Article by LBPOSTSports.com managing editor Mike Guardabascio
It's been a few years since the Long Beach Convention Center played host to a comic convention—and the last time it did, in 2005, it was called Wizard World Los Angeles. The year after, Wizard took their Los Angeles show and… well, moved it to Los Angeles, where it foundered as talent and attendees began to slow down. "It was so much nicer when it was down in Long Beach," comics legend Tim Sale said in 2006. "It was more relaxing."
Four years later, Long Beach gets a con to call its own as the Long Beach Comic Con moves into the Convention Center this weekend, from October 2-4—and, finally, Long Beach gets a con not afraid to wear the city's name in its title, thanks to organizer Martha Donato, president of MAD Event Management and a former Wizard employee. "I love the atmosphere here, I love working here—when I was thinking about doing a convention in Southern California, I just kept coming back to Long Beach."
Donato, and her business partner, Phil Lawrence, came up with the idea to host the show in Long Beach less than eight months ago—barely an eye-blink in the far-focused field of events management and convention organizing. Many comics fans, on hearing a few months ago that a first-year con was starting up in October, figured it would primarily be a collectibles show for the first year, with not many big-name guests or exhibitors.
Instead, the show will boast more than 150 guests, from Stan Lee to Jim Lee, with Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed making his first-ever convention appearance. Exhibitors like Nintendo and Aspen Comics will take their place alongside local shops like Pulp Fiction and Amazing Comics, and Marvel and DC have both dispatched editors to host panels with fans, and talent wranglers to evaluate portfolios. In other words, it's an impressive array for a first year convention—in fact, as we were putting this story together, Donato called back to announce that Anthony Michael Hall and Elizabeth Rohm will join the ranks of the con's entertainment guests, a list which already included Thomas Jane and Seth Green.
And while Sale won't be making an appearance in Long Beach, his longtime collaborator Jeph Loeb will, and Donato says he's partially responsible for the incredible turnout. "I called Jeph, who I knew from working at Wizard, and he said he'd invite a few people—so he started inviting creators on my behalf, and they were all A-listers, so it just added a huge amount of credibility. Aspen Comics was great too—it just spread by good old-fashioned word of mouth."
With a bursting guest list, a huge artists' alley, great exclusives (including an LBCC edition of Amazing Spider-Man #606), tons of panels and screenings, and a convention that seems as ready to embrace Long Beach as Long Beach is ready to embrace it, there's no doubt that word will keep spreading—and will guarantee that this year's Long Beach Comic Con is but the first of many to come.
Check back at LBPOST.com for updates throughout the weekend, and click here to get your tickets! We'll see you there!