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.