1. "Welcome to the a World Without Rules..." -The Dark Knight Trilogy
  2. History of the Long Beach Comic Expo
  3. The Writers
  4. The Visual Art
  5. The Cosplayers
  6. So What Is it, Planet or Universe?
Dylan Gera, Charity Lyons, Felix Sicard, Kelly Chun and Mariann Shaginian

THE COMIC REALM

An Exclusive Planet or an Expanding Universe?

THE COMIC REALM
An Exclusive Planet or an Expanding Universe?
"Welcome to the a World Without Rules..." -The Dark Knight Trilogy

Intro & Music by Charity Lyons

    In a world far, far away, in a mythical land called Long Beach, there is an annual affair where comic book characters come to life. The name of this event, you ask? The Long Beach Comic Expo. Adorned in their Jedi lightsabers, Joker smiles, Japanese school girl uniforms, and Wolverine claws , they commune to celebrate the classic super heroes of the past, as well as showcasing the upcoming generation of new artists, writers, and inventive costumes. However, there is trouble brewing in the community, a divide is forming between the “die-hard fans” and the writers and creators that remain skeptical of the benefit on including . Will this divide drive the comic realm to become an exclusive planet, or an expanding unvierse...

History of the Long Beach Comic Expo

By Charity Lyons & Mariann Shaginian

The Long Beach Comic Expo is the celebration of comic books and pop culture, that displays the extraodinary works of writers, artists, illustrators and creators of all types of pop culture. Here you will find  exhibitors promoting and selling all types of related products, as well as entertaining and educational programs, guest signings, and meet and greet sessions with celebrities. The Long Beach Comic Expo takes place once a year in the last week of February at the Long Beach Convention Center. Because it is such a community centric and welcoming atmosphere, there has yet to be a single, major security issue. This event has been going on for over ten years, and is expected to continue for many more to come. Almost all of the characters featured are from comic books, television shows or movies based on comic books. The event is a two day convention, held each Spring, that begins Saturday 10a.m., and runs until 7p.m with tickets ranging from $30-$50,and Sunday from 10 am – 5pm with tickets ranging from $20-$40. With over 290 exhibitors, the convention center is divided into multiple sections, including: comic book exhibitors; writers, and illustrators, Cosplayers, and an Artist Alley. The event takes up to $80,000 to put on every year and, though the revenue profit was not disclosed by management, the estimate is believed to be around $1.1 million.

The Writers

The heart of the comic expo is comic books. The first comic book, Famous Funnies, came out in 1933, and chronicled the funny accounts of different miscellaneous concepts. Since then there have been millions of comic books printed to the enjoyment and worship of the comic fan. The world’s most infamous heroes started off in comics such as Spiderman, Superman, Batman, etc. The stories of these comic books are first conceptualized by the writers, they give the characters purpose and create the suspense and storyline in which the fanatic gets to know the character.


Ken Kristensen

By Charity Lyons

          Photo by Mariann Shaginian     

          Ken Kristensen is the writer of Todd, the Ugliest Kid on Earth. He says that he based the concept for the book off of his six year old nephew. “One day my nephew and I were walking down one of the New York streets. I had stopped to buy a hotdog and my nephew went out a couple feet to the side of me, he turns and looks and taps me and says ‘Uncle look that guy spilled cranberry juice all over himself.’ I turned to look and it was a homeless man that was bleeding from cuts on his wrist, and next to him was a spilled bottle of cranberry juice,” accounts Kristensen. He modeled the book after his nephew because he felt his nephew chose to see the world in a more beautiful comic way, than in its harsh reality. He calls his type of writing “absurdist comedy.” In his series he has eight issues,that were all written issue by issue, not a mass production at one time. A walk through Kristensen’s creative process is first, he comes up with a theme for the comic book, then he uses the world around him to construct a storyline, from there he passes the story along to the artist, and the artist creates the comic based off of the script. His first issue of Todd the Ugliest Kid on Earth came out in January 2013, and his latest issue came out in January 2014.

