Two years ago, Clint and Dawn Wolf launched their comic, Zombie Ranch, at Long Beach Comic Con. The couple returned to the convention — now called Long Beach Comic and Horror Con — last weekend, where they sat on the “Tips and Tricks for Indy Publishing” panel. During the panel, Clint recalled how they had been accepted for a booth at the convention and had all of thirty days to get a preview issue of Zombie Ranch ready.

These days, you can spot the creators of Zombie Ranch, which is available both online and in print, at a number of Southern California conventions. But their connection to the Long Beach event is part of what makes this annual convention so interesting.

I've been going to LBCHC since its inception in 2009 and have seen it grow from being a small gathering without a strong identity to a convention that has the potential to become a major force in the Southern California comic book community. Last year, I said that this was the “most improved” of the local conventions. This year, I would say that it is the convention that everyone with more than a passing interest in comics should attend.

LBCHC's 2011 show had a lot to offer. Fans of popular web series The Guild were able to go on a tour of the convention center locations that appeared in season five. American Horrors hosted a screening room full of scary flicks. Adult Swim fans had the chance to attend Q&A sessions for shows Frankenhole and Robot Chicken. There was also a masquerade ball, Might & Fright Film Festival and even Star Wars laser tag this year. But, the soul of this convention is in the comic books.

There's a bit of an irony within the convention scene. As the geek pride phenomenon swells and conventions gain more mainstream attention, comic books are frequently overshadowed by things like big budget films, celebrities proclaiming their nerd secrets and sexy cosplay photos. Comic books aren't usually glamorous. Their creators, with few exceptions, don't have that same sort of star power that actors do. But, for those who still love pouring over the pages of a printed comic, or spend hours reading through the archives of web-based titles, LBCHC is the perfect convention. There were big names, like Kevin Eastman, Steve Niles and Dustin Nguyen, mixed with a lot of up-and-comers.

Comic creators Evan Spears and Nathaniel Osollo; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

Comic creators Evan Spears and Nathaniel Osollo; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

Many of the artists and writers at the convention were recognizable from previous Long Beach events, which is great for fostering a real sense of community at the convention. Some of the newer artists who had previously appeared here were hosting panels this year. Brothers Shane and Chris Houghton, whose series Reed Gunther was picked up by Image earlier this year, joined Elephantmen's Richard Starkings for a discussion on creator-owned comics. Nathaniel Osollo, creator of the Twitter-sourced title 140 that was featured on this blog earlier this year, moderated the panel “Writing Comic Books with Twitter.”

This year, the panels were where LBCHC shined. The mostly 45-minute sessions leaned more towards the educational, but went far beyond the beginner's level. Saturday's “Tips and Tricks for Indy Publishing” session was an incredibly informative discussion featuring five creators with different approaches to publishing. Even if you weren't new to self-publishing, you would have probably come away from this panel with a few new tips. Saturday also featured a panel with a few of the artists and writers behind social media success story em>Womanthology, the comic anthology whose fundraising campaign went viral last summer. There were panels to answer any question you might have about making comics, from how to raise money with Kickstarter to how to maintain ownership of your work.

LBCHC offers an excellent opportunity to gain an education in comics. It's a chance for fans to get inspired and maybe go home to begin work on their own projects. For that reason alone, it's a must-attend convention. Next year's show will take place on the first weekend of November. They'll also be hosting another Long Beach Comic Expo next spring.

Follow Liz Ohanesian on Twitter and Facebook. For more arts news follow @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.

See Page 3 for a bonus LBCHC image

A Dalek and Boba Fett in the same shot? We couldn't resist.; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

A Dalek and Boba Fett in the same shot? We couldn't resist.; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

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