With over 150 guests, 100+ panels, a huge artist alley, numerous vendors, and much more, attendees had a lot to choose from at Long Beach Comic Con 2016, which took place at the Long Beach Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday, September 17-18, 2016.
MAD Event Management, LLC puts on two comic conventions in Long Beach each year: Long Beach Comic Expo in the Spring, and Long Beach Comic Con in the Fall. Last year was our first time attending Long Beach Comic Con, and this past February was our first time attending Long Beach Comic Expo. We enjoyed ourselves at both events, so were looking forward to attending Long Beach Comic Con 2016, especially when the Firefly guests were announced.
We got a bit of a later start on Saturday, which was the only day we would be able to attend, arriving around noon. Upon seeing a tweet that someone had waited at the same traffic light for 30 minutes before parking, and then looking at traffic on Google maps and seeing the street alongside the Long Beach Convention Center backed up, we opted to park at the Pike parking structure a few blocks away, rather than deal with trying to get to the Arena parking lot, even though this year LBCC was not using the main entrance (as it did last year), and instead was using the back entrance, as they had for Long Beach Comic Expo earlier this year. It meant a bit further of a walk, but we’re long distance runners (currently in training for the Long Beach Half Marathon), so that wasn’t a big deal for us.
As we approached the entrance, we noticed a very long line snaking pretty far back. This line turned out to be the line to pick up tickets purchased online. The courtyard out front had several iconic vehicles on display, such as Jurassic Park vehicles, the Blues Brothers car, and a Delorean. There were also a few food trucks parked there as well. As Press, we were able to walk through the front doors without waiting in the long line, and were directed down the hall to the Press check-in desk. As we walked in, we noticed there were booths at which you could purchase tickets on site, one booth for cash, the other for credit/debit — neither of which had long lines, maybe only one or two people waiting. When we got to Press registration, there were about 5 or 6 people in line in front of us, so check in went quickly and smoothly for us. We were given clip on Press badges to wear. It turned out that only Press, Professionals, and Exhibitors were given badges, while attendees were given wristbands.
We went inside the Exhibit Hall and walked up and down the aisles. Exhibitors included Aspen Comics, Top Cow Productions, and Con Man, just to name a few, as well as various retailers selling geeky collectibles, jewelry, and clothing. The Columbia Memorial Space Center was back again this year with its Space Expo section, featuring astronaut suits, various activities for children, and Star Wars droids on display, including BB-8. Continuing on, we discovered a gaming area where you could play board games, a laser tag area, and a video game area where you could play videos games on a large, inflatable screen. On the other side of the Exhibit Hall was Cosplay Corner, featuring various cosplayers, such as Vegas Power Girl, and cosplay groups like The Marvel Report and Agents of COSPLAY. Also on this side of the Exhibit Hall were Celebrity Signings. We walked down an aisle where we saw Sam Jones (Flash Gordon), Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester (Batman: The Animated Series), and Tommy Walker (Daredevil) signing autographs, and a few others. The back wall was where the Firefly cast members were signing, but at that time only Summer Glau was at her booth. Meanwhile, the center of the Exhibit Hall featured a huge Artist Alley.
When we had pretty much finished walking the floor, I remembered there was a panel I was interested in seeing, Cosplay Comedy, but I couldn’t remember what room it was in or what time it was supposed to be. We hadn’t been given program guides when we checked in, so I tried to pull up the schedule on my phone, but neither I nor Josh had very good cell service, which was odd, since we hadn’t had trouble at the past events we had been to at this venue. We went over to the Information desk and picked up a program guide there. It turned out that the panel started at 1:00pm, which was just a few minutes away, so we headed down. It was in a fairly small room, which was pretty much full, and people were standing along the walls, so we stood at the back as well. Basically it was people in cosplay doing stand up comedy as the character that they’re cosplaying as. First was Spider-Man, who seemed to be the host, then next up was Princess Leia. But after her was Voldemort, and seeing as how Josh and I are in the middle of watching the Harry Potter series for the first time, we didn’t want to hear any spoilers, so we headed out in search of food.
As I mentioned earlier, there were a few food trucks parked in the courtyard out front. There were also a couple parked along a side entrance. All options seemed to have ridiculously long lines. So we ended up deciding on getting in line for the restaurant inside the convention center, since there were only 4 food options, and seemed like it was on sort of an assembly line, so logically that would be the quickest, right? And at least we would be inside instead of standing in the sun outside. Well, it felt like the slowest moving line ever. By the time we reached the front and got our food, it was almost 2:00pm, so we ordered it to go so that we could take it downstairs and keep an eye on the line for the Firefly panel.
Originally, we had planned on going to both the Con Man and Firefly panels, which took place at 2:30pm and 3:30pm respectively, back to back in the same room, “Knerds of the Round Table,” or Ballroom A/B. However, on Friday night, Long Beach Comic Con had posted the following announcement on their Facebook page:
Important update regarding panels for tomorrow:
Saturday, September 17
1. Ballroom A/B will be cleared between panels starting at 1:30 p.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m.
