Stan Lee’s Comikaze took place from Friday, November 1 through Sunday, November 3, 2013 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. In its third year, Comikaze is one of the largest and fastest growing comic and pop culture conventions in the nation, and Violet was able to attend on Saturday, November 2! Read on as Violet talks about her first experience at Stan Lee’s Comikaze!
Stan Lee’s Comikaze 2013
I have separated my post into sections, based on different topics, and on the various panels I attended. If you want to jump ahead to a particular section, just click on the corresponding link!
- Badge Pickup
- 9:30am Comic Book Law School 101, Room 301B
- 11:00am Lion Forge Comics Presents: Saved By the Bell, Room 306AB
- The Main Stage
- 12:00pm Alyssa Milano & Hacktivist, Main Stage
- 12:30pm Super-Heroines of Pop Culture, Room 301B
- Twitter Friends
- 2:00pm Stan Lee’s Mighty 7, Main Stage
- 2:30pm “Weird Al” Yankovic, Main Stage
- Lunch Time
- 3:00pm Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – On the Big Screen. World Premiere of TMNT Documentary!, Main Stage
- Stan Lee’s Mega Museum
- 4:00pm Michael Rooker, Main Stage
- Final Thoughts
I had known about Comikaze its first two years, but the list of panels just didn’t interest me or Josh enough to lure us in, even though we live in Orange County, so it wouldn’t have been a far trip. However, upon seeing this year’s list of panels, it was obvious by the caliber of celebrities that the show had noticeably grown. I would have liked to have gone all 3 days, as there were panels I was interested in each and every day, but unfortunately, due to work and other obligations, I was only able to attend Saturday. Josh wasn’t able to make it, so I was on my own.
I had heard that badge pickup was a major problem last year, causing long lines. This year, Comikaze tried to alleviate that by providing an option for early badge pickup, starting on Thursday, a day before the convention even started. Also, last year Comikaze was only a 2-day event, taking place only on Saturday and Sunday, while this year it expanded to a 3-day event to include Friday, so I think that helped, since not everyone was trying to pick up their badge on Saturday morning. Anyway, so you were able to pick up your badge as early as Thursday, and pickup lasted from 1pm to 7pm that day. Wanting to avoid having to stand in any lines on Saturday morning, and being that I work in Downtown Los Angeles, I went to pick up my badge on Thursday during my lunch break. Badge pickup also started 2 hours before the convention opened each day. It was easy. Just buy your ticket online ($25 for a one day pass, or $60 for all 3 days — though if you used promo code “FANGASM” you got 10% off), print it out, and bring it with you. They scan the bar code and give you your badge. Just like San Diego Comic-Con.
I decided that taking the train to Comikaze from Orange County would be the easiest way to get there. There’s a Metrolink/Amtrak station very close to my house, and I take the train to Downtown LA for work, so I’m very familiar with the route. Plus, I have a monthly pass, so transportation to and from Comikaze didn’t cost me anything, as gas and parking would have. The only problem was that trains don’t run so often on weekends as they do on weekdays, so the earliest train I could catch was one that was scheduled to arrive at Union Station at 8:50am. Once you get to Union Station, you have to transfer to the Red Line, and then the Blue Line, so it would be cutting it close for me to make it on time for the 9:30am panel I wanted to attend. Of course, my train was running about 15 minutes late, and then when I got to the LA Convention Center I got a little lost trying to find the room, but I was able to make it into the panel about 5 minutes late, and didn’t really miss anything.
9:30am Comic Book Law School 101, Room 301B
What you may not have known about me is that I am a licensed attorney, believe it or not! One of the things licensed attorneys have to do is earn CLE (Continuing Legal Education) credits, for which the Comic Book Law School panel provided 1 hour of credit. I’ve seen this panel offered before during other comic conventions, such as Wondercon and San Diego Comic-Con, and I’ve always wanted to attend, but there were always other panels going on that I wanted to go to more. There wasn’t really anything else going on at Comikaze on Saturday morning that I felt the need to go to, so I felt this was the perfect opportunity to get some free CLE, and in a subject in which I’m actually interested! Attorney Michael Lovitz provided an interactive discussion on copyrights and trademarks, and how they relate to the comic book world. It was mostly stuff I already knew, having studied those subjects in law school, but it was a good review! I’m not sure if it was supposed to only last an hour, but went over, or was actually scheduled for an hour and a half, but I had planned to go to the Multiverse, Multiplayer, and Multiethnic panel at 10:30am, and ended up missing it. That is one problem I found with the Comikaze programming schedule is that it only provided start times for panels, and not end times, so I wasn’t sure how long certain panels were supposed to be.
11:00am Lion Forge Comics Presents: Saved By the Bell, Room 306AB
I had to duck out of the previous panel at 10:55am to make sure I made it to this panel on time, as I was a huge fan of Saved By the Bell growing up, and was curious to hear about its transformation into a comic book. I made it just as they were letting a long line of people in, and followed them in. Luckily, there was one empty chair in the front row, which I was able to snag! So that is one benefit to going to cons alone, that you can get a closer seat! The panel was moderated by Jonathan London, and featured writer Joelle Sellner, editor Adam Staffaroni, and Mr. Belding himself, Dennis Haskins, who entered saying his famous catchphrase, “Hey hey hey hey! What is going on here?” followed by his trademark laugh.
We learned that the Saved By the Bell comic would include all of the original characters we know and love: Zack, Kelly, Slater, Lisa, Screech, Jessi, and of course, Mr. Belding, and that it would be set in present day. That means no more huge cell phone for Zack, as they’ll all have smartphones and use of the internet, and Screech will be a hacker. They’ll be bringing back some stories that you will recognize from the show, updating them to a modern setting, but they are also including new material as well. The Zack/Kelly/Slater love triangle will still be there, but now Zack has the internet to at hand to come up with new schemes of how to get Slater out of the picture. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re Mario Lopez), Slater will not have his curly mullet.
The first volume, consisting of 8 issues, will be digital, but if there is enough interest, then they will release those issues in print. That first issue will start on the first day of freshman year, with Slater being a newcomer, and the first volume will consist of the first semester of freshman year, then follow the gang chronologically, with the idea that future volumes would each contain each subsequent semester. They want to bring back characters that had an impact on the show, such as Violet Bickerstaff (Screech’s girlfriend) and Jeff at the Max, but they will spread those characters out. The creators of the comics are trying to make it “all ages,” but in the sense that there’s something for everyone, rather than just for children.
I really enjoyed this panel, as it was full of nostalgia and anecdotes from Dennis Haskins, who also shared some little known information about the show. For example, the original Mr. Belding was actually Oliver Clark, not Dennis Haskins. In the original Good Morning, Miss Bliss pilot, Clark played Mr. Belding, and Brian-Austin Green, Jaleel White, and Jonathan Brandis played the three male roles. Haskins also talked about how hard he fought for the role of Mr. Belding. He also brought up those episodes with Tori, explaining that Tiffany Amber Thiessen’s (Kelly) and Elizabeth Berkley’s (Jessi) contracts had run out, so they had to get Tori for the last 10 episodes of the show. Haskins also pointed out something that I never realized: Saved By the Bell: The New Class had twice as many episodes of the original Saved By the Bell! Another thing Haskins revealed was that Zack’s “Time Out” (which Sellner said would not be appearing in the comics!) was a direct rip off of Ferris Bueller! I never thought about it before, but Zack pretty much is Ferris Bueller! Haskins also talked about the fact that the show California Dreams was made as a result of the Malibu beach episodes, as the show producers realized that the best place for the group was the school, but thought that a different group could thrive at the beach. He also mentioned that the decision to move to the show to the beach for a summer was about getting the kids into bathing suits! (Even though the girls were only ever featured in one piece suits.) It was great hearing Haskins reminisce about his time on the show, his favorite episode (the raft episode), and the relationships he developed with the actors. However, he broke the hearts of everyone in the audience when he informed us that he didn’t think there would be a reunion episode. Apparently, they had already tried to get some sort of reunion on Jimmy Fallon’s show, but things didn’t work out, and Haskins thought that if there were ever a chance, that was it. Haskins also pointed out, however, that it would be too hard to do a reunion because the cast is just too successful!
