By Christine Amarantus
Daily Titan Features Editor
Wonder Woman croons Divinylsâ€™ â€œI Touch Myself,â€ backed by comic book-loving rock band Kirby Krackle, as I walk into a darkened room in the Long Beach Convention Center. A man pulls off his shirt and whirls it over his head shouting along with the lyrics.
The room is filled with comic book artists just sitting around drawing and enjoying the occasional cocktail.
â€œThose are Aspen artists,â€ I marveled to myself. â€œThereâ€™s the guy who does â€˜Mouse Guard.â€™ And, oh my God, is that Darick Robertson over there drawing Spider Israel?â€
Such was the scene at Long Beach Comic Con, held last weekend, Oct. 2 â€“ 4.
Unlike major conventions like San Diego Comic-Con where geek community celebs are often only at panels and then quickly whisked away, Long Beachâ€™s first con was small, yet intimate and very surreal.
In its very first year, the convention snagged such guests as Stan Lee, Geoff Johns, Eric Roberts, J. Scott Campbell, members of the voice cast of the â€œPeanutsâ€ cartoons and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Berkley Breathed, creator of â€œBloom Countyâ€ which features Opus the penguin.
Breathed had never appeared at a convention before, and had only made one other public appearance.
At his presentation he announced his new work, â€œCranky, Scary, Sweaty Faeries,â€ poking fun at the surge of interest in sappy fairy art.
Actors Seth Green and Thomas Jane and comic bigwigs Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee wandered the exhibit hall floor intermingling with fans and checking out what dealers had to offer.
At the Saturday panel for the Cartoon Network show â€œRobot Chicken,â€ Green and toy wrangler Hugh Sterbakov praised Long Beach Comic Con for placing the Artist Alley section in the complete center of the dealer hall. At most conventions, Artist Alley is off to the side or in another room.
Artist Alley is a section set aside for independent artists to sell their comics, sketches and pieces and meet with fans while also exposing their work to new eyes.
Green and Sterbakov were, however, disappointed by the lack of â€œMagic the Gatheringâ€ cards.
In an interview with the Daily Titan, Green said about the convention, â€œI thought it was good. Itâ€™s small, so the floor is manageable. There wasnâ€™t a lot of action figures for sale beyond, like, â€˜Star Wars,â€™ so … a little variety wouldnâ€™t hurt.â€
Green and Sterbakov co-created the comic book â€œFreshmenâ€ which Sterbakov said is the â€œawesomest comic ever.â€
The story follows outcast first-year college students who, following a â€œtrademark superhero explosion,â€ Sterbakov explained, gain powers based on what they were thinking at the time of the explosion.
Of the convention, Sterbakov said, â€œItâ€™s third to â€˜Freshmen.â€™ I mean, thereâ€™s breathing, then â€˜Freshmen,â€™
then Long Beach Comic Con … Itâ€™s intimate. Itâ€™s a great place to be. I love the floor. I love the energy there. On the floor, you can smell comics which is awesome because you canâ€™t at other comic conventions.â€
The â€œRobot Chickenâ€ team is also working on their new show â€œTitan Maximum,â€ in which 100 years in the future the solar system has been colonized and Titan, a moon of Saturn, is guarded by a giant robot.
â€œWe just wanted to have fun and do a show like the giant robot shows that we grew up with in the â€˜70s, â€˜80s, â€˜90s, and that is â€˜Titan,â€™â€ said Tom Root, a writer, producer and voice actor for â€œRobot Chicken,â€ and also a co-creator of â€œTitan Maximum.â€
Upon hearing that my wingwoman, copy editor/â€œNerdgasmâ€ columnist Ashleigh Johnson, and I were from the Daily Titan, Rootâ€™s eyes lit up. The Daily Titan was going to be the name of the paper on the new show, but the idea was scrapped. What a shame.
The con featured screenings of Janeâ€™s movies â€œDark Countryâ€ and a black-and-white print of â€œThe Mist.â€
â€œDark Countryâ€ is Janeâ€™s directorial debut, starring himself, Ron Perlman and Lauren German. The film, which was shown in 3-D, hit shelves Oct. 6.
â€œIt was really, really rewarding. This is the most people who have ever seen the movie … the most people who have seen the movie (before Comic Con) was, like, 20,â€ Jane said.
Of the convention, the â€œPunisherâ€ star said he was enjoying it, most especially getting to show off â€œDark Country.â€
To be honest, Jane almost had me swooning just hearing his Southern accent. Following the â€œDark Countryâ€ screening, he threw out cast/crew shirts to audience members while biting down on a cigar in a very Wolverine-like way. Sigh.
DC Comics, Aspen, Top Cow, and Boom! Studios had their own Q&As with fans curious about what the companies might have in store.
â€œWeâ€™ve got all new stories featuring the Disney/Pixar characters everyone knows and loves,â€ said Chip Mosher, the marketing director for Boom! Studios, of the Boom! Kids division.
Fans at Boom!â€™s panel were pleased to hear the company will be reprinting classic Disney comics like â€œThe Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.â€
The conventionâ€™s programming director, Buddy Scalera, spoke proudly of Long Beach Comic Conâ€™s maiden voyage.
â€œWe got some great panels … Some amazing stuff is going on here,â€ he said.
Radio-TV-film major Francis Szyskowski was on hand for panels on professional wrestling, especially in conjunction with local company Mach One Wrestling.
â€œItâ€™s not as big as San Diego Comic-Con yet. Itâ€™s the first year,â€ he said about Long Beach Comic Con. â€œBut itâ€™s kind of like they trimmed the fat that got in the way … Itâ€™s actually kind of cool to not have to fight my way through 3,000 people in one little area.â€
Truthfully, Long Beach Comic Conâ€™s first year will always have a special place in this geek girlâ€™s heart. Though small, it was a mouse that roared.
Long Beachâ€™s convention center has been used for other fan conventions like Wizard World LA, in its first years, and Anime Expo.
Not wanting to only be known as a stepping stone for other cons that went on to set up shop in the larger Los Angeles facility next to Staples Center in downtown, the city really stepped up and put together a solid and very fun convention.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, held Oct. 2, superhero creator Stan â€œThe Manâ€ Lee, who had the honor of clipping the ribbon with comically large scissors, was presented with certificates designating Oct. 2 â€œStan Lee Dayâ€ in the city of Long Beach.
Kudos, LBC. You did it. You really did it.