CONVENTION REVIEW: Stan Lee’s Comikaze

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Stan “The Man” Lee’s self-monikered Comic and Pop Culture Experience!

                Unfortunately, I missed the whole of the first day due the sad events around the LAX shooting that morning – with the delays in landing, getting of the tarmac, through immigration, collecting luggage, and then trying to get ground transportation (all road traffic in & out of the airport was restricted), I didn’t get to my hotel until 8.00 PM – 7 hours after I was supposed to! 🙂

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That said, the rest of the weekend was much more fruitful! Comikazi has been going a few years now, with footfall traffic of around 60K-70K people across the 3 days (compared to say San Diego Comic-ConSDCC which is around 130K people. In fact, lore has it that Comikaze was started two years ago by Regina Carpinelli because SDCC was getting too big, queues were inevitably too long, and some opinion had it that it was becoming too commercialised.  Later on as the concept evolved, it acquired two key sponsors: Cassandra Peterson, otherwise known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, and then Stan Lee, who lends his name and considerable credibility to the event.

Personally, I’ve never been to SDCC, so I can’t compare the two conventions, but Comikaze certainly has a different feel to it than other cons I have attended (largely in the UK). For starters, there are less panels around stars – not that there aren’t plenty of stars there: Bruce Campbell, Michael Rooker, Levar Burton, Edward James Olmos etc, but they only do one major star panel a day – the rest are tucked away for autographs / photographs. The other panels (and there are plenty of them) are much more genre-discussion and indy-production oriented. At any one time there are eight streams of activity, which include panels, screenings, improvs, workshops etc – each roughly 1-1.5 hours long. They are generally all packed, but I never seem to have had to queue for more than fifteen minutes, and I always got a seat, generally within the first five rows . Here’s a breakdown of some of my favourite sessions:

–          The Great Time War: Who Is The Best Doctor? – Eleven Whovian experts picked out eleven companions from the audience and collectively rose to the challenge of which Doctor gave most to the Whovian Universe, judged along many criteria including ‘Greatest Achievement’, ‘Beating Down the Most Fearsome Villiain’, ‘Dress Sense’, and ‘Fan Favouritism’. The controversial winner was Christopher Ecclestone, “for breathing life back into a left-for-dead franchise!”

–          Stan Lee’s Superhero Ball Wars – Stan’s been working with new developers on a new gaming augmented reality game called Superhero Ball Wars, which will be launched for iOS devices (sorry Android) in Q1 CY14, and will tie into trading cards and other media.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmFIhPMVAjg

–          Bat In The Sun’s “Super Power Beat Down” Panel – now, I had never seen Bat In The Sun’s “Super Power Beat Down”, a collection of fan-made videos on YouTube with production content as good as many you’d see on network television. The nature of these fan-made film is pitting cross universe heroes and villains against each other. For example some of the beat downs on offer were Batman vs. Wolverine, Wolverine vs. Predator and Gandalf vs Darth Vader. We got to meet the whole production team and some of the stars, many of them already in the industry for their day-job, who produce these quality films, both in terms of content and production – for no money.

http://www.youtube.com/user/batinthesun

–          The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened? – a fascinating journey led by Jon Schnepp, who has taken it upon himself to create a documentary detailing the story of the proposed Superman Lives movie, which would have seen Tim Burton direct Nicholas Cage as Superman, and Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen (!), fighting against a Kevin Spacy / Tim Allen hybridised Brainiac / Lex Luthor villain. So much casting, auditioning and costume & effect production had been done before the project was canned in favour of Superman Returns (Spacey made though!), and Schnepp attempts to piece together what could have been a brilliant Superman Film. The final product will hopefully be unveiled at next year’s SDCC or Comikaze. For more information on the possible scripts for this terminated Superman project, check out http://superman.wikia.com/wiki/Superman_Lives and for more on Schnepp’s documentary, see http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1270411036/the-death-of-superman-lives-what-happened

–          Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – On The Big Screen. World Premier Of TMNT Documentary! – the original creators of the TMNT discussed how they came together to poke fun at the Ninja lore in the media and ended up creating one of the most popular cross media franchises ever. Cartoons, films, comics, toys, pop music and videos – there were very few pies the Turtles did not have their fingers in. The documentary, produced by the original creators, chronicles the TMNT’s rise to power.

