Long Beach Comic Con brings entertainment and more

Even before walking into the Long Beach Convention Center, it’s easy to see what kind of people were inspired to show their appreciation for such a beloved kind of media. There were women and men of all ages making their way up tall staircases to the doors of the Center. Many people, even the youngest ones, were wearing full costumes to display their love of certain characters. The love was reaching across what used to be borders of hostility long ago between fans of DC and Marvel, the two biggest comic book publishers in the Western world, if not beyond. Now? I caught Deadpool sharing a laugh with Batman while Nightcrawler  was “bamf”-ing around them to pose for pictures. There were definitely no hard feelings here. People were out to enjoy themselves and show the world what it means to be a truly dedicated fan.

In fact, I’d argue that much of the main attraction are these cosplayers (people dressed in costume who often stay in character), many of which stay outside of the show floor itself. They came simply to pose and mingle with anyone who might have come by and asked nicely for a shot. It made for quite an interesting experience whenever I made my way back upstairs. I nearly ran into my fair share of Elsa’s, Daenerys Targaryen’s, and Batgirls as I made my way to and frow. Make no mistake, women were out in full force here. In fact, I’d argue that they were the majority of attendees. Female cosplayers are often the most sought after in terms of subject matter (I counted no less than ten Harley Quinn’s on Saturday) and are often more respected in terms of their talent. But I’m talking about the average show goer. Comic books, if my eyes are to be believed, are a fanboy’s club no longer.

Downstairs at the show floor, things were well organized. Each section of floor represented different parts of the industry in a meaningful way. The entire center area was the artist alley. Professionals and start-ups alike sat side by side, showing off their best work in a bid for attendees attention. When approached, all were very kind and open to questions and comments. Just beyond the center were many different booths from comic shops in Long Beach and beyond. They all had different ideas about what to sell. Many kept a traditional route with their entire booths being covered in old issues from end to end. It wasn’t uncommon to see 10-15 foot wide booths with nothing but boxes of back issues to draw in some big crowds. Other booths made a point of dedicating themselves to individual fandoms, including one that was almost exclusively Doctor Who related. Others still sold t-shirts, collectible figurines, plush toys, and even a few came representing Japanese comics, called manga, with collectible art books to match.

Rounding out the corners of the floor were some large points of interest. In one corner stood a massive Star Wars sponsored laser tag area, complete with inflatable asteroids, Millenium Falcon, and Slave I for kids to play around on. Standing in front of the was the 501st Legion, a nation wide troupe of Stormtroopers and Imperials who were gathering money for charity while kids could shoot at them with Nerf guns. On the opposite side stood Cosplay Corner, where well known professional cosplayers were doing free meet and greets as well as taking pictures for and with attendees. Most notable was Raychul Moore, a multi-talented gamer, writer, cosplayer, and YouTuber. When asked what drew her to that lifestyle, she said, “I was raised like a boy, honestly. My Dad wanted boys, he got four girls and I was the first. So, he raised me into video games, comics, Star Wars, James Bond, all that kind of stuff. So, it was kind of natural.” That day she was dressed as the original version of Dante from Devil May Cry. Moore certainly wasn’t afraid to show some skin, and neither were other professionals and attendees.

While the majority of attendees seemed to be female, when it comes to creators the situation changes. I made a point of attending the Women in Comics panel. In attendance were Babs Tarr, the woman who designed the Batgirl outfit that made waves a few months ago, along with Amanda Conner who is currently working on the newest Harley Quinn book. Several other women rounded out the panel, from veteran screenwriters to novelists. Unfortunately, the interest in their work wasn’t as great as the need for it to be well known. Very few con attendees made it to the panel, but those who were there were very supportive. The subjects discussed moved around a lot, from the individual women’s mentors, to their individual female characters, as well as women being overly sexualized by these books and stories.

In response, the creators were overwhelmingly positive. Cecil Castellucci, novelist and author of The Plain Janes, said that “…comic books show different positive images” of women. Conner corroborated that point, adding that “…women are better off now than they were 15 years ago.”  Corrina Bechko, screenwriter for the Planet of the Apes, went further and said that “…only when multi-woman teams exist together are different kinds of women better represented.” Despite some slight differences in opinion, all on the panel agreed that things were getting better. Castellucci continued her thoughts after another question about movies. An attendee asked about when minority female protagonists might get a fair shake, and Castellucci responded that “…movies need to catch up to girls in general. There’s Katniss and Frozen but why aren’t there shit tons of movies with different kinds of ladies?” She finished her thought, saying to “support the things you want to see. Buy the books and go to the movies!”

To be honest, that seemed to be the best take away from the entire convention. No matter what, everyone there wanted to support that which they loved. Entertainment, in the grand scheme of things, can seem like a distraction to some. Given how much the people at this convention were willing to share in terms of their time, effort, and honest interest in one another I feel like it means much more. Building a community that wants to better the lives of one another through relatable stories can’t be all bad. Thanks to Long Beach Comic Con, anyone can feel welcome to explore a kind of media that has meaning beyond superheroes of the page. Truly, the heroes of the community are the kindest and most stalwart of all.