Long Beach Comic Expo: Five Things We Love About Small Conventions
See more photos in Dianne Garcia's gallery "Long Beach Comic Expo 2011."
As fan conventions gain increasingly more mainstream attention, with focus leaning towards the biggest events of the year, it might be easy to forget the smaller gatherings dedicated primarily to comic books. On April 23, though, comic book fans headed towards the southern edge of Los Angeles County for the second annual Long Beach Comic Expo. An offshoot of Long Beach Comic and Horror Con (formerly Long Beach Comic Con), the one day event featured no hype, just a chance to pick up new reading material, learn a few things and maybe meet some of your favorite artists.
Long Beach Comic Expo, we should clarify, is tiny, despite the fact that it takes place at the Long Beach Convention Center. Instead of using the main exhibit hall that they open for the October event, artists and exhibitors set up in a ballroom. There were two meeting rooms set aside for panels. The crowd was roughly similar in size as what you might find at a hotel convention, but spread out in a large venue. As much as we love the excitement of the year's biggest conventions-- for Southern California residents, those are Anime Expo and San Diego Comic-Con, both of which take place in July-- Long Beach Comic Expo reminded us why we should never ignore the small ones.
At Long Beach Comic Expo, we spent some time talking with artists Nathaniel Osollo and Evan Spears, who were sharing a booth. Osollo is the creator of 140, a comic based on tweets sent to him. Spears is the co-creator of Chafed, a title that personifies the Internet. Later on, we bought a copy of the one-shot Deadtective and had the creators sign it.
As conventions grow larger and become more popular, up-and-coming artists can fade into the background. The cost of booths may become too expensive for artists without much financial backing. Sometimes sections usually reserved for independent and self-published comics can shrink, or are simply obscured by the massive swag offerings of large companies. Small conventions provide much-needed exposure for comic creators working outside of the mainstream.
2. You Can Be Spontaneous
One thing that happens every time we go to the larger conventions is that we make a game plan. We usually don't stick to the plan, but we make it anyhow. Writing down what booths you want to visit and what panels you want to see can help when you're dealing with sprawling venues and massive crowds.
At small conventions, though, you can play everything by ear. Space is easy to navigate and lines are almost non-existent. You don't have to tell yourself that you need to show up way too early just to get inside the venue or that you need to line up for the panel you really want to see hours beforehand.
Saturday morning, I figured I should check out a voice acting panel. It was at 11 a.m., which is kind of early considering that Long Beach is always much further away from me than I think it is. Regardless of the fact that I was running late, I was able to get through the non-line for a press badge and make it down to the panel just as it was starting. I can't imagine that happening at something like Anime Expo or SDCC.