Today, I attended the very first Comikaze Expo here in Los Angeles. After much publicity and fanfare, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I went with an open mind. As I told someone earlier, today could have been either totally awesome or a colossal failure.
Comikaze fell squarely between the two.
The con was held in a single, large convention hall on the lower level of the L.A. Convention Center. This was both a good and a bad scenario. On one hand, you had a "one stop shop" for everything you wanted to see, without having to locate other rooms (save for one, which we'll get to later) in other parts of the center. On the other hand, the mish mash of guests, dealers, and panels felt a little too squished together and claustrophobic.
Having been to a variety of conventions over the years, I speak from a bit of experience. Below are my thoughts on the good, bad, and ugly of Comikaze. This is gonna take a little while, so go grab yourself a beverage and a snack, settle back for a spell, and enjoy!
THE PRICE: Even without all of the deals and discounts the convention was offering, the general admission price for a day pass was $12. Yes, you read that right - TWELVE DOLLARS. That's less than any con - save for the L.A. Comic Con - I've ever attended. With my Goldstar deal, I got in for a measly four dollars, which made the exorbitant $12 parking fee slide right off my back. After a long day of congoing, I figured being able to make the short trek back to the adjacent parking garage would be a luxury I'd appreciate. And I was right.
THE PANELS: Comikaze's programming schedule was a nerd's paradise. Offering at least five different panels per hour on everything from zombies to how to break into video game reviewing, the selection was fantastically varied and satisfied the majority of con goers. I had a hard time choosing between which panels I wanted to attend, and ended up having to leave several panels so I could catch the tail-end of my "second choice." In my mind, Comikaze's panel selection is now second only to Monsterpalooza's in variety and cool topics.
Excellent panel on the independent horror film genre. The woman down front is signing for the deaf audience members. It was almost as fascinating to watch her deftly sign as it was watching the panel!
Fun panel on campy horror films, featuring Sleepaway Camp's most sexually confused teen, Felissa Rose (pictured center).
Fascinating panel on the evolution of the zombie in modern cinema. After a bit of thought, I actually agreed with the panel that Re-Animator is not really a "zombie film" per se, but more of a Frankenstein film.
As all other ST celebs had buggered off before 5pm, Garrett Wang kindly manned the Star Trek Q&A panel single-handedly.
THE SIZE: Comikaze's size was ideal - not too big (like ComicCon in San Diego) and not too small (like the L.A. Comic Con at USC), but just the right size to feel like you got your money's worth, but weren't either let down or overwhelmed by the show itself. By the end of the day, I was tired, but not exhausted, and really felt satisfied that I had had just the right amount of con experience to satiate me.
THE GUESTS: The guest selection was fantastic. The good amount of guests made sure anyone wanting to meet their favorites would get their money's worth. And although there were some of the familiar con regulars, it wasn't all the usual suspects (Bill Moseley and Sid Haig were no shows). There were a few celebs I'd never seen at conventions previously (Noah Hathaway, for example), which made the selection refreshing and fun. Heck, Comikaze's two "guests of honor" were Stan Lee and Elvira - you can't get more polarizing than that!
And now, a celebrity interlude...
Here are a few of my favorite shots from today of the various celebs in attendance. Scroll down to the end of the interlude for a slideshow of everyone I captured at the show.
The only photo of a celebrity and me today was this one with none other than Ambassador Soval himself, Gary Graham. (I also just remembered he was in Stuart Gordon's terrible Robot Jox, too! Hehe!) Told Mr. G. that I had read his rather good book, Acting and Other Flying Lessons and he was pleased. Really nice guy.
Comikaze had set up a small Star Trek corner and I was pleased to see Marina Sirtis in attendance. She was a guest at my very first convention I ever attended back in the mid-90s in Toronto.
Hoorah for Trek photo ops! Cutie Robert Picardo poses with Commander Tuvok himself, Tim Russ.
Ladies and gentlemen, the most photogenic woman in the world, Erika Eleniak. You may remember my previous photo of Erika from the Hollywood Show, which is just as lovely and a little more blonde!
