Last year Comikaze was a fresh faced geek-centric convention that didn’t set its expectations too high, but when about 35,000 people turned their first year into a hit, they knew they had the beginnings of something pretty amazing. So amazing that Stan Lee took notice and got involved. Thus, Stan Lee’s Comikaze was born, and with the name “Stan Lee” involved, word spread and this year was way bigger than the last. For those who didn’t go in 2011, we were in this small area and the panels were in makeshift rooms made out of sheet like material. This year they upgraded in space, got more guests, panels were held in actual rooms, had more vendors and even had a place to survive the zombie apocalypse.
Since fans are what drives these cons, I wanted a lot of fan involvement, so I reached out and got opinions, both good and bad on the entire weekend. So while the space was bigger, not everyone in attendance was impressed. Jennifer Muzquiz shared, “Overall, it seemed like they were trying too hard to be Comic-Con without being Comic-Con. I have high hopes they learn from this year and turn things around by next year. As a native Angeleno, I really want a local convention that can showcase the awesome fandom communities we have in our city!”
The other big negative as far as fans were concerned was the wait time to get tickets and the sun beams. Carly Shadrick was lucky enough to beat the heat, but not the wait, “We were in line for an hour and a half with little to no movement. Fortunately we got inside before they locked the doors and stopped letting people in so at least we weren’t forced to wait in the sun, but organization sucked.”
It wasn’t all bad news once fans got in and made it to the numerous panels that were a mix of entertainment and information.
Stan Lee’s World of Heroes featured Stan Lee and others talking about his new YouTube channel that features an array of nerdy programming. Bonnie Burton who some may know from her years involved with Star Wars, has the creative Geek DIY. Supermodel turned geek chic hostess, Adrianne Curry, is getting off the runway and finding the biggest fans around the world on her show. While Stan has one where he rants about things that piss him off and another where he has cocktails with “interesting and glamorous people.”
Burton was back for a great DIY panel that had a cascade of talented women; Kristen Nedopak, Cricket Lee, Teal Sherer and Stephanie Thorpe. All five shared their origin story of how they got to be where they are, and it was quite inspiring, especially since I’m a gal with a blog who wants to make it in this place they call reality. Thorpe said it best, “Passion is absolutely key.”
Another informative panel was “Organizing Your Geek Culture.” Basically the lesson to be learned there was how to organize events on both a large and small scale based on common interests.
Since Golden Mixtape is a music based blog, the Nerdcore panel made the most sense to me…Even though it was a whole new scene to discover; nerdy Hip Hop. The artists, which included El Gun Legro and M.C. Chalkskin, were energetic and one could tell that they were like any other genre of music, very tight knit and supportive of one another.
Now for the reason my heart said to go this year…Nickelodeon panels. Last year Comikaze reunited the cast of All That. No, Amanda Bynes wasn’t there, she was probably busy…elsewhere. This year a fan named Devin did his homework and brought together almost the whole Salute Your Shorts gang. The panel started with everyone singing the theme song, cast included. Donkey Lips was the star of the panel and Budnick hasn’t aged in 20 years. It was actually the first time most of them had seen one another since the show ended. The real insane part was realizing the show only aired 26 episodes, but was able to make such a lasting impression on a group of adults ranging in ages from early 20’s to mid-30’s.
Another Nick show, Wild and Crazy Kids also had a mini reunion…three of the hosts showed up and were actually really honest about their Nick past. Former host, Donnie Jeffcoat, revealed how Nick was always pushing their limits back then because they were in an experimental time. He also admitted that Nickelodeon never gave them their fan mail until years later, so it was nice to get to say thank you finally.
If you weren’t into the panels and were just there to shop, then you hit up the booths that offered art, style and fandom. Dirk Strangely and Brett Bean had badass art, Extra Curricular Activities and Unicornatopia showcased cutesey stuff and if you check out Urban Octopus you can buy me a nice birthday present (you have until April, no rush…just kidding!). There were also plenty of places to pick up comics, figurines and other fanboy necessities. The clothing booths were also great if you’re into Steampunk, but if you’re into cosplay like Lisa Gee, then you can’t just buy your things as she shared, “On Sunday, I dressed as a cutesy female Loki inspired by a picture my friend found on the internet. She created the costume and gave it to me for the occasion.”
Booths were also a great chance to meet some of your favorite celebrities and artists, whether it was some former Power Rangers or creator of the forever popular Invader Zim, Jhonen Vasquez. We chatted about how surreal it is that kids today still discover Zim (believe it or not, it wasn’t always just a Hot Topic mainstay) and how he feels being a permanent fixture in pop culture, “I don’t think about it, I really don’t. That’s not my life. I come to these things and people come and say, like you, it was part of your childhood in a lot of ways and it’s only weird when I compare it to things that are like that for me when it was growing up, a movie or something. It’s weird to think that i am part of that timeline for somebody. It’s cool, It’s better than not being remembered.”
Other than the panels and booths, there were other activities to keep people busy. One could play a game of Magic or a round of Quidditch (no flying involved), or try to survive a zombie obstacle course. It didn’t look like much from the outside, and Jennifer Muzquiz agreed, “The zombie apocalypse area was disappointing to me. My guess to the lack of participation was due to the heat (though the room was cooled) and the added expense ($20-30). The price wasn’t really justified, to me, for what amounted to a bunch of bounce houses. I’d have happily paid $10 to run through those obstacles and bounce around with zombies, but not double or triple that. I noticed a serious lack of zombies, as well. The zombie makeup charges were cost-prohibitive ($75-150) for what you’d get in return; the makeup jobs weren’t what I’d expect for the price. In comparison, similar prices were charged at The Walking Dead’s obstacle course at Comic-Con and the zombies looked more professionally put together.”
Like with anything, there are two sides to every story. Some fans weren’t that impressed and others were. Sarah-Jean, an Avengers fan who was ecstatic to have met Julie Newmar that weekend, made a good point, “I think the low ticket price gets a lot of non-regular con-goers to experience the world of comics conventions.” While first timer Ricky Fernandez liked a certain aspect, “It was low-key, way less crowded and the fans really seemed to come out to support their favorite things. The panels were laid back and didn’t require you to wait in line for hours and hours. I imagine that Comic-Con was like this when it first started. I would definitely attend next year because of how intimate everything was.”
As for me, the lines could’ve been handled better, but as far as the panels and everything else…I was fine with it all. I actually enjoyed more panels this year than last and learned a lot more, so kudos to whoever set those informational ones up.
Finally, if you’ve made it this far into this journey, we’ll leave you with a Comikaze inspired Mixtape created by the beautiful, talented and outspoken Adrianne Curry who is a self-professed fan of 80’s fantasy movies and Lord of the Rings.