            In regards to the exclusive or expansive debate Ken Kristensen is in favor of bringing comics to the mainstream and to non comic fanatics. “Look, though the diversity of comics and outlets has increased, the number of people buying the comics is definitely lower than it was in the 80’s,” says Kristensen. He believes the powerhouse publishers such as DC and Marvel comics have such a tight hold on the artists and the writers that the comic writers are barely making any money anymore, “everybody gets a piece of the pie you baked.”  However through publishers like Image, Kristensen believes the writer has more creative control to market his material over social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. When asked did he feel technology effect the purity of print comics he replied that technology is one of the best catalysts to print comics, “Selling comics through Amazon, and apple technology has boosted revenue substantially for comic books.” According to Kristensen putting comic books on larger formats and sharing it with the world only makes the comic book culture richer, because more people invest and create opportunities for emerging artists and writers. When asked if he felt making comics into mainstream movies dilutes the comic Kristensten replied with a smile, “well when my comic book makes it to the big screen I’ll let you know, but as for now I don’t see the harm in it.”


RAY CHOU

By Dylan Gera

As the popularity of online "crowd funding" has risen, so too has the number of comic creators that have utilized this means of capitalization in order to make their dreams a reality. Ray Chou is one such dreamer and, along with his Italian-born, London-residing co-creator, Vincenzo Ferriero, he has sought to turn these dreams into so many words and squiggles on parchment. Skies of Fire is their latest and grandest project, and chronicles the fanciful world of the Aquilan Empire, a land traversed by immense zepplins and subjected to the whims of bloodthirsty sky pirates. A steampunk themed work at heart, if Skies of Fire sounds innovatively fresh and fantastical, it's because it is. With one issue out so far, Chou hopes that his team's ability to connect with a global audience is what will allow them to continue to flourish. 


What sort of funding we’re you seeking to raise through your –successful- Kickstarter?

We were seeking to raise 4,500, and that would have covered our first issue. We ended up getting 15 grand, which covered the first two, and a little bit of change for the third one. At conventions, both of the ones we’ve done so far, we’ve done alright. We’ve gone into the black both times. People seem to really dig the concept and like what they read. They usually wish there’s more of it! Which is on the way. We’re just sort of looking. To self-publish and see how far down we can go that route, because it’s kind of like the golden age of self-publishing right now.

Are you fully self-published?

We are totally self-published.

How many issues do you have out?

We currently have this one complete. The second one is being colored right now and the third one is being thumbnailed. The second is basically 80% done, and we’re hoping to debut that at WonderCon.

When is that?

It’s the end of April. April 20-something.

In regards to marketing, do you guys do tours or do you just get invited to individual “Cons”?

Our strategy is: first, we went to New York –we went to school in New York so it’s kind of symbolic for us. And, also, it happens to me right in the middle of LA and London, so it seemed like a good place to meet. Our plan now is that I’m going to run the West Coast circuit, but, so far, I’ve only done the local LA shows, and Vince is gonna run the UK circuit, basically. Divide and conquer like that, and, every year, meet up in New York to pow-wow and all that.

Are you guys international? Are your comics sold over the internet? 

On our Kickstarter we had people from all over the world back us. So, we had to just pay for shipping, basically. People all over the world have supported us and backed us, and, through our website, we do sell internationally, but, in terms of distribution, since we’re self-published, the best way is to visit conventions. I mean, sure, we have our store online, but not a lot of people visit there, and we don’t get a lot of sales through that so this is our bread-and-butter. But we’re just starting out, and, so far, this is only our second convention.

What do you think of the future of comic universe, the future of comic books? Do you see a decline?

No, I think the comic industry is inherently very cyclical. If you look at comic books, there have always been periods of boom and periods of bust. And when I say “boom,” I mean creatively. And, I think, right now, it’s the beginning of a new cycle. With Kickstarter and self-publishing, there are a lot of people that are coming out because of this new wave of distribution. I don’t necessarily think it’s going to last for a whole lot longer, but I do think that there will be new voices and new talent emerging from that. And, I think, comics are always going to be an incubator for intellectual property; not really a viable economic product, by itself. But, if you look at it this way, the greatest Hollywood stories have, in the past thirty years, all come from graphic novels or storybooks. So, that’s why it’s going to continue to be supported. It’s not really about the actual comic books, it’s about the ideas coming out of them. 

