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First Time Comic Convention Goer Reviews Comikaze Expo

The Comikaze Expo debuted at the Los Angeles Convention Center at the beginning of November. This brand new comic book convention joins a crowded field to get a major comic con in the city. Many have come and gone over the years. Will this be the one that sticks? Guest-blogger Cindy Marie Jenkins attended Comikaze and shares her thoughts.

Cozying up to Alex Leavitt's laptop

I truly went to this on a whim. A friend threw it out on Google+ and I thought it sounded like fun, and a low-key way to introduce myself to attending conventions. For various reasons in my storytelling world, I need to stay involved in the larger industry.

So I went expecting….what, exactly? The website gave detailed information about the panels and that was encouraging. I knew I would have to decide between some very interesting topics. Scanning through the guests and vendors, I found a lot of brand names or people that I knew and looked interesting. The Guests of Honor, though, left a weird taste in my mouth. I am new to the details of this industry, but I had no idea that the Nickelodeon show “All That” fell into geek culture.

Yeah, that’s because it doesn’t. They were the main attraction though. Stan Lee – very cool – and Elvira – a respectable mainstay, I’m guessing?  – also headlined. I can understand needing a more mainstream attraction like an “All That” Reunion except that, actually, I can’t. Again, I’m new to conventions, but in what alternate universe should Stan Lee be overshadowed by “All That” at a comics convention?

That aside, the event itself was fun. I didn’t know there was a program which is good because they apparently ran out of them in the first hour. I had printed the panels, but no map to the floor. That’s not a big deal; I could wander around the room to decent effect. However, at the entrance they only let people inside two at a time, which left a little excitement to be desired. Translation: way too orderly an entrance to rouse anticipation. It felt like we were being let into a museum.

Jane Espenson *swoon*

On the comics note, I noticed I’m more inclined to risk $1-10 for an issue rather than pick up a free one; most likely because I don’t want to seem like a swag free-loader. Also, cheaper trial issues assured I had enough money for a few of them, rather than blowing my whole budget on one new title to try. That feels more in the vibe of a convention, so new audience can experiment with what they read. I have already enjoyed many of the titles and webseries I found there since last weekend.

The two panels I attended were definitely the most interesting parts of the day. The first was run by Alex Leavitt from USC Annenberg on otaku and the role of anima, manga and otaku in Japanese culture. He braved through a largely visual presentation with no projector, thanks to the Expo simply not providing him one, according to Leavitt. We crowded closer to his laptop, which was actually quite a lovely setting, and we saw the visuals if not the video well enough. Poor young Leavitt also battled the consistent overwhelming cheering of the “All That” Reunion. Overall we got the gist of the topic; I do wish he’d delved deeper into the very interesting examples he gave. I learned what otaku means and have a better idea of how close their geek culture is to ours. We are the world. I would have liked more meat.

The next panel I attended was Character Studies: Geek Girls in Popular Culture, with Jane Espenson, Amy Berg, Cecil Castellucci, Sarah Watson, Sarah Kuhn, Jessica Mills and Stephanie Thorpe. Moderated by Amy Ratcliffe. (Here is a general conference pet peeve: why are panelists’ Twitter addresses not listed anywhere? I missed one of my favorite Twitter personalities, Black Nerd Comedy, because of no program/map, and wasn’t lucky enough to catch his tweets about the event*).

Back to the panel. I am now the biggest fan of Jane Espenson, but that doesn’t take much. She’s awesome and a role model for many of her fellow panelists. This panel was kept kind of upbeat and light, which wasn’t hard with six women incredibly happy with their lives and work. A very humorous moment came when the ASL Interpreter was asked what the sign for “D20” is. She made a motion like rolling a die, and then was careful to demonstrate the difference between that sign and one not quite as G-rated.

