From a jaw-dropping group of steampunk Star Wars bounty hunters to an eyebrow-raising Flo from Progressive insurance, the Long Beach Comic Expo successfully brought out a crowd that has long defined the comic-con tradition.
Saturday morning, the lines of fans ready to be immersed in the world of comic books, video games, TV and film began to move as the 10th annual LBCE kicked off at the Long Beach Convention Center.
This year, however, a unique theme resonated with the expo’s attendees – its orchestrated focus on comics and promoting a family-friendly atmosphere.
“[The Long Beach Comic Expo] feels more inclusive,” said cosplayer Lindsey Tucker, 29. She said that other cons she’s been to haven’t compared.
Dressed in her custom black and red “BatQuinn” cosplay, Tucker attended LBCE for the first time along with her husband Marvel Tucker, 30. In the same vein, Marvel opted to showcase his two favorite comic characters with “The Hooded Joke,” a handmade cosplay of the Red Hood’s outfit with the Joker’s theme of green, purple, black and white.
“It’s a smaller family environment than giant cons where it’s crazy and you have to run to this place and run across this way,” Lindsey Tucker said.
It’s no secret that in recent years, the comic books and related media industry has boomed with films such as Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” smashing multiple global box office records. As a result, comic conventions have increasingly opted to plan their shows around these mainstream blockbuster works and their star-studded casts.
This year’s Long Beach Comic Expo, however, was a well-received contrast.
After several years of efforts by the expo’s organizers to join in on this meta of expanding the show to be flashier, there has been a concerted effort in the past 18 months to have this year’s event take a more niche approach.
Led by Martha Donato, MAD Event Management LLC founder and president, the floor and programming of LBCE were adjusted to focus on comics. Additionally, the changes were designed to produce an environment closer to a relaxed celebration among friends and family within the comics world rather than an intense foot race to experience the best stuff.
“It takes us time to implement when we have a strategy,” Donato said. “This is the end result of a plan to intentionally make this really focused.”
The changes were apparent throughout the convention center and seemed to hit home with those such as Norm Harper, 40. A writer and publisher of family-friendly graphic novels under his own brand, Karate Petshop, Harper has been a vendor at the expo for six years.
“Some cons can be a little bit more ‘Hollywooded-up.’ Like, ‘Hey, we got this person from this movie. We got this person from this TV show,’” Harper said. “Those cons are great too, but I feel like the Long Beach crowd is more about comics.”
While some of the superhero punches may have been pulled as a part of this effort, it wouldn’t be fair to say that this year’s LBCE failed to attract renowned guests within the industry.
With over 314,000 Instagram followers, Ivy Doomkitty was one of the popular cosplayers signing autographs and taking photos with fans at the expo.
“[The Long Beach Comic Expo is] more of a home convention for me,” said Doomkitty, cosplaying as Mary Jane from Spiderman. “There’s a lot of familiar faces. There’s a lot of new faces in addition to the staff that feel like family as well. It’s always nice to kick off my convention season working with them.”
As a Latina idol in the pop culture world for her past cosplays including Dr. Doom, Bowsette and Psylocke, Doomkitty has been invited to many conventions for her panels discussing and promoting body confidence.
“As the years have passed, you see so many more cosplayers from all walks of life,” Doomkitty said. “When I first started, there really wasn’t. There was a specific skin color that was celebrated and there was a specific body type, so you didn’t really see a lot of Latinas cosplaying then.”
Regardless of the size and scope of the expo, however, this year’s attendees showed that comics and pop culture have retained a special level of admiration by its inviting community.
That community includes Michael Mittleider, 43, owner of the Pasadena-based pop cultural media company NERDBOT. This was his fifth year cosplaying and livestreaming NERDBOT’s Facebook live show at LBCE’s social square.
“Growing up in the ‘80s, if you [said] you were a nerd or a geek, it was kind of frowned upon,” Mittleider said. “I loved comics in the beginning. I loved the [Teenage Mutant Ninja] Turtles. I loved the Transformers. I loved Marvel. I grew up in that era, but when [I] got older, it’s more mainstream. It’s for everybody. It’s not just when you’re a 7-year-old kid.”
Watch our video coverage of the event here: