Two years ago, my knowledge of anime was limited to three facts: (1) it was made in Japan, (2) the characters had weird hair and eyes, and (3) my daughter was obsessed with it. She would emerge from her room after a weekend binge, hair wild, eyes bloodshot–looking like a character herself, actually–and I would think, “What does she see in those shows?”
Then I watched Fullmetal Alchemist, then Death Note, then Black Butler, and I thought, “OK, these are pretty cool.” So cool, in fact, that I took my daughter to Ichibancon 3, my first anime convention, in 2012. We are now back from Ichibancon 5, held January 9-12 in Concord, NC, a suburb of Charlotte. It has grown a lot since our first year–bigger hotel, more dealers, more fans, and three days instead of two. Last year, for instance, there were 2-3 arcade games in the hallway. This year, a room was devoted to Street Fighter, Technika 3, Versus City, Dance Dance Revolution Extreme, Guitar Freaks, and about a dozen Playstations and Xbox 360s.
There were also more guests than before. J. Michael Tatum, Bryce Papenbrook, Cherami Leigh, Jad Sexton, and Chuck Huber all had Q & A sessions following by autograph signings. I sat in on Bryce’s Saturday Q & A, which had about 100 attendees in a ballroom that seated nearly 400. Respectable, but not great. Afterward, five or six people left, and about 300 streamed in. Soon cosplayers were standing against the walls and out the doors, waiting for the weekend’s headliner, Vic Mignogna.
Vic is the Johnny Depp of anime. I had seen him at previous conventions, and each time I was amazed at how good he was with fans. He talks to them like old friends, lets girls hug him, and signs anything you wave in his face. In his Q & A, he showed the energy and improv skills of a young Robin Williams. Someone asked him–they always ask him–for his advice to aspiring voice actors, and it was this: (1) get as much experience as you can acting, (2) move to one of the best cities for voice actors–Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Dallas, or Vancouver–and (3) find a way to feed yourself. (Voice actors don’t exactly make it rain.)
Ichibancon was fun, and I was glad to see it growing. In March, I am headed to Winston-Salem to the Triad Anime Con, which is operated by the same company, Nostalgiaconventions. Maybe I’ll see you there!
On Saturday January 25, 2014 the Charlotte MiniCon returned to the Grady Cole Center. With over 2,500 guests in attendance, comic book lovers of all ages came out to enjoy the day. Admission to MiniCon was free as always, though a donation of a non-perishable food item (even pet food) was encouraged. Five tons of food, in fact, was collected for the Second Harvest Food Bank, a local non-profit organization.
The MiniCon was founded by Shelton Drum in January of 1977. In 1980, Drum would go on to found Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find and the annual Heroes Convention, which is also held in Charlotte. Said Drum, “We did the MiniCon for a while and then focus shifted to Heroes. But we brought it back in 2007 and it has been growing bigger ever since.”
Founder Shelton Drum
The convention focuses primarily on comic books, highlighting the writers and artists that bring them to life. One such writer, David Pinckney, traveled all the way from Atlanta, Georgia to attend the single-day MiniCon. “I actually found out about it on Convention Scene’s website!” said Pinckney. He was there promoting his comic book, No West to Cross, which is the story of a female gunslinger, “…the first cowgirl in the wild west.” Interestingly enough, though published a year ago, Pinckney has never met any of the artists associated with his work. “I utilized websites like Pencil Jack and Digital Webbing to find artists to work with. “I have team members located in Nebraska, Florida; it’s pretty cool.”
Artist John Hairston, Jr. works on a portrait at MiniCon.
Someone else who drew a sizable crowd was gallery artist, John Hairston, Jr. from All City Studios. “This is my favorite environment,” said Hairston. “I’m among my people, if you know what I mean?” Hairston has been working conventions for 12 years. Painting free-hand on canvas at the MiniCon, he claimed he always knew he wanted to illustrate comic books, yet his work crosses the line into fine art. “I get a lot of commissions from a Con like this.” I, for one, could have stood and watched him paint all day!