The Visual Art

In many comic books there are monsters, heroes, villains,  and sidekicks whose vibrant costumes and appearances are engrained in the minds of those who know them. Who would the joker be without his crooked lipstick? Who would the hulk be without his green skin and bulging biceps? To get these comics off the page and into the real world, the artistic ability of theartists are required. Illustrators, Animators, and Make Up Artists, are charged with the tasks of making every character seen in a comic that is projected on a television show or movie real, to bring to the life the gore and the glory.


Christopher Dooly

By Charity Lyons

Photo by Mariann Shaginian

Christopher Dooly or Chris he prefers to be called is a scientific fantasy makeup artist. He’s worked on the sets of many comic mainstream movies such as the Avenger, Thor, Tron, and others. When asked when and why he started doing monster and character make up he replied “I was 15 with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) I needed something that interested me enough to stay still for five minutes, and at the time I was really in to comic books. I thought to myself hmm, what if I could make myself look like that? I experimented with paint and markers and later in life graduated to heavier materials.” To create the large body pieces that have had intestines strewed out and gory like effects Dooly admits it takes him about 4 weeks to create the mold and make every effect perfect. On the set of a major motion picture Dooly says the industry has changed. “The producers no longer give you and pay you from a year on set, for instance on the set of Benjamin Button I spent a entire year on set able to take my time with each character and special effect of the movie, but recently they only kept me on for three weeks when doing the make up for the avengers, rushing the art of it just to save time and money.” Dooly’s frustration with the industry it that they no longer value what goes into bringing these characters to life, everything is done fast and not efficiently just to have a speedy turnaround time.

Video by Charity Lyons

Dooly is on the fence of whether broadcasting the intimate world of comics is a good thing for the comic culture or a degradation of it. “In the aspect of artist like me, who are in-between projects, these kinds of expo’s help me make a little bit more extra money through makeup demonstrations, to make ends meet, besides having a little shop in the valley,” says Dooly. He believes the expo’s is a good way to provide exposure for the comics and upcoming artist in order to expand their businesses, as well as provide a safe haven for true comic fans and those who want to learn about the comics. It provides a little community for us. “However, looking at the bigger picture outside of expo’s not many people can appreciate what goes into making these characters come to life,” says Dooly. He believes that some producers now days are not aiming to get the real vision of the comic across in their movies, they are just trying to make it as action filled and appealable to the masses as possible, sacrificing the artistry of the work of the artist as well as the vision of the writers who wrote the comic. Doooly understands that many people don’t see as makeup artists as those who care about the purity of comic, just someone paid to make it look real. Dooly asserts, “But to me, someone who got into this business because of their love for the comics it is hard not to care when the vision is mangled.”


Stephan Franck

By Mariann Shaginian & Kelly Chun

 

Photo by Dylan Gera

Stephan Franck is known as the director of The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hallow, or for his animations in The Iron Giant and Despicable Me, and finally as the co-creator of the television series Corneil and Bernie. From all these movies to Tangled to Wreck It Ralph, Stephan has had a hand in over 25 films. With his experience, Franck has now expanded his horizons into the comic book industry as he debuted Silver, an adventure packed gothic set comic book, in which he was the writer and illustrator.  The story is set in the 1930s, revolving around James Finnigan, a conman and jewel thief, who puts together a crew of talented but broken up misfits, including Rosalynd “Sledge” Van Helsing, granddaughter of the famed vampire hunter. The goal is to pull off a heist that has been compiling up for centuries, that is to separate the king of vampires from his silver.  


What got you interested in animation in the first place?

I've always been into it, even when I was seven years old. Then I saw the movie Heavy Metal, and I was like this is perfect because I love comic books. The combination of comics and animation completely drew me in. And so ever since then I've been doing animation and most of my career has been animation. And recently, I've been doing comics, like this one. (shows us Silver) 

What is the thought process behind creating your comic? What are key factors you try to fulfill? How did you come up with the storyline? What sparked it? How did you construct the images for the illustrations? 

