Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Con-Man: Summer Swell

It's been months since I've been to a convention, months! July is going to be a Kaiju near double event with two of the biggest shows around coming in hot and in a row. Anime Expo takes over Downtown, Los Angeles July 4th Weekend while San Diego Comic-Con International starts on Thursday, the 9th. Then a new, smaller show has popped onto my radar, August's Central Coast Comic-Con on the 28th-30th before the last show of the summer, The Long Beach Comic Con September 12th and 13th, phew!

My inbox has been inundated with guest, event and press releases regarding movie premieres, new apps, products, cartoons, toys and interview opportunities for 2015's Anime Expo. It was also announced that organizer SPJA - The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, has signed a five year contract to stay in Los Angeles. AX has brought in 100,000 plus attendees and exhibitors for years and 2015's show is projected to bring in 280,000! With nearly 300 exhibitors representing gaming, fashion, toys, music, film, animation and a whole lot more, AX brings in an estimated $55 million bucks into the city during it's 4-day stay. This will be my first year attending in earnest as last year was more of a taster or lookie loo if you will. I only spent a few hours walking around but got a feel for the vibe, attendees and offerings. Basically, a whole lotta cosplay and Japanese culture. Panels run the gamut of how to survive your first con, music, karaoke, new and old anime screenings, fandom, audio mixing, e and board gaming, tips on moving to Japan, voice actor studio and much more. Recognizable brands like Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Naruto, Ultraman, Robotech and Cowboy Bebop will be well with premieres and screenings. There are multiple separate ticketed events going on like the Maid Cafe, an interactive experience of dances, music performances, photo ops and more or late night Fate/Stay Night Special with screening, Q&A and a concert. Gonna get weird, gonna get crazy, gonna be weirdcrazy!

The following week is the big one, the mecca of all things popular culture, the one, the only, mother fudging San Diego Comic-Con! Comikaze, New York, Salt Lake, any Wizard World show? Children.  Amateurs in comparison. No other show gives you face value like SDCC. Your ticket gets you into the convention, exhibit hall and programming. No Gold or VIP upcharges here. No major plugging to plop down $50 bones for a photo or autograph. Heck, you don't even need a badge as there's plenty of art shows, fan gatherings, movie screenings, parties, Q&A's, concerts and the like going on outside the hall in the streets of downtown San Diego. In a first, late night TV host Conan O'Brien will be hosting four shows from a local theater and moderating a panel. In a probable other first, San Diego Comic Con is banning selfie sticks, GoPro poles, Google Glasses, streaming, e-cigarettes and drones! Good, it's hard enough walking around when a million people stop dead in their tracks in the middle of an aisle or stop to take photos of cosplayers. If anything, SDCC could pioneer small areas between booths for photos so traffic isn't as impacted.

In another step towards weeding out casual fans only looking for famous faces, SDCC has made news over which Hollywood studios would be sitting out this year. Once a part of press junkets, high profile Con flicks turned box office flops like Scott Pilgrim VS the World, Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens and Ender's Game have cooled studio presence. This year Marvel, Sony and Paramount are all sitting out as they lack product to promote. Plus, Marvel doesn't need Con anymore, they've got their own events at Disney owned theaters and shows like the El Capitan and D23 Expo. Lionsgate will be back with the final installment of The Hunger Games after bypassing a panel for Mocking Jay Chapter I and The Expendables III. SyFy network has an abundance of screenings and panels lined up with the Thomas Jane starring The Expanse getting an early screening a full 5 months before it's broadcast debut in December. The King of WeirdCool is scheduled to attend. In recent years television has made up for the lack of movies and this year will be no different. Game of Thrones, Agent Carter, The Flash and The Walking Dead are all lined up for panels, some of them in the 6,000 plus capacity of Hall H.

Then of course there's a whole side of the convention center dedicated to comics, artists, toys and swag. Dogs big and small like Marvel, DC, Top Cow, Dark Horse, BOOM!, DelRey, IDW and so many more will be on site. Artists and writers like Stan Lee, Jim Lee, Humberto Ramos, Jeff Smith, Jim Steranko and William Stout are among the dozens of already announced special guests not even including the hundreds filling up Artist Alley. I'll be looking to fill in some gaps in my growing Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commando's collection as I've just about tapped out on Terminator, Big Trouble In Little China, Aliens, Rocketeer and Captain America toys and trinkets. It's gonna be mad. It's gonna be fantastic. Embrace it! See you in San Diego!

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