Comikaze Expo is the “other” Southern California geek convention, coming in after Wondercon and San Diego Comic-con. Stan Lee’s name is attached to it, though he’s not exactly remiss about attaching his name to things, so I’m not sure how much the endorsement is worth. Basically, my feelings were a little mixed at the start. I wasn’t sure if I would go or not, and annoyed all involved with indecision about whether or not I was willing to take the drive up to Los Angeles. The balance was tipped by hearing John Barrowman was going to be there. He’s been great on Arrow, not to mention his more geek-famous role as the much-beloved Jack Harkness, so I decided to head over to the L.A. Convention Center. All in all, I had a good time and will be going back in a future year. Here are 10 reasons I’m glad I attended.
1. Lovecraftian Radio Dramas
|H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society|
Dark Adventure Radio Theatre is one of those odd bits of fan media that I only seem to find at venues like this. They are Lovecraftian stories performed as an old-timey radio drama. It’s historically appropriate and doesn’t end up with a lot of horrible special effects ruining what you would otherwise have imagined as something really terrifying (a.k.a. the Stephen King Movie Principle). I know there are people out there who still say a squid-faced kaiju with bat wings is still scary, but honestly I think the popular depiction of Cthulhu is becoming a mood killer.
I picked up “At the Mountains of Madness” and it was done in the form of an interview with occasional news interjections. I felt like the static was a little overused in portions but it did help you focus your attention a bit. Lovecraft always did enjoy the trick of “people driven mad by the occult” speaking in sentence fragments and broken text; this seemed like a decent imitation that might otherwise have seemed awkward. Either way, I think this will be the closest we get to a big media treatment of At the Mountains of Madness, as Guillermo Del Toro’s version doesn’t particularly seem to be on the horizon.
|So many, that this is a thing.|
There were weapons all over at Comikaze. Some were only for home display, including some very nice Master Swords, shields and at least half a dozen Harley Quinn mallets. Some of these were for cosplays and LARP. Surprisingly, there was a wide assortment of survival and hunting knives that were quite real for whatever reason. I hadn’t planned to buy anything myself because it never seems to be something I’m happy to have when I get home, but I faltered in this commitment.
I have two reasons why. First, Black Swan Co. had cool weapons that were wooden, and thus not overly expensive. The sculpts looked good, with some interesting detail work on the swords and a wicked, serrated-looking appearance to the dagger. Even more interesting was the fact that they could be purchased unpainted. This led my daughter to make plans to paint her own sword in whatever way caught her fancy. This seemed to add value to me, so I picked one up. On the other side of the spectrum, Dragonsong Forge sold me two decent-looking foam Master Swords (one normal, one Dark) for less than $40, and that was a done deal. I feel like I have to be delicate with these but they will look good on a wall, which is good enough.
|They were on sale. Don’t judge.|
3. Muck, the Movie About “Something”?
One of the first things I experienced upon arriving at Comikaze was being on the receiving end of what could have been called an ambush getting off the escalator. I say “could have been called” because having your personal space invaded by attractive ladies in skimpy outfits is a very different sort of personal space invasion than most other kinds. Most booths at Comikaze either skipped the infamous “booth babe” approach, having dedicated cosplayers, or ignored it entirely. Not so for Muck, though.
Not only was their booth surrounded by ladies in scanty Muck gear, they also had them roaming throughout the convention hall. This aligns with their Kickstarter, as most of its reward levels track to how much attention you can receive from Playmates or cosplayers, depending on your inclinations, although in fairness the original Jason is supposed to be a draw as well. Anyway, for all of the beer and pretzels approach, their Kickstarter is only at $60,000 of $250,000, so maybe it isn’t working. On the other hand, I guess the movie is already done and the Kickstarter is for a prequel? It’s an interesting new form of marketing, anyway.
4. LeeAnna Vamp
Speaking of cosplayers and Muck, this was my first meeting with LeeAnna Vamp, posters and merch from whom makes up several Muck reward tiers. I’m not really sure how successful one cosplayer is compared to another or how many of them do it professionally. I do know that LeeAnna does some hosting, is considered a big draw by the Muck folks, was recently in a Nerdist Halloween video, and does a lot of photo shoots with Nathan Fillion. This meets my threshold for someone seeming at least a little famous (you may be harder to please, and please point this out angrily in the comments below if so).