I think of the creative process as some sort of weird particle collider. Like most writers or artists, I have a back catalog of images, genres and inspirations that have captured my imagination since childhood, and like most people, I have also personal themes from life that have developed over the years. So those notions are kind of circling in the background and once in a while,  the two sides collide and something interesting is created. This is the case here, where my love for vampire and con men stories serves as a backdrop for a reflection on what makes a life feel purposeful and satisfying.  Once that spark has happened, it's about developing and building up the story creatively by surrendering to the "what if..." process. Hopefully, this leads to characters who reveal themselves organically, and entertaining ideas that are imaginative and non trivial, while keeping the story and world 100% self-consistent. That last aspect is very important.  To stay with the physics analogy, Richard Feynman used to say that science is creativity in a straight jacket, but I think creativity is creativity in a straight jacket. Nothing will make the audience feel more betrayed that a storyteller who doesn't take the world of his story seriously. Once I have the story, it becomes about drawing and visual storytelling. I first rough out an entire issue -- sometimes 2 or 3 in a row-- and then go back to draw the final pages. That's also when I bring in photo reference for locations or props if I need to, or sometimes CG for vehicles. Then it's really drawing time. Once I draw, I do on average 1 to 2 pages a day.

How long does it take to complete just one scene in animation?

Well, it's not so much of a linear process, it's more of a layering process. For instance, for about 6 months to a year you're just going to work on the story, and the storyboard of the entire movie. And then when that's done and all ready, and that's the story you want to tell, then you're going to start animating individual scenes. Now, it's different with CGI animation, but back in the day of 2D animation you have what you call the actual animator who does rough sketches and does all the important drawings. Then he's got an assistant who cleans up the drawings and make them perfectly clean and everything. Then this assistant has an assistant called the In-Betweener who does the in-between drawings and stuff like that. So it's a very layered process, but all together it takes about a year, once in production. A year to a year and a half to animate an entire movie. 

In your opinion, what makes an ideal comic book? How do you feel about the growth and expansion of the comic book industry?

I think of comics as an art form, not a genre. In that sense, there is room for all sorts of tastes, ideas, and approaches. For my money, I like comics that, while fast paced, also know how to take their time with the story telling to create a rich, textured and immersive experience. I don't know if the industry itself is expanding. There is definitely more independent work available, since the internet and the graphic tools available make it much easier for anyone to create something in a "comic format". Which is great, as it lets creators buypass some gatekeepers, but can also be a double edge sword, as you want to keep the quality level in the industry as high as possible.

In the comic industry how do you tell the difference between a mainstream fan and a "die-hard" fan?

Having met thousands of people at convention I definitely see different types of comics readers. Some are really about finding characters and stories that are entertaining and meaningful to them, and would seek and appreciate those in any medium. A lot of new readers have come to comics that way. They fell in love with the Walking Dead of TV, or got hooked on Agents Of Shield or Gotham, and want to continue the experience. And I think that's wonderful!  For the first time in a long time, new people are coming to comics, and it's up to the industry to not disappoint. We can either capitalize on a fad, or open the gates to a brand new readership.  Hopefully, they will not only find what they are looking for in the stories, but also develop into the other kind of readers: those who have a love for the overall experience of reading comics itself, and really feel at home with the medium.

What do you think about the future of animation?

I think it's very bright. The industry here, especially in the West, animation has been restricted to certain types of movies and now the industry is really opening up to obtaining all sorts of stories. And so creatively, it feels like it's broader, it's more daring, it's more unique. So it's very, very, very exciting. 

If the comic book universe continues to expand the way it has been, such as major motion pictures, TV series, do you think the "die-hard fans" would feel offended in any way? Do you think the real stories of what actually happens in the comic books would be lost, because mainstream distorts it?

I think a lot of "die-hard fans" are feeling like trend-setters right now, and are really getting a kick out of it. As a fan myself, I like to see movies that capture what I think is the essence and integrity of the books I loved. I think it was more of a struggle before, back when comic book movies were made by people who didn't know or understand comics, or even bragged that they had never  read one. Back then, studios feared that mainstream audiences wouldn't get it, and felt the need to dumb it down in the most random ways. That's how you would have Kryptonians shooting weird telekinetic rays out of their hands in Superman 2, etc... But those times are over. Studios take the integrity of their superhero universes very seriously. Meanwhile, I never understood the obsession to want the films to respect every single detail. It's not like they burn all the books when the movie comes out. It's a new piece of art.

