The Long Beach Comic Expo, a two-day supplementary show to the Long Beach Comic Con held in the fall, is exactly what you picture when you think of small, well-managed shows with a local focus. Crowds were manageable; cosplay came with both quality and quantity; and the exhibition hall was focused towards artists – those artists were local.
Sure, there were a few complaints: rooms were hot (not helped by an 80°+ day), the upstairs lobby/ticketing area had some bottlenecking issues – your typical con problems. But with a thoroughly impressive commitment to local talent and the comic arts, LBCE seems to be on the right track.
Parking was, as it always is in Long Beach, unpleasant. That’s no fault of the con, but maybe if we complain loud enough the convention center will fix their website that says “enter at Linden Ave & Shoreline” when you really need to enter from Pine & Seaside… or at least provide better signage. $10 parking, no in/out privileges. Fortunately it was a fairly light day for the convention center and the close parking lot was open for attendees; unfortunately it’s still at least a five minute walk between the entrance and the parking lot.
Ticketing was about as quick as it could be. Wait times at opening (10:00am) were 5-10 minutes at most. Peak arrival time seemed to be around noon – this is very much a local show, and as is the style in SoCal, the locals took their time rolling in. A minor nitpick that’s more of a personal preference: weekend attendees got badges & lanyards while single-day attendees got wristbands. I much prefer badges, since they’re easier for con staff to see and (in my opinion) more comfortable.
Not that the convention center staff had any problems identifying my wristband – in fact, these were probably the nicest staffers I’ve encountered at a con. Some employees downstairs gleefully jumped into photos with cosplayers. Even the gentleman posted at the door of the exhibit hall was in good spirits!
With panel rooms and the exhibit hall separated by the small upstairs lobby, the event felt intimate without the sacrifice of quality of vendors or quantity of panels that you usually see in that situation. On the other hand, the combination of being on the second floor and the small upstairs lobby meant the usual gathering of cosplayers was split between the first and second floors. Plus, the somewhat uncomfortable temps inside drew other cosplayers outside, gathering near the Star Cars (custom movie replica cars) display in front of the convention center.
Small but efficient: filled mostly with local artists instead of the typical generic t-shirt hawkers. Is it not a con to you until you’ve loaded up on 50¢ comics? There were plenty of vendors for that, too. None of the major publishers have a presence here, and you know what? It seems most people like it that way. Bonus: aisles roomy enough to allow for stopping to chat with friends (as I did!). A+, 10/10, would walk show floor again.
Content was hit and miss, but find me a con where it isn’t. The comic panels were reportedly very good, and the other panels I attended ranged from mediocre to very good. A panel on web series and other fan content was a little haphazard – aside from an interesting preview of upcoming fan project Star Trek Axanar, the panel wasn’t as focused on “superheroes and sci-fi on the web” as had been described. The “cosplay is not consent” panel similarly veered off course, but not until after the main issue had been addressed (and the consensus from the panel was: just be cool to each other and report creepers to staff and everything will be fine). A late afternoon panel featuring a game of Cards Against Humanity was as entertaining as your average game of CAH – with some fun geek-themed cards thrown in.
As mentioned, there was tons of cosplay, plenty of it of the semi-pro variety. Pretty much every major franchise was represented (including sci-fi, even though this show is much more comic oriented). As a bonus, the big glass windows at the front of the convention center provide pretty good light for indoor photos – great news for the casual fan photographer. Considering the size of this con, the sheer amount of cosplay was pretty impressive.
Did you see that sign on the door that said “no outside food or drink?” Yeah, I ignored that too. There was food available in the lobby (I’ll award extra points if you snuck into the tea & beverage conference downstairs and grabbed a drink). Better, directly across the street (not even a five minute walk) is The Pike, a major dining & entertainment development that offers tons of restaurant choices. It really doesn’t get more convenient that that.
The Long Beach Comic Expo continues Sunday, June 1 at the Long Beach Convention Center. Tickets are $10; parking is $10. Show hours on Sunday are 10:00am – 4:00pm.