These guys are seriously my favorite from MAD magazine of yore

CosPlay fascinates me, but my only venture into it involved east coast renaissance faires so I could show off my sword. At Comikaze, I snapped a few shots while others posed, and had a hard time asking for anyone to pose just for me. The one character I did have the guts to ask was an absolutely stunning Witch King of Angmar; however, by the time I found my courage, his helmet was off so he can eat lunch with his son. I didn’t want to intrude on the Witch King’s lunch. I do wish I’d gotten that picture.

Since one of the biggest reasons I attended was to get a sense of the culture and be prompted to read or watch new stories, Comikaze Expo earns a rousing success. In no particular order, I discovered the League of Extraordinary Ladies, Reed Gunther, The 36, reMind, Shelf Life (had known about through Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt but prompted to watch after seeing writer on panel), Awkward Embraces (another I heard enough about but actually watched all of Season 1 yesterday), ran into Comediva again after an intro at the Broad Humor Film Festival (they win for best hook to get people to their booth), Jefbot, The League of S.T.E.A.M. (donated to their kickstarter for Season 2 but first time seeing them in person. They get the best carnival barker award), Americana: The Book Series, Elizabeth Watasin, Jody Houser, Eliza Frye, the Winner Twins (haven’t checked out yet but they self-describe as “identical twin teenage dyslexic scifi authors”), and Olivia Dantes.

A few cool combinations of art and social good, which is a very public crusade of mine: The Winner Twins tour the country with Motivate 2 Learn, “a nonprofit inspiring students to read, write, overcome obstacles and teach their creative writing method.” Princess Leah postcards were everywhere, asking for donations towards medical bills to help a young baby Leah suffering from a mysterious illness; lastly, the California Browncoats have fun fan memorabilia and artist-donated fan calendars that go to different charities. Check them out – support art – help a cause. Everyone wins!

Mandalorians vs. The Leage of S.T.E.A.M.

There were definitely first-year problems. I’m a novice to conventions but not to events or performance, and rather than dwelling on the criticisms I know they’ve received (thank you Facebook), I want to offer some solutions.

*Continue of pet peeve:
Help tweeting loudmouths out and reap the promotional benefits: put the event hashtag everywhere and encourage all speakers, vendors, etc, to post their Twitter addresses as a sign. Point everyone to your business and give them all the tools to help a vendor, and direct everyone following the hashtag to find vendors and artists of their choice. I mostly found out at least ten of my friends were there thanks to the #Comikaze hashtag, and although most intermediate Twitter users pick up on it, encourage its use with signs.

Overall, the flow felt adequate and kind of like an indoor swap meet. I do wonder why more like-minded vendors aren’t placed together. Is it a quandary over competition? I bet if I’d walked through all five steampunk vendors at once, I would have bought something. Ditto for independent comics section. Has this been tried at other conventions and discarded? The autograph area was packed together for sci-fi specific actors, but that left poor Claudia Wells (original Jennifer Parker in Back to the Future) all by her lonesome and way on the other side of the hall. I wasn’t looking for signatures myself (although “The Voice for The Archies” Ron Dante almost got me to buy something), but I can’t imagine the original girlfriend of Marty McFly means much by the time you pass the Lasik Eye Surgery booth, take a left at the guy selling all his Star Wars memorabilia, and finally get to hers.

These pumpkin sculptures were way more impressive when I thought they were real pumpkins

I will absolutely return next year, with a larger budget and more room in my schedule for panels. It’s looking good that many of the titles and series I’ve enjoyed since our introduction are keepers, so the artists get more fans. Multiple crafts vendors got my attention and money, but special artisan beauty goes to Sev’s Wood Crafts, “Where one good turn deserves another!” according to his card. I’m writing about scribes right now, and had a massively difficult time not buying half his stock instead of paying my student loans. The very happy purchase I did make was a dragon-shaped bookmark, created out of turkey vertebrae transformed into beads.

That, plus encouragement for female writers garnered during the Geek Girls panel, was well worth my time and budget. I am confident they’ll listen to the very vocal feedback to improve next year.

