Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo graced the halls of the LA Convention Center from October 30th to November 1st, monopolizing many cosplayers’ Halloweens and landing squarely one week before co-Editor Robby and I would take to the altar to pledge our undying love (and all that jazz). It’s a busy time of year. So when the weekend rolled around and people (including my fiance–now husband) started asking “Are you really going to a convention the week before your wedding? Are you sure you have time??????” the answer was a resounding “DUH”–even though no, we really kind of did not have time.
Comikaze has been a personal favorite since my first visit back when the con was a tiny portion of the LA Convention Center with a handful of vendors and big dreams. It became my con-life mission to drag every convention-goer friend I had with me to the fancentric celebration that had been nurtured and curated by Stan Lee and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Comikaze was all things the giant media syndicate heavy cons were not; personal in a way they could no longer manage, filled with friends and people who truly wanted to be part of it, opportunities to stroll past admired actors and artists in a casual, no pressure setting–after so many years, it was a little like home.
As it has been expanding exponentially over the past few years, the plans for completely redesigning the layout for 2015’s Comikaze came as no surprise. It’s been amazing to watch as the con grows and transforms into a truly unique exploration of pop culture. 2015’s Con featured not one but two major halls within the Los Angeles Convention Center, utilizing both the large Expo space in the West Hall as well as the South Hall portion traditionally hailed as the Vendor/Exhibit hall. It was a big shift, and while it opened up the space exponentially and allowed for a wider selection of exhibits and vendors, it definitely had a huge impact on the dynamics and feel of the convention.
For the first time, Comikaze had a distinctly Comic-Con feel. And it wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Crowds were up, which is excellent for the convention, but even the widespread layout kept the aisles from being jam-packed and require careful navigation. The main stage was no longer located in the ‘main’ exhibit hall, which stripped the con of one feature I found infinitely endearing. Past years, the central location of the Main Stage allowed congoers doing their shopping or browsing in the loop, since many big announcements happened right in the middle of the hall. Stan Lee would come out and hang for fans to mill by, and special guests paraded through regularly. It was a bustling hub of inclusion. I certainly missed that.
Aside from feeling a little distant from the epicenter of the con—it was hard to help, since there really was no epicenter due to the layout, the fandom center remained intact.
We wandered around the vast artist alley and spent a good deal of our time with Small Press artists. We all returned with a hefty stack of comics and books for our reading pleasure, chosen after spending some time getting to know the writers and artists behind the works themselves. My love of how conventions allow us the chance to meet the amazing creators and hear firsthand their passion will never dim–nor will my wallet’s screams of terror as we make the inevitable turn down the aisles reserved for these independents.
We’re particularly excited about being introduced to Emet Comics, a group dedicated to bringing more gender equality to comics, and George Wassil, who is a creative force behind Oh, Hell, a tale of miscreant kids and their experience in a school located in–you guessed it–hell. We’re excited to get down to reading both that and the title we picked up from Emet Comics, Zana.
The Improv presence was legendary this year. Maybe I’ve missed the sudden rise in popularity for improv groups or maybe the folks behind Comikaze just have a soft spot for these quick-witted nerds, but every which way we looked we found wandering groups of actors creating new material on the spot. I’m about as fast as a turtle whose legs have been dried into a block of cement when it comes to on-the-spot acting/content, so I mostly just stand there with my mouth hanging slightly ajar in complete awe of the complete stories and, in one group’s case, songs that come tumbling forth at a moment’s beckon. We fell a little bit in love with the folks behind Timeheart, an improv space musical. Also, their name: Robot Teammate and the Accidental Party. Also, they definitely retold the story of Frozen at me in music form whilst I was dressed as Anna. Also, Kittens for Trump. It was a good time all around. Their panel brought laughs, epic music story-telling, and a guarantee that we’ll be catching one of their local shows sometime very soon.
We weren’t head over heels with every panel we attended, however. I’m generally not super easily offended/turned off by vaguely sexist remarks and actions, but it got so bad in one panel that our group got up and walked out.
If you’ve gone to many So-Cal cons lately, you’ve probably encountered the thought-provoking signs that ask you to choose the winner should various video game characters face off. This is the work of a live stage show group called The Video Games. They decided to mash Super Smash Bros and the setting of The Hunger Games and seek people’s opinions with their alluring signs. It’s cute and fun and engaging, and we’ve seen them so many times that we finally decided to actually go watch the show. I will say that they’re fabulous at engaging, getting the crowd into it and sweeping the aisles as their characters–loose cosplay versions suited to the battle style of the show–to boost popularity and secure a shot at winning the tournament (voting takes place via crowd participation and twitter). It was really cool–at first. And then we fall into the trap of tropes and bitchiness and there’s only so much you can take before it’s just kind of sickening. And really predictable. Disappointing. But that’s a conversation for a different time.
The floor was filled with cool finds, the Stan Lee museum was as amazing as ever, and talent popped up from all corners of the Fan verse. The cosplay was on point, and people really got to showcase their talents, especially with the dedication shown to cosplayers in the Hall that held the Main Stage. The fashion show was phenomenal and we were able to meet an array of talented creators and independents who were sharing their creativity with the world.
See you next year, Comikaze!