Her outfit was pretty out of this world. Not sure if the picture totally does it justice, but she was a sort of vampire-punk Wonder Woman (I think) with a pompadour on top of a half-shaved head, some seriously freaky golden contacts, and I believe she was wearing her trademark fangs. Basically “vampire heroin punk chic” done live and in color on a Sunday morning. When we met her people seemed to be warming up a little, she seemed a bit out of it (understandable for Day 3) but down to Earth. She was willing to take a picture and sign a $10 pin pack, so she seems okay by me.
5. All the Other Cosplay
I read a lot here and there about how cosplayers do this and that (vague, isn’t it?). It seems like a controversial topic with some still, though most think it’s sort of a dead issue and complaining about it seems vaguely elitist or misogynist to boot. Overall I was impressed with how wrong the usual media narrative of every cosplayer being an exact replica of the character they were impersonating was. I saw little kids cosplaying, full grown adults, even a couple of graybeards. I also saw a nice mix of body types and people who really didn’t resemble their character at all but still made it their own. It really seemed to me like people were just there to have fun and not necessarily there to get attention in any way at all.
|This is totally metal.|
There were also some slightly less visually obvious characters, such as Delsin from Infamous Second Son, Marty McFly, Ripley, and even Gumby. Gumby was probably my favorite, since I have a heart and Gumby is a part of me. People dressed up less here than they did at Wondercon, or at least I noticed it more at Wondercon, but there was a little more variety of characters here.
|Keeping it classy.|
These days it seems like Cracked is a bit less popular than it was a year or two ago. This might be related to how Cracked has become more educational with less dick jokes. This also aligns with an increase in comments using the words “Social Justice Warrior”. In other words, Cracked has also been trying to expand your mind, man. This is the sort of thing that enrages people who like dick jokes, especially if they are really worried about ethics in game journalism (if you know what I mean).
I still love reading Cracked, though, and can even credit a few of their more motivational articles with giving me a needed kick in the butt here and there. I was a little excited to see old Daniel O’ Brien and Soren Bowie there, even if I can’t look at Daniel without remembering the video above. On the plus side, one of the Cracked guys told me they’ll never let him forget it, either! Synergy! I also picked up their De-Textbook as a little apology for all of those ads I never clicked on. It told me comic books lied to me and earthworms cannot be duplicated by cutting them in half, which means my Peanuts encyclopedia lied to me. Now I hate Snoopy. Fuck that guy.
7. Old School Games
|Elvia would like you to play with some balls.|
There were a pair of working Elvira pinball machines available which were fun, elaborate, and remind me I’ve always kind of liked pinball but not in a freaky obsessive way like some people. They actually had many of the pinball features that pinball simulators always seem to have, like an ability to have multiple balls going and secret areas unlocked by hitting the ball in the right direction. (Sorry if you’re some sort of pinball expert and think this is boring. You can let me know in the comments below.) This was basically a very strange bit of synergy between someone setting up a shrine to Elvira (I suspect she set it up herself but have been told not to talk bad about her by my wife – send help!) and some random people selling a video game that’s full of digital recreations of classic pinball machines.
They also had an old-school video arcade set up, although it generally eschewed really awesome video game machines like House of the Dead and Street FIghter in favor of old Super Mario games. They did have a Mortal Kombat, which was cool, but generally it seemed like the games skewed a bit older instead of being the last gasp of arcade games that were actually great. None of that really matters, though, since we saw an authentic-looking Mario cosplayer playing a Mario game. So basically it was Mario, playing Mario. Was he a time-displaced plumber reliving his own adventures at the cost of a quarter an hour? Does it matter when he has so many gold coins? Or did he literally trade those in for more lives? CAN MARIO DIE? It’s Mario-ception!
8. lovelesslust (This is Not a Typo)
|It’s performance art. I think.|
Let’s say you’re walking around Comikaze and you see this little half booth stuck at the end of another booth. Oddly, they’ve stuck three people there and there doesn’t really seem to be enough room for them. Are they trapped here? Cursed? No, they seem to be a band. They are playing music and even dancing around a little. For hours and hours. Just standing there singing and playing their little hearts out.