———
Cindy Marie Jenkins admits her childhood playmates were Gilbert & Sullivan. She works as a Storyteller and Director of Online Outreach for Social | Impact Consulting LLC. Current writing found at the Blue Dragon Scribe Shoppe and MYTHistories. @CindyMarieJ. She is a big fan of beer. CindyMarieJenkins.com

Comic-Con Wrap-Up: Digital

Foxtrot by Bill Amend notes the limitations of the iPad (originally published 3/21/2010)

Digital comics are gaining momentum as more people enjoy the convenience of downloading comics onto their tablet device and/or phone, and/or read them on their browser while they’re already at their computer. July has already seen a lot of announcements and Comic-Con, as expected, had a ton more. Here are the highlights:

  • Digital comics sales have doubled for the first six months of 2011, according to industry white papers presented by ICv2 Publisher and CEO Milton Griepp. Digital sales were estimated at less than one million in 2009, somewhere between $6 and $8 million in 2010, and will likely double that amount by the end of 2011. Despite fears of losing print readers to digital, the report states there’s little evidence to suggest a significant level of overlap between buyers in the two markets. Much of the growth is led by the strength of the iPad, with a lot of potential still expected from the Android and e-readers like the Kindle and Nook. Digital sales on PSP have mostly collapsed, likely due to a massive hacking incident on the Sony PlayStation network in April that resulted in the service being shut down for nearly a month and the compromise of millions of their users’ personal data. New additions to the PSP Digital Comics Store were discontinued earlier this month, although the program may get relaunched when Sony releases the PlayStation Vita, expected toward the end of the year. (ICv2)
  • Marvel Comics will begin transitioning to simultaneous print and digital releases (instead of waiting months to release the digital versions of their print comics) starting with this week’s Amazing Spider-Man #666, which kicks off the “Spider-Island” summer event, and the current X-Men event Schism. The Spider-Man family of titles will be released the same day and date in comic book stores and through web and mobile devices. Uncanny X-Men #1 and Wolverine & the X-Men #1 will follow in October and November. Marvel, the comics industry’s number one publisher, will look for more opportunities as titles hit good jumping-on points. (ICv2)
  • VizManga.com has launched from the largest US publisher of Manga, Viz Media. The site syncs with their iOS and Android apps, so manga bought at one can be read on the others. There is a 40% sale going until July 31 and the first chapter of each manga is available for free. There are currently over 40 series and over 300 volumes available, with more added each week. (Robot 6)
  • A collection of 39 Japanese publishers will launch JManga, a web portal to read manga online and interact with creators and fans, in August. Popular manga like One Piece and Naruto are expected to be part of the line-up, as well as more obscure titles that have never been licensed for US release. The cooperative initiative is intended to reverse shrinking sales that publishers feel are due to importing lag time, piracy, and the closing of Borders. (Anime News Network)
  • Top Shelf entered the digital space by launching over 70 graphic novels on the Comics+ app by iVerse Media. According to this interview with Robot 6, they want to have everything in their library that they can release digitally to be available by the end of the summer. They will also be launching on other digital distributors soon and will have their own apps, one for Top Shelf’s entire line and a Kids Club app for their all-ages material. They also have some books on the Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Google eBookstore. (Top Shelf)
  • Panelfly will be relaunching their app as Panelfly Prime and Panelfly Plus beginning in early August. The two apps will enhance the now-standard comics reader experience with videos, news and social media integration within the comic, an experience they’re pitching as SuperMedia. Their recently released Burn Notice digital comic is a template for what they’re building. (Comic Book Resources)
  • Graphicly is adding bonus features and other enhancements to digital comics. Similar to DVD bonus features, the first batch includes audio commentary tracks by creators and trailers, with more to come. (The Couch)
  • LucasFilm OK’ed the digital release of Star Wars comics, so the Dark Horse Digital Store now has tons of Star Wars comics, with more to be added every week. Dark Horse Comics has been publishing Star Wars comics for 20 years now. Part of the release includes Marvel Comics’ 1977 adaptation of the original movie Stars Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. (Dark Horse)
  • Manga publisher Square Enix is running a special sale on their online reader site. If you “like” their Facebook page or got a special URL at Comic-Con, you can get the first volume of any of their 15 series (including Fullmetal Alchemist) for free. Books are usually priced at $5.99. The deal is good until August 10. (Robot 6)

New to Comics? New Comics for You! 4/29/09

Comic books, graphic novels. They’re all the rage! Have you read one recently? There’s lots of stuff out there. Why not check out some of these new items that are getting released tomorrow?

