As much as I enjoy going to the craziness that is San Diego Comic Con, my heart really belongs to smaller conventions. It’s like visiting a stand alone casino instead of the overwhelming eye candy and theme park that is Las Vegas. Both have good points, but Vegas drains me quick and I walk around most of my visit in a sleepy zombie lumber. Now that I’ve beat that comparison into the ground, I’ll continue.
Long Beach Comic Con. I helped a friend, Travis Hanson of Bean Leaf Press, at booth 819 most of the weekend (I hope you stopped by and snagged a free sketch). I did have plenty of time to roam the show floor though. The show had a wide range of artists and exhibitors. I saw sculptors, designer toys, huge boxes of comics, action figures, steampunk goods like rayguns and goggles and tiny hats, clothing, and a lot of wonderful art and publications. The 501st, Rebel Legion, and Mandalorian Mercs were there. IDW and Top Cow had big booths and signings. Stan Lee was around on Sunday (he has an impressive entourage). Overall, I found this to be an actual comic con and not just a celebrity con or media fodder con. The number of on screen celebrities and signings was small. And I like that. The focus was on creators and the comics they’ve brought to us.
Artist Alley was big and took up about half of the show floor. Because it was a smaller show – the first year saw around 6,300 attendees – there was plenty of time to talk with creators. Well, those who didn’t have their headphones on while drawing and not making eye contact anyways. I know you’re working, but you're also making yourself unapproachable. Anyways. I really enjoyed catching up with a few artists I’ve met before and coming across entirely new work and just talking. If you’ve only been to a ginormous convention, you’re missing out on this. I mean, I got to have a fifteen or so minute conversation with Peter S. Beagle (author of The Last Unicorn) for goodness sake. Yes, that was a convention highlight. You can’t get that experience without attending smaller cons. Mike Mignola, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Amanda Conner all had tables in the alley. Two of my favorite Star Wars artists, Cat Staggs and Tom Hodges, also had tables.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of cosplayers on both Saturday and Sunday. I saw some familiar faces and a lot of impressive work. All the cosplayers I photographed or talked to were also amazingly nice. They usually are – we are a friendly group. Sometimes at bigger cons though, I think there is an exhaustion level that wears cosplayers down. Not at this con though. Everyone was friendly and gracious and willing to talk about how they put things together. I posted about my favorite costumes yesterday. Maybe next year LBCC will have a masquerade or contest. Lots of kids came on Sunday as it was “10 and under get in free” day and the exhibitors mostly participated in trick or treat. There were so many adorable Hit Girls, Batgirls, and Ironmen running around with little treat buckets. I think it was a good move by the convention organizers to encourage dressing up.
Sadly, I didn’t make it to any panels. They were a bit of a walk from the exhibit hall, and I was busy with the booth and also having a great time on the show floor. I’m sure that reports will be popping up on the ‘net soon. I’m really looking forward to hearing about the Women in Comics panel.
From an exhibitor perspective, I think the show was on the slow side. Traffic went by the booth, but we really had to drag them in. I don't know if it helped or hurt that Artist Alley was split into two halves by exhibitor/dealer booths. The choice of Halloween weekend may not have really helped attendance either. The show is growing though, so maybe exhibitors will give it another year.
You can see all my photos from the convention here.
- The convention staff and volunteers were awesome. Everyone was super helpful, cheery, and just frakking nice. They seemed just as happy to be there as all the attendees, and from my past experience, that is not always the case. The actual convention center employees were also friendly (not like those at Wizard World in Anaheim last spring).
- Parking = easy.
- Food at the center and within walking distance = win.
- ATM right outside the entrance to the exhibit hall.
- From an exhibitor standpoint, unloading and getting out was cake. We just had two carts to take out.
- The wrestling ring. I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of wrestling, but besides that - it was really loud. I heard the nearby exhibitor and artist alley booths had a hard time interacting with customers while bouts were going on.
- The actual badges were card stock. Our whole team’s ripped on the first day and had to be repaired with a lot of ugly tape. Yes, I know how minor that is but if you lose your badge, it's not a fun thing. I do have to say that they were aware of the issue though and super nice about it.
Michael Hamersky has his thoughts posted at his Comic Book Collectors blog. He’s been to a million conventions, including the beginnings of San Diego Comic Con, and I’m always interested to read his thoughts.
I’ll put up a list tomorrow telling you about some of the fantastic artists I met and cool items I saw.