A year ago resident Racket Dum-Dum, Armando Olivas, texted me saying, “Be free the weekend of May 31st. The MiMoCast is going to Long Beach Comic Expo.” What ensued were two of the most fun days I’ve had in recent memory. So you can imagine my excitement when Mondo told me that not only were we going back this year, but that 2015’s Expo would be bigger and better than 2014 in every way. And after spending the weekend of February 28th wandering the much larger exhibition hall, attending a wider variety of panels, and enjoying the excellent entertainment provided by Club Cosplay I have to say: Mondo made good on that promise.
Last year’s fledgling LBCE was held on the second story promenade of the Long Beach Convention Center with the exhibition hall housed in the Grand Ballroom. LBCE 2015’s exhibition hall took up the entirety of the convention center’s Exhibit Hall B, where you could fit two Grand Ballrooms with plenty of space left over. That meant over twice the space for vendors, exhibitors, and artist alley. In spite of spending several hours both Saturday and Sunday perusing the multitude of booths Mondo and I still didn’t get a chance to see everything. Though we did manage to squeeze in time to visit MiMoCast Alumni Paige Halsey Warren (of Busty Girl Comics) for our traditional Mike and Mondo commission, check in on Fullerton based Comic Book Hideout’s booth, and have a lengthy chat with the charming Envy Us (of Cosplay Deviants fame) about the trappings of being a professional cosplayer. All of this was done in a much more spacious and comfortable environment than last year. Even with people stopping left and right to look at booths or take photos with cosplayers, foot traffic never seemed to slow or show the kind of congestion that is abundant at other conventions.
Though, the newer, bigger location within the convention center was not without its downsides. Actually getting to the convention space was quite confusing. Unless you had parked within the designated LBCE parking area, there was no way to access the Expo without taking a convoluted side route that wound its way through the convention center’s backways and loading docks. There was also a serious lack of signage at the front of the convention center (where LBCE 2014 was held) to indicate where to go. We were directed by a very helpful convention center employee at the front kiosk to pass through a “Restricted Access – Employees Only” gate in order to reach our destination. I will be the first to admit that this is only a minor annoyance that definitely did not hinder our ability to enjoy the convention. In spite of the extra legwork, Mondo and I eventually found where we needed to be.
Of the 80+ panels at Long Beach Comic Expo 2015, Mondo and I attended a mere six: Saturday’s Ladies in Animation and Geeks Against Humanity panels; and Sunday’s Mega Cosplay Q&A, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, and Writing Animation 101 panels. Those paltry few we were able to make doesn’t even begin to cover the expansive variety of panels available to LBCE 2015-goers. There was an entire series of workshops titled “#MakeComics” dedicated to topics like building a portfolio, comic book writing, Kickstarter, and even selling comics on the direct market. The cosplay panels included not just Q&A’s, but lessons on photography and makeup as well. There were also more practical seminars on topics such as parenting in a digital age and encouraging body positivity. Not only did the panels cover such a wide assortment of topics and issues, they were hosted by engaging professionals who clearly had a great deal of knowledge in, and passion for, their fields.
A mere sampling of the kinds of panels you could find
One of my personal favorite moments came when a very indignant Marvel fan asked why “Marvel hates Thor” and accused the company of using the new female Thor as a “publicity stunt” during the Marvel panel. Scott Koblish (writer for Deadpool) and Nick Bradshaw (renowned cover artist) immediately launched into a very eloquent response about storytelling, character development, and why Thor being a woman was the furthest thing from being a detriment to the character. What could have been a disastrous moment that highlighted some of the worst aspects of nerd/geek culture turned into a learning experience that shed some serious light onto the thinking process of comic book writers.
I only have one minor complaint in the area of panels dealing, once again, with the lack of signage or direction. All of the panels were held downstairs in the Seaside Level conference rooms. The only way to get from Exhibit Hall B to the Seaside Level is through a small, out of the way hall and adjoining staircase. On the first day of the con there was no indication whatsoever that walking down this seemingly innocuous hallway would lead to the panels. In fact, the hallway actually appears to be an exit when you first see it. If Mondo and I had not decided to just explore around the area, we might not have made it to any panels at all. This complaint does come with a caveat. On the second day of the Expo, makeshift signs had been taped to the glass doors at the end of the hallway pointing Expo-Goers down the stairs. Also, once down the stairs, LBCE volunteers were more than willing (sometimes overeager) to direct you to the correct room.
Finally, the last big draw for Long Beach Comic Expo 2015 was the free with Expo badge Club Cosplay event held in the Seaside Ballroom on Saturday night. MiMoCast listeners might remember that Mondo and I interviewed Ivan, the founder of Club Cosplay, back in July of 2014. Mondo wrote an article about his first event right here on Racket as well. Now, this was my first Club Cosplay event and as a result I was unsure of what to expect. Sitting at the ripe old age of 27 my clubbing days are long behind me, so the idea of skulking around in a crowded dark room with blaring music and unfamiliar people did not seem like the most appealing of things after a long day of wandering the Expo. I had an absolute blast. Hosts Bernie Bregman and Leeanna Vamp did an amazing job of keeping the event fun and energetic. DJ Galactic Ray’s set had a lot of variety and (thankfully) was completely devoid of airhorns. We were also treated to a special performance by Jedi Elvis, of whom Mondo is an avid fan. All in all it was a great event and I am excited to see what Club Cosplay has in store for their Star Wars Celebration on April 18th at the House of Blues Anaheim.
The Bottom Line: Long Beach Comic Expo may not be as large or well known as its older sibling Long Beach Comic Con, but it is definitely worth the time and money to go. It has grown exponentially since last year and I can only see it getting bigger from here. Aside from the few hiccups dealing with signage and direction, I had an amazing time and recommend anyone from veteran con-goers to con-noobs like myself to put Long Beach Comic Expo on their list for next year.