Friday at Stan Lee’s Comikaze 2013

The last time I attended Comikaze was during its inaugural convention two years ago. It was also at the L.A. Convention Center but it felt like you were in the parking garage where all the exhibitors were crammed together and the panel rooms were black curtains hung up in a few areas of the floor pretending to be walls that gave no privacy or filtered any sound, The admission line was insanely long and it took two hours before we were bored enough to leave.

So two years later, when I had the opportunity to attend once again, I wasn’t terribly excited about the prospect. And after reading over the schedule of events with nothing I really wanted to see, I was even less interested in attending. But as I’ve learned from all my past convention experiences sometimes the best events are ones you never thought you’d be interested in or something you stumbled into purely by accident.

From the moment we walked into the Convention Center it was obvious that things had greatly improved. Not only were there huge Comikaze signs and banners, but they also had a number of registration tables equipped with computers and lots of customer-service representatives to help expedite attendees registering and getting their badges. There was no line to speak of and it was an hour before the hall officially opened.

Unfortunately, I was going as Press and both Press and Exhibitors had to register in another area. And that area had lines. The lines weren’t really that long, but it took over a half hour to get through. I’m not sure why it took that long because I had my badge in a matter of seconds after reaching the table. I can understand that getting the press in quickly really isn’t that important, but I’d think they’d want to get the exhibitors in quicker since they help generate revenue.

It also didn’t help matters that I was starving while in line and we were standing right next to the giant windows where you could see all of the food trucks parked just out of reach, begging me to buy some food.

It was a great idea having food trucks right outside the front door even though one of them was closed, which was odd since it was lunch time. We ate nachos from Fist of Fusion and they were delicious. And it was a good thing that we had some nachos because we also ordered some tri-tip sliders from Mangia Italian Ristorante on Wheels, which took a half hour for them to make after we had ordered them. They were also tasty, but it wasn’t worth waiting that long for them.

The first event we went to was “Learn How to Use a Lightsaber, Choreography and Do’s and Don’t’s by the Saber Guild.” It was nice to see that the events and panels had their own individual rooms, but it was poorly organized and felt like it was thrown together at the last moment. They did bring enough lightsabers for everyone so there was at least one thing that was planned out. But the room was full of chairs making it difficult for the participants to move around or swing their lightsabers.

About halfway through the presentation, the instructor decided he needed to use a headset in order to talk through the P.A. system so he could both be heard and interact with the students. And finally, in order for someone to even pick up a lightsaber, they had to log onto a website, read some material, and then sign a liability waiver. The last should have been done beforehand as it left a long line heading out the door the entire time.

After that, we hit the exhibition hall. It was huge and had lots of exhibitors. They were nicely spaced out giving plenty of aisle room and contained a vast variety of items. On one end, there was a museum that had suits of armor from the Iron Man films, the Ghostbusters’ vehicle and KITT from Knight Rider. The opposite side had some arcade games and a few tables that contained one of every gaming system ever made. In one spot there was a couch, an old television, and an Atari 2600 hooked up for you to play.

In the middle of the hall was the Hot Topic Main Stage. “Batgirl: Spoiled Live Stunt/Fight Event” was the first thing we saw there. A group of stunt people acted out a fight between Batgirl and a group of evil clowns. First, they ran it at full speed, then they ran it at a slower speed, and finally they did it with the audience providing the sound effects. It was kind of interesting, but unlike in film or television, you could always see all of the individuals involved in the fight, and it made it feel more unrealistic as you started questioning what was the motivation for the other bad guys to just stand around and hang out while Batgirl beat them up one at a time.

The second item we saw was the panel “Fins Up! Sharknado Touches Down on Comikaze,” which featured the cast and crew from the film starring Ian Ziering. They all seemed very happy to be there and had a great time talking about the film.

Once that was over, it was back to the exhibit hall. There were plenty of different booths where you could buy comics, t-shirts, and toys. One of the more interesting booths was the one designated to the new Stan Lee cologne. The label used his trademark glasses and moustache silhouette. While there are many ways people may aspire to be more like Stan Lee, I’m not sure that smelling like him is one of those.

The final two panels we went two were “The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary” and “Oddball Comics: The Strange, Weird, Wacky Moments and Characters In Comics”. I guess I should say “tried to attend” for the Doctor Who panel because we couldn’t get in. There was already a line that stretched the length of the convention center waiting to get in. And from our previous experience in the lightsaber panel we knew there was no way all of those people were going to fit in that room. There wasn’t anybody really famous that was listed for the panel, but maybe being the one panel that dealt with a popular show was the reason for the long line. Or maybe it was because the description said “not-to-be-missed guests” like someone super big was going to appear. Later on in the day, I overheard a couple people talking about the panel and they said that none of the panel showed up and it basically turned into a cosplay event by a bunch of Doctor Who fans.

Fortunately, the Oddball Comics panel was a great load of fun. Scott Shaw!, cartoonist/artist, did a PowerPoint presentation with very rare and strange comic-book covers. While he showed them, he made fun of them and explained how absurd each one was. Jessica Tseang played his straight man and would ask questions about the artwork shown, which constantly set him up for great comeback lines. Some of the comics featured Woody Woodpecker selling duct tape, a man made of a corncob, a fat man who could separate into two halves with his top half becoming a flying saucer. Shaw! did not avoid controversy, not only making fun of some political comics but also of Stan Lee, who had created one of the oddball comics.

Overall, I had a nice time. I was impressed by how much things had changed, but was disappointed in how unorganized it was for the panels and the unprofessionalism of guests not to show up as expected. Friday felt a little like a throwaway day as it didn’t have the best panels or even the special guests. Edward James Olmos was there on Friday signing autographs and didn’t have any lines, but the bigger ones like Bruce Campbell, Alyssa Milano, Louie Anderson, and Weird Al were all on other days. So next year when I go I’m going to pick any other day than Friday, but next year I’ll be looking forward to going knowing how much I enjoyed this year.

Todd Karella

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