What do they want from you? Is there a donation bin? No, there is not. There is no donation, no flyers, no Facebook or Twitter. Just a banner. What does this tiny band in a tiny space want from you? We may never know. Good luck to them, though. America is pulling for the tiny, trapped band. I know we’ve all been there.
9. Merch for the Ladies
|Brings all new meaning to Walking Dead.|
Now, the fact is that among my friends who buy Doctor Who merch, the split seems to be very even between the males and females, with the females maybe pulling a bit ahead. Likewise with cosplay tools and whatnot. There are also mangas and movies that we all like. So I’m not talking about that, or anything all that SJWish or anything else that distracts from ethics in games journalism.
|Harley Quinn inspired “Nailed It!” sample, courtesy of the Espionage Cosmetics team.|
No, I’m talking about actual feminine stuff. There was an entire geeky cosmetics company there called Espionage Cosmetics with nail wraps featuring little Daleks and Mystery Science Theater 3000 characters. They also had makeup based on Borderlands, which was quite awesome. I had heard of their Kickstarter, but I was surprised to see them at a fully-stocked booth with three workers/volunteers. They seem to have done a lot very fast. There was also Castle Corsetry, which I have seen here and there and is vaguely related to the Nerds Like Us movie screenings I catch once in a while. Their corsets had fun designs and caught the eye. I’m really not an expert but there were some cool ones, including a few Batman-themed designs that I really liked. We also saw comics-print flats and heels from Emmalee Accessories, and t-shirts and whatnot from the Traci Hines (aka the Hipster Ariel girl) helmed Adorkable Apparel.
|That’s some sexy Effie Trinket gear.|
I thought this was all cool to see. The designs also looked good, quite a step up from the old “T-shirt with Superman logo” that used to pass for Superhero fashion. It seemed a little more original than the movie replica stuff, not that I don’t like that stuff but this is just a little different and new.
10. Fair Warning: Avoid the Food
|Only fools go where Weeping Angels fear to tread.|
I was on a bit of a tight schedule and made the mistake of getting food from the actual convention food court. Apart from some frustrating (but expected) long lines and confusion over which line to get in, there was some mildly perplexing refusal to customize. I was told point blank they had “no cheese” for the tacos despite there clearly being cheese within sight distance of both me and the person telling me it didn’t exist. I’ve had to give customers company lines before, so I tried not to make a big deal out of it, but then the chicken was horrible and looked like something you’d find in a fast food taco. All of this for almost $20 a head. Long story short, go to the food trucks outside and save yourself the stress/irritation.
Additional tip, get there early and enjoy the exhibits because there is a steady and unending stream of people that will fill the convention up more and more until you start having to fight a teeming mass of people to see anything at a booth or take a picture. The cosplay also becomes less fun as features are lost into a formless blur that overwhelms all the senses. You get the point. There are lots of people and it’s not as fun. It’s really common sense. But you weren’t there, man. YOU DON’T GET IT. IT’S NOT THE SAME AS BEING THERE!
Here is Tommy Wiseau at his own booth. There were many basketballs, but no footballs.
|Tommy is clearly taking career advice from Kevin Smith|
12. Bonus Two!
We did catch the John Barrowman panel, and it was great! I don’t think I can do it justice, but he was extremely funny, extremely open, and extremely blue. Ears were covered multiple times by parents who hadn’t realized what they were getting themselves into.
We ran into technical difficulties with video and camera pictures, so instead let’s close out with a video of Barrowman dancing to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”.
Here’s what we did manage to get:
13. Bonus Three!
Here’s me interviewing wrestler-turned-comic-star “Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels.
Previously by David N. Scott
A Christian Gamer Offers 5 Reasons to Watch Dark Dungeons (And 4 Not to)
10 Reasons David Goyer Must Be Stopped
Ten Things We Learned Attending L.A. By Night: The Grey Ghost Masquerade
10 Things Learned Shopping for a PS4 on Black Friday (At Midnight)
10 Things I Learned Running Game Demos at WonderCon