The last time I attended Anime LA was in 2017, and skipped last year's convention. This year when I attended the convention, I felt that this convention mostly satisfied everything I wanted to do. From panels, gatherings, artists alley, dealers hall, designated areas to relax, and the list goes on. All of which I did not have any issue with, nor ran into any problems at the convention itself. Anime LA was a convention that forgo the smaller intimate experience at the former location for a more general bigger convention atmosphere you see at other conventions. This year I feel they nailed the best of both worlds.
Is CRX a smaller AX? Does it stack up to its full potential for its first year? Did it paired well with Magwest? Does it retained the same charm and spirit of other anime industry conventions? Let’s find out!
With the Hyatt connected to the con center, CRX attendees staying there were greeted with Magwest’s displays as it was held at the Hyatt Regency that weekend. Guest rooms are spacious, modernly designed and contemporary styled, and a lobby area filled with 3 restaurants, a bustling hotel bar, a 2nd floor overlooking the hotel lobby, and an outside pool area that played music and a laser light show for guests.
I was unaware of CRX mentioning any sort of shuttle services on their website. Luckily my hotel, The Aloft, had shuttle service to the Hyatt. Majority of the con block hotels were more than a mile away from the con center and con parking filled up quickly, but I’d assume these hotels offered shuttle service to the con or con hotel.
After a quick bag check at the front entrance, once inside there was a table with rows of CRX program/panel guides for pick-up, but I made my way down the hallway. I was surprised that there were little to no lines for badges as pick-up was fast and efficient in just shy of a few minutes, which was probably due to the fact that CRX mailed badges to those who registered early before July 25th.
Despite being a small industry con, it was spacious! Thousands of attendees, yet smaller areas still didn’t feel crowded enough to slow you down. One major issue about the convention space was the shared event space with Magwest as the hall connecting the Hyatt and con center was filled with Magwest staff and blocked off due to CRX’s bag check. Signs directed attendees where to find the con entrance from the Hyatt, but despite that issue, majority of the rooms and areas were able to accommodate every crowd size. With the exceptions of some overflowing panels and one narrow area of the Artist Alley.
Exhibitor Hall felt compact, which is good, as attendees could go through the entire hall in a few minutes and immediately plan and make their purchases with ease. Even with high con traffic, lines felt short for merchant booths, including official merchant booths, thanks to high staff numbers. CRX’s Exhibitor Hall had everything: interactive staff/merchants, booths handing out free swag/services, cardboard cutout displays and giant inflatables, music playing throughout the hall, photo ops with CRX’s mascot, constant showcasing at industry booths, and plenty of room to easily maneuver around the hall.
Attendee satisfaction was priority #1 and CRX staff were perfect in being friendly, courteous, and interactive with the public. A CRX staff member spoke with me that Crunchyroll made sure their staff were well-trained and equipped to handle any situation at the con. It was noticeable as one of my experiences was waiting in line for a major anime screening and staff were quick to direct attendees where to line up and when to admit us into the event room.
Con security were present all around, and were calm and collect in their duties. I always had fun running into the same security in one day for bag checks, but it seemed as though they enjoyed seeing the variety of anime fans, and no bad vibes were given off from any security from my experience.
Despite its size, CRX had a plethora of industry panels! Major rooms for industry-focused panels such as Inside Looks from companies/studios, guest of honor, previews of upcoming projects, and all other rooms were dedicated to official guests, how to/101’s, CRX’s version of TED talks, and etc. Every panel I’ve attended have been informative and entertaining, and giveaways were abundant in industry panels. Thanks to the compacted con space, it never felt like an adventure traversing from panel to panel.
Autograph sessions were another major draw to CRX, as sessions were implemented through a limited ticket system for single or group guest autographs that helped to create set lines, but some attendees felt they had a problem with this system due to the long wait times getting a ticket which resulted in being unable to obtain all their tickets due to the two ticket limit per pick-up.
I was generally surprised on the turnout of cosplayers from varying skill levels attending the convention. Ranging from highly detailed “Fate Grand Order” cosplayers with giant props to an attendee carrying around a whiteboard with the question “Was anime a mistake?” Granted, you’re not going to expect multiple giant grandiose cosplay showcased in the con lobby due to the con space, but the cosplayers still managed to bring their A-game for such a small industry con.
With Crunchyroll stationed in SF, it made sense for the con to be established in the bay area for easy planning and coordination. The Santa Clara Convention Center not only resides in a tech area, but is located near two major attractions, Levi Stadium and Great America, which means the con is easily accessible for commuters using VTA’s light rail and bus systems. Also, traffic was minimal all weekend. A complaint about the location is food accessibility within walking distance as food places were within one mile from the con, but CRX was aware of this and hired food trucks that were located outside the con center for convenience.
With all CRX events over by 10pm each night, CRX attendees could go and enjoy concerts performed in Magwest’s concert room at the Hyatt, but for off-site enjoyment within walking distance, there isn’t much to do in terms of late night entertainment in a non-busy tech area. To be honest, I’ve gotten a full night’s enjoyment socializing around the Hyatt’s hotel bar and having a Magwest badge to check out their freeplay gaming room and late night panels.
“Surprised,” is the single word used to describe how I felt about the event. The compacted space, ease of accessibility, and the quick and organized manner of events. CRX brought their best effort to the table and out came success. Word of mouth spread fast by the enjoyment of the attendees throughout social media. Both CRX and Magwest did a fine job with the perks each badge gave to their attendees to check out both events to an extent, but I believe each con, especially CRX, can prosper on their own in the future after the success of their first years.
To be interested in comics means you have probably heard that San Diego Comic-Con is a must-attend event by a lot of people. But is it? You’ve probably also heard about the lotteries for badges and hotels and the crowding, lines, and other issues that plague larger conventions.
So, you need to read the below recounting of San Diego Comic-Con 2017 and decide for yourself… is it worth it all? Can I have a good time despite the issues that make other conventions miserable?
Let’s find out.
We went far off our usual path and stayed at the Kona Kai Resort on Shelter Island. It was one of the furthest hotels on the shuttle route. We knew we were taking a bit of a gamble with the distance, but the early research we did on hotels led us to believe this would be a good place to be.
Our early impression of the hotel was pretty nice. It has a unique lobby that has an interesting mix of modern contemporary, Spanish, and tropical design elements. A few interesting sculpture pieces were in the main waiting area, as well as a large-scale Jenga game for people to entertain themselves with.
The rooms are nice and roomy; not the biggest rooms I have seen, but they do feel a bit larger than a standard hotel room. The bathrooms have good ventilation, but they don’t have the newest fixtures I have ever seen. The rooms have tropical leaf patterned wallpaper in shades of blue to give the rooms a more airy feel, and each of the rooms has a balcony large enough for three adults to sit on without being crowded. The first floor rooms have hedges separating them from the parking lot on the outer wall, but there is a walking path through these hedges, so do not just leave things out on the first floor. The second floor has separated balconies, so it’s not as much of an issue.
The pool here is amazing. It isn’t at the same scale as the Marriott Marquis and Marina, for sure, but it does have a lot of seats and a couple of fire pits for cool evenings. The poolside bar and the restaurant in the hotel are gorgeous and worthwhile if you have the money in your budget. There’s even a man-made beach with more fire pits behind the pool area accessible by a ramp. The water off the beach is studded with a lot of boats, but it’s the only beach I know of in the Shelter Island area, so that makes it very unique.
That being said, we did have a couple issues with the Kona Kai. The railing for our sliding glass door had some salt corrosion on it, creating gaping holes in the metal frame, so we had a “shoes on only” rule for our balcony. The curtains had a few small holes from wear and tear. Some of the staff happened to be in training that weekend, so we had a couple of hiccoughs to smooth out, but by Day 1 of the convention, it was fairly well fixed.
The hotel was a positive experience in the end, though the in-room snack bar tray was ridiculously expensive (to the tune of $2.50 for a Snickers bar.)
The shuttle, though, created a bit of a problem this year. There was the shuttle drive time at the end of the Teal Route of 40 minutes. That wasn’t fun by any stretch. The problem we had, especially on Days 1 and 2 of Comic-Con, was that a number of busses arrived to our hotel unable to pick anyone up because they were full. Our shuttle had five other stops to get to before ours and picked up people at most of those stops. This created a 45-minute wait on Day 1 as people waited for up to 9 busses to arrive before there was room to take anyone on board at the Kona Kai shuttle stop.
I haven’t had a confirmed reason for this, but Jesse heard that there was a shuttle driver on our route who was given an early 4-hour break without any replacements, so our route was down one bus out of four for Day 1. It seems like a plausible reason since that was largely solved by mid-morning on Day 2, and the busses were packed, but seats could still be found.
If you’re looking for a recommendation, the summary would be: The Shelter Island hotels are nice and outside the norm for chain hotels, but the shuttle almost makes it not worth it.
I wish other conventions ran their registration process as well as Comic-Con International does.
Oh, it has issues, don’t get me wrong. The lottery system keeps your anxiety on high at every phase, given that is a random lottery both times. For pre-sale, for those who went the year before, you have better-than-decent odds of getting a badge, but for people in open registration, those odds are close to 1-in-20 of getting even a one-day badge. This scares some people off, but obviously not that many if you have nearly 20,000,000 people trying to get 100,000 badges every year.
After WonderCon 2016, Comic-Con International moved to an RFID badge system for both WonderCon and Comic-Con. With this system, you need to tap your badge on a scanner to get in or out of the building. It ads one extra step in your processing to get through the door, but it also smoothes the lines that wait to get in. It allows everyone to move much more quickly.
However, you cannot just put your badge in your pocket after that. As some people found out the hard way, the staff in the Convention Center wants your badge on display at all times as you walk, so you need to have a lanyard available if you decked to forego Comic-Con’s registration bags and lanyards. Gathering your registration packet was pretty simple in 2017. They moved the pickup for these items back to the Salis Pavilion in the center of the second floor of the Convention Center. There wasn’t any wait to get them. It was a walk-up process and very smooth.
With a new contract extension signed, this is the home of San Diego Comic-Con through 2021, now, so if you have reservations about where it’s held, it’s best to keep them constructive until the new contract negotiations likely in 2019.
This long building is a fun place to hold conventions. It’s halls can be interconnected to create about a half-mile of continuous exhibits. Most of the front façade is glass, allowing a lot of light. The lobby isn’t as deep as the one at Anaheim or Los Angeles, but since the entire building is a badge-only zone, that’s not as much of a detriment as you would expect.
The second floor has two main outer-hallways, both covered by a long half-tube of windows, letting in even more light than below and creating a very open feel. The central hallways are on the interior of the meeting rooms and have only halogen light, but they keep those bulbs changed on a frequent basis, so there isn’t much of a dark area up there.
In the center of the second floor is the Salis Pavilion; a large glass box where all of the official SDCC signings occur. The upper area of Salis has artsy canvas covers protecting you from most direct sunlight, and they bring in extra air conditioning units to keep this area cool, and it is SO appreciated.
This building is crowded with 130,000 people, but they make the best of a rough situation because this building is one of the largest available in Southern California, in decent proximity to a lot of hotels, and is accessible to a number of entertainment and comic companies, so this is probably where it will stay if the convention continues to occur in California.
This room is central to a lot of people’s experience, and I can see why.
Major companies like Lego, Hasbro, Blizzard, Mattel, NECA, Fox, the Walking Dead, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, and a number of others have very large booths that have their own exclusives to sell to people as they work their way through. A number of those booths also have a ticketing system that you must use to buy unless you are tremendously lucky.
The Exhibit Hall is also split into sections that can make your experience easier if you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for including Artist’s Alley, Small Press which has cosplayers, smaller companies, and crafters, the Gold & Silver Pavilion which specializes in Gold and Silver Age comics, and so on. There’s a sprinkling of more general areas, but not much of it.
That’s not to say it’s easy to move around. The complaints by people of the Exhibit Hall being crowded are justified. There are times it’s very hard to move around, especially Sunday after people check out of hotel rooms and have nowhere else to be. Jesse and I had to move past the WB booth during a Sunday Supernatural signing and it was near impossible for a few minutes. But, this is also something you can adapt to by reading the schedules of the signings on the Exhibit Hall floor. When you get the rhythm of the room, it’s really not so bad.
To do panels at San Diego Comic Con, you have to remember this phrase: “You will never see everything you want to.”
That isn’t a defeatist statement about lines or bemoaning all of the walking, reading, snack buying, and preparation I found necessary to get ready. That is a simple truth that the schedule for Comic Con for the five years I have attended has been so jam-packed with interesting panels by industry, creators, and entertainment companies, that you often have to say, “To see this panel, I’m going to have to skip that panel.” This is one reason I’m pretty well satisfied by my Comic-Con experience even though I miss a lot, because I still saw more than enough to make the weekend beyond worthwhile.
I saw panels by TV shows, writers, artists, movie-makers, and production companies, and still had time to get several signatures, visit with people, and pick up exclusives.
Though, I must say that this level of involvement meant I needed to read the full panel list a couple of weeks in advance and make sure what I was going to see and what I was going to give up to do so. It’s a hard choice, but it’s better than standing in the Salis Pavilion unsure of which way to move.
You’ll never find convention staff that will tell you 100% of the time that you’re in the right, but I have yet to find a staff as courteous on all ends as those at Comic-Con. The convention staff themselves are pretty kind and straight forward, but even the convention center staff will use “please” and “thank you, sir” even when they are telling you when you’re going the wrong way. After being yelled at by Anime Expo staffers, this felt like a night and day difference, and this is a larger convention with better trained staff.
They even have volunteers who go through a training process before being put on the floor. I witnessed groups of volunteers being gathered and led to their posts by staff, and none of them were surly or blurry-eyed. All of them looked sharp and ready to work. Of course, a shift of volunteering getting you a day’s badge probably had something to do with it… but, these are motivated workers and the convention ran well because of it.
I wasn’t held up by convention policies or staff. Every part of the convention I came to was well run and defined with staff able to promptly point you to the right line and waiting places for panels or exclusive lists.
It can get lost under the scale of the convention, but these people do care about what you’re looking for and treat you with respect.
Cosplay is often described as light at Comic-Con, but this year, it felt near non-existent.
If you’re looking for the number of cosplayers you would find at an anime convention, this trade show isn’t for you. If you’re looking for the number of cosplayers at Wondercon, this still isn’t for you.
While cosplay happens at San Diego Comic-Con, it isn’t the needed distraction a lot of other conventions need. There’s already so much to see in panels, the Exhibit Hall, and numerous off site experiences, that you’ll find that cosplay isn’t the priority cosplayers often look for. The only places for larger gatherings is on the second floor outer deck of the convention center, and that is a badge-only zone, so ghosting photographers won’t find any easy access.
Add into that a crowded Exhibit Hall floor with few convenient places to stop, off sites that take up almost all of the adjacent park space, half of hotels needing shuttle access, so quick changes are not accessible, and weather that leans towards humid when it’s gentle and muggy when it’s bad, cosplay just isn’t a feature.
However, the cosplayers that do show up do tend to show their A-game, and they can be picked by some local companies following social media about the weekend for special videos or advertisements made during the four days of Comic-Con.
In the end, it’s your choice.
So, you went through Registration and only picked up Thursday and/or Sunday badges? You’re bummed that you won’t be able to see the big television and movie panels of the weekend? Don’t sit on your hands. You still have a lot you can do.
A number of entertainment companies have made off site experiences; things for you to see that doesn’t require a Comic-Con badge to enter. There was a Wasted Island experience, a Legion offsite, a Gifted Mutant Gene Testing, a Westworld experience, a Game of Thrones interactive experience, and more things than I can list without making an entire article about it. You have things to keep you entertained with a little bit of research and foresight.
This section of San Diego, referred to as the Gaslamp Quarter, comes alive with nerdy shops and exhibits during the days of and around Comic-Con. The local restaurants will sometimes host companies showing things to people away from the Convention Center, or even have a temporary façade put up or menu catering to the fans in the area. The whole section of the city can feel like an adult version of Disneyland’s Main Street… sometimes complete with mid-day parades and insane crowding.
It’s worth walking around, though. There’s a number of restaurants in the area catering to all kinds of taste, and while there will be some panhandling in the area, San Diego also ups the amount of police in the area and makes them very visible. I won’t say it’s absolutely safe; bags have been stolen and people accosted, but it’s heartening to see the interest San Diego has taken in Comic-Con.
San Diego Comic-Con shuts down most of its panels and functions at 8:00 p.m. That’s where the city takes over and gives you something to see.
The Gaslamp lit up at night is pretty soothing from a distance. Up close, it’s full of fans and locals mixing up in the bars and grills to refill their bellies before moving on to another bar or a game of Cards Against Humanity. While walking around at night, even at 1:00 a.m., you’ll find groups of people moving between clubs, comedy clubs, bars, and hotels to the next party or drink. I’m not a drinker myself, but I love the feeling of camaraderie in the area during the weekend.
You can just feel like you were dropped in a nerd festival when the sun goes down.
Don’t think that this is a perfect experience. It takes preparation to really get your money-worth out of this very large trade show. But there’s a good chance you’ll do at least one of the major items you set for yourself just because Comic-Con International has done as much as they can to make it accessible. Myself, I managed to get four signatures during the weekend and only planned on getting one, if that tells you anything.
If you get flustered, breathe out, step away from your planning for a minute, grab a bottle of your favorite comfort drink, and think of the celebrities and creators that are going to put their best foot forward to impress you at the biggest comic book event of the year.
San Diego Comic-Con isn’t the easiest convention to navigate, but if you put the work in, you’re likely to have an experience that follows you for a lifetime.
Hi, guys! To give you a bit of history, in 2015, for the first time in a while, I had a positive review of the Anime Expo!
I know! It surprised me, too! The staff was more professional, the building was well utilized, and the panels and Dealer’s Hall was a good variety! I went into 2017 thinking that there may be more positive trends on the way and this is where the convention could actually challenge San Diego Comic-Con for the title of the biggest pop-culture convention in North America!
Yeah… about that…
Registration was a lot like last year, but more extreme. Last year, there was a breakdown after Day 0 where people waited for hours on Day 1 and a bit less on Day 2 before things were fixed.
The same pattern held true this year. I went to Day 0 and it was practically a walk-up process. Things looked to be pretty good. There were a number of people ready to process bar codes and the badge pick-up was fast.
Fast forward to Day 1, Saturday, and there were reports of people waiting for SEVEN HOURS from the time they went to pick up the badge to the time they finally entered the convention. If you can believe it, the line for registration stretched south half-a-block, west for three blocks, north for three blocks, and then East for two blocks. It nearly stretched back to the Staples center, disturbingly near the West Hall Entrance, stretching past a homeless encampment and sometimes doubling back into the street.
Then, people waited in a near equal line for security checks to get into the building! There will be more on that later, but if you think we’re exaggerating, Kotaku.com ran an article that goes into further detail as people live tweeted their agony.
Yes. I stayed at the Residence Inn. It allowed me to make my own schedule with a half-a-mile walk separating me from the Convention Center. My roommates liked the hotel more than I did, I think. They were impressed with the kitchen with a full refrigerator, microwave, electric stove, and a very courteous and professional staff that was following our needs and were very accommodating when problems popped up, offering very definitive solutions instead of a set of maybes.
Something new happened this year, though; even though my hotel room was off block, the people in my room were assigned wristbands. Without these wristbands, a guard at the elevator would not let us up. It was a bit of a conversation, but once we were used to the system, we adapted and it wasn’t a terribly bad interruption to our flow.
I’ll say it plainly; the Los Angeles Convention Center is inadequate.
There were few nooks in it that weren’t unreasonably crowded and the separated halls (South with the Dealer’s Hall and West with the Entertainment Hall) are less and less convenient when every conceivable walking lane is taken up by crowds, lines, photographer set ups and people sitting because the shuttles are too inconvenient or they’re afraid to miss something.
The Los Angeles Convention Center is aged, poorly planned, and not well suited to larger conventions.
The building has had two different plans submitted to completely rebuild in the last three years. If one of these plans is ever funded, Anime Expo may find itself in trouble as at least half to two-thirds of the building will be rubble for 12-to-18 months.
The Dealer’s Hall had three solid rows of industry booths, bringing more legitimacy to the convention’s status as the biggest in the North America, but I would like to know who decided all of these booths had to be put in the front of the hall, near the entrances. Imagine if San Diego Comic-Con put Hasbro, Mattel, Lego, DC, Marvel, Blizzard, Fox, and Warner Brothers’ booths at the very front of their hall and then imagine the clogging of bodies making lines eager for exclusives. That was what was at the front of the Anime Expo’s hall.
Behind them was a more regular spread of vendors selling figures, plushies, books, clothes both cosplay and fan-oriented, digital and regular art supplies and the like. There were more specialty booths on the outer edges of the convention, but not as many towards the inner areas.
The Dealer’s Hall was regularly crowded to the point that I just didn’t have an interest in finding my way around for random shopping. If I had a purpose, I fulfilled it and left as soon as possible. I have seen most of the Anime Expos since 1993, and this is the very first year I haven’t bothered to walk every aisle of the Dealer’s Hall.
Artist’s Alley was similarly crowded and I saw about half of it and the wares inside. People I usually pal around with at anime conventions mostly didn’t bother trying to finish it due to the crowds and the muggy feeling in-between the tables.
There were finally some informative industry panels!
For a convention that touts its industry connections, this was the first year since 2006 it felt like brand new news was making its way out of the convention instead of just an announcement of the latest English dubbings being released. We saw the new FLCL trailer, and the announcement of three new series from Studio Trigger!
There were more panels than usual, causing Anime Expo to use the ballrooms in the J.W. Marriott Hotel a block and a half away on Olympic Avenue. I do question why screenings and some large industry panels were in the hotel. I thought the fan panels should have been held here instead and the convention should focus more on an industry connection.
I didn’t visit any fan panels personally, but the fan panels at anime conventions in California tend to be repetitive for my liking, so I didn’t think I was missing a lot by being selective.
Usually, people bring their best and brightest cosplay to Anime Expo every year… except…
I’m not sure what it was, but it just seemed like the Anime Expo crowd was trying less. If you want more top notch anime cosplay, you may want to try going to Fanime.
Last year, I reported the staff of the convention was better than the 2015 year. Apparently, that was short lived.
I was yelled at by staffers no less than four times over the course of the weekend. Once, I tried to explain myself, but a staffer decided to yell “I DON’T CARE!” at me. I wasn’t sure if it was me setting him off, but he decided to do it to someone identifying himself as an exhibitor as I walked away. I don’t know what Anime Expo is feeding staffers, but whatever it is, it needs to be decaffeinated.
I heard everything from down-talking to attendees up to threats of yanking badges during the four days of Anime Expo.
I had better conversations with random staffers who told me, as an example, that their department had badges for 500 volunteers, but 160 of them were never claimed. In other words, they were understaffed by 33% in that department. Between the understaffing and some of them probably being admonished for the Day 1 registration-and-line debacle, I’m sure some of them were feeling the pressure, but taking that out on attendees is unacceptable.
Oddly, the convention center staff were much more easy going than the convention staff. Were they stiff? Yes, but when one talked down to me a bit about where I was walking, a quick explanation on my part garnered an actual apology.
When the convention center staff is friendlier than the convention’s, something is broken.
Downtown Los Angeles is getting more crowded. I don’t mean in terms of people, I mean that there were three different buildings being constructed across from the Los Angeles Convention Center which I think were two condo towers, and possibly a hotel. This took away a lot of the nearby parking, so parking has become a serious premium in the area. If you don’t show up early, you may have to park a couple of miles away in a sketchy area across the 110 Freeway as someone I know did.
While some buildings are finished and the skyline is changing, there hasn’t been a lot of fundamental changes to the city. There’s still a spread of high-priced condos and moderately-expensive to really-expensive restaurants in the local area. If you’re a bargain shopper, either bring your Cup Noodles with you or be prepared to have UberEats deliver on a daily basis.
There still a homelessness problem in the city that has had a couple of tax initiatives passed to try and help these people, but I don’t know when that will start. I was panhandled a couple of times and followed once. I wouldn’t recommend walking alone after the sun sets.
The AX did schedule parties every night, both 18+ and 21+. Anime Expo tried something new called “Neon District” where they used the West Hall’s Hall B, and used the panel stage and LED panels to create a rave-like atmosphere, but this was a ticketed event, so there wasn’t walk-up access.
You’ll need to ask someone else about that for details. Dances are rarely something I go to.
Well, this convention has been around quite a while, and… It’s out of chances. By that, I hear every year, “They’ll fix it next year.” The convention has been around since 1992. How many “next years” does it need?
Registration was a mess, security was only shored up to a good degree by Day 2, panel lines were often way more than capacity, cosplay has been made an afterthought to panel lines, the crowding has reached insane levels and an attendance cap is sorely needed, the staff is confrontational and unprofessional, and they still charge you an extra ticket for every special event you want to do, including the Masquerade.
I have trouble thinking of more than a handful of things Anime Expo provides that other conventions don’t have for half of the overall cost of attendance. I also overheard too many people using the phrase, “This isn’t worth it anymore.”
Anime Expo appears to have reached the breaking point where fans just aren’t interested. If they aren’t interested, how much longer until the ghosts, party boys, and casual con-goers go elsewhere?
In summation, “Line-Con” is usually a phrase people give a convention when their lines to wait for things are becoming too long, and Anime Expo has become the Undisputed Champion of the Title of Line-Con.
A few months ago, we learned of a new convention happening in Ontario, California calling itself Comic-Con Revolution. Since its first announcement, Revolution added more and more intriguing names and seemed to be gaining traction with a strong social media campaign. We sent Jeremy from the Rolling 20’s to get a feeling for the convention and find out if a new legend began in this Los Angeles fringe-town.
Registration ran very well for a fledgling convention. I had the inference that the convention paid attention to the number of people pre-registering and adjusted their plan accordingly. They did open the door a bit late, but when they did, they had the equipment ready to scan bar codes on phones and printed forms to confirm their status and get them a wristband. This system may need to be adjusted when the convention moves to a multi-day schedule, but Comic-Con Revolution was well in command of their situation and stayed ahead of their needs.
Being a new one-day convention, the hotel didn’t have a need for hotels and/or shuttles. I stayed overnight just to give myself extra time at the convention center and not stress about my drive home. Hopefully, I make it next year and can review one of the local hotels for you.
It does appear that Ontario is seeking more events for their convention center. I’ve seen more advertisements for events happening within their walls, and it appears to be paying off for them.
Their convention center is a lot like post 80’s Southern California civic architecture; white stucco and concrete, lots of large windows to let in light, and a vague theme of water running throughout the venue with blues in the carpeting.
I do think that the convention tried to give people more places to sit than they have for other events I attended here because, again, it was a one-day convention, so there needed to be an incentive for people to stay and spend and interact more. The side-effect of that, though, could be seen at the Marvel cosplay gathering when the tables were suddenly pressured by photographers and there was a glut of people both in the seating area and surrounding it.
This is something else that will probably evolve a bit with at least one more day added to the convention.
