Long Beach Comic Expo 2015: Artist Alley Encounters

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Rain or shine. the geeks shall amass.

MAD Event management hosts two comic-themed events at the Long Beach Convention Center: Long Beach Comic Con (LBCC) and Long Beach Comic Expo(LBCE). I have attended LBCC since it began in 2009 but this was my first time attending Long Beach Comic Expo.

Long Beach Comic Expo is the smaller lead up to the convention season. It still covers comic books, anime, cosplay, gaming, and celebrities, just on a much smaller scale and in a different portion of the Long Beach Convention Center.

Once I navigated to it, I was greeted by an atmosphere of geek community. The lobby was full of cosplayers relaxing on comfy sofas or posing for photographs as they listened to a DJ spinning some records. More cosplayers and attendees were spotted on the outside waiting in line for the food truck goodies.

Through the exhibit door, a huge artist alley encompassed the main floor. Vendors and exhibitors were the outer layer. A laser tag set up was in the far back corner. Cosplayers intermingled with other attendees. People walked around carrying bags of loot. This was your average comic con. It was just a much, much more mellow atmosphere.

Due to the smaller size, vendors, exhibitors, artists, and cosplayers were more accessible than usual. It was easier to have conversations, easier to pose for photos, and easier to peruse the artist alley. An artist alley is an area lined with independent comic artists, writers, small press, crafts, and everything else. Since Long Beach Expo is a smaller version of Long Beach Comic Con (which will be occurring later this year), the artist alley area easily took up 80% of the venue. With so much focus and energy centering around this area, it was a mixture of accessibility to the artists and almost being overwhelmed by their numbers.

Visitors to comic cons will have experienced the many awkward moments walking through an artist alley. Interesting works may grab your eye but it may be awkward to approach the table. The person behind the table may be staring at you silently or perhaps it is just too busy to get close.

For attendees, here’s a bit of advice: for the first pass, breeze on through the alleys. The senses can easily be overwhelmed and it takes a moment to register what is going on. Breeze slowly through the second time. By the third or fourth breeze-by, you will know which booths will always seem to grab you.

For those artists behind the table, it can be just as awkward to sit and watch people walk by. It’s the personality behind the table that will be pause when I would otherwise breeze on by. A smile is nice. An invitation to look is nicer. If I’m in cosplay, a compliment or acknowledgement gets a definite smile. Few artists have engaged me in conversation completely unrelated to their work but those that do swoon me over. Even more rare is when an artist is actively engaging in getting your attention.

This rarity of an artist was comic creator, Russell Nohelty. Nohelty not only gave me a wave but was really active in engaging my attention. Lucky for him, the fatigue from riding on the transport system made it easy to just listen to him instead of waving him away. So I did and I just couldn’t help but become intrigued. Nohelty brushed away my puny excuses to walk away (“No cash? I have a credit card system on my phone” or ” You won’t come back!You’ll disappear into the void”-for the record, I would have come back). I’m not and will never be comfortable as a salesperson but I can still appreciate the act  of becoming one. For no matter what your position is in life, you are forever marketing something. His antics worked and I chose his science fiction based comic, Paradise.It’s a graphic novel about a whole town that suddenly gets transported into the future. This will be an interesting read. Check out more his stuff at http://www.russell-nohelty.com/.

paradise comic

Intertwined within the comics and the artwork are the independent crafters. One booth, Bottivingelo, caught my eyes with their kitty bookmarks. Cats combined with books are such an easy trap for me. The bookmarks are hand painted and each one is unique. Picking the Thor Kitty bookmark, I eagerly gave myself a papercut just trying to get my book out to test it. The curved tail works! The only downside is that since the material is heavy canvas paper, the tail becomes fragile and can be torn after multiple uses. An upgrade to heavier or having it glossed would have been great. Had I carried a heavier wallet,I would have loved to purchased the rest of their accessories. Bottivingelo carried a line of geeky collars and ear cuffs all of which were beautiful and much desired. For those in the Los Angeles area on March 28, Bottivingelo will be a vendor at the inaugural Geek Fashion Show. Come see the wares yourself. It is magnificent!

bottivingelo bookmarks

(from the Botti Vingelo facebook page)

bottivingelo ears

(from the Botti Vingelo etsy page)

There was also a packed retro gaming corner where I spent long moments itching to join in the games and an inflated Star Wars laser tag where I also spent long moments itching to join in. A gaming demo corner, Lego station, and Espionage nails were there. I took a double take but Barry Bostwick (played Brad on Rocky Horror Picture Show) was there too!

For a small venue there was a lot going on and it was well worth the trip on a rainy day. For those who want a more accessible and personal experience with local creators, this is the expo to attend.

Check out Long Beach Comic Expo website for other things I missed and how you can keep tabs on it.

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