With the comic book industry growing, it seems to be expanding into the technological realm, such as being bought on Kindles or iPads. Does this have a positive or a negative affect on the industry? Does it affect the tight knit community that the comic book world has created?

 I think that the digital availability of comics is very positive. It creates new ways and experiences to enjoy the art form. Also, people love having a book in their hand, and as it turns out people are more adventurous and try books on digital platforms, and come back to buy the ones they really love in print. So everybody wins. However, I think that the key factor in digital publishing now is curation. Too many amateurish-looking books will overrun the landscape and turn people away.


Sketching

By Mariann Shaginian

During the expo many freelance sketchers come into play, who are not affiliated with any big companies or projects. These people just have a passion for illustrations and sketching, and want to share their work with the comic book community. They set up their individual tables and begin to sketch whatever comes into their minds, or they draw things people request. 

Video by Mariann Shaginian

The Cosplayers

The comic book universe is a body. One that is made up of innumerable writers, artists, creators, and illustrators. However, like any living, functioning body, it requires blood. In the case of the Long Beach Comic Expo (and the world of comics, on the whole) the fans are this lifeblood. And, as with avid supportors of any passion, they express this fandom through their appreciation, their attention, and, as some might consider most important, their purchasing power. However, the most dedicated of these comic cognoscentes express themselves in the most base, yet involved, way possible: by taking the characters they so admire and respect, and transferring them from the 2nd dimension into the 3rd. In becoming physically part of the comic world, they make the comic book "body" more real than it ever could be otherwise. 


 

STRYDER

By Dylan Gera

Photo by Dylan Gera

Going only by the name of Stryder, this part-bartender, part-cosplaying comic enthusiast is an ex-Londoner who now splits his time between Atlanta and Los Angeles. First acquring fame in the cosplay world by dressing in all-red, Adidas-inscribed Stormtrooper armor and blasting Run-D.M.C., Stryder's costume wardrobe has now expanded to include a fully-detailed, Original Trilogy-based Boba Fett outfit. It was in this ensemble that he attended the Long Beach Comic Expo and jetpacked his way to the mantle of (as one fan describes him) "The People's Cosplay Champion."

Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got started cosplaying?

It’s so funny: I’m from England, but my father was in the U.S. military and, as a child, we travelled, so I would collect action figures. And these were my best friends and I’d pop the heads off, and make each action figure a family member, so I always had them with me, all the time. About 10 years ago, I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to be my own action figure.’ So I started just making costumes, and doing random stuff, like showing up to clubs in jumpsuits and dresses and things and “Jason masks.”

Is this what you do for a living?

No, I live for a living! But, really, this is fun. I do a lot of Star Wars stuff, and my main character is the Hip Hop Trooper. Google him, and you’ll see him. He’s a Stormtrooper with a boombox. But, no, no, in real life, I’m actually a bartender.

Do you consider yourself a "die hard" Star Wars fan (or fan of comic books on the whole)?

I've been a die hard StarWars fan my whole life. StarWars and HipHop culture has always been part of my life.

This is the most comprehensive Boba Fett outfit I’ve ever seen. How long did it take you to assemble this, and, if you don’t mind me asking, how much did it cost?

Yeah, until my wife finds out… I started working on this costume about four years ago. I can’t really show you now, but I have many lasers; this [gestures to device on arm] is a high-powered laser. I can hit this button here and…wait for it [he releases a stream of smoke from his jetpack]. Many, many gadgets.

What was the process like? Did you finish in a year, and just keep adding to it over time or…?

I finished in about 14 months and I just kept adding and upgrading. Like, with any of my costumes, you don’t want to be competitive, but you want to have the best. And, sometimes, you want to take it to the next level. It’s kinda like basketball, yeah, you can dribble, you can shoot, but can you dunk? And then, yeah, you can dunk, but can you do a 360 dunk? Then, can you dunk from the foul line? You just keep getting better and better.

Do you go to a lot of comic expos and conventions?

Yeah, yeah, pretty much. I go to every single one. I’m not a fan of ComicCom. It’s too much of nothing as far as I’m concerned. It’s so overwhelming, but it’s not focused on the people that makes things like this cool. It’s more focused on Hollywood, and that type of thing. Yes, you show up in costume and you become part of the entertainment, but, I just don’t like it. It’s just too much.

