Comic Con’s return to Long Beach

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Holy Comic Con Batman!

Droves of costumed enthusiasts and casual fans alike swarmed Long Beach’s inaugural Comic Con.

From Oct. 2 through Oct. 4, the Long Beach Convention Center hosted over 100 exhibitors and numerous artists. Popular companies such as Boom! Studios, Aspen and Top Cow came out to promote their latest products. Smaller businesses were also in the mix, like Phat Collectibles, Inc. pushing its exclusive Wolverine action figures.

The 56,000 square feet of retailers, publishers and artists buzzed with fanfare. This was an opportunity for comic lovers to enjoy hard-to-find publications and collectibles. Clasping his grandson’s hand, attendee Rennie Nunez said he kept an eye out for “unique stuff and unusual stuff that you don’t normally see at Walmart.”

Nothing was more unique than the horde of costume-donning enthusiasts. A friendly Poison Ivy manned the Barnes & Noble booth, while a few exhibits down, Batman, the Joker and Captain Jack obliged fans with pictures.

Attendees gleefully pointed at a “Star Wars” R2-D2 wheeling around the convention floor. William and Nikki Miyamoto masterminded the black and gold robot. The couple is a member of “The 501st Legion – Vader’s Fist,” a Star Wars costuming organization. Nikki Miyamoto said the droid is an ongoing project of five years. They spent countless nights going through ideas on how to power the jumble of wires and metal. Eventually, the couple settled on a scooter motor.

Now alive and kicking, R2-D2 even responds to questions with a preprogrammed “affirmative” or “negative.”

“I don’t know of any person that grew up knowing “Star Wars” that didn’t want an R2-D2 unit,” Nikki Miyamoto said. “So it’s pretty much a dream come true.”

Gadgetry continued with Nintendo’s flashy exhibit. The gaming powerhouse showcased “New Super Mario Bros.” for the Wii Fit Plus, the first four0player Super Mario game. Attendees also got to sample Nintendo’s other pre-released games such as “Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks” for the Nintendo DS.

Long Beach Comic Con’s organizer, MAD Exhibit, sought to distinguish itself by providing a venue for artists to showcase their talents.

“This convention itself has a little bit more of a nice, intimate feel with fans,” said Joel Gomez, an artist from WildStorm Entertainment. “You really get to kind of enjoy a one-on-one with them, and it isn’t as claustrophobic and busy as San Diego Comic Con can be, so that’s a bit of a treat.”

Household names like 60-year comic veteran Stan Lee, the co-creater of numerous Marvel superheroes, were on hand gracing the convention. Although fans clamored to meet celebrity artists like Lee, lesser-known artists also enjoyed their share of limelight. Some comic conventions position artists to the side of the room. MAD Exhibit set “artists alley” right smack in the middle.

For Mia Winn, creator of, the focus on artists was much appreciated. The upbeat artist takes pride in dot painting. Using acrylic paint, she “dips” and “dots” paint onto a canvas. Winn’s other forte is creating peg people, usually in the likeness of celebrities and superheroes.

A few rows across was Randy Grewal, a letterer and designer for the graphic novel, “The Unforgiveable.” A mosaic of dark, powerful colors, the book is a collaboration of artists from around the globe. Promoting the graphic novel at Long Beach’s Comic Con has paid off.

“It’s something new, something different. It’s kind of like something people have been asking for but haven’t had the chance to find it,” Grewal said.

Besides publications, collectibles and games, some exhibitors used the venue to screen movies. Actor Thomas Jane, best known for his portrayal of Frank Castle in “The Punisher,” debuted his first directorial to an audience of 350. The movie, “Dark Country,” played in 3D.

“It was a fantastic screening!” Jane said.

“The audience was really receptive, really great, and they really loved the film, and it was very rewarding for me being a first time film director to show it to an audience for the very first time in 3D.”

Long Beach’s inaugural Comic Con ended Sunday with great success. Exhibitors, artists and fans packed the convention floor. As Mia Winn waited for her latest dot painting to dry, she reveled at everyone’s enthusiasm.

“People who’ve come by have been all so great,” Winn said. “We’ll definitely be back next year.”

This article was updated at 10:04 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2009


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