Con Report: Long Beach Comic Con 2009

Long Beach Comic ConThis Saturday I attended the first-ever Long Beach Comic Con. I had a great time catching panels, meeting writers and artists, talking about comics, sightseeing, and even breaking some Flash news. I can definitely see this as an annual event.

Note: If you just want to look at photos, feel free to skip to my Long Beach Comic Con 2009 photo set on Flickr.

Location

It’s been at least ten years since the last time I’d been to the Long Beach Convention Center*. I didn’t recognize the building the con was in at all (and I’m sure the shopping mall across the street wasn’t there before), though the facade and lobby reminded me a lot of the San Diego Convention Center with the arched ceiling and floor-to-roof windows. It made me wonder whether they had been designed by the same architect.

With a mall across the street to the west, Shoreline Village across a bridge to the south, and Downtown Long Beach across the street to the north — not to mention the food service in the lobby not being swamped — I really regretted having brought my lunch with me. Though it probably did save time, since I had panels I wanted to see from noon until 2:00. If I’d wanted to go to, say, the Auld Dubliner (right across the street! Auughh!), I would have only had about half an hour on the convention floor that morning.

*Not counting plays at the Terrace Theater. Though the last thing I saw there was a touring production of Miss Saigon in 2003, about two days before the start of the Iraq War. Talk about timing.

Main Hall

I think the main floor was about the same size as the floor at Wizard World Los Angeles the last couple of years — or rather, the amount of floor space they used was about the same. (Last year WWLA had a large empty space in the back.) Exhibitors were clustered around the entrance, mostly indie press (I remember Boom, Archaia, and Aspen) and a large Nintendo exhibit. The center of the room was dominated by the Artist’s Alley, with dealers wrapped around it and celebrities lining one wall.

In the back, inexplicably, was a raised wrestling ring. I didn’t notice it when I went through in the morning, but in the afternoon, when they were actually holding wrestling matches, it was loud! Halfway down the hall, you could hear the *smack!* *thud!* as the wrestlers threw each other to the floor. I figure the floor of the ring and the convention center floor must have made a fantastic sounding board!

I got in about 20 minutes after the con opened for the day, so if there were any huge lines I missed them. The artists’ tables were practically empty (they came in later), and most of the action seemed to be at the publishers’ booths and dealers. There was a big line for Jim Lee, and people were lining up for Stan Lee and Berkeley Breathed signings at 11:00.

Unlike San Diego, though, I could walk around without relying on Level 18 Crowd Weaving!

I made a half-hearted effort to look for some of the Golden-Age Flash comics on my list, but I knew I wouldn’t find much. Dealers just don’t seem to bring readers’ copies of golden age books to conventions — or if they do, they’re the rarer ones (like, say, late in the run of Flash Comics) that they can charge $95 for. In the end I picked up a couple of half-priced trades from a series I’ve been meaning to read.

There weren’t a whole lot of people in costume, at least not by San Diego or WonderCon standards. Though I suppose it’s probably about the same percentage of attendees. One thing I noticed is that I’m actually tuning out a lot of the Star Wars costumes, particularly Stormtrooper and Mandalorian variations. There was a gold-painted Boba Fett who walked past me about five times, and not once did I try to take a photo.

Annoyingly, I couldn’t get any signal at all on my phone in the exhibit hall. In the lobby? No problem. On the mezzanine balcony? Just fine. In the programming rooms? Sporadic. Enough to pick up text messages, but not necessarily enough to post.

Panels: DC Nation & Mark Waid

The two panels I hit were DC Nation and “50 Questions in 50 Minutes With Mark Waid.”

I got to DC nation just before it started, and given the relative lightness of the crowd I was surprised to find it almost full. The panel started out with two announcements, one about Flash and one about Outsiders. The cell signal lasted just long enough for me to break the Flash news on Twitter.

The rest of the panel was question and answer format. I’m used to Q&A panels having a microphone set up in the audience, with people lining up to ask their question. This time, Ian Sattler walked around the room with a cordless mic, and people with questions raised their hands. I asked about plans to reissue the collections from Geoff Johns’ initial run on the Flash. A lot of them are out of print and hard to find, even online. “No plans at this time.” *sigh*

Anyway, I’ve written up the Flash news from the panel elsewhere, and CBR & Newsarama have decent writeups of the whole panel.

The Mark Waid Q&A started out with very few people in the audience, but filled in to maybe 1/3 of the room by the end. A screen up at the front of the room displayed the title, some cover art from Incorruptible, and a timer. They had a bunch of questions that had been submitted ahead of time online, and every few minutes they opened to questions from the floor.