Amberle Linnea and Kristin Jann Fischer.
It’s no secret that the cosplay scene in Charlotte is very impressive. Characters of every kind lined the stage at the Grady Cole Center to register for the costume contest, while Charlotte cosplay legend DJ Spider played that funky music. Fan favorites included Kristin Jann Fischer, who looked positively painted into her Black Widow costume, even going so far as to adopt a spot-on Russian accent as she chatted up the other guests as Natalia Romanoff. Amberle Linnea wowed the room with her homemade rendition of Hunger Games character Effie Trinket. Painstakingly piecing together over 1,000 tiny butterflies–including those on her eyelashes and body–Linnea laughed, “You should have seen me trying to ride in the car on the way over here. This dress doesn’t bend!” That’s dedication.
Charlotte MiniCon 2014
All in all, it was a fun day. The Grady Cole Center had plenty of upper deck seating for those needing to take a break. They also had a concessions booth set up in the lobby. Charlotte MiniCon was a shopper’s paradise. We know of various sports’ seasons, wedding season, award season and so forth. For me, the annual Charlotte MiniCon each January is a fantastic way to kick off my “convention season” of the new year. Up next for Shelton Drum and his crew will be their annual 3-day Heroes Convention June 20-22, 2014.
Photos courtesy Garrett Marks
On November 23-24th, 2013, the Long Beach Convention Center was home to the 5th annual Long Beach Comic and Horror Con! Usually held around Halloween, this show was pushed back to late November, making this one of the final comic cons of 2013! In addition to the date change, they also got rid of the Friday evening show and I believe it was the right call. Saturday was booming, with lines going out the door and a steady flow of patrons all day long! Sunday slowed down quite a bit and while still a lot of foot traffic, not enough spending.
With the usual talent of comic creators attending Long Beach, including mainstays of LBCC Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Whilce Portacio, Tim Bradstreet, and Todd Nauck, joined by special guests Gene Ha, Carlos D’Anda, Marc Silvestri, Mark Texeira, Art Thibert, Andrew Robinson, Mark Waid, and several other awesome comic talent, LBCC did close out the 2013 con year nicely.
While Comic Cons seem to be growing every year, it seems harder and harder for each show to bring something new. I did love the fact that there was an awesome car display in the front of some of the most famous cars in pop culture, along with a lot of retailers in prominent display at the show. One thing also appreciated was that comics were far more emphasized than pop culture stars, and that’s one thing I always do appreciate at LBCC. Hopefully next year, they’ll bring over the bigger hitters in comics to really close the year with a bang. Star power does draw more crowds, and I for one would love to see LBCC thrive and succeed for the next 5 years and beyond. And now, onto some photos!
A line forms inside the convention hall on Saturday morning.
Artist Alley is bustling in the morning.
An awesome array of pop culture cars. But it’s not complete without…
The Batmobile. Chicks dig the Batmobile.
Gene Ha and his awesome banner graces LBCC.
Amanda Conner signs her Harley Quinn for eager fans.
Mark Waid signing for eager fans.
Mark Texeira signing comics for fans.
Todd Nauck’s list is currently closed.
Richard Friend showing off his portfolio to customers.
Alex Sinclair working on a commission at LBCC!
Tim Bradstreet sketching for fans.
Andrew Robinson selling the graphic novel of 2013, The Fifth Beatle!
Carlos D’Anda wants you to buy his art!
And now, onto some cosplayers!
A new meaning to the term robot chicken.
Iron Man and Tony Stark gracing the hall floor.
Why so serious?
Black Cat crosses your path!
I asked why they were at LBCC, but they said I needed level 7 clearance.
Power Girl flexing her muscles!
This kid is making me go crazy!
I am worthy of Mjolnir!
Kid cosplayers are so darned cute!
Pull my finger.
Best costume of the show!
Lance Henriksen is greeted by a friendly alien. Don’t miss more incredible moments at LBCC 2014!
On November 1st-3rd, 2013, the Los Angeles Convention Center was home to Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo! After an extremely successful first year, the guest list was even better, the show moved from the parking lot to the main floor, and even added an extra day to maximize the con! Although it was primed to be better than ever, the show this year was a bit flat compared to the previous year.
The show floor seemed a bit out of sorts, with artist alley scattered all over the place, and it lacked the charm of the first show. Friday also didn’t seem to work out for the expo, as it was mostly empty. The crowds were definitely better during the weekend, but still lacked the excitement of the inaugural show. It was still a good show, with some cool panels and some great guests, but I think the appeal with the groupon deal last year was a huge part in why families flocked to the show. And I think Friday isn’t necessary in LA, especially when people have to battle Friday and Laker game traffic. I’m looking forward to next year’s Comikaze to get better as they adjust to the growing pains of a new show, and know that the best is yet to come!
Now, on to some photos!
Welcome to Comikaze 2013!
What good is Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo, without the man himself? Here he is signing autographs!
A shot of the special stage reserved for the main panel!
Have you seen Eee vah?
An awesome Masters of the Universe display!
The Aspen booth set up and ready to go!
Nerd Machine representing at Comikaze!
One of the best exhibits at Comikaze. Old school arcades and video games!
Fan favorite artist Marc Silvestri interacting and signing for fans.
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Spiderman artist Humberto Ramos drawing one of his many commissions during the show!
Who you gonna call He-Man?
Ecto 1 was the coolest car on display….
… Or was it???
Thor and Iron Man 2 exhibits!
Along with Iron Man armors from all 3 movies!
If you’re tired, take a seat next to Iron Man!
Artist Noa drawing live at Comikaze!
Comic Book Men strike a pose! A never ending line all show!
John Romita Jr. greeting his long line of fans!
But not long as the line for Bruce Campbell!
And now, onto some cosplay pics!
WHERE IS THE PRINCESS???
Awesome dark helmet.
Battle of the Planets!
Amazing Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn!
Go go Power Rangers!
April O’Neill posing with the TMNT book from IDW!
You have failed this city!
Got a light?
Are we in the new movies?
Pretty awesome Wolverine and Rogue!
Cutest cosplayers of the show!
The best costumes of Comikaze!
Stay classy Los Angeles! See you next year!
The first ever, and hopefully annual, Walker Stalker Convention was held this weekend (Nov. 1-3, 2013) at the Atlanta Convention Center at Americasmart in Atlanta, Georgia. The convention was the brain child of Walker Stalker podcast hosts, Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier. The WSC brought in around 10,000 visitors. Not too shabby for their first at-bat.
I would like to give a big round of applause to everyone who had a hand in this event. There were a few minor hiccups, as can be expected at any convention. I heard a few grumblings about the lack of limitations at autograph tables (apparently, a guest at Andrew Lincoln’s table had an obscene amount of items to be signed. A limit was later enforced as a result), and also some comments about the celebrity panels being conducted in a different building. Celebrity schedule conflicts are unpredictable and not the fault of any convention personnel. It’s all in how they handle such surprises. Guests like Emma Bell and Lauren Cohan, unfortunately had to cancel. Norman Reedus had to cut his Sunday appearance in half. And Andrew Lincoln could only appear for one day. However, Lincoln and Reedus stayed long after they were supposed to on Saturday evening, and didn’t leave until all fans in their queue had received and autograph. Class acts! Personal con experience and all things considered, those were indeed minor hiccups.
From the creators to the volunteers, you did a fantastic job this weekend, and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of it. On behalf of Convention Scene and Walker Bait Productions, job very well done! Thank you!