The Main Stage
After the Saved By the Bell panel let out shortly before noon, I made my way down to the exhibit hall floor for the first time. As you enter the center doors to the floor, the Main Stage was located all the way at the back of the room. To my surprise, there were no chairs set up in front of the stage; rather, it was standing room only, as if this were a concert! Being a short person, I didn’t really like that idea, and considering that Comikaze is trying to be a family-friendly show, this seemed counterintuitive, as I’m sure any children had more trouble seeing than I did. To the right, you will see the Friday through Sunday schedule for the Main Stage, and below, you will see my first impression of the Main Stage, which had a large crowd in front of it and to the sides. That is the picture I got by holding my arm up as high as it would go.
12:00pm Alyssa Milano & Hacktivist, Main Stage
Since I was alone, I was able to weasel my way up near the front of the stage on the left side. The first panel I saw on the Main Stage featured Alyssa Milano talking about her upcoming graphic novel, Hacktivist, which will be available digitally in January 2014. Below you can read what Hacktivist is about. You can click on the image to make it bigger, if you need to. She also mentioned that the day before, her Twitter account had been hacked, so much to the point that Twitter had to shut down her account. But then she made a revelation to the crowd: her Twitter account had actually not been hacked, it had been her all along, using a creative marketing strategy to promote Hacktivist! If you go back and look at her tweets, you will find a secret code that you can use to unlock the website link that was left in the tweets. I had to leave this panel a little early to make sure I made it back upstairs in time for my next panel.
12:30pm Super-Heroines of Pop Culture, Room 301B
I made it back upstairs with a few minutes to spare, and there was a small line of people waiting to be let into the room. Although, like San Diego Comic-Con, rooms do not get cleared between panels, at Comikaze it seemed for the most part that people would go for one specific panel and then leave. It appeared that a line of people would form outside of a room to wait for the next panel, rather than enter the room ahead of time to camp out a spot. Soon, the previous panel ended, and everyone entered Room 301B, one of the smaller panel rooms. It ended up being standing room only! Good thing I got there a few minutes early to snag a spot in front.
The panel was moderated by Tony Kim (who I follow on Twitter @Crazy4ComicCon), and featured cosplayer Sarah Rodriguez, writer Megan Gotch (our Twitter friend, better known as @thenerdygirlie), cosplayer/writer Reena Leone, and Nikki Griffin (a former actress, who played Jess on The OC and appeared in Dukes of Hazard, and who now writes for Geek Magazine). It started off light, with the women talking about when they first embraced their “inner nerd,” but they quickly moved on to tackling tougher issues regarding female characters in a male dominated industry. One popular topic was Katee Sackhoff and her role in Riddick, as well as the fact that she played a character in Battlestar Galactica who had been a male character in the original series. They also acknowledged the void of female superhero movies, and the glaring absence of a Wonder Woman movie. The women each had varying opinions, which led to a lively discussion.
Following that panel, which ended shortly before 1pm, I introduced myself to Megan (@thenerdygirlie), which was exciting because we have been following each other on Twitter for awhile. Truth be told, the main reason I went to this panel was to support her. As we were leaving the room, I got to meet @cyberaug, another long time Twitter friend, who made a last minute decision to drive all the way from Albuquerque for Comikaze! Here’s a picture of @cyberaug, me, and @thenerdygirlie. Then I got to meet yet another Twitter friend, @SarJo87, and the four of us hung out for a bit, talking about nerdy things like Doctor Who, but then Megan kept getting recognized by her adoring fans! One of those fans was @pinkbunnyr and her husband, who we only recognized by the pink bunny rabbit she carries around. Since all of us follow @pinkbunnyr, and had no idea what she looks like, it was a fun surprise! After @pinkbunnyr and her husband left, the four of us headed down to the floor and were looking at Doctor Who merch, when who do we see but the con expert himself, @The_Con_Fluence and his wife! The six of us chatted for a little while, until we had to go our separate ways. That was pretty awesome though, meeting so many Twitter friends within the matter of an hour! And every one of them was super nice!
