Regina Carpinelli of Stan Lee’s Comikaze: Magic, LA and Fandom

Regina (right) pictured with Stan Lee and Mistress of the Dark, Elvira (Cassandra Peterson)

Last year TeenNick finally heard the pleas, cries and whines of people who grew up with 90’s Nickelodeon. Their block “90’s Are All That” brought back favorite shows like Clarissa Explains it All, Doug, Rugrats and of course All That. Around that time rumors were going that there was going to be an All That reunion. I flipped my shit and when I saw it was going to be a reality.

With that being said, Comikaze entered my vocabulary forever. It was an affordable convention that centered on fandom of the comic book, horror, sci-fi and pop culture side of life. In just its first year, the expectations were exceeded by 30k attendees, and in its second year, they’ve only gotten stronger. They’ve partnered with the Stan Lee and are ready to do it all again September 15-16, 2012.

To go along with our geek series throughout the month of July, we caught up with co-founder Regina Carpinelli to find out more about Comikaze, geek girls sibling love and more!

Kendra Beltran: When did you and your siblings start thinking the whole Comikaze idea up? 

Regina Carpinelli: My siblings and I are very close. It’s been our family tradition for the last (close to) 20 years. I’m the only girl, and it has always seemed like the one thing we ALL agree on-we all love San Diego Comic Con.

A couple years ago, we couldn’t get tickets. We were bummed. Then, we went to some other show claiming to be a “Comic Con” and it was way overpriced, and totally underwhelming. We thought, “There needs to be a show that everyone can get into, that everyone can afford, that totally kicks ass.” We put our heart and soul into creating this geek smorgasbord. With the economy the way it is, consumers can actually consume, and see some awesome stuff! We wanted to do make a difference and shake things up and get the formula just right.

We’d like to think of ourselves as the Rebel Alliance of Conventions. It’s a very tall order-but we TRY.

Kendra: Were your parents the ones who first got you into the “geekdom?”

Regina: In a way, yeah… Our parents always encouraged us to let our imagination run wild. Growing up on a ranch in a little town called Temecula, we had no neighbors, tons of open space, and a dad who thought his kiddos should have fun-“fun” being motorcycles, swords (Dad is a war reenactment buff), you name it. As kids, we spent our nights watching movies like Total Recall and Night of the Living Dead. Our afternoons were spent turning our backyard into Mars, Gotham City, the Zombie Apocalypse…then shooting each other with paintball guns. We may or may not have stolen horses from a neighbor to joust. Jumping off our roof into the pool to be Spiderman. Actually, the more I remember, the crazier we sound! Anything we watched, we mimicked. Our parents helped us build awesome forts, make costumes. I am the only girl of 5 brothers. Barbie never had a chance. It was X-Men and Terminator! Our parents always made us read, and we always had the latest video games. Even as teenagers we all went through a Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball phase. Mom and Dad helped us find the Japanese editions; they’ve just always been supportive of our hobbies and encouraging us to be creative, while at the same time making us work in the family business. Mom is a big Star Trek fan but funnily enough, we never really got hooked.

Kendra: What were three major things you learned after the first Comikaze

Regina: So much. We expected 5k attendees-we ended up with 35k. I think the main thing, is that with hard work and faith you can do the impossible. Family and friends are so important, without them we would have been WAY more understaffed. We were understaffed as it was…our mom, dad, brothers, cousins and close friends all stepped up to the plate.

I’ve also learned that Elvira doesn’t age.

Kendra: Did those tidbits of knowledge garner any major changes for the 2nd one coming up?

Regina: Of course. There were plenty of things that went wrong last year. But keep in mind it was our first year. Shows cost a lot of money to put on. While the huge turnout was surreal and awesome for us, so now we know that we have to be absolutely prepared. We’ve got a great hall this year (LACC starts you small if you’re new), and we’ve got a bit more money to print maps and programs. We now also have a larger staff. There were some growing pains, but we want everything tight for our 2012 show.

We want the fans happy. You’re on your feet all weekend-at the end of the day, it had better be worth it.

Kendra: I was onboard with last years the second I heard about the All That reunion. Was that the first show that came to mind for the event?

Regina: Nope. It all happened accidentally. Lisa Foiles called me to do some video game stuff. She told me she was on All That and I said, “LET’S DO A REUNION!” It ended up becoming one of the biggest parts of our event it was amazing. The All That reunion is to be blamed on Lisa Foiles, 100%. I just enabled it. I am a big All That Fan, though. The best part about it is that I met two of my best friends from it, Lisa Foiles and Katrina Johnson.

Kendra: Are you seeing the same excitement for the Salute Your Shorts reunion you have planned for this year?