2. New lines form 1 hour max before panel start time, beginning at 12:30 p.m.
3. Consumer passes allowed entry before exhibitor passes.
This announcement was also posted at all of the ticket pick-up booths and on the doors of Ballroom A/B. This significantly changed our plans for the day. We had to make a Sophie’s Choice. If they were going to be clearing the room after the Con Man panel, I didn’t want to risk not getting in for the Firefly panel. So we decided to concentrate our efforts on the Firefly panel. According to the new policy, the line for the Firefly panel would not be allowed to form until an hour before the panel, so that would be 2:30pm. We finished eating our food around 2:15pm, while sitting near the Con Man line, which was in a roped off area outside of Ballroom A/B. This line extended outside, and snaked back and forth a couple of times. We tried to look around for someone in charge of the line management to ask about the Firefly line, but if there was any such person, it wasn’t obvious who they were. We then ventured outside to see if there was some sort of “unofficial” line anywhere, but it was all one long line. Other people came outside and someone asked a couple of men who had recently gotten in line if they were in line for Firefly, but the men replied that they were in line for Con Man.
After watching the line grow, and seeing no one around giving any sort of directions about the line, we decided to go ahead and join the line, thinking that they would eventually have to cap the room, and guessing that the line would then become the Firefly line. The line continued to move for a few minutes, and sure enough, it stopped for awhile, which we assumed must have meant that the room was at capacity. Then around 3:10pm, the line started moving again, which we thought was odd, considering that the Con Man panel was supposed to be 2:30pm-3:30pm, so it was still going on, and it’s not like they could have miraculously found more seats. But then upon going through the doors back into the building, we were informed that LBCC would NOT be clearing the room after Con Man after all! Instead, they had left the doors to the room open, and were allowing attendees to stand in the lobby and watch and listen in. There was already a huge crowd, and we couldn’t see or hear anything, so we opted to sit down against the wall and at least wait until 3:30pm, just in case they decided to clear the room after all. I overheard a girl in front of me saying how she had paid $35 for a ticket and driven “all the way out to Long Beach” (not sure where from) just for the Firefly panel, and that she had talked to someone with LBCC earlier in the day about lining up for Firefly, who had informed her that the line for Firefly would not be allowed to form until 2:30pm, and that when she specifically asked this person, “So that means I have to choose between Con Man and Firefly?” that person had confirmed that that was the case. As mentioned above, this had been our understanding of the policy as well.
3:30pm rolled around, and the Con Man panel concluded. The room was not cleared. I saw only a very small handful of people leave the room, while the crowd waiting outside in the lobby pushed forward into the room, hoping to find seats. I’m guessing only a very few were lucky. This at least let me get to the front of the crowd standing outside. However, we were told that there had to be a certain amount of space outside the doors of the room, and that the crowd standing outside would have to move back to where the pillars were. So we followed the directions and did so. Of course, then other people came and stood in front of us in this wide open space, and we got pushed back further. Meanwhile, people kept coming up and asking about the room being cleared, and the volunteer manning the doors had to keep giving the bad news, and telling people that she was just a volunteer and didn’t have anymore information.
Anyway, so the Firefly panel, consisting of Adam Baldwin (Jayne), Nathan Fillion (Mal), Summer Glau (River), Jewel Staite (Kaylee), and Sean Maher (Simon) started up, with me standing outside the room. Josh opted to go off to the side. I could hear some of what they were saying, but it was very hard to hear. I would catch parts of the conversation, but not all.
The subject of Jayne’s character came up, and Nathan Fillion expressed his disbelief about the fact that even though it was evident that Jayne would screw you any chance he got, millions of people love him anyway. In response, Adam Baldwin talked about how he was afraid that Joss Whedon would kill Jayne off, so he decided to make him lovable. Fillion also mentioned that he used to give Summer Glau a hard time on set, so he wanted to check in with her to find out if it helped prepare her for “the real world” as he intended. Glau confirmed that it did, and told Fillion, “I can’t thank you enough.” Jewel Staite was telling a story about her and Sean Maher being out to dinner the night before, but I couldn’t hear the details. The moderator soon opened it up to audience questions — which I could not hear at all. Apparently one of the audience questions was about fan fiction, and it was revealed that the audience member had written some fan fiction about Jayne and Kaylee, to which Staite seemed exasperated to find out that this young woman was responsible for that!
After that, since I couldn’t hear the audience questions at all, and therefore had no idea what the panelists were responding to (if I could actually hear them), it seemed pointless to continue standing in the crowd outside the room. We had originally planned on leaving after the Firefly panel anyway, since we had somewhere to be afterward, so we decided to go ahead and leave early.
It seems like Long Beach Comic Con continues to grow, and that they are able to secure more and more higher profile guests. We’ve had a good time at their shows in the past, and they consistently offer a wide variety of things to see and do, so we’re hopeful that they can learn from their growing pains and put on an even better show next time.
Long Beach Comic Expo takes place February 18-19, 2017, while next year’s Long Beach Comic Con will be September 2-3, 2017, which is Labor Day weekend.
Check out more pictures from Long Beach Comic Con 2016 in our photo gallery below!