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I recently moved from New York City to Los Angeles. Over the course of my time in New York, I was able to attend many comic book conventions (not just New York Comic Con). So I was curious what comic conventions on the west coast would be like and how they would compare. Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo was held this past weekend in Los Angeles, and I thought about how this semi-large comic convention is alike and different to ones on the east coast. Here are some observations about comparisons and differences.
1. Cosplay is bigger
On one hand, there has to be something said for the fact that Comikaze was held on Halloween weekend. As such, seeing someone in costume on the way to the convention wasn’t necessarily a giveaway that that person was heading to the show. However, there was a very large number of attendees dressed up. I realize that cosplay is a growing trend overall, but it seems to be bigger in California. It’s not just attendees, either. There was a large presence of cosplay in panels, vendors and guests at both Comikaze and the smaller Long Beach Comic Con, which I visited over the summer. Perhaps the prevalence of cosplay is related to the proximity to Hollywood and also the nice weather that makes designing and wearing costumes a year-round pursuit. While cosplay is a strong presence at most conventions, it does seem bigger in California than at any convention I’ve attended in the Northeast.
2. Publishers are Less Involved
It would make sense that New York Comic Con is the epicenter of comic industry con appearances since Marvel’s offices are located there and many comic industry professionals also live in the NYC metro region. Obviously, San Diego Comic Con is also a very important occasion for the comic industry, both for its size and reach as well as where the Eisner Awards are unveiled. However, there was very limited comic publisher presence at Comikaze. I thought that DC Comics, which recently relocated from New York to Burbank, California, might be there, but they were not. The only publisher with a booth was Aspen Comics. Maybe this is due to the fact that Comikaze is still relatively new and publishers cannot attend every convention. However, even at Special Edition NYC, the sister convention to NYCC, there were a number of panels from publishers, showing that even smaller cons on the east coast tend to have a publisher presence.
3. Panels seem more interactive
New York Comic Con has gotten so big that most panel time is devoted to major announcements and creators. Even panels at Special Edition and other cons are filled with teasers and reveals. However, at Comikaze, a majority of panels were centered on fans – how to cosplay better, how to be more inclusive of other fans, trivia contests, or screening of fan films (to name a few). There were a few large panels at Comikaze, such as a discussion with Grant Morrison and a reunion of shows like Spartacus and Sons of Anarchy. In general, though, most of the Comikaze panels were centered on fans. While I don’t think fan-centered or creator/comic-centered panels are better or worse, it is an interesting difference.
4. Many things are the same
Ultimately, though, there are many constants about comic conventions that do not change. There will always be people selling comics, graphic novels, toys and merchandise. The particular vendors and types of products might vary but these things are usually locks. It also seems that celebrity autographs are common to most comic panels. This extends from Stan Lee himself to actors from older television shows to even (for reasons I have never entirely fathomed) professional wrestlers. Another big element in nearly all cons is artist alley. Comic creators live in all parts of the country, so no matter where the con is held, there will be artists who live nearby. Usually, there will be top-notch talent at any comic convention. For instance, Comikaze has comic artists like Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Humberto Ramos and many others.
It might be a little too early for me to make any definitive proclamations about west coast conventions, with only two under my belt so far. In the future, I hope to attend WonderCon, small/indie conventions, and maybe even (gulp) San Diego Comic Con. Each convention is slightly different, but perhaps there will be some similarities that start to emerge. The trends in comic conventions overall are interesting to watch, especially compared to industry sales and property adaptations. Ultimately, though, cons themselves are usually pretty fun, and that’s true no matter in which part of the country (or world) you attend.