2:00pm Stan Lee’s Mighty 7, Main Stage
I then headed back over to the Main Stage to catch the last half of the Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 panel, featuring none other than Stan Lee himself. After all, this is Stan Lee’s Comikaze, so he makes sure to make an appearance for all the fans to see. The area around the stage was very crowded, a lot more crowded than it had been for Alyssa Milano earlier. Which is understandable – everyone wants to see the legendary Stan Lee in person! He had moved on to the Q&A portion of the panel by the time I got over there, but he made sure to keep mentioning his new animated film, Stan Lee’s Mighty 7, which will be on the Hub Network and feature an animated Stan Lee! The first thing I heard as I walked up was, “You silly person!” which is apparently a catchphrase of Stan Lee’s. Someone asked how to get a comic book deal, and he simply replied, “Write good stories.” Another person asked him who his favorite super villain was, and he said Dr. Doom, because he’s not really a criminal, he just wants to take over the world. He also shared with the audience that fact that he will “steal the show” when he appears once again on The Simpsons this January. An audience member tried to ask his opinion on a certain comic book character, but Stan Lee answered, “Any character that I didn’t make, I know nothing about and care even less!” Of course, he ended the panel with his trademark catchphrase: “Excelsior!”
2:30pm “Weird Al” Yankovic, Main Stage
Much of the crowd dispersed after Stan Lee’s panel, so I was able to get a lot closer for Weird Al’s panel, which was moderated by Dani, the winner of Syfy’s Fangasm. Weird Al shared the fact that he actually started off as an architecture major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The panel quickly launched into questions from the audience. Of all the songs he’s written, White and Nerdy is his favorite. As for TV shows, he likes Breaking Bad, and also said that Monty Python was a big influence on him growing up. One audience member asked him if he could freestyle something for us, but he admitted that he actually cannot freestyle, that all his songs were carefully crafted and a lot of thought went into them, so he wouldn’t be able to come up with something on the spot. As the Q&A continued, I ducked out early to grab some lunch, considering I hadn’t eaten anything since 7:30am.
It was about 2:45pm, so you would think the lunch crowds would have died down by this time right? Wrong! The food court was very crowded, and a little confusing. There was a sign listing various food options, I looked around, saw a line, and got in it. Well, when I got almost to the front of that long line, I realized that the line was specifically for burgers, and that there were other lines for the other options. I wasn’t about to try to go get in another line, so the line made the decision for me: a cheeseburger it would be! It cost $8.25. I had a refillable water container with me, so I didn’t have to buy a drink. Annoyingly, as I went to purchase my food, my line was only about 1/3 of the length it had been when I got in it. Then there were no tables to sit at, so I had to fight through the crowds to find a clear spot to sit against the wall, which was not easy to find either, even for 1 person! Right after I finished my burger, a nice custodian happened by and swept my trash into his dustpan.
3:00pm Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – On the Big Screen. World Premiere of TMNT Documentary!, Main Stage
By the time I made it back to the Main Stage, it was close to 3:30pm, and I caught the tail end of some footage from the TMNT documentary, of which they screened 8 minutes, where people talked about the impact that the Ninja Turtles had on their lives. Hearing them talk about that and seeing the action figures made me nostalgic, as I grew up watching TMNT. The main draw for the panel was Kevin Eastman, co-creator of TMNT, but also included producers of the documentary. The producers had to cut 250 hours of footage into a 94 minute movie. Their goal is to get the documentary to the big screen. We also learned that there might be an alternate cut of the 1990 TMNT movie coming out, so that would be interesting to see. Eastman recalled how no one wanted to make the original movie at first, as most studios viewed it as just a kids movie, so they had to prove that it was something that would appeal to everyone. Eastman also commented how nobody wanted to make the CGI movie either, so they had to go to Japan – and even they didn’t want to make it! There was also some audience Q&A, with someone asking about the amount of research the creators must have done on Japanese culture, but Eastman admitted he, in fact, did not do a lot of research on that. The panel consisted of a lot of nostalgia about making the original TMNT films, which was fun to listen to!
