Sunday, September 28, 2014

Con-Man: Long Beach Comic Con 2014

It's been a busy week getting back to regular life with a late night screening of The Equalizer on Thursday, Nightcrawler at Beyond Fest Friday then Long Beach Comic Con Saturday.  Doing the Damme thing since 2009, LBCC has expanded into two shows annually, a smaller show in May and a bigger one in September/October.  While Long Beach was one of my favorite shows behind San Diego Comic Con, recent events seem to have peaked in terms of exhibition floor, guests and panels.  While Southern California doesn't have too many competing comic book focused conventions per se, the rise of Wonder Con Anaheim, Comikaze downtown and the like make me wonder if Long Beach isn't at risk of being passed by.

The good is still the good.  Long Beach is a quick jaunt down the 405 from Los Angeles, parking is ample and the surrounding Pike contains a glut of outside attractions in the forms of restaurants, bars, a $1 book store, movie theater and the Queen Mary village.  The convention center is beautiful and spacious but in past years where movie replica cars and food trucks lined up outside, nary an outdoor attraction was present this year.  Inside, there was a decent sized crowd of attendees and cosplayers and the floor in Exhibit Hall C was filled if not packed.  Vendor wise I ended up grabbing some random issues of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos and Captain America, trades of collected The Phantom newspaper strips and some Walt Simonson Thor.  Funko figures were everywhere and there was a decent amount of vendors selling comics new and old.  I even spotted a first, Miami Vice action figures!  So great to see Crockett and Tubbs in plastic form. 

Long Beach Comic Con staple RAW Studios had a sizable booth set up with artists Tim Bradstreet and William Stout as well as X-Files spinoff Lone Gunmen star Dean Haglund.  Bradstreet had some wicked The Shadow prints for sale and we chatted for a few minutes with Mr. Stout who had just returned from Austin's inaugural MondoCon.  As always, he's a cool guy but I wish he had some artwork from the Masters of the Universe film with him.  Last year we met Lance Henriksen at the booth who was awesome and in years past co-owner Thomas Jane would be hanging out.  Without either of their mainstream name and face recognition present, it was pretty quiet around the table.  Elsewhere on the floor you had comic dynamos like Mark Silvestri, Jimmy Palmiotti, Len Wein and James O'Barr meeting the fans but overall, guest wattage was a little low this year.

Panel wise there was plenty to choose from ranging from cosplay to drawing lessons to character and artist/writer spotlights but nothing really jumped out at us, sadly.  Instead we took to the Pike and hit up the $1 bookstore where I continued my The Phantom theme and grabbed the movie tie-in novelization for the 1996 swashbuckler starring Billy Zane and the WWII set The Monuments Men.  Next door at the Auld Dubliner a friend met up with us for a few Dublin Donkeys, Jameson and Ginger Beer with lime in a copper cup.  Sound familiar?  I just had a weekend theme of Moscow Mule's last week which just had vodka instead.  Two of those bad boys and I was feeling good.  The bacon and cheddar topped tator tots and Shepherd's Pie were delicious as well.  Saying our goodbyes to my former co-worker, we headed back to the show and did a final lap, flipping through some more comic boxes, checking out action figures and more of artist alley. 

On my way out I couldn't help but feel a little nostalgic for Long Beach Comic Cons past where RAW Studios held film screenings and Thomas Jane sat in front of my friends and I for The Mist.  Or the spectacle of the Zombie March that I believe set some kind of record with a few thousand participants.  Panels with William Stout, Iron Man 3's Shane Black and Seth Green for Robot Chicken were sorely missed for their insight, inspiration and laughs.  I know LBCC has been competing with Comikaze in the last couple of years for dates and then new kid on the block were in Long Beach advertising, now that they've established themselves as a force on the con circuit, I hope they haven't tied up all the guests and exhibiters because we need more cons, not less.  But I can appreciate Long Beach keeping the focus on comics, artists and writers instead of just hocking paid opportunities to interact with celebrities.

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