Comikaze is a new comic-centric convention in Los Angeles. It appears to be making a bid to eventually replicate the multi-media San Diego Comic-Con experience, with something for fans of anime, movies, TV, and gaming. Comikaze was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center on November 5-6, 2011. I attended on Saturday only.
I went in not expecting much. A similarly publicized convention in Pasadena a couple of years ago was a dismal failure. I had purchased tickets through Goldstar, a popular discount ticket broker. The tickets were “free” for a $4.50 handling fee, so I didn’t have much to lose by going.
The Comikaze web site indicated the dealers’ room would open at 10:00 a.m., but when I arrived shortly before 10 I discovered that the floor was not going to open until 10:30. So I had to wait a bit, which was ok. I had to redeem my Goldstar receipt for a wristband, and that took a few minutes. To give Comikaze credit, they had workers in the crowd giving out wristbands to full-paying preregistrants, enabling people like me to get to the registration table relatively quickly.
At 10:30 the door opened. Yes, door, singular. The long line slowly snaked in, single file. The cavernous hall was already bustling when I managed to get in. There were a lot of vendors selling a wide variety of products. There were also many tables for artists and celebrities. A large area at the back of the hall
was reserved for gaming tournaments, so there seemed to be something for everyone. In an unusual setup, there were five panel rooms created by curtaining off sections of the hall.
Having looked at the online schedule ahead of time I knew there was to be a screening of the trailer for Daniel Radcliffe’s new horror movie, The Woman in Black, at 11:00, but none of the panel rooms had it listed on the cards in front of the room entrances. Because there was no overall printed schedule or facilities map, or signs of any sort, I ended up having to ask about four or five people where the screening was
before I eventually found it in a meeting room on the third floor of the convention center. I was late, but it didn’t matter since they were still struggling to get the audio-visual equipment working. I waiting until about 11:35 when they announced it would be another 20 minutes to get ready. This was not an auspicious start to the convention!
I spent the next hour and a half walking the dealers’ room, by the end of which I had pretty much seen everything. There were a number of interesting vendors, including a lot of comics, toy, video, and clothing and jewelry dealers.
There were quite a few celebrities in attendance, most charging for their photos and autographs. Stan Lee and his entourage strolled through at one point. Wax figure Morgan Fairchild held court while her handler shielded her from any unauthorized (unpaid) photographs.
Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine apparently didn’t have anything better to do, but looked in amazing shape for a man of 94, certainly better than 85-year-old Richard Anderson (The Six Million Dollar Man), who sat looking wrinkled, sad, and lonely. Other famous and not-so-famous stars that I recognized included Butch Patrick (The Munsters), Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), Alaina Huffman (Stargate Universe), Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager),
Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Carel Struycken (The Addams Family). There were many more that I didn’t recognize.
There were lots of costumed attendees. Just like at SDCC, they regularly blocked the aisles posing for photos. It’s just something a congoer gets used to.
I attended four panels in the afternoon. At 1:00 it was “The World of Batman” with writers Gregg Hurwitz (Penguin: Pain and Prejudice) and Kyle Higgins (Batman: Gates of Gotham). They had a good discussion of what makes Batman Batman. Unfortunately, there was a very noisy cast reunion of Nickelodeon’s All That in the next room which tended to drown out what Hurwitz and Higgins said, not to mention that the acoustics to begin with were poor due to the room being a curtained off area in the giant, echoing cement hall.
At 3:00 I trekked back up to the third-floor meeting room for the Titmouse Animation Showcase. Titmouse produces Metalocalypse and other Adult Swim programs. They have taken over production of The Venture Bros., and series creator Jackson Publick was part of the panel. They also previewed Black Dynamite, a new series set to début next summer.
Back down to the hall for a panel at 4:00 called “From Robots to Monsters: Japan is the Original King.” Moderator Jessica Tseang (ComiCast) did an excellent job of interviewing Tom Franck (North America’s largest Japanese robot collector) and Mike Costa (Transformers).
The final panel I attended, at 5:00, was “DC Comics New 52 Q&A” with a full table of DC writers and artists, including J. T. Krul (Captain Atom), Eric Wallace (Mr. Terrific), Phillip Tan (The Savage Hawkman), Scott Lobdell (Red Hood and the Outlaws), Brian Buccetello (The Flash), Kyle Higgins (Nightwing), Gregg Hurwitz (Penguin: Pain and Prejudice), Mike Costa (Blackhawks), and two or three others I don’t remember offhand. They all seemed genuinely excited about DC’s recent reboot and promised great things to come.
Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by the size and quality of Comikaze. Considering that Comikaze was just one week after the Long Beach Comic-Con, the attendance was remarkably high. The organizers have shown that a successful large media convention can be held in Los Angeles. There were some things that need to be improved for next time. Not everyone has a smart phone, so they need to have better schedules and maps available for attendees (and the schedule needs to be cross-referenced by participants). Crowd control was generally pretty good, but flow into and out of the hall and the rooms were sometimes a problem. They definitely need to hold panels in the upstairs meeting rooms and not the makeshift curtained rooms. The L.A. Convention Center is not as well situated as the San Diego Convention Center, i.e., there are not nearly as many nearby hotels and restaurants. For Comikaze to grow to SDCC size, they will have to overcome those limitations, but it should be eventually possible.
For another look at Comikaze, check out this long and detailed report from The Fangirl Files.