Los Angeles has long been known as a cultural hub, the paradigm for great weather, and a mecca for the film and TV industries. It’s the single most populous city in California and the second most in the United States. A major lodestone ofthe West Coast and the bellwether of culture, art, and entertainment, Los Angeles seems to have everything. But prior to 2011, it had yet to establish a major comic book convention. San Diego had its flagship ComicCon and New York had its own as well, but inexplicably, LA only had small, unknown events (all still great in their own right). Temecula native Regina Carpinelli and her two younger brothers noticed this bsence and decided to change all that. And in November 2011, the very first Comikaze Expo was launched.
Held in Kentia Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the inaugural event was host to 35,000 attendees—humble compared to the 123,000 in 2019—and went off relatively without a hitch. Right away, guests could tell that this convention would have its own identity, reflecting the LA scene, with local artists, tattoo artists, and comic book dealers all converging to help make something special. It was a refreshing change of pace from the glossy coat of its competitors. The event was also imbued with a nostalgic vibe, hosting various retro cast reunions, which have become a mainstay over the years.
That identity has held true ever since. In 2012, Carpinelli partnered with Marvel legend Stan Lee and his company POW! Entertainment, as well as Elvira herself, Cassandra Peterson, and was rebranded as Stan Lee’s Comikaze. Although both icons were no strangers to fan conventions, they made Comikaze their home, setting the tone for what the annual event would really come to embody: comic books, horror, and nostalgia.
2012 would also include an appearance by Kevin Smith, where he recorded a live version of his podcast Fatman on Batman, featuring a guest appearance by the original Batman, Adam West. Smith would also become a mainstay almost every year from then on.
Renamed once again to Stan Lee’s L.A. Comic Con in 2016, the convention has continued to grow each year, but has still managed to retain almost a cult-like following. With the addition of an entire horror section in 2019, cementing its distinction from other contemporaries, and an exhibit from LA’s own Petersen Automotive Museum, LACC has become not only a celebration of pop culture, but of the local community. And an entire decade later, it’s now a staple in downtown Los Angeles—a showcase of the city’s own culture while symbiotically giving it some back in the process.
2019 also saw numerous dedications to Stan Lee following his passing the year before, including a memorial wall where guests could write messages to the comic book icon and a panel discussion on the main stage discussing his legacy. Lee always felt the authenticity behind LACC, which is why he was so passionate about his partnership. Despite a convention scene that was muted across the globe in 2020, L.A. Comic Con is back this year with its 10th outing this December, where it will host over 800 vendors and dozens of celebrity guests, including Zachary Levi, Giancarlo Esposito, Jason David Frank, Bruce Campbell, Frank Miller, Will Friedle, and Nichelle Nichols in her final ever convention appearance, among many, many others.
Since day one, the mascot for L.A Comic Con has been an indelible octopus now named Stanley following a fan submitted contest last year a visage that essentially alludes to the unruly pandemonium that its namesake metropolis has become defined by. But when you look back at the convention’s humble beginnings, it’s almost impossible to believe that that same honestto-goodness, fan-driven mindset is still present today. Known as the convention that’s “from fans, for fans,” LACC has always played by its own rules and embraced this sense of quirkiness, unwilling to compromise its mission for the sake of conforming to what all the other big conventions are doing. And ten years later, we’re continually reminded that, despite its gargantuan size, Los Angeles is still a lot smaller than it looks.
L.A. Comic Con will be held December 3rd through 5th at the Los Angeles Convention Center