For more coverage visit our post on last year's event, “Comikaze Expo 2011: First-Time Convention Brings Big Names, Big Crowd” and check out photos from Comikaze Expo 2011.
It's official. Comikaze Expo, the new pop culture fan convention that took the Los Angeles Convention Center by storm last fall, is now Stan Lee's Comikaze, Presented by POW!.
In its first year, Comikaze Expo brought in 40,000 attendees, a number that's massive even in comparison with long-running events. This year, the convention is doing something unprecedented by partnering with the biggest name in the comic book industry.
Stan Lee needs no introduction. He's a legend who can count Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Hulk and many other comic book characters among his creations. But, despite his continuing contributions to the industry, Lee has never helmed a fan convention. Until now.
“Over the years, people have said to me, 'Why don't you have a Stan Lee comic convention?'” says Lee. “I always answer, I can't do it because I'm not in that business. I don't know how to run a convention.
“Now, after all these years, I can say, yes, I want to do it,” he adds. “I'm really eager to do it.”
For POW! Entertainment — which stands for “Purveyors of Wonder” — getting into the convention business was a matter of finding the perfect collaborator. That person is Regina Carpinelli.
Carpinelli launched Comikaze Expo with her brothers, Mario and Fabiano, and $10,000. The siblings hadn't organized a fan convention before, and didn't know many people in the convention scene, but they had ample promotion experience thanks to their parents, who owned a Latin-music promotion firm. With a lot of persistence (Carpinelli says she spent two months “begging” Lee's management to get him as a guest), the event was an immediate success. That success impressed Lee.
“It was almost like being at Comic-Con in San Diego. The place was packed,” Lee recalls. “There was excitement in the air. Everybody seemed to love it.”
But, it wasn't just the vibe that impressed Lee and the POW! team. The location, in downtown Los Angeles, made a difference too.
“I was so happy because I feel that Los Angeles needs its own big comic con. We shouldn't have to go to another city for it,” he says.
Of course, there are a lot of conventions in Los Angeles proper, but many of those are niche events, such as anime conventions or shows dedicated to specific franchises. The idea of an all-encompassing pop culture convention within L.A.'s city limits, something that could rival San Diego Comic-Con or Dragon*Con, has eluded locals. Comikaze just might be changing that.
Last year's convention featured a wide range of guests that included Lee, Elvira, Invader Zim creator Jhonen Vasquez and a last-minute appearance from The Venture Bros.' Jackson Publick. With POW! on board, fans can expect more big names added to this year's roster.
“We want to make this the most perfect gathering place for fans of pop art of every type,” says Lee.
Gill Champion, president, director and CEO of POW!, says the company will be involved in all aspects of the convention. He also noted it likely will take the opportunity to incorporate POW! projects into the event. Recent releases from POW! include Stan Lee's Mighty 7 and Romeo & Juliet: The War.
Carpinelli, who is CEO of Comikaze Entertainment, is still running the show and she sounds ecstatic about the new partnership. She says, “For me as a girl who grew up wanting to be Spider-Man, to now being business partners with Stan is a dream come true.”
And for Lee, this is an amazing opportunity to further merge multiple media.
“These conventions, which started out being comic book conventions, they now feature every sort of entertainment,” he says. “That's what excites me about it so much.”