To say it bluntly, it was not the most robust Dealer’s Hall I have ever seen. It followed a formula I have seen before where sellers were primarily on the outer ring or two of booths and there was a bevy of industry and independent artists in Artist’s Alley (or in this case, would it be “Artist’s Island?”) taking up about half of the space and seated directly in the middle of the Hall.
While there were comic book sellers, and a few vendors selling what you would come to expect at a comic book convention (toys, T-shirts, obscure DVD’s, leather goods of the non-whipping variety), it felt like there wasn’t much of a selection to really go through. I don’t mean to make that sound negative, but there wasn’t much to talk about when it came to filling in gaps in my collections, though if you’re behind on the last few months of comics, this was a good place to catch up.
On the other hand, Artist’s Island (I’m going to make that a thing) was filled with notable names in comic books; Todd Nauck; Joe Rubenstein, Art Thibert, Dennis Hopeless. Hope Larson, Chris Bachalo, and Jim Starlin among the people you could meet and the signatures I’m sure comic superfans were looking for. Comic Grading Corporation (CGC) even had a large booth and took comics on site for grading.
I can’t say for sure this Dealer’s Hall was a must view place, but being able to meet multiple members of Overwatch’s voice acting cast and meet several industry creators for a few minutes still made for worthwhile visits to the Dealer’s Hall.
There was a number of panels that happened in four different rooms over the course of the day. While there were no industry panels outside of the voice actor’s panel, there was a number of fan debate and information panels. I attended the cosplay photography panel that was run by four hobby and professional photographers. It was more than informative!
I tempered my expectations since this was the first year of Comic-Con Revolution, and I think they put together an above-average slate of panels for such a situation. It makes me more curious for what will be on the slate for next year.
I was curious to see what a first-year convention would see as far as cosplay beyond fan groups like the Mandalorian Mercs, Ghostbuster groups, and so on. I was not disappointed.
While I didn’t see anything I hadn’t seen earlier in the year, there was still a good percentage of cosplayers at the convention letting their fandom fly through their costuming. I don’t have much of a gallery as I was working alone, but you’ll find that there was a good selection of characters to view and turn your head. The Stormtrooper Cupid was a nice cosplay, though I wonder if they can hit anything…
The staff appeared to be on-point all day. Most panels and events ran on time, the staff was attentive and adept, and complaints appeared to be minimal all weekend. My own run ins with the convention staff was prompt and to the point. Everyone appeared to know what they needed to do and was very helpful.
The convention center staff also was to the point, though they were notably quieter. They didn’t seem to have any issues with the fans running around and gave people room to use the building with a few exceptions.
Ontario, at least in the vicinity of the airport, is a bit barren. There’s hotels and motels in the immediate area, but if food is your concern, you’re either slim on options or you’ll have to bring a lot with you.
There is a couple of mini marts on adjacent blocks, an Indian restaurant, a higher-end Italian restaurant, an American restaurant, and a couple of fast food joints. If you walk a bit further away, you’ll find an In n’ Out and a Denny’s.
I guess, in short, you’ll need to be able to entertain yourself if you leave the building. You won’t find much around.
As it was a one-day convention, this section, as you could understand, has nothing in it. If there is more next year, we will be sure to take a look and let you know how it was.
This convention fell into the category of “I’m sorry that it’s over.”
With the convention being brand new, it had moderate expectations to live up to, and managed to completely jump over them. Fans and professionals alike weren’t just mingling; they all seemed to be having a really good time.
In addition, Comic-Con Revolution has already announced that they are continuing next year on May 19 and 20, 2018 and, as you can tell, they’ve added more days.
I expect this convention to be a lot of fun next year!
Wondercon has returned to the Anaheim Convention Center for 2017, and one of our comic-book enthusiasts, Jeremy from the Rolling 20's Show, went down to see what was new with the convention center and to get a measure of Wondercon's growth. Is the convention about to turn a corner into a new era? Is it still accessible to casual fans? Is the cosplay still on point? He was too eager to find out. Let's read!
The Anaheim Hilton is a very solid hotel on multiple levels.
Although they weren’t ready for my arrival at 6:00 a.m., they did have a room ready not long after the convention opened. The room was in very neutral colors of white, black, and grays with wood accents and the usual furniture in a two-bed room; a desk, a small dresser, a lounging chair, and an end-table.
I couldn’t figure out how to get the TV to take an alternative input. It looks like this hotel is geared a bit like some resort hotels in that they try to limit your entertainment alternatives so that you need to go out and engage in the local area. It’s a minor gripe in that I attempted to share a Youtube video and couldn’t get it on to the TV.
The hotel is also large and well-administrated enough that there was a dance competition that ran at the same time as Wondercon on Friday and Saturday, and you wouldn’t be very aware of it if you weren’t paying attention. There’s also a pool deck with waterslides for kids, a hot tub, a gym, and a couple of restaurant options in the hotel. They expanded the bar into some of the lobby seating area for additional service.
Between their helpful staff, professional demeanor, spacious rooms, proximity to the Anaheim Convention Center, and accessibility to the local theme parks, this hotel is a good place for your convention stay.
Comic-Con International (CCI), as of San Diego Comic-Con 2016, has begun mailing badges to their domestic customers. This practice expanded to Wondercon this year. It makes the process much easier when you show up with a badge and just need to pick up a lanyard and convention booklet.
There were decent lines of people who bought badges after the mailing deadline, but they set up a smaller-than-usual bank of people to process badges, and the process is still quick and efficient. If you are sure you’re going and bought your badge well in advance, barring some sort of missing mail, you won’t have a problem here.
If anyone from CCI is paying attention, though, I pray that they use a different return address on their envelopes. If my badges all come to my mailbox with “SDCC” on them, I’m worried someone will start watching my mail to steal the badge. With the RFID technology, it would be easy to inform CCI and invalidate the badge, but that would add extra inconvenience to replace it… and possibly require the attendee to pay to replace it, as well.
After a year in Los Angeles, Wondercon returned to Anaheim and the Anaheim Convention Center. I was really looking forward to reviewing the convention center expansion that began last April. Unfortunately, the new annex was not completed. There was a bit of limited access to it through doors added to the north end (Disneyland-facing side) of the second floor, but that ended in a locked rolling door after about 30 yards. I couldn’t gleam much from it at the time other than a large fountain that is being set in front of the new area.
The rest of the Anaheim Convention Center hasn’t changed much from the last time I was there. There is a pervasive aquatic theme in the carpet and some of the surrounding grounds. The building is a rolling architecture of glass and steel that has a pretty welcoming vibe. The grounds around the convention center and between the hotels has been further expanded in recent years to include a courtyard that is big enough to host about 10 food trucks that served lunch and had picnic tables set up nearby. This still left ample walking room to get to the convention center grounds.
The interior has a very ample floorplan with good open space, though people moving from place to place can fill it quickly, similarly to the lobby of the San Diego Convention Center.
CCI also spent extra time setting up rails all around the convention center to make the immediate grounds and everything between the hotels and the Anaheim Convention Center a badge-only zone. I read a lot of social media posts about this being unfair to ghosters, but, frankly, I read an equal number of posts of people saying that they preferred the badge-only zone to keep space open for people who paid for the privilege. Considering how open the grounds felt in the area, I think CCI made the right move.
Despite the praise, there is a problem. Parking is not well situated here. The new convention center expansion sits where a standby parking structure used to be, further exacerbating the issue. I heard reports of people driving around the area for an hour before being led to the overflow parking, including pretty far away at Angel Stadium, and then being shuttled over. Disneyland became aware of Wondercon attendees parking at their theme park parking and started shooing them away in earnest on Saturday. I heard complaining about parking a lot over the weekend. I don’t have any good suggestions in this realm other than carpooling and arriving early. You may not like sitting around waiting for things to open, but it sounds better than sitting in your car an hour after the convention opens wishing you were parked already.
Wondercon’s Dealer’s Hall feels like Comic-Con’s Exhibit Hall without the constant lines winding through everything. Don’t misunderstand, there were lines for major creators and some booths with exclusives, but they weren’t an overriding presence.
The Dealer’s Hall at the Anaheim Convention center is four halls that have removeable walls to make a mostly-continuous hall by passing through certain points between the halls. It was simple to walk through everything to get to where you needed and the selection of items to buy went from vintage to brand new debuts very quickly. More companies brought their bigger, more elaborate booths for people to visit including Loot Crate, DC Comics, Kotobukiya, Capcom, and Ultrasabers. You could find goods for gaming, cosplay, steampunk, comics, anime, and original creations. It wasn’t the most diverse selection I’ve seen, but it was close and enough to make me second guess my budget a few times.
The layout of the hall is also similar to Comic-Con with sections for Artist’s Alley, Small Press, and Fan Community Tables. The major difference was the number of bigger vendors and publishing companies at the front of the hall. Thankfully, they put a lot of space in the aisles between these booths, so it didn’t prevent you from quickly moving towards the heart of the halls.
Autograph lines moved briskly, and the guest list included Modern and Silver Age creators like Sanford Green, Maugerite Sauvage, Bob Layton, Michael Golden, and Mark Waid.
Wondercon’s Dealer’s Hall is well worth spending a day to see which collections need rounding out.
