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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reviews as of 11/7/11

Batman. Arkham reborn
Usagi Yojimbo: The shrouded moon
JLA: World War III
Scott Pilgrim: Finest Hour
Crisis on infinite Earths TPB
Sentinel vol. 1 & 2

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Long Beach Comic & Horror Convention 2011 Review

Saturday, October 29, 2011 Review
Welcome folks, it’s another round of Comic Convention reviews! It’s been almost four whole months since the craziness that is called San Diego Comic Con and so the time to hunker down and chill a bit at the Long Beach Comic & Horror Con has arrived so it’s time for my review.

Long Beach Comic and Horror Convention 2011 Review (LBCC / LBCHC)
In its third year of livelihood, the former Long Beach Comic Con has been re-named Long Beach Comic & Horror Con ran from Oct. 29th-40th at the Long Beach Convention Center. 

Ticket prices started at $25 for single-day passes with 2-day passes available as well. Kids that are 10 and under have free admission. There were also special writing and inking panels you could pay to attend, one of those things I’ve never seen at a Con before, the pay-to-play aspect of a panel.

Besides the name change and ramping up of the “horror” theme this year was the drawback of the previously 3-day event to just a Saturday and Sunday programming. It appears due to last year’s light Friday afternoon attendance along with exhibitor’s ability to set-up shop on a weekday for a smaller Con helped funnel the event to this shortened timeline. The shortening of the event to just two days seems to have worked, the artists and vendors I spoke to said that the Saturday event had more traffic than last year though Sunday was indeed a light on attendees.
Compared to this year’s earlier Long Beach Comic Expo which was a very small one-day event held in one room, the LBCHC was held in the downstairs main hall of the Center along with several rooms on the main floor for panels (which I didn’t attend any of).

Get Up & In
I arrived at the event way early since I wanted to park in the main lot under the convention since it is very helpful to be there if you’re buying a lot of items and need to store them in your car instead of carrying it around you all day. I was told that the parking lot would open at 6 a.m. but didn’t open until 8:30 a.m... They originally blocked the entrance with cones so I thought they were full of vendor autos already so I therefore parked in the open-air lot across the street. It was $1.00 more and involved a bit more walking, but not too bad. I learned my lesson though and got to the lot on Sunday before 9 a.m. and was able to get a nice spot next to the elevator that took you up to the main entrance.

Ticketing this year was a lot better planned than last year. If you got there early (an hour) there were just a few early attendees so you just had to wait in front of the ticketing line until the registrars got their printouts for you to check-in. There was separate booths for exhibitors/press, dame-day ticket purchases, pre-paid/online by alphabet, and lifetime membership passes.
I bought my ticket via the Living Social 2-day pass deal ($22 vs. normal $45) and they couldn’t find my name on the registration list. They did take my confirmation printout and gave me my badge and wristband as well as the limited edition Hulk #1 LBCHC edition which was unexpected. Last year it was crazy long getting tickets; it could be sped up more if they doubled the people handing out badges.

The line wrapped around the escalators to the west wing of the con as the event neared the 10 a.m. opening. There was a small announcement ceremony that the event holders had near their banner which was hard to hear since the PA system was too far away and turned down low, and I was just less than 10 feet away from the MC. The announcement stretched to 10:10 a.m. so the Con opening was delayed until the MC said his thing, it would have been better to have the opening ceremony BEFORE the convention hours since I’m ready to go in at 10 a.m. and not listed to some yapping that I can’t even hear.

Doors finally open and a slight rush of people take off down the escalators and the line behind be breaks down a bit with people in line behind me are taking off passing me by. The big lines start off at Jason Scott Campbell’s, David Finch’s, and Amanda Conner’s booth initially. The longest line for an artist I could see all day was Finch’s. JSC might have been longer at one point but his was stationed at the front entrance which I didn’t pass by too often.

The Lowdown
The show floor was a lot bigger this year with the entire hall almost totally filled with booths and tables. There was a wrestling ring area, small laser tag and plenty of table and chairs near the food aisles in case you needed to sit down.

There were a good mix of indy stores and self-press publishers, small toy vendors and comic booths. There were a few booths selling Golden Age/Silver Age and CGC books as well as the booths selling TPBs for 40-50% off and moderns for .50 cents to a buck a piece. I ended up taking a couple back-pack refills worth of back-issues!

