Arts & Life, Events

Community, cosplays and comics: Long Beach Comic Con 2019

Multiples of Harley Quinn, the Joker, and characters from “Stranger Things” weaved through the crowd at the 11th annual Long Beach Comic Con held at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center. 

Creators, programmers, writers, engineers and fans gathered to celebrate comic books, cosplay and the growing “nerd culture.”

Attendees lined up at the entrance at least an hour before the doors opened, eager to enjoy what the convention had to offer. In front of the entrance was a car show that showcased famous vehicles from film and television. Some of the recognizable cars included Bumblebee from “Transformers” and the Jeep Wrangler from “Jurassic Park.” 

The founder of Star Car Central, Nate Truman, stood out front with the cars. His company and its members are a car club that builds street legal cars from their favorite shows and films.  

“All of our childhood stories are similar,” Truman shared about the members.

He mused about his childhood, emphasizing his love for Batman and the Batmobile, which would later be the first car he built and showcased. Though Truman recognized that building cars is typically an individual endeavor, the club provides a community for other enthusiasts. 

Another member, Justin Wu, stood dressed as Spider-Man next to his Spider-Man inspired car. Wu joined the club this year for Comic Con to spread awareness of what Wu believes superheroes can do. 

Justin Wu, who is a surgeon at Kaiser Permanente, cosplays as Spider-Man at Comic Con 2019 in Long Beach, Aug. 31. Gabriel Islas/Daily Forty-Niner

Wu, who is a surgeon for Kaiser Permanente, founded Healing Little Heroes Foundation in 2017, a foundation dedicated to serving children with cancer and other illnesses, who Wu said are the real heroes. On his days off, Wu dresses as a number of popular comic book characters, from Batman to Captain America, and surprises children inside hospitals.

“I help them heal emotionally and psychologically,” Wu said. 

Inside the convention center and down the escalators were dozens of vendors that sold merchandise from Funko Pop figures to comic books. 

One of the guests invited to  Comic Con was actor Matty Cardarople who recently portrayed Keith in Season 3 of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” Cardarople admired the car from “Ghostbusters” showcased through Star Car Central outside, before commenting on his time on “Stranger Things.”

“Absolutely incredible. It was like a dream come true,” Cardarople said. 

Inside Comic Con were two employees from Long Beach State, 49er Shops lead Robin Nixon and engineering lecturer Walter Martinez. Nixon, dressed as Tiana from “Princess and The Frog” was joined by her friend Alexis Lujan, dressed as Charlotte La Bouff from the same film. This was Nixon’s fourth year at the event and Martinez’s third. 

Further inside sat the WWE’s Solofa Fatu Jr., better known as Rikishi. Rikishi represented KnokX Pro Entertainment, an academy based in Van Nuys that trains wrestlers. Next to Rikishi’s booth sat a caged ring where students of KnokX Pro performed. It gave the students an opportunity to perform with an audience and be critiqued by Rikishi afterwards.

Vickie Guerrero, another WWE wrestler, attended Comic Con for the first time this year. Guerrero often portrays a villainous persona that leads fans to be surprised by her cheery demeanor.

“I love talking to the fans. I love to see all the costumes,” Guerrero said. 

In front of Guerrero was Megan Schum who has attended Comic Con every year for the past five years. Schum loves the event because of the cosplay and wore an original creation that she named “Rainbow Shine,” complete with a horn and rainbow hair.

Like Schum, dozens of individuals and families dressed as their favorite characters. Tony Martinez works full time, but found an escape in cosplay since he started one year ago. Dressed as Clayton Carmine from the popular video game “Gears of War 3,” Martinez said his costume took six months to finish and cost over $1,000. 

Tiffany Nelson and her daughter Adaligh Nelson (left) cosplay as a superhero team at Long Beach Comic Con, Aug. 31. Austin Brumblay/Daily Forty-Niner

Besides the vendors were 15 programs and seven exhibitions offered throughout the day, including “The Art Nerd of Theatre” and “Fan Films-Marvel and DC.” Comic Con 2019 made a notable effort to push inclusivity with panels like “Enter: The Latina Superhero,” “GeekFest’s Women of Sci-Fi and Horror” and “Space Expo Presents: Space Unites: LGBTQ+ Community.”   

In “Space Expo Presents: Space Unites: LGBTQ+ Community,” a panel of LGBTQ+ employees at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory shed light on their experiences in a field that is traditionally conservative. Panel member and mechanical engineer Jeff Megiverm summed up the topic of sexual and gender orientation with one simple statement.

“Space doesn’t care. The rock doesn’t care,” he said.

R2-D2 made an appearance at this year’s Long Beach Comic Con. The remote controlled droid greets visitors outside the convention center, Aug. 31. Austin Brumblay/Daily Forty-Niner

This article previously reported inaccurate information, it was corrected Sept. 9, at 1:49 p.m.

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