In 2016, I noted that I hoped more companies would bring debuts for a hungry Wondercon fanbase. I’m not going to say they heard me, but…
This year there were debuts of clips of the upcoming Wonder Woman movie and full episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and iZombie, in addition to the full debut of the DC animated film for Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.
There were also panels with Jim Lee, Warner Brothers, most of the Voltron: Legendary Defender primary characters, The Magicians, and several other industry panels. Among them were also fan-run and fan-oriented panels giving the weekend a very balanced feel. I would like to see Marvel take more note of a convention being hosted in the backyard of their Disney overlords, but it seems that they hold their news for Comic-Con and D23. If that changes, I could see Wondercon quickly explode into a convention that could rival San Diego, New York, and Salt Lake City’s Comic-Cons in scale, exclusivity, and must-see events.
Let me first say that the attitude regarding cosplay in Anaheim makes the Los Angeles Convention Center look downright prudish. People gathered in front of fountains, inside on staircases, on outer terraces, and while security was watchful, they didn’t interfere as long as nothing was being broken. It was nice to be able to wander without being admonished.
Moving on, people are still bringing their A-game cosplay for Wondercon. I saw hyper-authentic looking costumes for not just comic book characters, but soldiers from Battlefield 1, Halo, and Indiana Jones. There’s a small video on the Mission Start Podcast instagram that had a 1970’s Battlestar Galactica pilot being followed by a squad of Cylons, complete with the trademark Cylon-eye sound effects loud enough to be heard over the din of the crowds.
You also saw people’s more creative side come out for their costumes. The Sith versions of Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn was compelling.
The badge-only zone around the Anaheim Convention Center gave a lot of people fits about their ability to be photographed and gather, particularly the Overwatch gathering. They did adjust their plan to outside the zone, but it’s another example of how you’re going to need to plan your cosplay schedule around the badge zone or make sure your badges are purchased well in advance to avoid sell outs.
Comic-Con International seems to work hard with their security company to find people that know how to use “please” and “thank you.” I recognized the blazers from my recent trips to San Diego Comic-Con and they continued to be very attentive and prompt without being overbearing or rude. It’s nice to be treated so professionally after the one-year trip to Los Angeles was pretty lackluster.
The Anaheim Convention Center’s staff was pretty courteous, but, other than concessions, seemed to stay in the background and out of sight.
The local police seemed to just enjoy watching the cosplay and people expressing their hobbies.
Anaheim is well-tailored for mid-size events for the most part. There’s a lot of hotels in the local area around the convention center with more in moderate walking distance. There’s a good choice of restaurants which are in competition with the local theme parks, so the prices are a little higher than usual, but nothing truly deteremental.
Actually, Downtown Disney isn’t an unbelievable walk from the convention center, so there’s even more choices on where to eat, as long as you’re willing to go through the security checks. I wouldn’t recommend cosplay for that as costumes are generally not allowed on Disney entertainment property.
The theme parks also bring an enhanced security and police presence, so walking locally isn’t as harrowing as it is in Los Angeles. That being said, I would still be aware of your personal space for people watching you. There’s always someone willing to steal if you give them an opportunity
As per usual with Comic-Con International conventions, Wondercon doesn’t have any night time events. The most you’ll find is late night table-top gaming and an anime screening room. There were a couple of third party events, but they were loosely run this year and didn’t require a lot of time unless you started a great conversation.
You could always go to Disneyland for the price of a good figurine or back issue, but if that isn’t of your interest, I would suggest making a bit of a plan for your evenings to keep from getting stuck in a funk during the night-time hours.
Wondercon is now adding a secondary name, “Anaheim Comic-Con.” Considering the way that exclusives and major guests are starting to coalesce around this convention every year, the name is probably more earned than Los Angeles Comic-Con.
Wondercon has a lot of what makes San Diego Comic-Con interesting including exclusives, debuts, shopping selection, amazing guests, and unique experiences, without having Comic-Con’s downsides of major line and crowding issues. On top of it all, there’s a thriving cosplay community here that Comic-Con struggles with logistically. This is a convention I can recommend to a lot of people without hesitation.
The question I have is; How much longer will Wondercon be as accessible before too many people catch on and make it harder to attend? Make the trip next year before that becomes an issue.
No longer Comikaze, Stan Lee's Los Angeles Comic Con appears poised to take its place among the larger conventions in San Diego, Salt Lake City, and New York. Was the name change a sign of better times to come? Did Los Angeles get the big comic book convention it has been fishing for? Is the convention still one of the better ones in Southern California? Time to take the plunge!
Yes, we were in Los Angeles, so that means we were back at the Residence Inn at L.A. Live. We as a group have come to love the amount of space in the rooms, as well as the kitchens with the full-size refrigerators, meaning you can properly keep food without having to be completely dependent on local restaurants, which can definitely lower the stress of your weekend.
The décor of the hotel has not changed as of yet. The rooms on this side of the building (the other half of the building is a Courtyard Inn decorated in sunrise colors), are reminiscent of a Southern California sunset; the décor is full of crimson, maroon, and black and white murals above the beds.
The staff is still the friendliest and with the best memories I have seen. A few hours after my arrival, a few of the staff members gave me a big, “Glad to see you’re back!” They were highly attentive and quick to take care of any questions I had, as well as understanding when I asked them to hold my things while I had to finish some business.
This is a must-stay location for Los Angeles conventions.
Registration seems to be on the downswing at comic book conventions. I thought the issues at Long Beach Comic Con were bad, but the lines outside of Los Angeles Comic-Con actually made that look more bearable. Don’t believe me? The line outside of South Hall wound in near stifling ways from the side of the south hall to in front of the South Hall entrances. There were so many people waiting that it was actually interfering with people trying to get in the building.
I tried to stay out of the way, but my guess would be that there wasn’t enough people processing registration. I saw about a dozen people to process them on Day 1, but when you have a convention of 50,000+ people you have to plan ahead for bumps in attendance.
I am not a fan of the Los Angeles Convention center. The building is wildly decentralized for large events like E3 or the Los Angeles Auto Show with two large halls that roughly equate to the square footage at Anaheim, but they are separated by a city street. The two halls are connected by a bridge, but this building’s layout is terrible for very large conventions.
When it comes to mid-size conventions, it’s still not convenient. Since a lot of conventions like to put media and operational offices above South Hall, you often need to leave the hall to make it to the panel rooms like you do at Los Angeles Comic-Con. If you are shopping and want to attend a panel, you will need to exit the Dealer’s Hall and traverse the South Hall Lobby to get to the Skyway Bridge and it’s second floor to find the meeting rooms. Given how crowded this place is for mid-to-large size conventions, getting to the meeting rooms can be a trial.
The staff at this building is still pretty standoffish to nerd activities. As per the last few years, they frown on gatherings happening indoors and do your best to shoo you either outside or to stop what you are doing altogether. If you are looking for a good group photo and to stay out of the rain (which did happen during the weekend), you’ll have to find an out of the way place.
If it wasn’t for the prestige of saying, “We have a convention in Los Angeles,” I find it hard to understand why people still book this building for conventions.
The Dealer’s Hall was actually more than a bit of a letdown in 2016.
When Los Angeles Comic-Con changed its name from Comikaze, I had pictured that they were finding a new gear in the convention; that they were going from mid-size to large-size after it’s quick five-year explosion. In the transition to Los Angeles Comic-Con, this convention felt like it was leaving comic books behind. On Saturday, I wandered to the center of the hall and realized that there were only three comic book vendors in my walk.
If you’re interested in toys, corsets, steampunk accessories or clothes, independent artists, trip raffles, mystery boxes, T-shirts, or muscle tension release devices, you should have a pretty good time. Although there were booths manned by Tow Cow and Dark Horse Comics, for the most part, comic book representation in the hall was strangely light.
The Artist’s Alley was expanded to cover 1/5 to ¼ of the overall hall, but I could find very few industry artists in the alley. It was filled with a lot of independent artists who had a lot of interesting items, but given my three decades of convention history, I am well fleshed out on prints and want to see more industry talent I haven’t had a chance to meet.
I was astonished how few comic books I could buy at a convention that used “Comic-Con” in its title. People complain about San Diego Comic-Con being too pop culture, but if you wander their Exhibit Hall, you still have multiple opportunities to flesh out your collection. At Los Angeles Comic-Con, those opportunities are weirdly slim.
This was probably your best opportunity for entertainment over the weekend, but not comic book news.
Like the Dealer’s Hall, there’s a lot of entertainment items in their panel list, as well as some multimedia stars, but there is little actual comic industry information or interaction in it. You can see a lot of improvisational groups, musical groups, and fan organizations like the 501st Imperial Brigade. If you are looking for any announcements about upcoming toy releases or comic book storylines, this isn’t the place.
Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Mike Colter’s appearance on the Main Stage of Comikaze in the Exhibit Hall and his energetic answers to fans, but there wasn’t much here to keep me interested in what was happening. I did miss the Kevin Smith/Ralph Garman Fatman on Batman taping with Adam West and Burt Ward due to business. That probably would have lifted my spirits.
Cosplay at Los Angeles Comic-Con is at the middle of the pack in my opinion.
I did see some interesting items, but most of the more interesting ones, I noted, were ones I saw earlier in my year in California conventions. It appears that people are bringing things they have finished earlier in the year or items that require minimal work to put together (think zentai suits) for the most part. There are some standout cosplayers. I took photos of a Mei and a Tracer from Overwatch that looked like they leapt off the screen (and the Mei was overheated in a suede parka, Baldur bless her).
As a people watcher, there are both cheaper conventions where you can see more interesting cosplay (Long Beach Comic Con/Expo) and larger conventions where people are more likely to try out highly detailed costumes (WonderCon). The only convention where cosplay is less prevalent, in my mind, is San Diego Comic-Con, but you also have many many more things to do at that convention.
While I wasn’t enamored with the convention, the staff were quick to help and seemed eager to take care of issues instead of kicking them up and down the ladder like Anime Expo tends to do.
I didn’t see the random people walking around with “Ask Me” signs as in previous years. Most everything that was occurring ran on time and opened on schedule. The only item I personally observed that made me worried was the opening of the convention at 5:00 p.m. on Day 1 (more on that in a minute). While the convention hall opened on time, about 10 minutes into letting people in the Dealer’s Hall, the line was stalled for a good 10 minutes for some unknown problem. Just when people started to audibly groan, the problem was solved and people were let in at a pretty good clip.
Organization is not a problem at Los Angeles Comic-Con.
There was one decision that Los Angeles Comic Con made that is just confusing me, though. They haven’t lowered their price as a three-day convention, but Day 1 was suddenly slashed to only being open from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and that is only the Dealer’s Hall. There are no panels that day. My feeling is that the prices either need to be lowered, or people should have more bang for their buck when you change Day 1 into an unofficial preview night.
Downtown Los Angeles is a mixture of feelings for me.
I do like that there is shopping, both grocery and department store, within a 10 minute walk of my hotel, but those blocks, despite being in the Figueroa area, can have a lot of interaction with local people, and that varies pretty wildly. There’s a lot of homeless people panhandling in the area, as well as well-to-do individuals that can act pretty haughty and stuck-up when you pass by them in costume, they can be very condescending in attitude, if they don’t say anything outright.
There’s a few places to eat nearby, but if you’re working on a budget, you’re going to have to walk at least a couple blocks in a lot of scenarios. One tip I can give you for sure is that there is a Denny’s on Figueroa between 8th and 9th Streets; Do not go there. That Denny’s is barely passable on a normal night, not one when there’s 40,000 extra people in the area.
A few years ago, Downtown Los Angeles wasn’t as harrowing of a place. In 2016, you should probably consider walking with someone else if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
There is a few places to go in Downtown Los Angeles, although I am not a member of the club scene. Fortunately, there was one third party event, Club Comic Con, that happened on Friday night, but that was a bit of a walk away.
Los Angele Comic-Con brought back its own dance/quasi-Halloween ball featuring a DJ and a couple of cover bands for people to enjoy. I did not have the time to visit this year, which was a shame. Their dances are more laid back than the rave-style environment at anime conventions.
Don’t overlook the Comic-Con dance. It’s a great way to unwind.
My first overall thought is that… I miss Comikaze.
Comikaze felt like a comic book convention that had a lot going for it. Los Angeles Comic Con in 2016 felt like a convention that already hit its upper ceiling and is clawing for some form of growth. That shouldn’t be given the last few years with notable stars and some interesting announcements, not a lot, but at least some. This year, there was a deficit of industry talent and almost no announcements of any sort.
If you want to rub elbows with the occasional celebrity, that might happen. If you want to meet the co-stars and “Also Starring” members of shows or find a random knick-knack, this is your place. For me, though, I think that Anime Expo 2016 is a better convention than this… and if you follow my reviews… you know that is really saying how uninteresting of a time I had…
Long Beach has had a couple of comic conventions grow into the void left by Wizard World Long Beach ending its run. There has been growth and positive buzz surrounding the convention, and Jeremy from the Rolling 20's Podcast has been to a couple of these shows. Has Long Beach Comic Con continued the upward trajectory of these events?
There's nothing left to do but read his review and find out...
This year, I decided to go with the Long Beach Renaissance Inn. Their décor was a mixture of light tans and creams mixed with a loosely aquatic theme you could find in certain wallpapers and in a blue scaled carpet in the hallways. The staff was attentive and quick to answer concerns. I also liked the unusual move of a seating ledge in the windows. It does give you a place to look over the city or the harbor and just think a bit. It’s nice that the rooms are inviting.
The bathrooms are large, and the lobby is full of floor-to-ceiling windows letting in a lot of light, or the soft light of the city at night. Actually, even though the Renaissance Inn was a distance away from the convention center, this turned out to be a decent move on my part, and next year, I hope they consider using the Westin as part of their hotel block. You’ll find more about that in the Staff/Organization section of my report.
I’m not sure what happened this year. Before, getting processed through registration was a simple process that took a few minutes. This year, I appeared close to the opening of the convention to find a line out of the convention center that looked to take around an hour or more to process. It snaked through several areas in front of the convention center and looked to be a nightmare. I was in a much smaller line for press and professionals, but even after I arrived, the process changed suddenly and separated press from professionals.
Perhaps there was some sudden growth that wasn’t planned for, but it was undeniable that registration took a step backwards this year, and when you are a smaller convention, details like this should be much better handled.
Long Beach Comic Con took over the entire available Dealer’s Hall for 2016, as well as all of the meeting rooms in the lower level. It was almost disappointing that the upper level, the most visual and visually-appealing section of the convention center was unavailable due to another convention happening regarding animal medicine. I say “almost” because I do think Long Beach Comic Con used the area it had pretty well.
It wasn’t too difficult to get from point to point, though having to exit through some doors to get to the elevator that was behind some more doors made me glad I was okay to use the stairs. While the lower entrance to the Dealer’s Hall had a lot of brick, metal, and glass, the lower level with the meeting and panel rooms was in bright cream, orange, and yellow colors reminiscent of a hotel.
The convention center is still one of the more beautiful designs I have experienced, but it may be time to consider space in the convention’s future since there were times that the convention felt pretty cramped with the bump in attendance they experienced.
In the past, the Dealer’s Hall has had a good mix of items. This year, they moved away from that mix to a more creator-centric design… almost literally.
There are comic book vendors, steampunk apparel sellers, art dealers, toy dealers, video game sellers, and producers of all of the above in the outer ring of the hall, but taking up about half of the total space and set into the center of the hall design was the industry and independent artists. There was a stunning array of artists that included Todd Nauck, Kris Anka, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, and a lot more. There were artists that covered the gamut from comic book, anime, steampunk, comedy, and everything in-between.
Then there were the entertainment and cosplay guests like StellaChuu, Dust Bunny, Jewel Staite, and many others.
As someone who likes people and visiting with the people who create what my hobbies are based on, this is great. Though, if you are looking to expand your collection, this wasn’t the best place for that particular purpose. I found items to buy, but not a lot of surprises or opportunities to start new collections.
In my opinion, panels are one of the strongest suits of this convention.
I visited a few panels over the course of the two-day weekend, and they were not only pretty different from one another, they actually produced some information I was not aware of before. The Marvel-ous panel had writers including Nick Spencer, Craig Kyle, and Brandon Easton, and they had information about Marvel Entertainment’s current status as far as movie rights and that the Agent Carter series and the Doctor Strange movie are connected.
I missed a lot of panels in the first day due to a mix up in the next section.
On the second day, I stopped in the G.I. Joe voice actors panel, the Geeklings panel on Cosplaying With Family, and the Robotech panel giving an update on the series and the status of the live action film.
I do feel like I learned some things at these panels, which is something that was even missing from the comic book news panels at San Diego Comic Con. I would call that a definite plus.
Cosplay has taken a serious step up this year. There were a lot more finished costumes and a lot of photographers trying their best to capture it all. I managed to see some more unique cosplays and cosplay attempts, so I do think that fans are starting to embrace this convention as a larger player in the Southern California scene. If you are a people watcher, this is a decent place to do it.
There’s even cars-play, where people set out replica cars from science-fiction and genre entertainment for you to view, including a time-travelling DeLorean, three Jurassic Park Jeeps, two 80’s Bumbleebee Camaros, and even a rally-version of Herbie the Love Bug.
There was a problem with the cosplay gathering organization, though. The Marvel shoot in particular was in serious trouble. The time was moved at the last minute without a formal notice, so several people, including myself and several cosplayers, showed up at the original time to find out it was moved an hour later. That left us with time to kill we didn’t know we had, and even then, an hour is not a lot of time to entertain yourself with at a convention you’re not finished at yet.
Even then, there is no real place to hold a large gathering at this end of the convention center. There is one courtyard at the level of the convention center, but it bunches up easily with mid-to-large size groups. The DC group was plentiful, but it turned into a packed cluster of cosplayers and photographers pretty fast, leaving me to stand on a bench to get photos.
This was probably the biggest strain on the weekend for more people than myself.
I have already detailed the strange logjam that registration turned into. The unsettled nature of the staff also bled into panels. A few panels were forced to switch rooms on the staff’s say, and during the moved panels, the staffers interrupted one panel moderator to get into the podium and look for the name placards that weren’t transferred in the move.