Do you feel this Expo is more welcoming to the up-and-comers or the people who make comics cool?

Oh, yeah. This one, and you’ve got WonderCon. That’s good. I really like the Anime Expo, and then I would, hands down, DragonCon is the best one. That’s like Spring Break for costumers. That’s like the place where things get put on the internet and get everybody in trouble. But it’s so good that everybody wants to share it. 

If popular acceptance of comic book (i.e. "nerd") culture expands, do you think the die hard fans might feel some resentment against the more mainstream/casual fans?

The Cosplay vibe had blew up! I never liked the word Cosplay. But I'm starting to accept it since somebody called me "The People's Cosplay Champ."

Are there any other negatives to this mainstream acceptance?

Like everything in life, there's always gonna be bandwagon fans and people jumping on what's hot. But, for my part, I've been dressing up for 10 years. That's why it's so easy for me to create the Hip Hop Trooper; it's me, 100 percent. 


 

VIVID VIVKA

By Kelly Chun

Photo by Dylan Gera

Weird since birth, Vivid Vivka has many different aspects to her. A gypsy, a go-go dancer, a hula-hooper, you want your fortune told? She can read tarot cards! She has her own hair business, she has dozens of little hair clips to show you, but beyond that, she is also a professional cosplay model. Cosplay modeling for about four years now, Vivid Vivka attends as many conventions as she can, from WonderCon to Anime Expo to MegaCon, you name it. If she can get there, you can expect her to be there, whether she is there as a civilian fan or a special guest. Her heart lies with her fans, in her interaction with them, in their love for her. A woman of the people, she dresses up as beloved characters, hero and villain. From the famous Harley Quinn to the classic Mario, she not only dresses as them but goes beyond to even act and sound like them. Click on the video to hear some highlights from her interview! And for some awesome Harley and Joker impressions, too. 

When did you first become a “professional weirdling”?

Well, it’s hard to really put a date like ‘I started becoming weird September 15, 2000..’ you know? So, it’s hard to really say how long ive been doing it, but ive been modeling off and on since about 2005, specifically cosplay modeling for maybe about four years now. And just weird since birth!

Do you go to a lot of comic expo/con events?

Yes! This is my first time at Long Beach, and I absolutely love it. People have been so nice, I can't believe it. But I have a GoFundMe going right now, to help support my 2015 tour, and I have a booth at San Diego Comic Con, I'm going to MegaCon, I got a booth at C2E2, I'm going to, oh goodness, WinterCon, ComicCon, the AEx (Anime Expo), yay!

So you say you like this so far, ["I love it!"] so what do you think of it compared to other cons?

In comparison to San Diego Comic Con, everything is smaller, but then again, everything's smaller. But the people here have been so nice and so friendly and engaging, and it's really nice to be able to have some one-on-one time and actually talk to people. It's been a really great experience! 

Do you not really get to talk to people at San Diego? Are they not as friendly?

There's a lot of screaming, and there's a lot of, you very much feel the pressure that you can only talk to certain people for so long before you have to move on to the next person. You know, it kind of cuts away on that genuine interaction, which is why I'm doing this, honestly. I like to interact with people that have the same geeky, excitable overpassion as I do. Like 'Oh my gosh, yes, let's talk about this game! Let's talk about this anime!'

How much on average have you spent making costumes?

Oh, god. That is so varied. I mean I have some costumes that are more simple, like Fiona from Adventure Time, but I still have like a five foot crystal light-up sword. There's Death from Sandman, it's very simple. And then there's something like Mad Moxxi, which is what I am now, granted this is casual with jeans and t-shirt, but usually it's a lot more, like the Burlesque Joker ends up being a lot. I prefer to not know how much I've spent on it. I mean, I'm such a stickler for detail that I will overspend on fabric alone before anything happens,I love the details. 

How long do you think you'll continue as a professional weirdling?

As long as people will let me. I mean granted, I will always be weird. But I will continue being weird, professionally and publicly. 

How do you feel about the comic world? Do you think it'll keep getting bigger and bigger? What are your thoughts?

