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Long Beach Hosts a Pop Culture Paradise

Written By: Abel S. Pinedo

February 21st, 2015

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On a lovely yet unseasonably warm February morning, I made my way to the Long Beach Performing Arts Center for the Long Beach Comic Expo. One quick note, this show occurs twice a year with the second show happening in September. That show is referred to as the Long Beach Comic Con. Got it? Ok, off we go!

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I got a good vibe right from the outset because parked outside was a selection of 'star' cars. Vehicles from Jurassic Park, Knight Rider, Magnum PI and others dotted the entrance. The beauty of this show is that it is more skewered towards comic books and their creators. There is not much of a 'Hollywood' presence with only a few celebrities scattered about. For the comic book purist, this is your type of show.

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The artist area was very well organized. The lines moved quickly and smoothly. The big draws (no pun intended) were Chris Claremont, Scott Koblish and Fabian Nicieza. With the Deadpool movie burning up the box office, the line for Nicieza never stopped. Naturally there was no shortage of Deadpool cosplayers throughout the day.

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I picked up a sweet piece of Star Wars art from Livio Ramondelli (www.LivioRamondelli.com) depicting a 'what-if' scenario featuring Darth Vader on Hoth and my friend picked up a badass portrait of The Punisher by Tim Bradstreet.

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Speaking of Deadpool, our friends at Golden Apple Comics were hosting a raffle where for only a dollar you might find yourself the winner of some sweet Deadpool products. Comics, a Funko pop, a clock, a Comic Con exclusive Deadpool figure and a Marvel Legends figure. So naturally I plunked down some cash for a chance at some sweet merch of the Merc. (and naturally, I didn't win) but the raffle was a huge draw. I got a tease about what may be happening on Free Comic Book Day in May...but we'll just have to wait for that special day.

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Most of the panels presented were also comic book focused. One that really got my interest was The Art of Star Wars & the Fandom Behind It. The panelists, Cat Staggs and Terry Dodson (comic artists), Greg Weisman (writer for Star Wars: Rebels season one) and Craig Miller, (Director of Fan Relations for Lucasfilm from 1977-1980) had some great behind the scenes stories to tell, particularly Weisman and Miller. Weisman said that while he is not currently involved with season two of Rebels, he knows the direction the show is going as well as where it will ultimately end. Of course, he couldn't give us any hints but did say that viewers will get all their questions answered about character back stories that have so far eluded us.

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Staggs briefly mentioned that the highlight of her career was when George Lucas himself purchased one of her prints. Whereas Dodson said that he's still amazed how his career has changed since the day he got the call to work on Star Wars comics. He's currently working on the Princess Leia series. Miller had some great stories to tell about the early days of Lucasfilm and how the saga was originally planned out for twelve movies, then nine. Once George Lucas completed The Empire Strikes Back, he was burning out so all his ideas for episodes six through nine were more or less crammed into Return of the Jedi. One significant note is that Boba Fett was intended to be the major villain of episode six but his story line was massively cut down for time constraints in order to progress the main story.

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Miller also had an interesting tale about our favorite six foot green rabbit, Jaxxon. You all remember him, right? Well, according to Miller, as far as Lucas was concerned the only cannon that mattered was the films themselves. He had little to do with the Marvel Comics series aside from the comic book adaptations of the trilogy. So all those adventures our heroes endured during the comics run was due to the writers and artists having essentially free reign. Until Jaxxon came along. One Lucas saw Jaxxon and how the character was evolving throughout the comic, as Miller puts it, Lucas became much more involved in the Marvel series and how they were treating his characters. A six foot green rabbit made Lucas say 'Hold the phone, what are they doing over at Marvel?' (Yeah, if you've been waiting for a Jaxxon action figure, don't hold your breath.)

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I spent the remainder of the day roaming the exhibit floor. In particular, I paid a lot of attention to Artist Alley. Right away I noticed many artists and vendors that I was not familiar with. Speaking to a few of them, I was told that most of these artists attend many of the smaller local shows but not the bigger ones like WonderCon or San Diego Comic Con. While I did recognize a few, many of these artists had some really awesome handmade crafts. I have to give special thanks to Jesse for his wonderful oil paintings and Star Wars themed votive candles. (http://www.jessejfr.com/) Growing up with religious variants of these all over my grandma's house, these brought a smile to my face and I happily scooped up some R2-D2 candles.

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I also fell in love with Epic Pillow Fight by Cha (epicpillowfight.com) I bet you never knew you needed an adorable Arrow or Deadpool pillow to complete your bedroom set. Well, now you do and this is the place to get them. Finally, I picked up a sweet necklace from My Faerietale. (www.facebook.com/pages/My-Faerietale) She does unique and one of a kind pieces, whether it be jewelry, clocks or figurines. She was lovely to speak with and very enthusiastic about her work.

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My Comic Expo experience ended with easily the highlight of my day. This year is the 30th anniversary of the sci-fi classic, Aliens and Bishop himself, Lance Henriksen was there selling 8x10's as well as his autobiography “Not Bad for a Human.” I happily purchased this and chatted with him while he signed my copy. He was such a delight to speak with. He talked about the thrill of making Aliens and how amazing it is today to realize that all the effects are practicals. And man, I gotta say, he's got a smooth warm voice like velvet. I'm already 50 pages into his book and it's enthralling.

I am already looking forward to returning to the show in September. And with that, Con season is officially underway. I hope you'll join me for further adventures!

About the Author: Abel S. Pinedo a.k.a. "Honest Abe" has written reviews for Dark Horizons, JoBlo and MusicTap.  He has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade. He can usually be found at his keyboard ranting and rambling about the human condition or watching Beavis & Butthead.

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