The 2015 edition of Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo at Los Angeles Convention Center has officially wrapped up as of Sunday evening. This time last year, I reviewed the Expo's 2014 show in my very first blog as an attendee hanging out with friends from out of town, talking with Artist Alley friends, and being interviewed by good friend Tyrone Tann of Stauros Entertainment about the progress of a comic book that I was producing for him. Three-hundred-sixty-five days later, I'm an Artist Alley exhibitor once again at Comikaze's fifth show, joined by Tyrone and other great friends in promoting and selling the now-finished freelance comic book. How was the show for me on the other side of the table again (I exhibited at Comikaze once before in 2012)? How do I compare this year's event to last years? Was the show great or not so great overall? Well, just settle down, and I'll start from the beginning:
This year's Comikaze Expo was a three-day ordeal spread across not one but two halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center. The South Hall---it's sole location the past four years----was now home to celebrity photo ops, movie and tv props, and the show's famed "Hot Topic" stage, while the West Hall housed comic dealers and retailer booths, a Stan Lee museum, and of course, Artist Alley----my home away from home. For this event, my temporary "home" included not just yours truly, but also friends and business partners Tyrone Tann, actor/puppeteer Justin Galluccio, his mother Joann, and actor Zane Huett. Since the show started on Friday, I wasn't able to set up the table due to my work schedule, but Tyrone and his crew were more than happy to do so until I joined them the next day. Our main objective: to promote and sell copies of the aforementioned new freelance comic book I wrote and illustrated, a four-color panel adaptation of Tyrone and Justin's "Blooob" live-action web-series, featuring Justin as the operator and voice of the Blooob puppet, which he also brought to the show. Also present on our tabletop, were my other comic titles fully created by me: "Damn Tourists," "The F.O.S. Mongoose," and "Cosmic Force." with "Blooob" the puppet as our main draw to the table, the show was moderately successful for us, as we sold eleven books between the Blooob, Cosmic Force, and FOS Mongoose books. The main highlights of the show were the reactions Justin got with "Blooob" greeting customers (especially little kids), and the interviews and promos we did discussing the book thanks to the help of Tyrone and his cameraman. Then there were my various rounds to the rest of Artist Alley to visit my vendor buddies and their tables, including Christie Shinn, Lonnie Milsap, Paul Jamison, Wendy Shaner (who presented me with more Mongoose Monday art to sign), and newlyweds Mark Rivers and Kamiel Harrison, who just got back from their honeymoon in Europe. Rounding out the show highlights were unexpected visits from old and new friends/acquaintances like Francisco Dominguez from Meltdown Comics, Jesse Campbell from San Fernando Valley Comic Con (my next show), new Damn Tourists fan Soni Trevor, and former co-workers Vahagn Kirakosian and Jenn Muranaka, all of whom stopped by to say hello. It still amazes me just how many people I've met in the five years of being an Artist Alley Vendor, and I expect that number to grow the further my convention circuit rolls along.
So, my overall thoughts on this year's Comikaze Expo? Despite the kind words and fun experiences, the show was mediocre in terms of both sales and customer interactions. I suspect it was the Halloween weekend that kept many attendees from parting with their cash, and perhaps the event organizers should rethink next year's show dates. I would recommend the weekend after Halloween for next year's Comikaze, as a general public recovering from the holiday would be in more of a spending mood after the parties, costume purchases, and trick-or-treating are behind them. Also, and this is a smaller issue: get some microphones with less audio feedback, and try not to speak to close to the mic when doing loudspeaker announcements. You'll give both vendors and attendees less migraines that way. On the positive side, I did feel that splitting up the show was a good idea, as the customer-distracting Hot Topic stage did not share the same space as Artist Alley. This was definitely a step in the right direction in showcasing us members of the "Alley" more. As a whole, this year's Expo I felt was better than last years in terms of show scale and floor organization. This con has the potential to be a can't miss show if it can zero in on what sets it apart from other shows. I personally don't like the "L.A.'s Comic-Con" tagline they're starting to use, as we don't really need another "comic-media" event like in San Diego. Perhaps Comikaze can study what Wondercon does at the same venue next year and learn from that, as that show has a fantastic reputation for balancing celebrities, pop culture merchandise, large comic dealers, and artist alley. So whether you liked this year's Comikaze Expo or not, just remember these four words:
There's always next year.