(Raven and Nightwing from the Teen Titans. Full slideshow available below.)
A young man scowls intently at me, his arms straining as he holds a bow at full draw. Only the bottom half of his gaunt face is visible below his shadowed hood. To his right, a barely dressed bunny boy in sunglasses, short shorts, and not much else gyrates in time to the music playing from a portable sound system. His ears flap in time to the beat as he performs his best Michael Flatley impersonation. A squad of Ghostbusters race past on their way to fight Gozer.
Is this madness?
No. This is Stan Lee’s Comikaze.
(The Green Arrow.)
A young upstart just finishing its third year, Comikaze can easily be dismissed as Los Angeles’ version of a poor man’s San Diego Comic-con (SDCC), a characterization Comikaze CEO Regina Carpinelli actively embraces. Carpinelli and her siblings founded Comikaze in 2011, after being unable to register for tickets through SDCC’s unforgiving online registration process (which sold out in a mere 93 minutes this year).
“It’s been our family tradition for nearly 20 years — and I’m the only girl — that the one thing we all agree on is we all loved San Diego Comic-Con," Carpinelli said. “A couple of years ago, when they had their online ticket process change, we couldn’t get tickets. We were terribly bummed…. We thought, ‘There needs to be a show that everyone can get into, that everyone can afford, that is totally awesome.’ We put our heart and soul into creating this geek smorgasbord."
(Source: Los Angeles Times)
True to its history, Comikaze’s operators have worked to keep admission fees low, encouraging families, children, and a carnival-like atmosphere.
(Boba Life Star Wars style.)
Through a series of smart moves, including partnerships with comics legend Stan Lee and camp movie icon Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Comikaze has succeeded beyond the expectations of its founders. In three short years, the convention has almost doubled its attendance, with an estimated 50,000+ visitors (gotta be turnstile from what I saw) this year. Compared to Anime Expo (AX), a similar Los Angeles event billed as the largest anime and manga convention in North America, Comikaze’s growth has been nothing short of phenomenal.
(Local anime cosplayers who attend both Anime Expo and Comikaze.)
In operation since 1992 and held in the same location just a few months before Comikaze, AX targets an audience with similar interests and demographics. However, after twenty-one years, AX has reached a “mere" 61,000 unique and 161,000 turnstile attendees. Comikaze, on the other hand, has already reached a third of that total. If Comikaze continues at its current pace, it may easily reach AX’s 21-year mark in half the time.
(Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.)
Comikaze’s true goal and ultimate rival is San Diego’s Comic-con, which has had to cap its number of yearly unique visitors at 130,000 due to size limitations. As Stan Lee points out, Los Angeles is the international epicenter of the visual and motion picture media industries. It’s uniquely placed both to host a convention of this type and to attract the vast spectrum of major properties and independent visual media creators needed to make such an event successful. Comikaze’s mission of promoting comic book and pop culture is a logical and inevitable extension of the city’s dominance of the global entertainment industry.
(Bumblebee from the Transformers movie franchise.)
However, none of this addresses the most basic of questions. Is Comikaze worth going to? In a nutshell? Yes. Yes it is.
I have seen things, my friends, both wondrous and terrible.
- I saw Deadpool photobomb an army of DC superheroes. (Why this is funny.)
- I ran from Harley Quinn and the Joker.
- I helped the Ghostbusters battle Slimer in an epic firefight.
- I laughed as Bender bots were taunted by a Sith R2-D2.
- I met four different Doctors, all of whom asked me to trust them.
- I gawked as WALL-E tried to put the moves on a human girl.
- I consoled Carlos from Night Vale, who was in search of his Cecil.
- I discovered that Snow White is incredibly short in person (and kinda creepy).
- I watched the pilot/premiere Zenescope’s new Grimm Fairy Tales Animated Series.
Which was awful.
- I participated in some very funny Victorian party games with the League of Steam, and learned a lot about Victorian libations (stuff with alcohol in it that I pour down my throat). Recipes were included!
- I attended a screening of indie film, Rock Jocks, filmed in 16 days with a talented cast (including Felicia Day), and awesome in all of the classic B movie ways. Director Paul V. Seetachitt and leading actor Andrew Bowen were great in the following panel. (I better get that damn Smoking Jesus t-shirt for this, Andrew. )
- I gawked as remarkable voice actress Tara Strong ran through a rapid-fire improv with some of her most popular characters, including Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls, Raven from Teen Titans, Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Princess Clara from Drawn Together (that was a trip), and Harley Quinn from Batman: Arkham City, before pretending to make out with Elizabeth Daily.
- I bought so much unique swag, so many t-shirts, and collectibles, that I had trouble getting it all home. (It’s all about the Dealers’ Hall.)
- I met Michael Rooker (so nice), Dean Cain, LeVar Burton (“Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high..."), and the Bruce Campbell (SQEEEEEEE).
Stan Lee’s Comikaze - Regardless of whether you’re a basement-dwelling, mouth-breathing, hardcore comic book fan, a regular person who just liked cartoons as a kid, or somewhere on the spectrum in between, Comikaze has something for you. Equal parts whimsy and insanity, you’ll find yourself regressing to a happier, simpler time when the good guys beat the bad guys (mostly) and life’s problems could be solved in 30 minutes or 15 pages. Enjoy the talented cosplayers, the independent artists and publishers, the friendly B-list celebs (and their crazily priced photo ops), and the absolutely stunning plethora of toys, books, and collectibles to buy. Just remember, when someone asks if you’re a god, you say, "Yes!"
Stan Lee's Comikaze at the Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 S Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(Pictures for this post were taken with my Apple iPhone 4s.)