Stan Lee’s Comikaze drew tens of thousands to the Los Angeles Convention Center over the weekend. It was the convention’s second year, though the first with Stan Lee’s name attached — which contributed to a large increase in attendance. That brought its own problems, including the fire marshal shutting the doors due to the crowds inside, leaving numerous fans outside in hundred-degree heat with lines wrapping around the building.
Fans took to social media to complain about the problems, describing waits that lasted hours in the heat. There were numerous posts on Twitter and Facebook blasting the show’s organization, with some giving up on the lines and leaving before being able to get in.
“We had a larger turnout than expected,” Comikaze staff told KPCC via Twitter. Comikaze responded to fans on social media, blaming the problem with fans being stuck outside on the fire marshal and saying that the problems were out of their control. They said that they were a small team trying their best.
“The minute I found out — I literally turned into the Incredible Hulk and fixed the situation immediately and got the lines moving faster. I also jumped on social media that night — until 5 a.m. — letting the fans know that we were on top of it,” Comikaze CEO Regina Carpinelli told KPCC.
The convention didn’t have hard numbers yet, but there were 30,000 attendees last year, and year two’s attendance “significantly increased,” Carpinelli said.
She also vowed to make things better next year. “There are some things we can’t control, but anything we can, we fix and continually improve at. Trust me — I was so upset about this. It won’t happen again.”
Despite those problems, the convention scored some big gets. In addition to Stan “The Man” Lee himself, the famed co-creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man and numerous others, the show also included an appearance by ’60s TV Batman Adam West being interviewed by director/professional geek Kevin Smith. The show was also co-sponsored by Elvira, who made several appearances.
Stan “The Man” Lee joins the team
So how does a convention score Stan Lee? Stan was the guest of honor in the convention’s first year, Carpinelli said. “He likes the show and had always thought about starting a convention, so he wanted to be part of it,” Carpinelli said. Lee’s Pow Entertainment invested in the convention and gave it the Stan Lee seal of approval.
“I travel the world with Stan going to conventions and we talk about our vision all the time. Stan might be 89 years old, but he is sharper than a tack and has more charisma than anyone I have ever met in my life,” Carpinelli said.
When asked why other conventions that have tried to come to L.A. haven’t succeeded, Carpinelli said, “Maybe the difference is that they were business people trying to create a business where they saw a market. I am a huge fan — first and foremost — so Comikaze was created by fans, for fans.”
Carpinelli threw herself into the heat of the action, moderating a Q&A with Stan Lee. “I could see the joy in people’s faces,” Carpinelli said.
She’s also had the chance to accomplish something a lot of comic fans have long dreamt of. “I’m really lucky to have such a good relationship with Stan. He has been my hero since I was a kid and now he is like family.”
The show definitely kicked up the glitz this year. It may have lost some of the down-home charm of the first year, when it was held in the convention center’s parking garage space beneath the building, with most panels held behind curtains in one big room. However, they took over the South Hall’s main showroom this year and presented panels on everything from “Doctor Who” to cult action flick “The Boondock Saints.”
Watch more highlights from the convention:
The show also has big ambitions for the future, with Carpinelli citing a desire for everything from more A-list talent to more screenings to a bigger stage. “I want a lot and I generally get what I want. I think between Stan and me, we can make anything happen.”
The power of Stan Lee, even 50 years after creating the characters that helped make him part of the popular imagination, is hard to deny. Carpinelli shared one 13-year-old boy’s Facebook comment: “Comikaze vs comic-con is like marvel vs dc, you may have a couple of cool things, but we have stan lee ;).”
Mark your calendars now — Comikaze will be back in L.A. in from Nov. 1–3 in 2013, expanding from two to three days.
Watch Comikaze’s Super Hero Dating Game: