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Los Angeles Gets Its Comic Convention: Stan Lee’s Comikaze

Los Angeles Gets Its Comic Convention: Stan Lee's Comikaze

Raise your hand if you’ve been to Comic-Con? Okay. Good. That’s a lot of you. We have never been, nor have we ever had a particularly strong desire to attend. There’s something about traveling to and staying in San Diego (Meh.), only to deal with traffic (Bleh.), an uncomfortable amount of people (Bleh. Bleh.), and lots of excess costs (Bleh. Bleh. Bleh.) that makes going to the event stupid. Like Coachella, there are better ways to spend your time in Los Angeles. Call us homebodies, old people, uncool, whatever you want: nothing about events of this nature sounds appealing.

When we interviewed Erin Burrell a few months back, he mentioned he and his friends at Space Camp would be presenting at something called Comikaze. What’s that? A comic convention that sounds a lot like Comic-Con without the fuss of “Comic-Con” and takes place in Downtown Los Angeles. It is also backed by comic book legend Stan Lee. Say no more: Comikaze is the comic book convention for us!

The event took place this past weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center Downtown. It was a two day event which had people from all over the area visiting in their best fantasy and nerd drag to outwit each other. Walking into the Convention Center’s South Hall was like being transported into a realm that was part video game chat room, part middle school dance. Loud Jock Jams era music blasted from a balcony DJ booth as little cliques of masked people and cosplay-ers gathered around each other to pose for photos, mashing up genres and comic universes in often hilarious ways. At one point a Red Power Ranger posed with a group of Street Fighters. There was a photographer dressed as Deadpool who was always getting his own photo taken. In nearly every direction you looked there was someone in Harley Quinn or Joker drag. Characters came in all shapes and sizes, ages and ethnicities: if a certain villain or hero spoke to you regardless of your personal identity, you had license to inhabit it here at Comikaze.

Los Angeles Gets Its Comic Convention: Stan Lee's Comikaze

Walking up the South Hall stairs, you enter a normal trade room floor. This one is different in that it is filled with normal (“normal”) people instead of the usual squinty business people who are there just to ogle a few cars or turn their nose up at artwork. There were lots of businesses present and certainly ran the scale of very commercial to tiny and independent to gory to sexy to this and that and that–but it was absolutely non-pretentious. To the far South of the convention floor were small artists that ranged from Internet illustrators and comic book artists while the North of the convention floor had movie booths and movie stars sitting and signing autographs. The center of the floor was full of vendors selling various goods from vintage comics to Superman statues to downloadable apps to help you navigate the comic universe.

We started at the far South end and went through every aisle as best we could to see what Comikaze was. The Eastern wall was lined with a giant Magic: The Gathering arena for card players to spar their creatures against each other. There was a Warhammer area where people and their fantasy sets battled each other, throwing dice and rearranging their settings by measuring tape. Perhaps the most confounding was a Quidditch field where you could actually play the game IRL. We stopped and watched, confused as to how this flying game would work. Instead of a magic flying Golden Snitch you had some bro in a goldenrod outfit and a ball dangling from his ass that made for a very uncomfortable image when he bounced around on his feet, the ball swinging below his crotch. Even more unsettling? When the unable-to-fly players ran around to grab balls, their constant tugging of broomsticks between their legs nudged us to move on. You can see how it all worked in the video below. We give whoever figured out the logistics of this game great praise because it took some creativity to translate it to real life.

Moving inward, you had a lot of local, indie comic makers–and even a few friends: Geoffery and Amanda of The Devastator were knee deep in sales at their booth while Erin Burrell and Jesse Tise were gathering a collection of curious space campers (one was a Suicide Girl, which we noticed as she spoke with her boobs and coyly pointed at her shirt, which read “SPACE CAMP”). Cyanide & Happiness gathered the biggest audience in this area as stuffed animal versions of their characters poked out from the top of their booth.

There was an entire area dedicated to Elvira and Stan Lee, two winding little museums of each artists’ work that led to the artists themselves sitting and signing autographs. It was surprising to find how many people were trying to say hello to them and how many people were not. Regardless, they both looked great.

The center of the convention was the most full as it all led to the Comicake stage where various panels would moved on and off the stage. This is also the most concentrated area of families, who were there in large quantities (many were in family costumes, too). This was the area where people were getting their photos taken most since it had the most room and was nearest to the entrance. This was Comikaze’s catwalk, flanked by booths for Girls With Corpses, Saber Guild, Full Moon Features, and–again–Suicide Girls.

Los Angeles Gets Its Comic Convention: Stan Lee's Comikaze--Wall-E

There were two sad areas: the “celebrity” lined surrounding wall of the expo and the sadly unpopulated Zombie Apocalypse. The celebrity area was most sad as you had people like Morgan Fairchild, Lou Ferrigno, Linda Blair, and just sitting around as an animatronic Wall-E upstaged them. Comic convention groupie Adrianne Curry and Paris Themmen were also in attendance with little crowds. Who is Paris, you ask? Mike Teavee from the original Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Our reaction to seeing him was, “Oh, look!” but–as no one spoke to him–we hung our heads and walked away. Conventions are a cruel way to show if you are relevant or not, especially to a very specific audience you are associated with.

The Zombie Apocalypse was sad because it was so big and it appeared that no one was using it. The idea behind it was that it was an area for (people dressed as) zombies and (people dressed as) zombie killers to battle each other in an obstacle course. The course was composed of bounce houses and was really cool looking. It looked like everyone just had too cold of feet to dive into it, which is surprising given the amount teenagers at the event. Perhaps their all too elaborate costumes prevented them from having a bounce? No idea.

After a few hours of wandering and incredible people watching, we said goodbye to Comikaze. The expo was very packed and had some great exhibitors, which is surprising given that this is only the second year of the festival. We have no idea what will become of it: Will Hollywood claw their way into it? Will the authenticity of the comics decrease? Will the actual threat of zombies make their course more appealing? We’ll all see. We are very hopeful in what Comikaze can bring to Los Angeles. Moreover, why in the hell would we want to go to Comic-Con now if we have this expo and can simply hop on the Metro Downtown to get to it? No hotel expenses, no car expenses, no traffic, no overly huge crowds, but a more-focused-on-comics convention in our home: count us in. Comikaze was great and we’ll be excited to attend next year. You can catch tons (TONS) of photos from the event below.

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