The WSC featured more than 40 celebrity guests, including almost every member of The Walking Dead cast, as well as nearly 100 vendor booths. The vendors ranged from comic and toy collectibles to an on-site tattoo shop. A special VIP Meet & Greet and Zombie Bash were held on Saturday evening, along with a private concert featuring Emily Kinney, “Beth” on The Walking Dead. The WSC even provided a “Virtual Queue” for those who did not want to spend all day standing in line for autographs. You simply checked in at the Virtual Queue booth and when it was time for you to actually get into a celebrity line, a member of the volunteer staff would send you a text message. The concept reminded me of the “Fast Pass” access at Walt Disney World. Still, I chose to get the full experience, replete with eavesdropping and people watching, by standing in every line I could. Even with the wait time, the volunteers kept everything moving smoothly and efficiently. No complaints here.
Each celebrity guest that I spoke to had very positive things to say about WSC. “This Con is unique because of the focus on The Walking Dead and zombie culture,” said actor Daniel Thomas May ["Allen" on The Walking Dead]. “There are just so many cast members and spectacular fans. You know, we use the hashtag on Twitter #TWDFamily for the The Walking Dead Family, and that’s what this whole weekend has felt like. We’re all just a bunch of family and it’s so great.”
Andrew “Drone” Cossan, who has done illustrations for LUCASFILM and TOPPS, was on hand at Marc Draven’s Ink-Fusion Tattoo booth creating custom designs for guests looking for a permanent WSC souvenir. “I can crank out some pieces very quickly,” he said. “It’s easy to make con fans happy because you are giving them a character that they like and want.” When asked about his WSC experience, Drone said, “It’s been quite a trip. Compared to other cons, I am very impressed with the overall organization. They’ve been very accommodating and good about checking in on vendors and talent to make sure that everything is going smoothly and our needs are being met. And that’s a good sign.”
While I did have an opportunity to meet Greg Nicotero, one of my personal highlights was speaking with a different member of zombie culture royalty, the lovely Judith O’Dea. For the uninitiated, O’Dea portrayed the iconic “Barbara” in the film that started it all, George Romero’s 1968 classic The Night of the Living Dead. “I have had an absolute ball,” she gushed. “At the time, none of us who were a part of the film had any idea the effect it would have [on pop culture] and I am just in awe that we really were, and are a part of what has become The Walking Dead. And I would like to say how grateful I am to the fans for their long time support. It’s hard to believe, but it is all so exciting.”
Crissy Thomas, founder of fan site BitchinDixons.com met up with other Bitchin Dixon members who had traveled from near and far to meet Norman Reedus, “Daryl” on The Walking Dead. And for those members who couldn’t make the journey, Crissy collected gifts, cards, and letters that they had shipped to her and presented them to Reedus on their behalf. Thomas hopes to have even more Bitchin Dixons attend next year.
Did you hear that, Walker Stalkers? The fans and guests have spoken. It’s time to start preparing for next fall! Congratulations.
A look at the New York Comic Con. More as if unfolds.
The cast of the new ABC series Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, including stars Sophie Lowe (‘Alice’), Michael Socha (‘Knave of Hearts’), Peter Gadiot (‘Cyrus’), Emma Rigby (‘The Red Queen’), Naveen Andrews (‘Jafar’), and Executive Producer Zack Estrin spoke at SDCC 2013, and Convention Scene’s own Richard Oh was there.
The cast of the hit ABC series Once Upon A Time, including stars Lana Parrilla, Michael Raymond-James, Colin O’Donoghue, Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Carlyle, along with executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz spoke at SDCC 2013, and Convention Scene’s own Richard Oh was there.
Up for another SDCC Digest? We have cosplay galleries and videos, news that Hugh Jackman walked around as Wolverine (and nobody noticed), Loki’s introduction to the Marvel Studios panel, and lots more.
The cast of the CW hit show Beauty and the Beast, including stars Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan, along with executive producers Jennifer Levin and Sherri Cooper spoke at SDCC 2013, and Convention Scene’s own Richard Oh was there.