Honestly, I hope to see no end in sight, but you know, always prepared, always watchful. 

"Cosplay has become more to me than my hobby, or my passion... this is my true love."

-quote from Vivid Vivka's GoFundMe page.

Video by Kelly Chun

 

AND THE REST

Photos by Charity Lyons & Dylan Gera

So What Is it, Planet or Universe?

By Mariann Shaginian, Kelly Chun, & Felix Sicard

The comic world, which entails the appreciation of comics, toys, and costumes of various fictional series such as Star Wars and Marvel, is an expansive place that has grown tremendously in the twenty-first century. Through the release of popular superhero series in movie theatres and the burgeoning business of comic conventions and expos, the comic world has never been more closely entrenched into the mainstream consciousness, a far cry from the “nerdy” connotation that the term comic book once entailed.

Many people in the comic book community have a different perspective or opinion when it comes to Comic Con and Comic Expo. Comic Con is seen under a grander scale, being held in an Exhibition Hall over 460,000 square feet with a program scheduled to have near 700 different events, featuring comics, hands on workshops, educational and academic programs, games and much more. On the other hand Comic Expo is a smaller gathering, displaying near 290 exhibitions, and having a much more engaging and one on one feel. While speaking to Stephan Franck, a writer and animator, his standpoint as an exhibitor was that a high attendance is needed to make the high expenses of exhibiting worthwhile. In his opinion no matter the scale of the event, Franck always appreciates the events as long as his fans show up.

For all the glitz and glamor that the comic world has taken on in the past 15 years with the success of superhero movies, there is also quite a bit of tension that has arisen within the community. While there are some that feel that the comic world is in great shape to it hitting the mainstream, others feel that the luster of the tight knit community, as well as the comics themselves, have been de-valued.

Joel Casaje, a 21-year old employee at Boutique OC, which specializes in the distribution of vintage toys of various series as well as comic books, is all too familiar with the comic world. Younger than a lot of his peers in the comic industry, Casaje feels right at home in this realm.  

Casaje explains that, “I think the comic book world is trying to expand to become more profitable and mainstream through movies and video games as seen from the large comic book conventions. It is an understandable direction, as the larger companies are owned by large media corporations”.

However, he adds that, “I feel the direction is good for the comic world profit wise, but bad for the comic books as they have become sort of irrelevant, unless they are graphic novels. I think it's all about the movies now”. Seeing the massive profits that movies like “The Avengers” have made, to the tune of over 600 million dollars per Box Office Mojo, the movies definitely appear to be carrying the day.

Aside from the comic stories hitting the mainstream, so too have the comic conventions that once marked a gathering point for enthusiasts. Casaje offers that, “In regards to events like comic con, they live and breathe through the large companies as well as the smaller vendors. However, the past few years it seems as though they are catering more to the large companies due to the rise of the superhero film genre”.

Casaje’s employer, Boutique OC, is a smaller business in the now big business comic world. This definitely adds a sense of authenticity to his own view of the changing industry of comic conventions: “As a smaller vendor at the shows, it's understandable, it helps with profits with all the people selling there. However, there is a bit of a frustration due to increasing fees for space at the show”.

For all that comic conventions seem to have been taken over by the mainstream, comic expos, usually smaller in scale, have offered a haven for diehards like Casaje: “In regards to the smaller expos, I think that is where the more hardcore comic books fans attend, as they cater to a specific genre, such as Star Trek or Comic Art. It is  a pleasure at the smaller expos to see more of the core fans attending as it feels more authentic”.

While there are those that are left a little bothered by the idea of the comic realm as an expansive universe, thoughts like Casaje's allow some parts of the realm to stay as the exclusive planet it began as. For people that enjoy the livelihood of the fantastical, like Stryder and Vivid Vivka, the comic realm is more than a hobby, it's a lifestyle, it's a love. While the mainstream fans might steal the show and take away from genuine interaction at larger events like San Diego ComicCon, smaller expos like Long Beach Comic Expo are where, as Casaje says, "where the more hardcore comic books fans attend". The die-hard fans still get to enjoy their world as they accept that their world is thriving, and learn to accept that as a good thing. So in this world, it looks like you can have your gamma-radiated cake and eat it too.