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Phil LawrenceThe Long Beach Comic Expo takes place at the end of this month and this time around it spans two days instead of one, having grown so much in its five years to warrant the second day of fun. The event, put on by the same team who bring you the Long Beach Comic Con every year, boasts a stellar line up of attractions to entice nerds across the Southern California area. With the likes of Gerry Conway, Scott Lobdell, and Len Wein, just to name a few, why wouldn’t you want to show up? As the Expo draws near I was able to engage in a brief, intimate conversation with sales director and co-founder of the event, Phil Lawrence. Phil was able to share an insider look at the planning of the expo, how it’s handled its growth over time and plans for this year’s installment. Phil was a pleasure to speak with and if you’re still on the fence about attending perhaps this interview will help persuade you into making the trip. Enjoy!

Mondo: How has the Long Beach Comic Expo been going on?
Phil: This is our fifth year.

Ok, how did it originally start? What led you to creating this event?
Basically we had already done our fall show once and it was so successful everybody wanted us to do another show without waiting a full year. So what we did is looked at what was available and decided to do a one day back to basics all around comic type show. That’s kind of how the expo was born. It was the external demand and the internal desire to do an old school, back to basics show in a ballroom. Literally it was in a ballroom in a convention center. We also used it as a marketing tool so that we’re in everyone’s conscious (thoughts).

Makes sense. Well what would you say separates the two events? What is it that keeps it from feeling like you’re putting on the same show twice in one year?
The Comic Con, the fall show, has always had the broader appeal for comics and pop culture; whereas the expo has a smaller focus in the comics’ world. (Size wise) It’s a ball room versus a convention floor. The panels are a little more concentrated, we really try to focus on people’s wants and needs in the comics world rather than stretching outside that narrow focus.

That sounds rad. Now you mentioned panels, what are some exciting fun panels outlined for the upcoming show?
I can actually pull up some of our programming. (Some programming includes) How to start a successful Kickstarter campaign, we are doing a Wet Works 20th anniversary with Whilce Portacio, a career spotlight with Gerry Conway, and taking over a whole room to do kids paneling. We’re getting a few different artists to donate their time in hour long block where kids can learn to draw comics, coloring, maybe learn to draw specific characters that they might like, some might read to the kids and teach kids how to read comics. Some kids might not know how to read comics because the paneling can be confusing. That something we are doing maybe others might not focus on.

I think that’s really awesome that you have programming for kids. That you’re engaging these younger folks that want to be involved or excited but don’t know much about the field. You’re potentially kickstarting the interest of some future creators in the scene.
Phil: Right, that’s kind of where we really try to bring the kids in and be engaged. Whether it be one on one or a big group we want them to interact with creators by getting more than just an autograph or sketch.

I’m into it, I like that. Now the expo was originally one day but has been expanded to two days, I am assuming because it has become so popular? Is there any other reason perhaps?
That’s exactly it. It’s really just based on popularity and demand. The first two years we were contained within one of the larger ballrooms at the convention center. Everyone did so well they wanted to add another day. We were a little resistant to it but these last two years, still confined to one day, took over a large part of the lobby area. This year rather than do that we just decided to go into their largest ballroom for two day and we will see how it goes. It’s just all based on demand. Everyone wants more out of the show and we will try to accommodate as best we can.

That’s rad. It’s nice to see the event growing. Speaking of it growing, when you first started the event did you ever imagine it getting as big as it has thus far?
Not the expo necessarily but the Con, the fall show, we always envisioned growing much bigger so that’s been great but we’ve always see the Expo as a one-day, one-off event. So it’s really surprising to see it grow the way it has. It wasn’t something we originally envisioned but that’s a good thing I guess. It’s nice that the people demand it and that we are able to meet some of those demands.

That’s a nice problem to have. Now that this is essentially the biggest incarnation of the expo to date is there anything you have planned that you haven’t done in years past?
The big thing is that this year, which we really haven’t done in years past, is embrace cosplay. We’ve set up areas for opportunities to take pictures with cosplayers. The expo hasn’t been big enough to have the space to accommodate it. With more space and the growth of the cosplay culture, we are able to tap into that to not only provide space but programming as well to learn more about cosplay. To learn what it’s all about and learn about how to make their costumes. That’s something that we’ve not only embraced but try to put our best foot forward and support the community.

Awesome! I like it! Now I am curious, what are some things you would like to do at the event that you have yet to do thus far?
I would love to see it expand out even more and we are actually considering that. Maybe go from the largest ballroom onto the convention floor, really try and blow it out. We never really saw It as more than just a one day ballroom show but if it is something where the demand and interest is there we might look into turning it into a full blown con.

That would be pretty cool knowing the popularity and demand is so big that you now have to have two cons.
Yes, exactly. I mean we would still differentiate them as far as their focus, having one a bit more comic book centric. We really try to go where the fans, publishers, artists, and writers want us to go. We try to listen to their input. We want them to dictate what we should be doing for the audience rather than the other way around because if you try to dictate to everyone what they should want you end up turning people off.

I definitely agree. I am glad we are on the same page here. That does it for questions, did you have any final statements?
Just be sure to buy your tickets at your local shop or at our site. We just launched a new site that’s more users friendly and we try to update as often as we can. We have a few packages that support the Hero Initiative. They’re a charity that we like to support. That’s pretty much it. We want to see a lot of people come out and have a fun time. Hopefully that rolls into the fall show.

Most excellent. Sounds great and I can’t wait to go.

The Long Beach Comic Expo will take place on May 31st and June 1st. Tickets are on sale now.