Since I don’t live in the future, I can’t guarantee the quality of the below items, but based on word-of-mouth, early reviews, buzz and other intangible factors, I think these are safe bets. They should require little to no previous knowledge. You ought to be able to go into these stories cold and enjoy them just fine. Get yourself a copy by following the links below (the Amazon.com links will give a little to the “Help Corey Do What He Loves” Fund) or head over to your local comic book store.

If you pick any of them up, let me know what you think?

Archie: High School Chronicles Vol. 1: Freshman Year – $10.95
By Batton Lash & Bill Galvan
112 pages; published by Archie Comics; available at Amazon.com

Archie and his friends have forever been stuck in the latter portion of high school, but now, after many long years, the story of how “the gang” all met up is finally being told in this, the first edition of “The High School Chronicles!” This pioneering storyline, captured in issues #587-591 of ARCHIE and now again in this graphic novel reprint, brings us the beginning of the “eternal love triangle,” the introduction of Mr. Weatherbee as principal of Riverdale High, the formation of Moose and Midge’s relationship (and Reggie’s subsequent schemes to split them up), and other Archie staples! It’s all brought to you by fan-favorite writer Batton Lash of “Wolff & Byrd” and “Archie Meets the Punisher” fame, along with popular Archie Comics artist, Bill Galvan. So get your Homecoming dress, pack your brand-new backpack, and pick up your school map to find your way to the biggest Archie story of the year!

Some simple and clean fun with an American staple.

Female Force: Michelle Obama – $3.99
By Neal Bailey & Joshua LaBello
32 pages; published by Bluewater Productions; available on Amazon.com

This one-shot features the United States’ latest First Lady, Michelle Obama. A mother, political force, and now, wife of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, it’s obvious that Michelle Obama has lived a life many have only dreamed of. Continuing Bluewater’s examination of strong female figures in politics, this visual biography will examine Michelle’s life in detail to help find her context in modern history.

This one is recommended with some reservations. I’m always glad to see comics explore non-fiction genres like history and biographies but I can’t say I’ve heard much response to the publisher’s previous issues on Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin beyond, “Hey look! Comic books about modern day politicians! What a novelty!” Hopefully it’s a biography that actually digs in a little, but I don’t know if that’s possible in only 32 pages.

Star Wars Adventures Volume 1: Han Solo and the Hollow Moon of Khorya – $7.95
By Jeremy Barlow & Rick Lacy
80 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics; available at Amazon.com

No one ever said being a smuggler was easy!

Before they ever met Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca had already lived a lifetime of adventures. In this action-packed tale, Han and Chewie are caught between gangsters and the Empire, and their only help is Han’s former partner — who may be worse than either!

Star Wars Adventures is a new series of graphic novellas designed for readers of all ages!

I can’t say I’m a big Star Wars fan. Sure I enjoyed the original three movies and have a healthy amount of disdain for the prequel trilogy, but that’s kind of the extent of it. I realize there are many people not like me. And come on. It’s classic Han Solo and Chewie. It’s probably a safe bet if you liked those characters and want more without a huge boatload of overwhelming mythology to weigh it down.

Blazing Combat – $28.99
By Archie Goodwin, et al.
208 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at Amazon.com

A comic book classic with timely resonance. Blazing Combat was an American war-comics magazine published by Warren Publishing from 1965 to 1966. Written and edited by Archie Goodwin, with artwork by such industry notables as Gene Colan, Frank Frazetta, John Severin, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, Russ Heath, Reed Crandall, and Wally Wood, it featured war stories in both contemporary and period settings, unified by a humanistic theme of the personal costs of war, rather than by traditional men’s adventure motifs. As one letter-writer in the third issue put it, “Do you seriously expect to make money with a war magazine that publishes nothing but anti-war stories?”

