There is a calm at a convention center if you arrive a few hours early before the show opens to the public. Some amount of bustling as dealers and artists are rushing to setup, but outside the show floor it’s generally pretty quiet. I like to roll into shows early and get good parking (when I can) so I can easily stow my purchases in my car during the day so I’ve experienced the “calm” at shows like Long Beach, WonderCon, Phoenix, Comikaze, and even San Diego. Of ALL the cons I’ve been to, Long Beach is in what to me personally is the most pleasant setting. Right on Long Beach Harbor, a clear blue sky, wonderful early morning temperature not too cold, a slight breeze. Quiet. Wonderful. But it’s the calm before the storm as this same promenade will be bustling with humanity (many in colorful costumes) in just a few hours time as people arrive in anticipation of enjoying the event.
And what will they all enjoy? It’s different for everyone. Any good comic con is schizophrenic. A show will will have many personalities and different fans will be able to have completely different experiences all at the same event. The Long Beach Comic Expo is the smaller Spring-time version of the Long Beach Comic Con. There is the comics “face” of the con, with comics to buy; New comics, old comics, creator-owned/small press comics direct from the creators in Artists’ Alley. There is comic art in the form of prints, posters, sketches and original art, mostly direct from the creators (I didn’t see any of the big OA dealers at this show). There were panels for fans to listen to and ask questions of favorite creators. Panels for people interested in learning to make their own comics. There were panels focusing on comics creators. There was a LOT of Cosplay. And, like all cons, a line to get in (though the line for this con was not that bad and fairly manageable).
I appreciate people who cosplay, they add a lot of color and life to a convention. That said, any time I tell someone I’m going to a convention the 1st (or sometimes 2nd) thing they ask me is “What are you dressing up as?”. That’s because the media FOCUSES on cosplay when covering a convention. Why not? It’s visually dynamic, colorful, and the cosplayers are generally enthusiastic fans. It’s great! But at the same time, it gives the general public a skewed view of the attendees at a convention. They may think 90% of the people are in costumes, while it’s probably more like 10%.
People can customize their convention experience to their own personal tastes and we can all go away enjoying the show. People who know me know that I’m a hard-core comics fan, so it should come as no surprise that I was on a “comic book path”. I scoped out the program while waiting in line and had a game plan all set for what to do upon entering the show floor.
The 1st thing I did on Saturday was scope out the Artists in attendance and get on their commission lists for some sketch cover comics and other sketches. I ended up with a Doc Savage Sketch cover from Tone Rodriguez, Turok from Ray-Anthony Height, and Green Lantern by Norm Rapmund. I also got a Flash watercolor sketch from Brian Buccellato.
So, once I was on the sketch commission lists, it was off to panels! Saturday for me was:
Career Spotlight: Gerry Conway
Career Spotlight: Marv Wolfman
…and then Sunday
Career Spotlight: Len Wein
Coloring for Comics
Gerry Conway was fabulous. Lots of stories about his early career, time at Marvel Comics, the Death of Gwen Stacy, the creation of the Punisher and more! Right on the heels of that we got Marv Wolfman talking Tomb of Dracula, Blade, Teen Titans….. Add to that Len Wein from today and reminiscences about the creation of Wolverine, stories about Stan Lee, the creation of “new” X-Men (Thunderbird was “created to die” & 2 characters originally created for the X-Men reboot; Black Cat, black woman with luck powers, different from the character who would later be created in Spider-Man & Tempest a character with weather powers – were not working and we’re combined to create Storm!)! It was 70s Marvel heaven! Panels like these are one of my favorite things at a convention!
When I was done with panels I picked up my commissions and bought an extra piece of art from Tone, an excellent rendering of the Batman family! And outside the convention center drawing a lot of attention in the beautiful California sunshine were a lot of vehicles from TV & movies (the Mach 5 was only approximate but still very cool):
I waited until Sunday for the bulk of my comics shopping and got some great deals. There was a healthy crowd at the show Sunday and a lot of back issues were 50% off the marked price, some great deals to be had!
…and there was more I did and saw than I have detailed here.
It’s not the biggest show in Southern California but it has a lot of heart, fun programming, great variety, and an outstanding location with a lot of great restaurants in close walking distance. If you’re in Southern California and love comics, pop culture, cosplay or a combination of these, check out the Long Beach Con coming up September 27-28, it’s an even bigger event and will be just as much fun!!
Bob Bretall: firstname.lastname@example.org
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