories. So far comics artists Becky Cloonan, Joe Infurnari, Chip Zdarsky and others have participated. Cards returned so far will be displayed at the Fair, and visitors might even find a card in a books asking them to participate. Check out LiteraryDiaspora.com for more on the project.

Live Art with Billy Martinez – Indie comics creator Martinez will produce art at the Indie Comics Creators Booths all day long. Booth: C 19-22

How to Make Comic Books & Zines Workshop – The Indie Comics Creators Booths will hold workshops and tutorials all day long. Booth: C 19-22

Special Guests:

Cecil CastellucciThe Plain Janes and Janes in Love graphic novels, as well as YA novels Boy Proof, The Queen of Cool and Beige. Official site.
Kazu Kibuishi Amulet graphic novel series, Flight comics anthology. Official site.
Deborah VankinPoseurs graphic novel, LA Times staff writer. Twitter.

Exhibitors:

Archaia Entertainment – Publisher of graphic novels Mouse Guard, Return of the Dapper Men, Jim Henson projects like Fraggle Rock and The Dark Crystal, and much more. Booth: C 4-5
The Comic Bug – A great comic book store in Manhattan Beach. Booth: C 1-2
The Devastator – A quarterly comedy magazine with comics, funny writing and other wackiness run by editor-in-chief Geoffrey Golden (Cracked, National Lampoon). Booth: C 19-22, Table E
Eyedraugh Comics – Independent comics publisher located in Fontana. Booth: C 19-22, Table A
Neko Press Comics – Art studio, school and publisher run by La Mesa-based illustrator Billy Martinez, who will be producing live art all day long. Booth: C 19-22, Table H
OMGcow: A Comic Diary – An autobiographical web-comic by cartoonist Sheika Lugta of Long Beach. Booth: C 19-22, Table A

The WeHo Book Fair is happening this Sunday at the West Hollywood Library, which is itself having a grand opening the day before, and the neighboring West Hollywood Park, at N. San Vicente Blvd. at Melrose Blvd, this Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm.