It was a fun year of attending conventions this 2014 as we hit up no less than 9 shows in California, Utah, Washington and Calgary. It will be pretty quiet around Southern California until February when the Long Beach Comic Expo returns for their one of two annual shows. Let's take a look back at the year shall we?
March. Emerald City Comicon - This was our first year attending but I enjoy Seattle so it was nice to hit the town, see some friends and check out the show. It's a big one, encapsulating nearly every floor and cranny of the giant downtown convention center on two sides of the street. A huge exhibition floor along with a media area for panels and autographs, Lego display, Game of Thrones art gallery and much more kept us busy even if it was a little confusing to get around. Off site theaters hosted podcasts and special screenings of fan favorites with cast in attendance. People were very nice and our hotel rate was very swank with a nice con discount too boot. A little sight seeing at the Pike, some sky high drinks at Rview (since closed) and lots and lots of rain. We're going back in 2015 so that about sums it up. Oh yeah, Michael Biehn and his wife Jennifer Blanc were on our flight up so that was cool.
April. Wonder Con - San Diego's sister show in Anaheim is always a blast, tickets are easy to come by and it's a large event stacked with programming. We opted for a different hotel this year to ensure we had a refrigerator but boy was it not worth it as the place was kind of a dump. Better to stay at the connected Hilton and bring a cooler. Unlike Emerald City, lots of great panels here about comics, writing, art, movie and television with guests like Bill Paxton and Jim Lee charming and educating the pants off us. Really looking forward to this one again.
April. Calgary Expo - Another first for us and our inaugural trip outside the country for a convention. Our plane was filled with guests for the show including Ricco Ross from Aliens. Calgary was super weird in the sense that I had no idea it was so into oil and cowboy stuff so stetsons and big trucks were everywhere. A beautiful city filled with polite folks, I was surprised at how bland the food was in Chinatown, at pubs and high end restaurants. The show was held at a giant rodeo complex and was spread out over several structures of essentially a fairgrounds. Access was not easy in and out so we stayed the entire day before going to a nighttime panel. CE corralled cast and crew of The Hobbit films for a night of improv, story telling and demonstrations of fight choreography and make up. The next night the entire main cast of Aliens was reunited on stage to discuss making a classic and reminding us that Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton should have a sitcom together. A fun show but we don't have plans to return this year. If you go, send me some dark chocolate Kit Kats because they are amazing and made from real chocolate.
June. BotCon - Held in gorgeous and idyllic downtown Pasadena, BotCon was one of the most interesting shows we attended this year as it wasn't about the all encompassing Popular/Nerd Culture but simply about The Transformers and their legacy of toys, comics, art and cartoons. Just crowded enough with lots of exhibitors with all kinds of goodies for sale as well as voice actors from the shows and mother fucking rock and roller Stan Bush. I actually kind of froze up when I saw him as his music has influenced my life for about 20 years. Since BotCon changes locations every year, organizers set up tours of Los Angeles attendees could go on culminating in an awards show and concert. The panel featuring voice actors was hilarious and inspirational. I'd love to attend again if they come back to Southern California.
July. Anime Expo - Our first introduction to the wild and wooly world of Japanese animation was a doozy as the show packed in over 100,000 attendees in Downtown Los Angeles on a sweltering weekend. Tickets sold out but there was free admission to the exhibit hall nightly. It wasn't that different than a comic-con as anime is always a big factor at shows. It was a nice warm up for San Diego as the place was so packed and B.O. was in the air. A photographer friend took us around and showed us the cosplay backdrop area where costumed folks could pose in pre-made environments which was a unique touch. Would definitely like to attend this year. Better get back to Samurai Champloo and Attack on Titan...
July. San Diego Comic Con - The mother lode. The mecca. The place you lose yourself and find yourself, Patrick Swayze style. From rooftop parties, reconnecting with old colleagues, walking the gigantic floor, hunting down exclusive swag (hello Expendables 3 poster and Batman Animated Series vinyl!), checking out six panels in a row, meeting Ernie Reyes, Jr., eating crappy convention center pizza and hot dogs, walking straight into Hall H and not camping out like a loon, volunteering at 6:00 AM, meeting a future moviebro, sky high dranking, it's just the best way to spend a few days. Tickets and condo for next year already secured.
September. Salt Lake Comic Con. Another first for a show and city. Lines were out the door and just picking up badges was a fucking fiasco. Really unimpressed with their organization after touting themselves as a challenger to San Diego, etc. The actual show was fun, not a huge exhibition floor but big and varied enough to make for a nice half day of checking out. Lots and lots of money gouging I mean autographs and photo opportunities for sale at this one so programming was pretty light. Arcade set up was a nice touch and we met Danny Glover, who was awesome. Salt Lake itself was quaint but weird, surprising amount of people living on the streets, built up and fancy one block, falling apart the next, bland food from a couple spots, we checked out a state liquor store and the surrounding area really seemed to be supporting the con which was cool. They think they're as good a show as San Diego, they're not. Would maybe come back in a few years once it builds up and gets organized.
September. Long Beach Comic Con - Always a nice day out in Long Beach with easy access, a decent floor, okay programming and places to hang and check out across the street. Feels like it used to be bigger with more going on but perhaps has plateaued and maybe on it's way down? I hope I'm wrong and we'll be there for the next show.
November. Comikaze - Like Salt Lake, flaunts it's celebrity guests and show for fans by fans, grassroots sensibility. Also like SL, feels the need to compare themselves to San Diego when they're not even in the same league. Regressed from last year as entry took way longer than it should have considering it wasn't that crowded. But as usual a nice sized floor, fun guests and light on programming.
Sadly, we missed out on this year's inaugural Comics Arts Los Angeles show, hopefully it went well and a future event is in the works. Also sad was He-Man and She-Ra centric attraction Power-Con attempted to move to New York from Torrance in an effort to expand it's audience but failed to sell enough tickets and had to cancel...This year sees Star Wars Celebration hitting Anaheim in April, a first for me and another notch on the ol' convention belt. See ya at the show!