Headliner Elvira smiles at her adoring crowd.
Love this shot of video gamer/comedian/all-around nice dude Jace Hall battling it out with a bunch of kids at his booth.
This is seriously the best picture I could get of headliner Stan Lee. The man was constantly mobbed by fans!
Ernest Borgnine and Morgan Fairchild, together at last!
I'm SO super bummed this photo of Angie Everhart turned out blurry. She's always been one of my absolute favorite models. With her stunning features and gorgeous auburn hair, I was near-dumbstruck meeting her in person.
Caught Venture Bros. co-creator Jackson Publick walking the convention floor after his panel and got this semi-paparazzo/stalkery photo. Wanted to say something to him, but I couldn't think of anything that didn't sound totally fangirlish. I'm also terrible with names and probably would've called him Doc instead of Jackson. :/
Garrett Wang is a totally nice dude and really liked my homemade "I Heart Mad Scientists" shirt I wore today. He even took a photo of it! Now if I see it show up on some website for sale without my approval, I'll know who the culprit was! ;)
The beautiful and absolutely sweet Erin Gray. She's now an actor's convention agent and I hear nothing but amazing things about her new "role" as well!
And here's a slideshow of everyone:
THE VENDORS: The selection of dealers was amazing. Every geeky genre was represented, from horror, sci-fi, and comic books, to cosplay and Steampunk. There were a few dealers there today that I see at every con I attend, but a lot of new ones, too. Even though I didn't buy anything, there were far more things I considered purchasing than I usually do at a convention.
Best. Shirt. EVER.
Were this ring not $40, I may have purchased it. Next best thing to having a wedding band from Howie himself. *sighs*
Here's Kim and her extensive X-Files collection that's up for grabs for lucky fans. She still has some great goodies left, so if anyone is going back for seconds tomorrow, be sure to stop by and pick up a treasure or two!
THE ARTISTS: The show floor was littered with fantastic artists showing off their creations. Everything from superheroes to zombies and beyond were represented and it was absolutely fascinating watching the artists work on their designs.
Michelle Romo, the creator of the wonderful (and adorable) official Comikaze poster was on hand, showing off her artwork. (Check out her website here). After squeeing all over her adorable creations, she thanked me and gave me this wonderful sasquatch pin, which I wore proudly on my belt all day. :)
The awesome Angus Oblong signs autographs at his booth. Apparently, they're trying to get his amazing animated show, The Oblongs back on the air. If you've never seen an episode, I highly suggest seeking them out (they play reruns on [adultswim] quite a bit). It was such an inventive and cleverly written show, at the time it aired, it was just too different for television.
An alien with braces? How "Andorable!"
THE COSPLAYERS: Part of the fun of any convention are the cosplayers and some of the costumes I saw today were so inventive and well done, it's astounding they were "homemade." Driving into the parking garage, I couldn't help yelling, "Cool costume, dude!" out my window at a portly Venture Bros. henchman.
It's everyone's favorite Henchmen, 21 and 24! I very dorkily asked 24 why he wasn't in ghost form, and he insisted he was. Sorry, some of my Venture Bros. nerdiness leaked out for a minute there. XD I think there was someone dressed as Pete White strolling the floor as well, but I didn't get a chance to take his photo.
Even Steampunk era women can't function without an iPhone!
She's just a hunka, hunka re-animated flesh!
It's Spy vs. Spy!
Check out more cosplayers here:
A little congoer makes some new friends.
THE VIBE: There was generally a really good vibe around this con. Sometimes, larger cons are very cold and heartless, but this still felt welcoming enough and many people were smiling and having a great time. A girl I passed exclaimed, "I LOVE cons!" and her face lit up with a big grin. Too cute.
KNOWLEDGE: (or lack thereof) of the staff was immediately evident upon my first entering the con. I asked a guy manning the will-call booth where the restroom was, and after giving me a blank stare, said, "Uh, I dunno, maybe ask one of the security guards?"