Regina: Seems like it! People are stoked about it! Salute Your Shorts is amazing! Where have all these reunions been?! I may or may not have another Nickelodeon reunion up my sleeve!

Kendra: Is there any talk around the office about possibly trying to get one of the 90’s kids sports movie casts together again? Like Mighty Ducks or Little Giants?

Regina: There will always be talk of making dreams come true. Always.

Kendra: You talk about incorporating LA into the event, how is that…other than showcasing it in LA of course?

Regina: We’re not a circus that rolls into town. We’re all from LA and live in LA. I love LA. This is the entertainment capital of the WORLD (big secret-most big shows are not even local-they build their shows up with out of state money). This is our city, we want it to be for our citizens, we want it to boost the economy. Comikaze tries to only use stuff to build it from local LA companies. All our posters, fliers, chairs tables all come from companies in LA. We love to support local business and youth organizations. We want Comikaze to be a big part of the community. Comikaze isn’t about making money, it’s about making some wonderful and positive for everyone to enjoy.

Kendra: What was your initial reaction to Stan Lee wanting to be involved with Comikaze?

Regina: Mild heart attack. I took an aspirin, never felt better in my life!

Kendra: Was there any hesitance to let him in on the action?

Regina: I may, or may not have finished his sentence for him. Just so humbled that he chose US. Childhood fantasy turned reality.

Kendra: Are you seeing any jealousy from the people over at Comic-Con?

Regina: The people of SDCC are our friends. Comic-Con is its own animal. They like us and support us, it’s mutual. They’ve worked hard for years and years to get where they are today.

We don’t see anyone as competition, especially when they’re in San Diego and we’re in Downtown LA. They’ve got their own brand of SDCC personality, and we’ve got ours. I love that different conventions have different “feels” to them. Plus, I’ll always love SDCC-it’s an institution. They’re a big part of Geek Life.

You hear stuff through the grapevine, and all I can really say is that, we’re providing for a need in LA-we’re all about the fans, and we put on an amazing affordable show for the fans.
We’re very supportive of other events. We don’t waste time getting caught up in that whole thing-we honestly wouldn’t even have the time to be negative. Our focus is the show.
Nerd in-fighting sounds really boring. It would make a boring comic book, and an even worse video game.

Kendra; On a broader note about this subculture…I wanted to get your opinion on this whole idea of the pretty girls throwing on an Avengers tee and fake glasses and calling themselves a geek and the idea of “adorkable.” Do you think it’s a big offensive at times to make something you love into a fashion trend?

Regina: I think nerd culture is for everyone! Geeks aren’t Hipsters, so they should stop acting like them. I do not care who you are, everyone likes a video game, pop culture, superhero, or horror movie. Geek culture is an inclusive environment, and blind to color/race/sexual orientation/economic status/physical ability.

If you’re under the age of 35, you grew up with some great cartoons that are a big part of pop culture history. We’re now in an era where every major film is based off a Comic or a Sci-Fi property. Every household owns a gaming console, and 95% of the world plays Angry Birds. There will always gonna be posers in every subculture, who cares? I think that soaking up geek culture is kind of a liberating experience. Is there an age limit for when you can start liking things?

My mother didn’t pick up Scuba Diving till she was 50 years old, and she’s a huge Scuba freak. Is she not “legit” because she got in to it at an older age? No! Not the best analogy, but I think you get the picture. People like what they like, who are we to judge? I wasn’t born Jean Grey, and neither were most people, so we can’t read minds.

Not to mention, the whole “hot chicks can’t be nerds” thing is sexist and stupid. RH Stavis, Adrianne Curry, Lisa Foiles, Team Unicorn, Jenna Busch are all super foxes and all super nerds.  They create content for the rest of the Nerd World to enjoy, SO THERE.

Kendra: Now to get a bit personal, what is the one thing that tops your list of fandom? Be it a specific TV show, character, comic… 

Regina: I love a lot of things. I spend around $1000 a month on comics and Magic the Gathering. They’re my addictions. I compete at Magic, it’s my most favorite thing in the world.

If I was not doing Stan Lee’s Comikaze I would be throwing down at tournaments. I love comics. I love the classics; really enjoying Avengers Vs X-Men, been a Spawn fans since the 90s, and I really love indie books. Preacher is my all-time favorite comic. I’m a total sucker for GOON and Lobster Johnson. I also play video games. Tony Hawk and Mario Kart for LIFE!

Kendra: It’s time for you to make us a mixtape! Give me your top 5 songs that you think represent Comikaze as a whole, go! 

Regina:
Queen “We Will Rock You
Debbie Deb “Look Out Weekend
Iggy Pop “Search and Destroy
The Sweet “Ballroom Blitz
Devo “Uncontrollable Urge
…and, to take it down a notch…
Spandau Ballet “True

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