L.A. Comic Con, The Big City Small Town Comic Convention
This was the second year in a row that I attended Stan Lee’s L.A. Comic Con (previously known as Stan Lee’s Comikaze, a name that was slowly made smaller and smaller in all marketing materials until it vanished completely from anywhere except the fine print.) Last year I lucked into a ticket and most of my day’s focus was on a Doctor Who meetup that some friends were putting together, which did lead to this awesome photo…
..but didn’t leave me with a lot of time to truly explore the convention hall aside from a lap or two around the exhibitors booth and sitting in on a panel. So I was excited this year to go back without any scheduling constraints and the freedom to really explore and get the lay of the land.
And then I had scheduling constraints. The outside world came a-calling and I ended up missing the con on Saturday in order to perform comedy at the Now Hear This podcast festival, which was a definite trade up as far as my day was concerned, but only left me Sunday to try to jam everything in. Which, as it turns out, was actually a really attainable goal.
I arrived at about 9:45am, decked out in my Spider-Gwen finest to snatch my press badge to get in, and scoped out the massive line of people waiting for the con to open. (I was very excited to discover that my swanky press pass meant that I could bypass it and enter in through the side doors of the exhibitors hall. Did I learn this by asking? No, I learned it by watching someone else with a pass like mine do it after I’d been waiting by the side door for a bit figuring the line could die down a bit before I’d stand in it. But I didn’t need to, everything’s coming up Riley.)
What I was struck by while I began to wander was that despite the size of the exhibit hall, which was massive, hundreds if not thousands of exhibitors in a space that one could quickly get lost in, it was a really small event. The con was really only split up into two basic functional areas, the big exhibit hall and a section upstairs which hosted the panel rooms and a screening room. Aside from a few concession stands and some food trucks, that was pretty much it.
Having to miss the con on Saturday meant that I had missed most of the big special guests, but even though they were names to be excited by, they almost read like the list of go-to people you’d include if you were writing a fictional comic con for a film, nerd royalty like Kevin Smith, Chris Hardwick, & Dan Harmon, or classic icons like Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols.
The biggest name there was arguably Alan Tudyk, who to be fair is staring as a voice actor in Rogue One, giving him the Star Wars pedigree that would essentially give him lifelong tenure at any convention were he not already in that club thanks to his beloved appearances in such films as I, Robot, Dodgeball, and 28 Days. Other major tentpole events were the reunion of surviving cast members of the ‘66 Batman TV series, and the appearance of Shannon Purser, better known as Stranger Things’ Boba Fett, Barb, whose Q&A section was in such demand the tickets for it were on a lottery system.
All of that might sound like I’m being snarky or turning my nose up at the event which I want to make perfectly clear is not what I’m doing. The con, now in it’s fifth year, can’t help but live in the shadow of the grand behemoth of all cons, the nearby San Diego Comic-Con. However, while SDCC has expanded more and more each year to slowly devour the city of San Diego LACC seems to have so far not found itself caught up in the major corporate cash grab that SDCC has become more and more known for in recent years. While there are sponsors and branding, it feels far more fan driven, when I arrived people were lining up in the middle of the exhibitors hall in hopes of collecting special exclusive Funko Pop figures, and merch shilling brands like Hot Topic or Loot Crate had fairly modest booths, maybe a bit less modest than that of the mom and pop comic shop or indie artist, but still sharing the same floor. It was just as easy to run into handmade pot holders decked out with nerdy patterns, or the startup geeky event coordination app, NerdOut. There was even a booth run by PETA offering a free VR experience called “I, Chicken” which had the very distinct feeling of being a trick.
There were some big panels like the Barb or Batman ones, but most of them seemed community oriented, a few different discussions on diversity and representation, and even one about experience with cosplay for LGBT fans on Saturday that I was actually really disappointed to have missed. I did manage to check out a panel on Saturday on representation for women in pop culture (pictured above), which, spoiler alert, they were all in support of. It was a complex discussion, with a lot of insight and stories about attempts to get diverse stories and casting past network executives and publishers, and a few horror stories about some of those executives’ notes. (“All this character stuff gets in the way of her boobs.”)
Overall even though it has Stan Lee’s name plastered above it, the con didn’t really feel all that different from the conventions you’d find in smaller markets around the country. Where SDCC has gotten so big that it has spread into the surrounding area, LACC was actually a little more constrained from last year, the convention space was about half the size because the other half of the Los Angeles Convention Center was being used by an entirely different expo. The reduced space barely seemed noticeable while at the con though, it certainly didn’t hamper anyone’s enthusiasm.
There was still some cool stuff brought in to look at by our corporate overlords, like replicas of the Iron Man suits…
…but the real eye candy of an event like this is the cosplay, the celebration of characters by the people who love them. One could even come to LACC without the price of admission to the halls and just hang out in the main lobby area and watch the ever flowing seas of people coming through, with a glee and love for their fandom that is ludicrously infectious. Below are some of my personal favorite cosplay outfits that I saw today. As you can begin to see, I have a bit of a bias towards people who don’t let body types or gender or race determine which characters they can dress as and just have fun with it. I wonder why…
There was this Stargate look from exhibitor Sonia Melinkoff who was repping her handmade goods:
In honor of my personal favorite bad girl teamup, here’s two different Harley and Ivys, with competing degrees of costume effort and personal enthusiasm:
Had to snag this Nightmare Before Christmas* getup:
Here are comedians Dani Fernandez and Mark Ellis with this badass Twilight Zone dual costume, taken before the representation panel:
Jonah Ray, the new host/hostage for MST3K shows some brand loyalty with this homage to the ‘classic’ film Manos: The Hands of Fate:
These guys were dressed as The Flash and Green Arrow and I totally assumed they were there together, much to the annoyance of the Flash who had shit to do while Oliver Queen over here got his gear ready. (I, like most of Star
ling City, know the Green Arrow’s secret identity.)
Here’s a random assortment of Game of Thrones characters including a Jamie who clearly had his own thing going on. Meanwhile, Hopper and Eleven are here to drop some mad synthesizer game on them. Did I notice them when I took the picture? No.
Couldn’t possibly pass up the chance for this combo of Peggy and Rey. (Reyggy?)
Cosplayer Annee Law thought outside the box with her Eggsy from Kingsman look, and check out her Instagram for her perfect Daisy Johnson look from Saturday (as well as an Eggsy/SpiderGwen teamup.)
Had to grab a shot of this Zootopia gang with a suspicious amount of Nick Wildes.
And I can never pass up an opportunity to say hi to the Doctor:
And one of the first looks I saw all day was this pin-up inspired Spider-Gwen:
Most impressive was this fantastic Beast (and LACC was where to find him.) (Photo used with permission by Nick Acott of Sneaky Zebra)(Maybe that sneaky zebra knows how Nick Wilde snuck into that other photo twice.)
And finally, here’s these shoes which made themselves look like super comfortable flats but were total liars who hurt like hell so, so early into the day. Why shoes, why so much hurt?!?
Riley Silverman totally understands why the real Spider-Gwen spends so much of her time off her feet and hanging from webs.
*If you haven’t already checked it out, go watch the Honest Trailer for Nightmare Before Christmas which our own Joe Starr worked on. Trust me, it’s worth it. (Apologies in advance for your new earworm.)