CONVENTION SEASON OPENS WITH THE INTIMATE LONG BEACH COMIC EXPO

Long Beach Comic Expo 2019

Edited by Ariel Landrum and Christopher Edelen
Photos from Ariel Landrum

IMG_2537.JPG

The pop culture convention season has begun, and the smell of comics is in the air. The 9th annual Long Beach Comic Expo held this past weekend, February 16 to February 17, 2019, was the first convention of the year for California. Turn out was decent, with attendees buzzing around in cosplay and nerd gear.

I was shocked that the event, in its ninth year running, was still so small. There were only a handful of panels, and the show floor took up just half of the convention hall. That half was then divided in half between Artist Alley and vendors. I was able to walk the entire thing in 30 minutes.

For comparison, Midsummer Scream, a Halloween event that’s been running for only four years in the same venue has doubled in size year after year. I’d assumed LBCE would be triple the size  of Midsummer Scream, as there are a lot more comic book geeks than Halloween freaks.

Backdrop being used by some Trekkies.

Backdrop being used by some Trekkies.

Some of the more enjoyable aspects of this expo were the backdrops cosplayers could use to help elevate the realism. Stormtroopers posed in front of the Death Star and all versions of Batman were answering the call to the bat signal. In the main lobby, the convention center  played music. Children and adults danced around to pop songs, that aren’t my jam, but still created a fun atmosphere. Lastly, there was an awesome Nerf gun shooting arena, something I haven't seen at any comic book convention, and which allowed me the pleasure of blasting my boss with Rival bullet balls.

The largest positive for this event was its intimacy. The crowds didn’t remind me of that SpongeBob episode when he was trapped with the anchovies. I was able to shop around, speak with vendors, and really get to know them and their products. Not once did I wait in a line.

Despite these positives, this convention still has a long way to go before it can compete with shows like Wondercon.The largest change needed to attract fans is the accessibility of programming. Onsite there were as no maps, no booklets to describe the events or the vendors, and no helpful coupons or information about  where to eat on or off-site.

The lack of programs became most evident when attendees wanted to experience a panel. Upon arrival, the show provided a one page flyer that had the titles of each panel, their locations, and their times. What were not included, however, were descriptions of the panels or the names of the moderators or panelists attending. This was frustrating for guests and press alike. Even now, this information isn't available on the LBCE website.

Margaret Stohl and Gerry Conway at the  Captain Marvel : Origins Panel

Margaret Stohl and Gerry Conway at the Captain Marvel: Origins Panel

I attended a couple of panels to learn about them, and possibly write separate reviews. Unfortunately, there were no name cards on the tables. I had to do a mania induced Google search to figure out the spelling of everyone’s names, and their titles. This meant taking my focus off what the panelist were saying, which meant possibly missing vital topic information.

Additionally, I found it difficult to take photos of the panelists, as there was also the issue of extra microphones on the tables. The unused mics blocked attendees views of the speakers. From the mics panelists were using, it was still somehow difficult to hear what was being said.

Another area for the event to focus on is it’s marketing. The website lacked a lot of basic information, including the sponsors for this year’s expo. Through Facebook, guests found out that the DVD release of Wreck-It-Ralph was one of the sponsors. Onsite, it was difficult to find out, guests only learned that Disney and Marvel were promoting  their new Captain Marvel movie if they attended two of the first panels on Saturday, or if they happen to walk by the Captain Marvel booth.

Entrance into the convention hall.

Entrance into the convention hall.

In the hall, the archway welcoming attendees onto the show floor was covered in DC artwork. According to veteran attendees, this is the archway they’ve had for years. I was surprised they hadn’t changed it to promote Captain Marvel It seemed like a missed opportunity.

Though this event was small, and they beefed it in the program and marketing realm, it was still a great wake-up for California’s con community this year. I was able to re-connect with fans and cosplayers I adore, and shop for ideas for my next cosplay. I knew I had fun because I didn’t want the experience to end. I’m planning to attend next year, and hopefully the show will have grown.

Follow Tania E. on Instagram: @Twisted_Tania

Please enjoy the Long Beach Comic Expo 2019 gallery below! If you want to follow cosplayer’s Instagram, their handle is featured next to their character’s name, if it is known.