Long Beach Nerds Assemble!

Kyle Weik | New University

Kyle Weik | New University

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It was 9:55 a.m., just five more minutes. Three women clad in black leather outfits slung their plastic machine guns onto their backs while they posed in front of Doc Brown’s car from “Back to the Future.” Nearby, a group of five girls fixed their neon purple wigs and smoothed out their matching pleated skirts before flashing  their peace signs in front of the “Jurassic Park” truck and giving the one of many photographers the go-ahead.

In front of the parking structure, Catwoman and Loki waited in line at Taco Spot, one of three food trucks available, and looked over the itinerary for the day. When the clock struck 10, hundreds of people erupted in applause and cheers. Once the doors finally opened, people left reality outside and entered into a world of fantasy.

A host of colorful characters took over the Long Beach Convention Center this past weekend for the 6th Annual Long Beach Comic Expo.

This two-day event housed over 165 exhibitors and more than 130 guests in celebration of the longstanding community of cosplayers, fanboys and fangirls. While smaller in size than larger exhibitions such as WonderCon and Comic-Con, the Long Beach Comic Expo still managed to attract participation from more than 160 artist alley tables and crammed more than 80 hours of programming into the 10-hour long event.

The lobby of the convention center served as home base for many of the attendees. Camera shutters resonated throughout the large room as many people snagged every opportunity to show off their elaborate costumes, ranging from “Game of Thrones” characters to “Where’s Waldo?”      Comic Expo’s  main attraction, however, was the exhibition center.

Designated eating areas flanked  the right and left of the room  for anyone who was in need of a break from perusing the vast center. A family of Cobra Troopers enjoyed a pizza and cotton candy sold from one of the vendors while two women dressed as Princess Leia and Jabba the Hutt sipped on Starbucks in between taking pictures with little kids.

The majority of the space was occupied by a slew of exhibitors. Rows of booths were set up, specializing in a variety of comics and fan merchandise. One such booth called The Brass Wardrobe sold Renaissance and fantasy costumes and accessories, including revolvers, holsters and flasks. Fans flocked to collectors and companies that sold contemporary comics from American Vampire and Gotham Central to rare, pre-1960’s Spiderman and X-Men that sold for upwards of $50. While many big-name companies attended the event, the smaller independent sellers had the most foot traffic, one of which was Dave Comics.

“I’ve been coming to these events since I was a teenager,” said David Lula, now 40-years-old and owner of Dave Comics. “I’ve been dealing comics for about 20 years now. When you collect and have a business mind like me, you try to sell at all the conventions you can.”

Lula, like many of the exhibitors, center their entire year around these events and can be seen at all the major exhibitions throughout the year.

Comic Expo was not only a popular destination for teenagers and adults, but many families as well.

“My family is really into pop culture,” explained 36-year-old Frederick Dassler. “I’ve taken my son to events like this in the past, but this is the first time I’m bringing my wife and daughter.”

Not only were locals in attendance, but fans from all over the world flocked to these comic events including native Brazilian Dina Mills.

“I’ve been a part of Agents of Cosplay for about a year,” said 40-year-old Mills, who was dressed in a blue body suit, red wig and yellow contact lenses, staying true to her Mysterious Ways cosplay. “I love it. I get to be somebody else.”

Aside from the vendors, organizations such as Lego Users Group of Long Beach had an area sectioned off for children to fiddle around with Legos, while Retro Movie and Gaming Entertainment provided gaming consoles and seating for those itching to play a tournament of Street Fighter. There was even a Star Wars Laser Game obstacle course located in the back of the center.

Throughout the day, there were multiple programs held, spanning topics from how to write a comic book to make-up for cosplay and more. One of the most popular ones was titled “Men of Cosplay,” in which  five veteran cosplayers provided the audience with their own experiences in the industry and explained why cosplay is more than just a hobby.

“It’s groundbreaking,” said Steve Meissner, who has been attending costume conventions since 2007 and now makes a living creating props for cosplayers. “Cosplay artists have revolutionized the way film approaches props.”

For some, like Bernie Bregman, wearing a costume is its own reward.

“When a kid asks to take picture with you because they think you are the character from the comic book or from the screen, that’s adorable,” said Bregman. “We’re all nerds, but we all do it because we are passionate about it. We do it because we love it