Long Beach Comic Expo 2017

On February 18th & 19th, thousands gathered for a celebration of the imagination in California for the Long Beach Comic Expo, proving that comics, media, films, creativity and the independent spirit are alive and well. Held at the Long Beach Convention Center, the event was great fun for all ages, as seen in the wide variety of programming and vendors assembled that weekend. On your way in, even the cars and jeeps were getting in on the excitement with nods to Star Wars, Batman, the Blues Brothers, and Jurassic Park.

We were impressed upon entering by the Space Expo, which included volunteers demonstrating how to build your own astromech to discussions on the future of virtual and augmented reality. It was an inspiring opportunity for anyone who brought their children by and the organizers doubtless created a great passion for STEM among many of the families who took time to visit them.

If you loved the Transformers, you could see an amazing cosplay of Optimus Prime and Megatron clomping around the expo to the amazement and wonder of everyone who saw them. 

It was heartwarming to see families and friends cosplaying together, bringing their love of various fandoms together and there was definitely a great energy as the participants took photos all across the convention center, such as this meeting between Logan and the Star Wars universe.

As we visited the expo we saw many familiar faces, as well as a number of new ones who were just starting out trying to get awareness of their creations into the public eye. It was an inspiring if at times exhausting display of talent, but every publisher and artist we spoke to was friendly and enthusiastic about their work and the others who were with them that weekend. Scary Tales Publishing, for example, was releasing a new series of monster comics telling well-known tales with a twist and a nod to the classic eerie comics of yesteryear that were so influential on so many of today's artists.

This year, we met a number of Southeast Asian artists and writers at work, including Mai Van, Tu Bui, Nicholas Doan and Cannan Grall, and Michael Manomivibul. We also spotted Angel Kim Nguyen, Emily Nguyen, and Andrew Dat Tran among the artists in Artist Alley. We did not see any Lao or Hmong artists or writers at any of the tables this year. We were hoping that we might see Sydney Viengluang, star of Z-Nation as the first Lao zombie-fighting doctor, Sun Mei, but alas, it was not to be.

We definitely appreciated the presence of the Pho Awesome food truck and the girl scouts selling girl scout cookies that weekend. If you see Pho Awesome near your street corner, definitely give them a try. Trust us, their food truck is pretty hard to miss. The Long Beach Comic Expo definitely offered some very competitive food offerings compared to many conventions we've covered over the years. You'll have to be careful not to blow all of your budget just trying out the food here.

One group who stood out to us among the cosplayers this year was a group known as the Star Wars Steampunk Universe who spoke with great enthusiasm about what it meant to them to be able to combine their joint loves of the two fandoms for the convention scene and charity events.

Diversity and inclusion were a significant theme of the panels and workshops at this year's Long Beach Comic Expo, and we were happy to see that programming reflected throughout the entire weekend. Panelists and speakers included some wonderfully talented voices such as Robb Armstrong, Lonnie Millsap, Yehudi Mercado, Kit and Emma Steinkellner, Sebastian Kadlecik, Stefano Terry, Marla Frazee, Maggie Mull, Mario Rivas, Leo Camacho, Jenny Lorenzo, and Mimi Davilla. 

This year they presented the Third Annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity at Long Beach Comic Expo, honoring the trailblazing work of the late Dwayne McDuffie who passed away in 2011. He was a major champion of diversity in genre fiction that has inspired a generation of creators and fans,. This year's judges were Joe Illidge, Joan Hilty, Neo Edmond, Matt Wayne, Len Wein and Heidi MacDonald. This year's shortlist nominees were Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels, Shaft: Imitation of Life by David Walker and Dietrich Smith, Amazing Forest by Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas and more, StarHammer by J. N. Monk and Harry Bogosian, and 14 Nights by Kristina Stipetic.

Among the celebrity guests in attendance were figures such as Jason Momoa, best known for his roles in Game of Thrones and the upcoming Aquaman movie. Gig Edgley of Farscape, and Herbert Jefferson, Jr. of the original Battlestar Galactica also caught our attention, along with Brittany Ishibashi, one of the Ghostfacers of Supernatural. Rikishi, a former Intercontinental Champion and WWE Tag Team Champion.  We also saw comic book legends such as Tim Bradstreet,  Mark Waid, Michael Golden, George Perez and Mike Zeck, whose work was influential on many of us at Sahtu Press when we were young. 

Overall, we found the Long Beach Comic Expo to be a positive, inviting experience and we would encourage anyone in the area to attend if they get the chance. With over 100 guests, cosplay and well over 75 panels, it stands out as a good value with a clear commitment to the fan community. We look forward to their gathering in 2018.

Bryan Thao Worra