Who ‘Dat?
The main thing for the LBCHC though is the artist’s alley which is the main attraction for the Con. The area was large and the center points of the convention center, the aisles were nicely spread wide apart so you didn’t have to worry about traffic compared to the set-up at SDCC. There were tons of artists and writers you could meet and get original art, prints, sketches, books, etc.
One of the positives about going to a comic convention is meeting the creators in-person that you may not have been familiar with or exposed to their works. It’s been a generally positive experience in meeting the creators and them explaining their wares to attendees. Meeting with the creators and them being nice and personable brings a positive response from comic readers in my opinion. 

After seeing some of their works in-person, buying some OA or sketches I ended up following their works. I pick-up their back issues, purchase their artwork, and follow their new projects. So remember artist alley people, be nice to the people stopping by since fans help keep your projects in the news!

Comic Artists and Writers Alley
Here’s a general run-down of the creators I personably stopped by their booths and met. There were a lot more creators there for sure but this short synopsis is for the ones I checked out. So check it out people.

Bernie Wrightson (Swamp Thing, Doc Macabre) – Legendary comic artist, I’ve gotten his autograph on a couple Swamp Thing items at the previous LBCC shows and this year was able to finally buy an original piece of art. While the published pieces were still out of my price range this time his portfolio folder container preliminary artwork than ranged from $10/$20 (rough sketches of weapon designs, panel layouts) to $100 (preliminary creature designs!). I almost went for a winged creature preliminary drawing but ended up choosing a prelim. from a Warblade comic featuring him fighting a Daemonite creature. He and his wife dress up as scarecrows on Sunday.

Thomas Jane (The Punisher, Hung, The Mist)- The actor had a nice booth near the entrance promoting his comic publication (RAW Comics) and also set-up next to artist Tim Bradstreet, and kicking it laid back while wearing aviator glasses and a cigar while at the booth. Didn’t see a line at his booth when I went there and had him sign a Punisher movie adaption comic. Told him I just finished watching the entire first season of Hung DVD a few days earlier.  He also had a panel Saturday night with Tim Bradstreet. He does drive a sweet Masarati which I saw him jump into at the close of the convention.

Job Bogdanove (Power Pack, Superman)- One of the main artists during the big “Death of Superman” event for DC back in the 90s. Missed getting a sketch when he was at the Hero Initiative booth. Ended up getting a Doomsday head sketch from him and he told me that that drawing was for the first time he get the handle on Doomsday’s skull framework and was very pleased with it. Me too, the DD sketch he made was kicking and his pricing for a head sketch was very reasonable.

Joe Benitez (Titans, Lady Mechanika)- After missing his signing at booths for the past year I finally got his signature on a few books, I’m disappointed that I didn’t request a quick headshot commission since his booth was pretty empty near closing time and his pricing was reasonable as well. I saw him complete a couple headshots of Lady Mechanika for someone and they look sweet.

Darwyn Cooke (Parker, D.C.: The New Frontier, The Spirit)- Busy man at the Con, jumping in at the Hero Initiative Booth both days as well as the IDW booth to promote his new Parker book. He did quick head sketches on the Parker: Martini Edition HC book that I saw as well as hand-tinting color on a $20 Parker limited edition print. He was signing books all weekend for donations to Hero Initiative. He even told me a story regarding pilot his Chuck Yeager autograph when he was signing my New Frontier Special comic.

Amanda Conner (Power Girl, The Pro) – One of the booths with the constant lines of fans all weekend. There were comic fans who wanted sketches and prints as well as people becoming instant fans when seeing the line around her and then watching her draw. There were a good amount of people who got from her the half-torso drawings that takes about 20-30 mins. To pencil, ink, and color as well as those who got the quick 3 min. head sketches which she did for donations for the Hero Initiative. She was very nice to the fans and happy in answering questions both days. Buy some of her prints if you ever get a chance to see her at a booth!

Jimmy Palmiotti (Jonah Hex, Ash)- Sitting next to Amanda Conner at a parallel booth is her husband and noted writer/inker, Jimmy. Very nice guy and was signing a gazillion books for fans (Jonah Hex, Freedom Force, Power Girl, etc.). Once of the few booths where he was just there to sign for fans and not actually selling anything. Very nice talking to people and asking how they were enjoying the show.

David Finch (Moon Knight, Batman) – THE BUSIEST and LONGEST  line around both days was for the current hot artist on Batman: The Dark Knight. He was going solo that this show vs. SDCC, so the line for sketches and signatures was the same so you would be waiting hours for his signature if people ahead of you were getting sketches, some people I know were in line for 2+ hours. Almost every other person in line for him wanted head or torso sketches so he was booking all day and even lost his voice at the end of the show on Sunday. Also a nice guy and thanks his fans when getting sigs on books. I wish I got a head sketch commission from him. He only does pencil sketches (no inks) for the convention sketches, does anyone know if pencil work displays fine on the Marvel Fallen Son blank covers?

