Comikaze Expo 2011: First-Time Convention Brings Big Names, Big Crowd
Shannon CottrellTitmouse animation panel at Comikaze
See more photos in Shannon Cottrell's slideshow, "Comikaze Expo 2011."
Jhonen Vasquez, creator of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Invader ZIM, is working with L.A.-based animation studio Titmouse on a few new projects. The catch is that he can't talk about most of the new stuff yet.
Right now, Titmouse is working on the hottest animated series on TV. Saturday afternoon, the team from the local studio, along with the animators and writers who work with them, turned up at first-year pop culture convention Comikaze to talk about their new work.
One of Titmouse's current projects is MTV's resurrection of cutting-edge animation showcase Liquid Television. This much Vasquez could discuss. The beloved artist and writer is working on a segment for the show and mentioned a man, a bear and "Cowboy Bebop fight scenes with shitty artwork." Hell yeah.
That's not all. In addition to forthcoming seasons of Metalocalypse and Superjail!, Titmouse is getting in gear for the debut season of Black Dynamite on Adult Swim. An animated series based on the film of the same name, the show's pilot made a splash when it appeared on the late-night network's website last summer. Carl Jones, who worked on The Boondocks and is a writer and executive producer for Black Dynamite, was on hand to discuss the new show. He said that the premiere is currently set for July 8, 2012.
Meanwhile, Jackson Publick, whose cult hit The Venture Bros. has only recently joined forces with Titmouse, made an almost-surprise appearance on the panel. He confirmed the Internet buzz that he and Doc Hammer are currently writing season five of the series. The show was renewed for a fifth and sixth season on Adult Swim. He also said that they're "trying" to get a Halloween special ready for next year, which Hammer will be writing.
There was a lot of news from Titmouse and the excitement from seeing Vasquez, Publick, Jones, company founder Shannon Prynoski and Metalocalypse director Jon Schnepp on the same panel filled the room. That Titmouse chose to bring this panel to a first-year convention was impressive, certainly a sign that Comikaze is onto something big.
For its inaugural event, Comikaze booked some major talent. Stan Lee, Elvira and Mark Hamill were amongst a host of quality celebrity guests at the convention. They also offered a good variety of panels and an exhibit hall crammed with booths from artists, vendors and fan groups. Comikaze's exhibit hall looked like a Who's Who of the Southern California convention scene -- no small feat for a first-time convention.
If Comikaze suffered from anything this year, it was a clear underestimate of the crowd. With four gatherings at Los Angeles Convention Center last weekend -- including Blog World, West Coast Franchise Expo and a Tony Robbins event -- the upstart convention was relegated to the South Hall parking garage. Yes, a parking garage.
Naturally, this sucked up a good chunk of spots in the lot. By the time I arrived on Saturday, not long after noon, the lines to get into the garages were long and the remaining spaces were hard to find. That wasn't the only wait. At this point in the day, the line for will call tickets met up with a line of people trying to get off the escalators. It was immediately obvious that this convention needed more space.
If there were printed programs and maps available, they weren't on hand by the time I got my wristband. The schedule was available online and we did find a map at the front of the exhibit hall, but it wasn't very useful. The exhibit hall was still difficult to navigate with no clear dividing lines between the vendor, artist and celebrity booths. Most of the panel rooms were small sections of the garage that had been separated from the exhibit hall by curtains. In some cases, I noticed, they were too small to hold the crowd for the panels. There was one room upstairs reserved for larger sessions, like the Titmouse presentation, but even that could have been bigger.
Every problem Comikaze had, though, seemed to be the result of a large crowd (over 30,000 for the entire weekend, according to organizer Regina Carpinelli). Comikaze has the potential to become L.A.'s answer to nationally-known, all-inclusive pop culture conventions like San Diego Comic-Con. If that's going to happen, though, they need more space. This convention is already too big for a parking garage.
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