There was also a late move of the entrance to Long Beach Comic Con to the rear/side entrance of the convention center under Long Beach’s Performing Arts Center. I witnessed groups of people walking from the Hyatt to inside the Long Beach Convention Center, and soon leave to walk around the convention center, past a condo building, around the Performing Arts Center, down two sets of stairs, to the rear/side entrance. This is why I think Long Beach Comic Con needs to keep the Westin on standby for hotels. Every two to three conventions they run, they end up using the rear entrance while another show uses Long Beach’s main building. The Westin can be very useful when they have to use this entrance.
While the Dealer’s Hall and the Photo Op sections ran well, there was a feeling all weekend like the staff was barely keeping up with the needs of the convention. I’m hoping that these issues smooth out by the time of Long Beach Comic Expo this coming February run by the same company at the same venue.
Downtown Long Beach has a number of homeless people around it because there is a social services building just two blocks down Pine Avenue from the convention center. Usually, I run across at least a couple during the weekend and my travel between the hotel and the convention center. This year, I didn’t see one at all while I was on foot. I’m not saying they’re gone, but they were definitely out of sight during the daylight hours. Hopefully, California can figure out how to reasonably help these people.
Without that, though, downtown Long Beach has a few nightspots and a lot of restaurants to choose from. There is a number of places to eat just south of the convention center, and an entertainment area called the Pike, with restaurants, shops, and a ferris wheel (yes, a ferris wheel) for your entertainment. More restaurants are north of the convention center. Plan carefully, though. While there’s a lot of options in general, I didn’t find a lot of places available during breakfast hours. If you’re comfortable with food trucks in the morning, the convention had a few, but when you calorie count like I do, it can be hard to find a place with enough time to eat before a convention opens.
The convention had no night life whatsoever. There was a late costume contest, but there are no dances for people to enjoy. If that is your thing, you will have to research where they are in Long Beach.
Believe it or not… that’s it.
If you didn’t want to dig very deep in Long Beach Comic Con this year, you probably had a bit of a better time than I did.
I didn’t mind the convention, but the lack of vendors didn’t have me second guessing any of my purchases, and I had made most of my necessary decisions by the end of the first evening. However, if your interest is creators, this is undoubtedly where you need to be. There are other, larger conventions that have more creators, but I have never had them more accessible than here. They were talkative and very nice, even if I didn’t buy anything in that moment.
The cosplayers here are pretty darn good, though the building isn’t the best to use for large groups, at least not on this side of the convention center.
And panels felt a little haphazard with sudden moves, and moderators not showing up at certain points. That’s not all on the staff, but it can interrupt a convention’s flow when these kinds of things occur.
I sincerely want the convention to succeed and hope the issues that held down the convention are worked out. If you have at least a free day, you can get some unheard news, new artwork, and time to socialize with other fans.
Guest Convention Reporter
Otakon will always have a special place in my heart. It is therefore with great sadness that I write this review about the last Otakon in Baltimore. Charm City: you will be missed.
Otakon started at Penn State all the way up at State College, Pennsylvania but it’s clear after 17 years in Baltimore Otakon has made this city home.
Baltimore has been in the news recently in a not so good light however as most locals can attest charm city has a way of putting its’ best foot forward. Especially with the inner harbor area where the convention is held. For cosplayers it is about as good a venue as you can get. Within walking distance you have a picturesque harbor, national monuments, and a modern city skyline. A perfect back drop for a typical cosplay photography routine.
Being next to two stadiums city organizers have their work cut out for them. When I drove into the city on Thursday night I found myself awash in a sea of humanity as both NFL and MLB games were on right next door to the convention center. As usual the Baltimore city police did an excellent job at keeping traffic flowing .
Baltimore has a ton of hotels either right next to or near the convention center. The city also has an excellent bus system for shuttling con goers to and fro. I stayed at the Hyatt Regency. The internet was great this year. High speed and never any lag which was surprising. Compared to how internet was in previous years I’m glad to see the national chains are finally getting it right. At one point the elevator got stuck but they got us out within 15 minutes.
Like last year Otakon did online registration and shipped badges ahead of time to all con goers for the first time ever. You can still register in person but now the line is quite literally about 15 minutes long at its’ peak.
The convention center got rid of the stairs on the east side of the convention center three years ago and has since also removed the skywalks on the east side. This was for increased security but it did increase pedestrian traffic on the ground. In general though attendance seemed to be down this year as they had increased the price of registration. There seemed to be a lot less people in general in and around the main places where cosplayers congregate. Gophers were excellent this year at keeping lines out of the way and in general things seemed way more organized this year than I had seen previously. As usual the convention center itself is huge and more than easily accommodates whatever the organizers throw at it. The dealer room, game room, artist alley, AMV contest hall, and dance hall were all more than big enough for each of those events. If anything the smaller convention center rooms were overflowing with too many panel attendees however that is part of the reason for the move to DC next year.
This year press got to go into the dealer room before it was open to the general public. We were taken in through a staff side entrance an hour before the room was to be opened for everyone. Many of the vendors still hadn’t fully setup at 11 AM but were mostly ready by noon when the doors opened. I took plenty of pictures of the room being empty. In general the typical dealer room wares were sold. I noticed a distinct lack of airsoft which I had seen in previous years. I’m not sure if this was specific to this year but it’s clear that they wanted to err on the side of caution and keep it banned.
This year was extremely hot. Each day was a high of 98 F and the “feels like” temperature was hovering around 111 F at times. I went to the Naruto midday Saturday shoot on the balcony of the third floor of the convention center and I found myself soaked in sweat after only a few minutes outside. I could not imagine what it was like for people in full body heavy costumes. Still…. There were many incredible cosplays and the convention center did an admirable job keeping the inside a reasonable 75 F for the most part. Many meet ups moved indoors for this reason.
As usual there were many cosplay meet ups in hotel lobbies and the like. The talent that comes out to Otakon is word class. Being the biggest east coast anime convention brings people from all over the world. My room mates flew in from California and easily did at least 15 cosplays between the two of them.
No matter what your fandom is there was some representation of it in the halls of the Baltimore Convention Center. From obscure jrpgs to mainstream American scifi. Overwatch seemed to be this year’s cosplay fad.
Baltimore has a ton of amazing restaurants in the Inner Harbor area. At least 15 sushi places and two well very well-known Ramen restaurants make attending Otakon a blast for any foodie. Unfortunately having this many Otaku in one place causes all these places to be packed all weekend long. For those who want to eat on the cheap you can easily just walk to a nearby Subway and get foot long sandwiches all weekend long. There are actually 10 subways within 5 blocks of the convention center and a few are 24/7 so if you get hungry late at night being in the middle of a major city helps. Otherwise the typical convention center food rules apply. Overpriced convention center food is available in the dealer room as well as the second and third floors of the convention center. Personally though, I prefer to skip the overpriced convention center sushi drenched in spicy mayo.
Baltimore is home to one of the most robust rave scenes on the east coast. The same community also organizes a bunch of local festivals including Big Dub, Moonrise, Nightmare Fest, and Dreamscape. Otakon taps into this by pulling DJs from this scene to do the Friday and Saturday night raves. It’s typical for street vendors to be selling led glow toys right outside during all of this.
If raving isn’t your thing the bars and restaurants around the inner harbor stay open till 2 AM. The convention center itself was extremely lively with cosplayers and in-general otaku just having fun chilling and hanging out in the lobbies even a little bit past two.
Just be careful walking away from the inner harbor. Tons of pan handlers and shady characters not too far from the convention center area. There are some shady strip clubs only three blocks away going uphill away from the harbor.
Organizers will have their work cut out for them in DC next year to live up to how great a venue the Baltimore Convention Center has been for the past 17 years. Despite its’ smaller size the Baltimore convention center was at the literal center of Baltimore public life. Surrounded by major sports stadiums, the cities’ financial district, and tourist focal point allowed Otakon to benefit from the many food and social communities already in place. For cosplayers the location was a veritable smorgasbord of shooting locations. 2016 was no different. A success convention anyway you cut it.
Otakon 2017 is being held in Washington D.C. In contrast from Baltimore the DC convention center is located exactly 0.9 miles from The White House, 0.8 miles from the National Mall, 1.4 miles from the United States Capitol, and 2.1 miles from the Potomac River, the closest body of water to the convention center. While this certainly adds an air of authenticity to the cosplay possibilities it doesn’t really create much variety for cosplayers, who might not want to schlep for miles on foot in the August heat for some pictures. Looking into the food selection around the area I found myself thinking “this is a place I would take a congressman I wanted to schmooze, not a bunch of my nerd friends”. Over time I have no doubt we’ll call DC our own but I think at first we will find ourselves dealing with a city made for politicians and lobbyists, not nerds.
Another year, another San Diego Comic-Con! Jeremy and the rest of the Rolling 20’s made the trek back to San Diego’s Gaslamp to see how the convention progressed, and maybe even get into Hall H this year!
This convention has made so many Top 10 lists across reviewers… does it still deserve to reign as the king of conventions, or has it begun a slide that has been seen too often in conventions over the decades?
There’s no time like the present to find out…
The San Diego Comic-Con hotel system took a major shift this year.
While prior years’ rooms were allotted on a first-come, first-served basis, SDCC and their Housing Bureau, OnPeak, shook things up by moving to a lottery system similar to the registration queue. Since we were not prepared for this kind of change, we ended up nearly out of the hotel block all-together. After some trades and a last-minute waitlist request coming through, we landed at the San Diego Airport Hilton, also known as the Hilton Harbor Island.
The hotel has great views in most directions, either over a local marina or over the Coronado Bay and military base. Every room has a small balcony big enough for two adults to sit comfortably and every room is very spacious. The décor is in whites and blues to go with the maritime atmosphere and location.
The bathroom is where I personally had some trouble. My first two mornings at the hotel, I showered with no hot water whatsoever. I was freezing. Apparently, I was just unlucky as my other roommates didn’t have this problem, and on the third day, there was finally enough hot water for my section of the building during my shower.
All in all, this is a fine hotel. The staff were attentive and very aware that they wouldn’t see many people during the day due to the 30-minute shuttle ride needed to get to the convention center.
Speaking of which, the shuttles ran well and NBC did a great job of sponsoring the shuttles again. All busses were full charter busses with the air conditioning working overtime and the drivers being attentive. On our last day, we even had an apology from the person watching the line for our shuttle at the convention center because we might need to wait about 15 minutes, which was the average time expected between shuttles, anyway. They even got on to apologize for the crowding at the end of the block slowing our drive out. They were almost over-concerned with our needs.
Honestly, as long as you find a hotel with a shuttle ride you don’t mind, there doesn’t seem to be a bad hotel in the convention block for your needs.
This is where a lot of people run into a problem. Nineteen-in-twenty people, to be precise. Let me explain.
There is a lottery system in place that requires you to log into a virtual waiting room, and once that room is locked and the process begins, the people waiting are shuffled into a 100% random order. Between this system and the demand for badges every year, you have a one-in-twenty chance of getting any sort of badge; one day, full weekend, anything. For every 1 person that gets a badge, there is 19 more left disappointed.
Now that this has been explained, it’s the best system for a bad situation. With such high demand, there isn’t a better way I can think of to disperse badges as fairly as possible and prevent the convention from becoming the same 130,000 people every year in the building.
If you are one of the lucky few, Comic-Con International has streamlined the process very well. They have moved to a new RFID/paper combination badge that they will mail out to you about four weeks before the convention. If you forget or lose this badge, you will have to pay to replace it. I don’t know what that cost is because each of us were very careful NOT TO LEAVE THEM ANYWHERE!
After you arrive, you have the option of waiting for a registration bag and the convention guides, but if you’re halfway familiar with the building, this is a luxury you could afford to skip until things run smoother further into the day. Personally, I went on Preview Night for my extra gear and it was a walk-in process similar to what registration used to be. The choice is yours.
Comic-Con International is still leading the way with the smoothest registration process I know.
This building is long and old, but it is still one of the best suited for this convention experience.
The San Diego Convention Center was given a minor repair renovation to repair the façade and cracks in the concrete recently. You wouldn’t know any of that was a problem with how quickly staffers and vendors worked through the building.
The San Diego Convention Center has a decoration and theme fitting with its location near the water with sea greens and blues and concrete gray, and the time it was built. The building is obviously older, but San Diego has continuously put money into the building to at least keep it up to date. There are lots of windows on the second floor letting in a lot of natural light and giving you the chance to people watch the throngs who are wandering San Diego’s Gaslamp if you’re inclined.
The Salis Pavillion in the center of the second floor isn’t much more than a glass box with canvas overhead to block direct sunlight, but there is something special about that area and how it sits centrally to so many things going on. I would recommend it as a place to meet friends if you get separated.
If you crossed Vegas, Disneyland, and the Diamond Previews catalog… that might get you halfway to what to expect here.
It’s hard to put into words, but I’ll do my best. Most major businesses that go to San Diego Comic Con as exhibitors will put serious money into larger booths to make them practically interactive experiences without you having to buy anything right away. Marvel and DC have large screens and regular shows and signings; American Gods and Ash vs. Evil Dead had screens with footage and free swag; Fox always gives away posters and poster tubes to bring you to buy more; the Walking Dead always has a place for you to get photos with walkers; and Capcom lets you try games and buy exclusives.
This is just the beginning and doesn’t mention medium-and-smaller-tier vendors who have a plethora of items to fill out your collections and the Artist’s Alley filled with notable industry talent who are actually a lot of fun to interact with if you spend more than a few minutes with them.
It’s not a perfect experience, though. Getting exclusives from boothes with tickets requiring you to come back at a specific time can be a crucible and there are a lot of booths EVERYWHERE that have people lined up to buy something or get a signature. This creates a log jam that can really try your patience. Then there is the general crowding can be overwhelming, even for experienced conventioneers.
With that, said, do not give up. There’s so much to see and hidden gems everywhere that can really add some panache to your collection that you have to put in the time and see it through.
This is an area where most people have a problem. Most people have a problem with panels at conventions because they can’t find anything interesting; the problem with panels at Comic-Con is that people of a lot of different interests find so many panels that they end up having to make choices each day of what they want to see.
Personally, I had to make choices multiple times in every day’s schedule of what to see. Panels with Peter David, G. Willow Wilson, Kieron Gillen, Voltron, X-Men, Justice League, The Tick, The Expanse, and so many other items, I can’t list them here without giving you way too much to read. Just about every panel is entertainment or industry, so do not expect fan panels of any sort. This is one of the biggest nerd-related trade shows in the world, so don’t expect to see panels on your first cosplay, photography, or “why your anime sucks”.
And none of that has even dealt with Hall H; Comic-Con’s largest panel venue seating 6,500 people. This monster, assuming you can wait through the lines to get in, can be some of the most interesting panels you will see all weekend, but can easily eat up a day of your time and make you unavailable for the tens of other things happening that day.
You will need to plan your weekend like you are walking to Mount Doom… one wrong decision, and your party is in serious peril.
If you’re looking or cosplay, you should go to another convention.
As stated above, this is a gigantic trade show. San Diego Comic-Con doesn’t draw fans through fan events, but by offering a solid block of industry, celebrities, reveals, and exclusives, so people are less likely to wear costumes at Comic-Con.
Don’t misunderstand, it exists, but it is a pretty light part of the formula here. Between the sheer number of things to do and see, even as a people-watcher, I really didn’t see much. Sure, that could have been because I spend days bouncing between panels or inside Hall H, but what can you do? This is one of the few conventions where costumes is overpowered by everything else.
If cosplay is your thing at a convention, I would recommend Comikaze or WonderCon ahead of Comic-Con.
The city is almost as interesting as what goes on inside the convention center.
The Gaslamp is a section of Downtown San Diego that is littered with entertainment venues; galleries, pubs, restaurants, bars, comedy venues, band stages, symphony houses, movie houses, and a mall. You can feel a bit of history wandering between the brick buildings dotted with more modern eateries and venues. There’s even four corners that still have gas lanterns that are lit nightly.
There is a ton of third-party events happening during Comic-Con. A lot of companies rent spaces, stores, and restaurants and deck them out with different things that usually don’t require a Comic-Con badge to enter (though you may need to buy a ticket beforehand for these events). If you don’t happen to get a full-weekend Comic-Con badge, you can easily fill a day wandering the area for the up-to-30 things per day happening outside of the convention center.
The local restaurants are high quality. Despite your budget or prices you are looking for, there is a high likelihood you can find something to fit it, though you may need some patience to look for it if you didn’t do research on the area.
That doesn’t mean you can walk around with your nose in your phone. This area is already usually full of locals going from bar to bar for drinks, as well as a notable homeless population due to the temperate climate, so you should be wary, but there is also a large police presence and a lot of lighting and third-party events dotting the area. With some awareness, you should be all right.
If you think that because most of Comic-Con closes at 7:00 p.m., you’ll be left with little to do, San Diego has a lot to do and appreciate.
You can walk the Marina behind the convention center and either relax or look at the lines for the next day’s activities (assuming you aren’t in one of those lines). You could have a night as a foodie and find a restaurant to your liking. You could see if one of the local comedy venues has an open ticket for the night. You could go to one of the bars and talk with locals or other con-goers. (The Double Deuce even has a mechanical bull and a door with a life-size Patrick Swayze in it.)
This section of the city has a pretty unique feel, kind of like Main Street in Disneyland, but for adults and with less mouse-ear hats.
That being said, you should still keep an eye open. There’s some semi-aggressive homeless around and someone I knew had a bag stolen from them while they sat on a bench. Granted, the police recovered it (and they did great, fast work), but that means that there’s people that know that a lot of cash is in the area and will do their best to get a piece of it.
San Diego is not the most fan-friendly show. Actually, when it comes to fan-friendliness, this convention is pretty low on that scale. However, the convention more than makes up for it in unique experiences each and every year, opportunities to meet you favorite creators, and pick up items that will make you the envy of most of your fellow geeks.
Make your plans for 2017 and start making them now. If you wait too long, you’d be surprised how long it is before your chance to go disappears and you’ll spend another year reading the news, rather than watching it unfurl in it’s full glory.