by Mark Robert Bourne
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The sun was shining down on Long Beach on this particular Saturday in May. The cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean created a picture perfect day that reminds one of another particular week in July down in San Diego. Though somewhat unfortunate, we were all deep inside the Long Beach Convention center to enjoy the Long Beach Comic Expo.
For several years now, Long Beach has been invaded by Geeks twice a year – once in May for the one-day Expo and in October for the two-day Convention. The setting for this year’s Expo was more than intimate with a smaller room and somewhat smaller walk ways. That intimacy was a nice change from the craziness of the much larger conventions as were the opportunities to stop and chit-chat with Comic creators without being pushed and shoved.
The guest list included a number of talented creators from Aspen Comics, including JT Krul and Joe Benitez, a number of creators behind DC’s New 52, Brian Buccellato, Bernard Chang and Scott Lobdell. Image comics’ Whilce Portacio, whom we spoke with for a half hour, was on hand as well as cartoonist and all around oddball, Angus Oblong. The panels were a bit sparse compared to most major conventions and focused more on creative and breaking in rather than major publishers pushing new projects. Other panels included voice acting and a screening of 24 minutes of a new Ray Bradbury documentary called “Live Forever: The Ray Bradbury Odyssey.” Among the retailer contingent, LA based Golden Apple Comics had $5 Grab Bags with randomly inserted prizes. My girlfriend Mindy got a coupon for a free Thor baseball cap.
Though I am unaware of the exact attendance numbers the tables for both retailers and artist alley were busy. One thing lacking were the typical cos-players which were few and far between this show. Also, the normal “Celebrity row” (Or as I call it, “Has-been Alley”) that we see at other conventions was slimmed down to three, featuring two actors from the Noah Wyle TV series Falling Skies and Richard LeParmentier who played Admiral Motti in Star Wars. (You know who he is Star Wars Geeks – “Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerous ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you enough clairvoyance to find the rebels’ hidden fortress… ” and you know, even though Gov. Tarkin said to “release him” and the “bickering is pointless,” 20 minutes later Vader had this D-bag head first into a Death Star toilet bowl. But I digress…)
Comic conventions have always been a wonderful place for fans and creators to gather and celebrate Comics and Long Beach Comic Expo continues that spirit. In the shadow of the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific, this intimate gathering is well worth attending even during the 2 day event this coming fall. The area not only boasts local attractions, like the Aquarium, but also has a large variety of restaurants and bars within walking distance of the hall. Even the architecture of the Center is similar to the one in San Diego which reminded me of a time where events were not as excessive as they are now.