During this panel, I was trying to meet up with one last Twitter friend, @FutonAlliance, and I ran into @CyberAug again, who was trying to meet up with them too. @FutonAlliance is made up of several contributors, and we were able to meet 3, who were all very nice! I never expected to meet so many Twitter friends in one day! Nerds Unite!
Stan Lee’s Mega Museum
There was also a closed off section behind some curtains, which looked like it contained shelves of small figurines, but they said it was closed, though I’m not sure why. Next to Stan Lee’s Mega Museum was Elvira’s Spooky World. However, a signing with Elvira had started right before I went over there, so there was a long line of people in that area, and I was unable to investigate further. All I saw were some paintings off in the distance.
4:00pm Michael Rooker, Main Stage
After that, I headed back over to the Main Stage to catch Michael Rooker’s panel. Surprisingly, Jon Schnepp was the moderator. To the audience’s disappointment, Rooker was unable to reveal anything about his upcoming movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, other than to tell us that he had just finished shooting it 2 weeks ago with James Gunn, and that he would have a fin. Regarding his role of Merle in The Walking Dead, Rooker said it was a “dream come true role,” that landed in his lap, but that he had to fight for it. Although he appeared in several movies before The Walking Dead, such as Cliffhanger and Mallrats, Rooker said that The Walking Dead “created a renaissance” for him. When asked if he followed the comics before being on the show, he said he did not. He was also asked whether Merle would have moved into the prison if he were still on the show, to which he replied that he would be “out hunting squirrels! No way I’d be in that death trap!” Rooker then delivered a rapid fire Q&A with the audience, using more and more outrageous descriptions for each person he called on, and keeping his answers very lively. He ended the panel by taking off his hat and revealing his mohawk. The entire panel only lasted about 20 minutes, but it was highly entertaining. The timing worked out perfectly, as I had planned to leave no later than 4:30pm to make sure I made it to Union Station in time to catch the 5:10pm Amtrak home. Otherwise, the next train wasn’t until 7:30pm, and I didn’t really want to be wandering around downtown LA by myself at night.
You can tell that Comikaze has grown a lot over the past couple of years, and it’s nice to have an alternative to San Diego Comic-Con, but it is definitely no replacement for it. Although the star power was much better this year than previous years, it is still nowhere near the caliber of San Diego Comic-Con, or even Wondercon, which is odd, considering that it takes place in Los Angeles. It was definitely an eclectic list of panelists though. It does seem to be a very fan-centric show, however, as there were many fan led panels. I’m wondering if in future years these will get less and less as the show grows and is able to bring in bigger stars and studios, or if the show intends to remain a fan-centric show. I can’t complain though, as I had more than enough to do in one day. In fact, I felt like I didn’t have enough time to see all I wanted to see and that I needed an extra day. Due to my time constraints of the train, I barely had enough time to see all the panels I wanted to see, and did not have much chance to walk the floor.
Speaking of the floor, as I mentioned above in my comments on the Main Stage, I did not like how the Main Stage was located in the middle of the floor, and was standing room only. Because it was out on the floor, I felt that it gave license to people to talk through the panels, which would not have happened if it were in a room. If the show continues to grow and bring in even bigger stars, placing the Main Stage there could turn into a problem if too many people are trying to see the panel. As it was, I was having some trouble navigating around the Main Stage because of the vendors that were near it.
All in all, it was well worth the money. My costs for attending the show:
$23.50 ($25 One-Day Pass with 10% off with FANGASM promo code + $1 processing fee)
$ 8.25 Food (brought my own water)
$ 0.00 Gas (took the train, for which I have a monthly pass)
+ 0.00 Parking (took the train, for which I have a monthly pass)
Can’t beat that. Of course, it helps that I only live about 30 miles away. If I didn’t live in Southern California, I most likely would not have gone out of my way to attend. Looking forward to seeing how much they up the ante next year!
Any questions or comments about Violet’s experience at Stan Lee’s Comikaze? Let us know in the comments below!