–          Dungeon Master – a likeable team of thespians pick out a handful of audience participants to go on a sword & sorcery quest to rescue a princess held captive by a rogue bandit. This was  a genuinely funny panel with the guest stars really going for it. One of the guest stars was an amateur ventriloquist who brought his own puppet that had everyone in stitches!

–          Party Like It’s Batman 1999 – a brilliant panel, made up of the likes of Jordan Gorfinkel and Darren Vincenzo, described what it was like to be recruited from art school in their early twenties and to work on Batman titles such as No Man’s Land, Vengeance of Bane and KnightFall. There was also talk on how those titles influenced Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight movies and creation the Birds of Prey who are currently manifesting themselves in TV’s Arrow.

–          Wonder Woman – Why Can’t She Be Done Right, And What Can Be Done About It! – Following the news that now Thor’s Jaimie Alexander is in talks to be Wonder Woman, THE most popular female superhero, the original heroine and one of the main driving forces being the core Trinity of the Justice League of America, a panel discuss why she doesn’t seem to be done right to date. A very enlightening panel discussion on what would be the best route for her origin story, her powers, and of course, her costume!

–          Bringing Superheroes To Life: The Art Of Legacy Effects – a panel of the principle creators from Legacy Effects talk about bringing Marvel characters to life on the big screen, including some footage of “Stan Lee Makes An Iron Man Suit”,  chronicling his hands-on visit with experts at Legacy Effects. One thing I learned was that the original Iron Man was never supposed to be a real actor inside a suit – it was to have been all done with CGI and only using the real suit for head and shoulder shots. As soon as Marvel saw the CGI they ran back to Legacy Effects and said “You need to put a man in the suit, and he needs to be able to move around!” However, as the suit had already been made, and then the mobility added afterwards, they had to find a 6 foot actor with a 22 inch waist to fit inside for the live motion shots!

Other sessions I earmarked, but just could not get to included Harry Potter And The Ten Years Later screening, Meet The Actors From Grand Theft Auto V, Star Trek Renegades screening, Miniatures And Creature Effects In Motion Pictures and From Hawkeye To Green Arrow To Hunger Games – Archery And Pop Culture.

In addition to all this great media content, Comikaze has the largest dealer floor I’ve certainly ever seen, and it’s segmented pretty well too, so it’s easy to find exactly what you want. And to make your wandering around even more fun, Stan has included his Museum, which has a collection of some of the most impressive props from Marvel movies, as well as plenty of other photo opps, including sharing a couch for Iron Man Mk V, and taking a seat on the bridge of the USS Enterprise D.

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There is also an extensive gaming arena, catering to all tastes & competitiveness – by mid-day this room was heaving:

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One very notable thing about this con: it’s very Cosplay oriented. One thing I can say about our American cousins  is that they all take their Cosplay very, VERY seriously! I’ve seen many very impressive & innovative home-made costumes at UK cons, but the level of attention to detail with make-up and use of materials like latex is simply brilliant at Comikaze. It’s probably a measure of how seriously they take their fandom, and also how many attendees are in some way linked to the media industry (in one panel, a third of the room put their hand up to that), but some of the costumes were simply breath-taking, both in presentation, but also in originality, such as a SteamPunk Batman (think the Gotham By GasLight Elseworlds story), or a Mickey Mouse / Darth Vader hybrid. It doesn’t hurt that your average young Californian, be they male or female, has the body to carry it off! And as usual, credit where it’s due, every Cosplayer took delight in posing for photos, which really made a big difference to all the smaller children who attended. And speaking of small children, I have to say that (as much as I like a drink!) making Comikaze a no-alcohol event, really works to make the whole environment completely family friendly.

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Just to summarise, if you want a show for fans, heavily influenced by fans, with plenty of merchandising, photo opps and a wide variety of content, with very little queuing, right slap bang in the middle of one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, then give Stan Lee’s Comikaze a go!

GS Reporter: SilverFox
Source: Comikaze

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