Saturday, November 2, 2013

Con-Man: Comikaze

Back for it's third year, Comikaze has grown exponentially since bursting on to the strangely empty Los Angeles Comic Book/Popular Culture Convention circuit.  Allying themselves with genre icons Stan Lee and Elvira (allegedly to the tune of half of all ticket sales), the family run show learned much from 2012's growth spurt and is now running on all cylinders.  Their Facebook account is extremely active with huge user engagement.  A reality show on SyFy chronicles the ins, outs and I'm sure logistical and scheduling nightmares of an endeavor this large.

Year One had a nice exhibition floor, a bit small for the cavernous space of the Los Angeles Convention Center and not much in terms of programming.  Year Two saw a marked increase in floor usage with the inclusion of a zombie themed obstacle course and Quidditch matches (which is pretty dumb considering nobody is flying) as well as several media guests like Kevin Smith, Adam West, Todd McFarlane and the reunited cast of Salute Your Shorts.  But getting in was a nightmare as tickets had been sold via every online discount of the day site which made for huge lines that stretched outside in to the surprisingly hot fall weather.  This year, Comikaze took control of their own destiny and only sold tickets through their website and had an organized, Comic-Con like badge pick up system.

Inside, the show seemed a little less busy than last year as events like the Zombie course and Quidditch were missing, leaving some vast gray concrete ocean between the exhibitors and the end of the hall.  The floor was a great mix of exhibiters, artists, promoters and celebrity guests (Dean Cain alert!).  It's interesting to see the rise in talented fans making a living off their childhood inspired wares; printing custom tee shirts, artwork, buttons and Unicorn Horns...yup!  FIRST realization of the day: Those little Funko toys are EVERYWHERE.  I'd like to see a hardcore fan's collections of those cute and random little figures.  There was also a great set up of old arcade games and home consoles, a museum of video games if you will, complete with 4-Player The Simpsons!  Talk about a trip down memory lane...

Something Comikaze does interestingly different is having a main stage in the exhibition hall where they trot out their big guests for the most popular panels.  Stan Lee gave the crowd a warm welcome, Mattel discussed their future releases, the dudes from Pete & Pete reunited, on and on.  It's a cool concept but also a little uncomfortable to stand for 20-30 minutes.

The only thing I was hunting for at the show were some Pacific Rim action figures for the lady.  Neca's version of Gipsy Danger is going for $80 on Amazon but luckily we found one for about half that much on the floor.  Looks like Pacific Rim will live on in the hearts and shelves of fans for years to come.  SECOND realization of the day: This show was the first time I ever noticed vendors raising their prices.  By the time we returned to a booth to compare Gipsy Danger price tags, they had raised it by $5.  Kind of lame but I guess that's capitalism.  I have to refrain myself from digging through comic boxes at shows anymore because I always get sucked in to half off graphic novel deal and end up buying a stack to add to my already tall To Read pile at home.  Luckily, I only grabbed one, a collection of The Shadow comics from 1989 written by Dennis O'Neil (runs on Batman, Superman, Spider-Man).

A nice encounter for the day was with artist Tomas Overbai where some custom movie inspired artwork caught my eye.  Drawing inspiration from Star Wars, Blade Runner, They Live, Conan the Barbarian and The Seven Samurai, Overbai was able to quit his not so fun day job and sell his own wares full time.  It's inspiring to hear and you feel good for buying local.  And he was a nice guy so I was happy to hand him my money.

Conventions like Comikaze are always twofold, exhibitors and programing.  The variety of vendors was solid, I mean an old lady was selling handmade wooden replicas of Halo swords.  The concept of a convention for fans by fans is admirable but a lot of the programming relies on speakers who don't have much experience in the subject besides enjoying it then researching it.  I guess I'm old fashioned when I'd rather hear from someone who is part of it, gets paid for it and lives it.  And in the middle of a city like this, I'd think a show this size would be able to rustle up some additional talented people.  Until then, Comikaze has put on another great show and I'm looking forward to next year to see what they have in store.


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