While most stories took place during World War II, they ranged in settings from the 18th century to the present-day. Some dealt with historical figures, such as Revolutionary War general Benedict Arnold and his pre-traitorous victory at the battle of Saratoga, while “Foragers” focused on a fictional soldier in General William T. Sherman’s devastating March to the Sea during the American Civil War. “Holding Action,” set on the last day of the Korean War, ended with a gung-ho young soldier, unwilling to quit, being escorted over his protests into a medical vehicle.

What proved to be the most controversial were stories set during the then-contemporary Vietnam War, particularly the classic short “Landscape,” which follows the thoughts of a Vietnamese peasant rice-farmer devoid of ideology, who nonetheless pays the ultimate price simply for living where he does. While writer Goodwin evenhandedly portrays the North Vietnamese Army’s brutal summary executions of village officials, and a well-meaning U.S. Army fatally bludgeoning its way through the village in a counterattack, the story caused key distributors to stop selling the title.

Fantagraphics is proud to present a deluxe, hardcover edition, magnificently printed and bound, of these stories, superbly reproduced from the original printer’s film negatives.

Considered by some to be the best war comic. Or is it the best anti-war comic?

Mister Universe – $3.50
By Vassilis Gogtzilas & K.I. Zachopoulos
32 pages; published by Image Comics

Everybody needs Mr. Universe -– the superhero whose adventures ring throughout the cosmos! Day and night, he watches over the city, offering help to the helpless! Without the luxury of a secret identity, unable to remain invisible among the crowds, he continues to fulfill his duty! Mr. Universe! The restless superhero! At least, that’s what Tommy thought…

There probably won’t be too many super-hero comic books in this column because most of them require a lot of knowledge about their world and history, which is frequently near-insurmountable for casual readers and of mixed quality. But every so often the people that make comic books remember that super-heroes don’t have to be done that way. I really hope this is one of those.

Second Thoughts – $9.95
By Niklas Asker
80 pages; published by Top Shelf Productions; available at Amazon.com

Jess is a novelist without a novel. John is a photographer running away to New York. Though it lasts only a moment, their brief encounter in Stansted Airport will transform both of their lives.

How do you measure the distance between satisfaction and settling? At what point does wishful thinking take on a life of its own? In Second Thoughts, the clean, emotional ink-work of Swedish newcomer Niklas Asker guides two characters, in two worlds, through modern city life and love. Reality and fiction overlap in this haunting, deceptive, and inspiring graphic novel about the lives we imagine for ourselves, the lives we imagine for others, and the lives we ultimately must live.

Top Shelf Productions is accurately named. They consistently put out high quality material.

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed – $14.00
By Brian Cronin
256 pages; published by Plume; available at Amazon.com

Fascinating and often bizarre true stories behind more than 130 urban legends about comic book culture

Was Superman a Spy? demystifies all of the interesting stories, unbelievable anecdotes, wacky rumors, and persistent myths that have piled up like priceless back issues in the seventy-plus years of the comic book industry, including:

· Elvis Presley’s trademark hairstyle was based on a comic book character (True)
· Stan Lee featured a gay character in one of Marvel’s 1960s war comics (False)
· Wolverine of the X-Men was originally meant to be an actual wolverine! (True)
· What would have been DC’s first black superhero was changed at the last moment to a white hero (True)
· A Dutch inventor was blocked from getting a patent on a process because it had been used previously in a Donald Duck comic book (True)

With many more legends resolved, Was Superman a Spy? is a must-have for the legions of comic book fans and all seekers of “truth, justice, and the American way.”

Not a comic book but an entertaining and informative book at those wacky comics and the even wackier stories behind their creation. Plenty of the content is brand new, but a percentage of the book collects favorites from Brian’s column Comic Book Legends Revealed. Some of it might be too enmeshed in the convoluted super-hero mythologies for newcomers, but it should be great for anyone returning to comics.

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