Ray-Anthony Height (Spider-Girl, Fear Itself: Fearsome 4)- One of fun artists to get sketches from at cons since his drawings are always so good. I had to skip out this time on getting a sketch due to budget constraints but I finally was able to get his “Bigtime: Spider-Girl” comic that he did signed. He was also working on a full-figure drawing with color of Hawkgirl that was just fantastic.

Drew Johnson (Wonder Woman, The Authority)- One of the first artists I ever talked to when I started going back to Cons last year and also the artist that I always end up walking away with art from at each show, this time a page from Supergirl and an inked & water colored drawing of Raven from Teen Titans. I also got a nice Ms. Marvel sketch from him too.

Christos Gage (Avengers Academy, Thunderbolts)- When I found out this writer was appearing I had to bring tons of his books to sign. Writers at the show (especially from DC’s new 52 relaunch) were a good amount than I’ve seen before. Again, nice guy and signed all my books and thanked me for reading.

Scott Lobdell (Teen Titans, X-Men)- I only saw him at his booth for a couple hours late on Sunday, I originally thought he skipped out on attending. He had a good amount of fans there, especially those wanting his sig on the new 52 books he’s working on.

Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)- Had a steady line during his signing appearing Saturday night. I was mis-informed he was going to appear on Sunday too which bummed me out when I found out he wasn’t coming back on Sunday. Would have loved to get the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles HC book and have him do a quick sketch on it.

Mike McKone (Spider-Man, Teen Titans)- Had him sign a ton of Teen Titans comics sine his volume of the series I am actually trying to complete the entire run. One day I’d like to be able to afford one of the original art pieces.

Dustin Nguyen (Batman, Detective Comics)- Had some cool chibi prints of his D.C. and Batman/Robin characters which is  always a draw to attendees. Thanked me for reading when I had him sign a Detective Comics book.

Whilce Portacio (Batman Confidential, X-Men)- A busy man between 1-3 p.m. since those were the hours he was signing at the Golden Apple booth the Hulk #1 ltd. Ed. That he did the cover for.

Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo)- Nice creator of the phenomenal book and was cool to sign and doing a quick Usagi sketch on the covers. He was there only on Saturday. I do have an idea for a commission for next time I see him.

Todd Nauck (Spider-Man, Young Justice)- Had a steady amount of fans stopping by and getting sketches and signatures. One of the stalwarts of the So. Cal convention scene with many fans.

Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, Simon Dark)- Had a panel and booth at the con and was signing books for fans and dressed as a classy devil on Sunday.

Mark Waid (The Flash, Irredeemable)- Did signings at Hero Initiative on Saturday and for a couple hours at his booth on Sunday. He was hosting a writing panel as well. Nice gentleman and I pretty much got his signature on all my D.C. comics I had of his in my collection.

Tommy Yune (Robotech, Speed Racer)- Didn’t see him at the RobotechX booth on Saturday until the convention closed, so I caught up with him on Sunday. Kinda blindsided him which I asked for his sig on a “couple” books and I whipped out a stack of comics…he’s lucky I only brought the first issues for sigs and not entire series!

Jason Scott Campbell (Danger Girl, Cover Artist)- Had a sweet booth smack-dab in the center of the entrance way. Steady long line both days, didn’t get anything signed this time (see my So. Cal Comic Con report from this Summer). Wish I checked out his convention sketch prices.

Gerry Conway (Firestorm, Spider-Man)- Another legendary writer that I brought books to sign for when he was there on Saturday.  Was signing at the Desert Wind Comics booth and gave sigs with donations to Hero Initiative.

Mark Beachum (Samuree, Flare)- Brought him a couple old-school Samuree books from the Continuity Comics days for signing. He showed it to his pals since they haven’t seen some of his old work before from the series.

Ale Garza (Teen Titans, Supergirl)- Had him sign my Supergirl comic issue, was there both days but closed his booth early on Saturday.

Bob Layton (Iron Man, Hercules)- Was initially stationed at the back of the convention on Saturday but thankfully was put in the main center of artists alley for Sunday (I think he get Stan Sakai’s booth). Got my Hercules book signed and had cover recreations available.

