This past weekend, talented people and wondrous costumes filled the Long Beach Convention Center for this year’s Long Beach Comic Expo. For the two-day event, which ran from Feb. 16-17, attendees could shop for comic book bargains, learn more about their favorite comic book-inspired movies and TV shows, showcase their own cosplay designs, meet comic book artists and writers, discover facts about science and space — at the Space Expo portion of the convention — meet the writers and producers of their favorite shows, and pick up on new comics by local creators. It’s too bad the event’s organization was a bit clunky for both fans and guest speakers.
Not to be mistaken with the Long Beach Comic Con, which is held in the LB Convention Center in the fall, this event had all of the ingredients for a successful con, but not everybody knew it. Attendees complained that there was not adequate information on the event’s website or social media to help them navigate the convention. Specifically, there was no posted schedule of events — only a list of the guest attendees, which indicated which day(s) they would be on-site. When fans entered the building, there was no official brochure of the festival to provide a map of the rooms or extensive information about the festival. Many people, including this reporter, were at one time or another pointed in the wrong direction to a panel.
The panelists didn’t have it great, either. Tze Chun is a writer / producer for the popular show Gotham, which is based in the Batman universe. Chun was supposed to talk with fans about the final season of the show as well as the release of his new comics publishing company, TKO Presents. When I arrived at the room he was scheduled to speak in, at the appropriate time, the previous panel was still finishing up. About 15 minutes later, Chun, his family, and I were the only ones in the room. Someone else poked their head in at one point and said that some fans had been directed to the wrong room. I took the opportunity to speak with Chun before he packed it in and split.
Chun was a comic book lover from a young age, and the new publishing company that he co-founded and launched in December, TKO Presents, demonstrates a new model for comic book distribution. When asked about the dynamics of his “modern” model, Chun indicated that it is comparable in some ways to the Netflix model. “People like finishing out a story in one sitting,” he said. “That’s kind of the binge release model that Netflix has. And we want to bring that model to comic books. People just want to sit down and they don’t want to wait six months to finish out a story arc. So we’re doing that.” He went on to detail other distinctions of his distribution model, which circumvents the traditional distributor, and sends his comics directly to the markets. “Also, we know that people like to read their comics in a variety of formats,” he said. “Some people like single issues; some people like trades; some people like digital, and we just want to offer them right off the bat at the same time. The other thing that we’re doing is that all of our books are over-sized so that you can really enjoy the artwork.” For interested readers, the first issue of TKO Presents’s first four mini-series of comics is available to read for free online at TKOPresents.com.
Regarding Gotham, which — as every fan knows — is ending after this season, Chun pointed out that knowing that the end was near had its advantage. “I think we were all, in the writer’s room, very grateful that we knew it was going to be the last season,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re on a show, you don’t know if you’re going to get canceled or get renewed, so maybe you’ll end on a cliffhanger, and then you just never see the end of that arc. Whereas, knowing that we had 10 episodes to end the series, it was just fun. We could just say, ‘Let’s just do everything we’ve always wanted to do. We don’t have to hold back; let’s just make these episodes as packed as possible.’” As for where this leaves our pre-Batman-world characters, Chun indicated that fans will get a glimpse into the future. He said, “The showrunner, John Stevens, is incredible in terms of charting out the trajectories of every single character, and the last episode of the season is a concept episode; it happens like eight, nine, 10 years in the future.”
Back in the lobby, the all-purpose-con excitement was palpable. Cosplayers were posing for guests in front of themed veneers and the branded convention backdrop; people were taking selfies; and bloggers were live-streaming their adventures. Down on the exhibition floor, there was charm all around. In addition to the eye-candy of the roving cosplayers and brilliant displays, which promoted everything from the new Captain Marvel film to the colorfully themed teas of The Tea Book, there were comic book artists, toys, and a friendly vibe; you know it’s a good party when Professor Henry Jones (Indiana’s dad) tells you about the fine IPA beer that’s being sold at the convention.
Notably, there were some great comics being promoted which featured local locales and/or storylines with modern sensibilities. For example, Repo: Thief for Hire is about an LA-based character; Wicked Willow features an LGBT theme; Rats of Heaven is set in Long Beach; Altered Boys features homicidal justice being delivered unto pedophile clergy; and Eve of Extinction, from TKO, is a survival horror story about a virus that only affects men. So, despite the organizational snafus, spirits were still relatively high, and there was plenty to discover at this year’s Long Beach Comic Expo, if you knew where to look…or stumbled upon it accidentally.