Questions ranged from the standard (“What’s going on with X series?”) to the personal (“What’s your favorite beer?” — it’s not beer, vodka.) to the insightful. One that I found fascinating was his answer to the question, “Do you write every day?” He explained that no, he writes every other day, because he finds that he writes better if he writes one day, then takes time off to recharge. For writers, he made the suggestion that you shouldn’t necessarily follow someone else’s method of writing: you should find the method that works for you and embrace it. For his write-every-other day method, it wouldn’t do any good to beat himself up and feel guilty about the days that he’s not writing.

By the end, he managed to answer 56 questions in 50 minutes.

Signings

I looked over the guest list before coming, and decided I’d try to get things signed by Mark Waid and Geoff Johns. I’d gotten Waid to sign The Unknown #1 in San Diego largely by accident, and Johns had signed the first three issues of Flash: Rebirth. For Geoff Johns, I figured I’d bring Rebirth #4 and the variants I had since picked up to make a complete set. For Mark Waid, I figured I’d bring the first issue of The Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh and dig through back issues for some sort of milestone issue. I ended up bringing Impulse #1.

Unfortunately, I had no idea where or when either of them would be signing.

Mark Waid announced a 2:30 signing during his panel, so I took the half-hour break to do some sightseeing (see below), then came back to the BOOM! Studios booth to stand in line. I got there a little late, but there were only about 10 people in line ahead of me. We talked briefly, mostly about The Unknown, and I got someone else in line to take my picture with him.

Then I figured I’d make a second pass through Artist’s Alley, now that the artists had shown up, and noticed a long line running about half the length of the “alley.”

“What’s this line for?” I asked.

“Geoff Johns,” someone answered.

Well, that solved that problem!

So I got in that line as well. At one point I talked a bit with another fan in a Flash T-shirt (he approached me with the standard, “Nice shirt!” greeting of people wearing the same logo). Somewhere along the line I found out that Peter Tomasi was also signing in the same line (it was a Green Lantern/Blackest Night thing), but I’ve never read any of his stuff that I can recall, so I didn’t have anything for him to sign. As I neared the front of the line, the guy in front of me started talking with him about the con, and how it seemed to be off to a good start — like San Diego 20 years ago, back when it was fun — and I sort of nodded and made a few comments like I knew something.

Then I was up to the front of the line, handed Geoff Johns my stack of comics, and told him I was really happy about the Flash announcement he’d made. He said it was going to be a chance for him and Scott Kolins to get back to the kind of stuff they were doing back on their initial run on the book. I said something about how I’d been worried that Wally was going to be sidelined, and he said something to the effect of, “Hey, you shouldn’t worry about that – I’m writing it!”

After the signings I went back up to the lobby, bought an iced mocha, and checked in on Twitter, Speed Force and Comic Bloc, then returned to actually make that pass through Artist’s Alley. I ended up looking at a lot of art, and bought a couple of prints.

Sightseeing

I wandered outdoors for sightseeing a couple of times, once right before that block of panels, once right after, and once at the end of the day. There’s an artificial lagoon wrapping around the Hyatt hotel and the convention center on the ocean side. You can’t really see them in the panorama shot, but in this photo I took a minute or two earlier, you can see a group of cosplayers hanging out on one of the islands.

Flock of Segways by KelsonThere’s a pier-like bridge extending from the end of the lobby past the Hyatt out to the shoreline. You can just see the Queen Mary over the tops of the shops and restaurants of Shoreline Village. Shoreline Village by Kelson While there I spotted a couple of oddities: a group of people riding Segways (I decided it the group term should be a flock of Segways) and the Good Year Blimp soaring above a roller coaster and Ferris wheel.

Then there was this great blue heron standing nearly still as if it were posing. I must have spent five minutes stalking that bird, taking photos every few seconds at lower and lower zooms until I got about five feet away. Heron in Flight by Kelson It just stood there, not a care in the world, as if it were thinking, “I’m ready for my close-up!” Eventually the bird did take off, and I tried to follow it, and (amazingly) managed to get a decent shot of it in flight!

Sunlit Fountain by KelsonAt the end of the day, I dropped my stuff off in my car, then went up to the courtyard in front of the Terrace Theater. Mostly I took pictures of the immense fountain. While I was there, there were three women who looked like they were probably there for one of the other events going on that weekend (a craft fair and a corporate training event), and a small boy who looked maybe four. As I walked past them to get to the other side of the fountain, the boy looked at my T-shirt and shouted, “Flash!” I turned around, grinned, said something like, “Yes!” and flashed a thumbs-up sign, then continued on.

End

The last sight of the con I had before getting in my car was a discarded wristband on the steps of the parking structure. It seemed to sum up the end of the day.

See Also: Convention Photos & Write-Ups