JonBoy Meyers (Arana, Spider-Man)- Picked up a sketch of Dagger (of Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger duo) and his sig on a Green Lantern TPB, was bummed at the last con that I didn’t get to buy his reasonably priced preliminary sketches he was selling. Will definitely be picking up more from him in the future.

Mike S. Miller (DCU Universe: Legends, Superman)- One new artist I stumbled up at the show that had a striking similarity to Jim Lee/Ed Benes. He is the inker on the comic version of the DC Universe Online game. He had really sweet OA for sale and I just missed out on timing on getting a sketch from him. Will be on the lookout for his at shows in the future.

Norm Rapmund (Booster Gold, Superman)- Didn’t get anything signed this time, but if you know the 90s then you now Norm Rapmund’s work. I need to grab some Superman comics now for the future.

What Else Was There?

A booming public address system that’ll jostle you if you’re standing underneath one of the speakers. Very disconcerting especially at Amanda Conner’s booth, while you’re watching her draw the PA would come on and startle you.

There was a backstage show with karaoke and star wars Jedi performances. So if you needed to sit and wind down you could watch some side-performances.

Wrestling ring- You could hear people hitting the mat across the hall when they were performing. Don’t know if there was tons of attraction going on there though.

Laser Tag area near the ring where for a donation you could play laser tag against people in Star Wards costume.

The inaugural Masquerade Ball was scheduled at 8 p.m. Saturday night, but it was being held a full hour after the convention hall closed, so by the time you were ushered out you had to kill an hour before the event happened. Would have been nice if the event happened closer to the hall closing time in order to direct leaving visitors to attend the event. Does anyone have video on YouTube of the Masquerade event or link to it?

There was also a Magic: The Gathering/Warcraft card gaming event being held, but since Mr. Monster isn’t into it, didn’t pass by it for a review.

Lots of zombie cosplayers due to the same night the Long Beach Zombie Walk was happening down the street where they were trying to break the zombie attendance record or something.
Lots of really intricate Cosplayers and their costumes both days along with store-bought ones. More kids in costumes during the Sunday event.

I had a blast and washed away all the bad jive from the San Diego Comic Con fiasco (buying tickets, entrance line, foot traffic, etc.). LBCC is a laid back show, you can spend an hour or 2 days just hanging around. A great place to talk to creators, check out comics, see cosplay without hassle. Pricing for the show is light-years better than the Wizard World cons whose target is mainly autograph signings and photo ops with B- & C-level actors.

What Can Be Improved?
Since the con is still in its infancy, there are still a lot of kinks and things that can be improved. 

Here are my humble suggestions:

1. More publishers! Apart from Top Cow & IDW, there were none of the other big name houses in attendance. Where was Dark Horse, DDP, Archie, Bongo, Valiant, Image and most importantly Marvel & DC? In order to try and establish the show as a preeminent comic book convention in the U.S., LBCC will need to get more support from the big dogs. Some of the publisher’s top artists already set-up booths, so why not have the pubs truck their booths from SDCC and set-up in Long Beach as well? Would love to get signings from Geoff Johns and Jim Lee at a D.C. booth, Joe Q. and Lenil Francis Yu at a Marvel booth.

2. Cosplay is one of the big draws to a convention, look how it exploded at SDCC and also how gigantic Anime Expo is with cosplay? Well LBCC is smack dab in the middle location of both of them (with AX in L.A.), so why not ramp up the promotion of the event? The masquerade inaugural ball this year was a good step, too bad it was starting one hour AFTER the convention hall closed so unless people were going to hang out for an hour they left. It would be nice to had greeters telling people at the door when the convention was closing that the masquerade ball was happening still to help remind them. Invite the “key” name cosplayers to attend the event and have them in panels, copy how the new Comikaze event is having Yaya Han at their show.

3. Bring in MORE comic book dealers. Make it a priority presence to keep increasing the dealer booths, bring in modern dealers, TPB/HC resellers, manga, CGC and old-school comic dealers to attract the different niche collectors.

4. Where are the original art dealers? One of the things I liked at this year’s SDCC were the many OA dealer booths where you could peruse artwork and purchase them from a wide range of periods and artists. At LBCC there were none apart from the artists selling their own OA pages. Bring in some OA dealers and combine the comic book experience.

5. Add more check-in booths for pre-registered ticker buyers. Don’t keep people waiting in line longer than 15 mins. Trying to get their badge or you’ll turn off their giddiness by waiting in line for so long. I’ve read reviews from first-time attendees and they’re not coming back because they were so turned off by the line and wait time on Saturday.

Comics Alliance