Anyone who is helping to run a convention should know the answers to these basic questions. This also happened when I asked a woman manning the official Comikaze booth where panel room 306AB was (we'll get to that in a minute). After giving me the now-familiar blank stare, she stated that all panel "rooms" were housed in the small tents that surrounded the perimeter of the convention hall.
Not so, madam! After getting lost for a good 20 minutes, I finally located the elusive Room 306AB - a larger room with A/V setup for the more popular panels - on the third floor (makes sense, doesn't it?) far removed from the main Comikaze convention hall. This was an absolutely stupid thing to do and I'm certain I wasn't the only fan who couldn't readily find this hidden spot.
Which line are we in? And for what, now?
DISORGANIZATION: The general disorganization of entry was disappointing. As the con was so widely attended, lines snaked haphazardly all over the convention building, no one really knowing whether they were in the "correct" line. One was apparently for picking up your ticket at will-call, another for buying a ticket, and yet another was for actually getting in. After having to wait in the will-call line for so long, I made a pit stop at the ladies room adjacent to the main hall. When I got outside again, I was able to randomly join one of the various and pointless lines to enter the con itself. Next year, Comikaze should not promote the fact to "come early and beat the crowds" since by about 10am, the mayhem had died down to a dull roar and the pointless lines were minimal, save for those to meet the guests of honor.
GUEST LAYOUT: was ridiculous and random. There were several alcoves of guests that were oddly narrow and hard to negotiate, especially with large poles blocking the middle of the aisle. Other celebs were unnecessarily scattered around the main floor haphazardly, and if you didn't know where they would be signing (there were apparently no official programs or schedules of any kind at the con), you were at a severe disadvantage.
PANEL LAYOUT: was also ridiculously dumb. All panels were held in these relatively tiny little "tents" that were scattered around the perimeter of the convention hall, thus making them nearly impossible to find. Each "room" had a number, but they were not numbered in any coherent way. Mid-afternoon, I attended a panel in Room 4, and then wanted to find a panel in Room 5. You'd think it would be the next tent down, but inexplicably, Room 5 was on the opposite end of the convention hall. The mind boggles.
The tents were set up with flimsy folding chairs that never stayed in any semblance of order, which made things messy and confusing. One of the tents was even set up around a large pole, so if you came in late and had to stand near the back, you'd be stuck behind the concrete blockade, unable to see the panel. The mics were all too hot and too loud, but the panelists were still hard to hear over the general din of the convention hall and the P.A. voice that constantly barked out unintelligible announcements in a garble that would make Charlie Brown's teacher blush.
The B.B.O.: The smell...oh GOD, the smell! Twice the chairs I sat in at panels stank so badly that I had to switch seats or stand. Unwashed masses, indeed. For the love of all fandom, please wear deodorant when you attend a convention. Your fellow nerds' noses will thank you.
After finding the infamous Room 306AB, my stay was unfortunately brief and very smelly. At least I got a half-decent shot of cutie Jackson Publick, co-creator of my beloved Venture Bros. Although not on the panel, the voice of Doc Venture, James Urbaniak may have been there today. Sadly, I didn't spot him.
CELEBRITY PRICE GOUGING: As is now the new and highly unfortunate trend, some of the celebs were charging for random photos taken with your own camera. One (who shall remain nameless) asked me for TWENTY BUCKS to take her photo. What have you done since Back to the Future, lady? Ridiculous!
Tippi Hedren was one of the celebs charging for random photos today, but I still got this surreptitious faraway shot for my collection.
For a first attempt, Comikaze did very well. They're no Monsterpalooza, but they aren't a horrid Creation convention either. You'll note that the above "goods" outweigh the "bads" and "uglies" quite heavily.
L.A. fans should consider this con to be a closer (and smaller) solid alternative to ComicCon in San Diego. If this con continues to improve, trains its volunteers a little better, and works out a few kinks, I'm certain it will become a fandom force to be reckoned with here on the West Coast.
Note: All of the above photos are ©2011 Elisa Ward. Please ASK before using them elsewhere. Thanks!