Those of you that have followed me for awhile (and if you’re not, please do so now on Twitter, @The_Con_Fluence), know that Long Beach Comic-Con (LBCC) is one of my favorite tour stops of the year. So, it should be no surprise to you that I’m counting down the days until their next show, this November 3rd-November 4th. In anticipation of the show, I’m here with my annual interview Martha Donato, President of Mad Event Management. Ms. Donato is always very kind with her time and is here once again with some exciting details for this year’s show.
MD: “Thanks Shawn, it’s because of people like you that the show has continued to flourish in a crowded market. As we’ve talked about in the past, we have a committed group of us who put together this show out of a mutual respect and genuine appreciation for the art form and most of all, the people we’ve met over the years. We always focus on the attendee experience – is this a show that I’d like to attend?
SM: Last year, you chose to integrate a horror theme into the show that many of the attendees seemed to really enjoy. That being said, a hallmark of the show is its comic-centric nature. How do you think the introduction of this new theme worked last year? How do you plan to continue to balance these two genres?
MD: “It worked out well for us, for two main reasons. First of all, being so close to the Halloween holiday, we wanted to let people know that Long Beach was a viable option to enjoy it – adding ‘Horror’ to the title was the most obvious way to do that while staying true to our core mission. Second, there is a plethora of horror based comic book work out there, so we were easily able to integrate the themes. We found it more natural to include it in the schedule this year – you’ll see horror themes placed throughout the programming schedule and on the exhibit floor without us calling any specific attention to it. It just fits in…”
SM: One thing that has really distinguished Long Beach Comic-Con over the years is the unique nature of many of your panel offerings. What is the process you use to choose panel offerings? What are some panels that you’re excited about for this upcoming show?
MD: “The programming schedule is my favorite part of the planning. We go through a submission process where we reach out to everyone we know and solicit for new ideas. This year, I asked for ideas around a new Kids Entertainment Area we wanted to launch. The most exciting part of my job is getting to pull together some amazingly talented people who are willing to share their experience and expertise with the rest of us. They do it because they love it, and want to share it.
Asking me which panels I’m most excited about is like asking me which of my children I like best! I couldn’t possibly pick – there are so many incredible sessions lined up. I think this is our best year yet. I’m proud of the line up for the Kids Area, and hope that our Under 10 crowd enjoys the experience. We have a unique Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner Workshop on Sunday morning; Brian Haberlin is doing two incredible sessions – digital inking and graphic novel production; there are two cosplay sessions – one with the 501st Legion and one with a talented young lady (Miko Simons) who is an expert in the field; Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada will be with us; Joshua Hale Fialkov and friends will be doing a 3 hour intensive workshop on Saturday afternoon – and that’s just the tip of the iceburg!”
SM: Attending somewhere between 12-18 cons a year, I’ve noticed many trends in the market. Although there are many positive trends out there, one growing problem seems to be the registration process. It seems many are getting caught by surprise by the massive number of attendees that all show up in the first hour of the show and lines have become a problem. What are some strategies that LBCC is employing this year to get people into the show quickly?
MD: “We had that problem last year on Saturday morning. So we switched to a new registration system that we tested at the Expo in May. It works with a barcode system that is much faster than our old method, plus we’ve more than doubled our staff for Saturday morning in preparation. We’re also offering our Weekend Pass holders who purchase their tickets in advance the chance to enter the exhibit floor at 9:30, and general admission will begin at 10:00. By staggering the opening, we hope to relieve some of the stress during that first hour.”
SM: Recently you announced a big surprise that Valiant will be making a first appearance at LBCC. They will be joining publishers like Aspen, Boom! Studios and IDW at the show. Can you discuss what sort of presence we can expect from these publishers? Are there plans for larger keystone locations on the exhibit floor like IDW had last year or something on a smaller scale?
MD: “We are really excited about the level of support we’ve received this year from the publishers. It’s become increasingly difficult for them to exhibit at the mid-size shows like Long Beach due to schedule fatigue and budgets. We know that Top Cow, Aspen, Valiant, Boom and IDW will have signings and some exclusive products for sale. They’ll be placed at the premier spots at the main show entrance.”
SM: Not to get away from the topic of LBCC, but it is important for our new readers to know about the awesome one-day Long Beach Comic Expo. I’ve gone on the record numerous times stating that I don’t think there is a better one day show in California. The combination of exhibitors, panels, guests, and cosplayers is better than many two or three day shows in the US. With the successes of the Expo, has there been any discussion of adding a second expo each year?
MD: “We’ve talked about adding another one day Expo to the schedule, and we’d like to do that in the future. One of the most difficult parts of doing this is finding a date that works. The Long Beach Convention Center is a busy place, and we don’t have a lot of options for dates. And thanks so much for the compliment. We also really enjoy the Expo!”
SM: Having attended nearly every minute of your conventions thus far, I know there is a lot to be excited about this November. That being said, what message can you deliver to our readers that have not yet attended your show? What are you most excited about for this year’s edition of LBCC?
MD: “I’m personally excited to have the publishers at the show this year. It’s definitely going to raise the energy level on the exhibit floor, and it was already high! I also can’t wait to see how the kids respond to the new area on the floor that’s been designed for them. It’s a work in progress and one that we’re committed to growing for the future.
Also, we’ve been working on a really fun project with the 501st Legion. We’ll be having a costume character procession on Saturday morning through the Convention Center and on to the Exhibit Floor, where we’ll have our customary Opening Ceremony with Vice Mayor Robert Garcia officiating. They’ve been working on a great charity project “Shoot-A-Trooper” as well. It’s been a great experience working with them.”
SM: Finally, is there anything else we haven’t covered here that you’d like passed on to our readers?
MD: “We’d like to thank all of you for your support. We love doing this, and hope you enjoy the experience as much as we do. Thanks so much Shawn – see you in Long Beach!”