Fans browse comic books.

Fans browse comic books.

Comikaze Entertainment Inc. held its annual Los Angeles Comic Con over the weekend of Dec. 3-5, marking a 10th anniversary the 11-year-old company had hoped to celebrate last year before Covid-19 forced the convention’s cancellation.

L.A. Comic Con has become one of the most popular conventions on the West Coast. According to Comikaze Chief Executive Chris DeMoulin, the gathering drew 94,900 attendees and an estimated 750 exhibitors and artists over the three-day period, indicating a strong appetite for fan-driven events despite Covid-related concerns, which the organization mitigated by adhering closely to city and state vaccination and testing protocols.

Compared to 2019’s 123,400 attendees, a record for the event, this year’s number represents a 23% decline overall. But 74% of that decline, according to the host company, came from fans ages 2-11, likely due to vaccination requirements.

Originally conceived in 2011 in response to the attendance numbers that made getting tickets to San Diego Comic-Con International such a challenge, the L.A. event, originally called Comikaze Expo, was held in the basement of the Los Angeles Convention Center and attracted 18,000 fans.

Two of the event’s first major guests were Marvel Comics Editor and Publisher Stan Lee and Cassandra Peterson, better known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Both of them liked the experience enough to form a partnership with Comikaze, and the convention rebranded as Stan Lee’s Comikaze from 2012 until 2016 after licensing Lee’s name from his Beverly Hills-based company Pow! Entertainment Inc.

In comparison to San Diego Comic-Con, which has become a launchpad for film and television studios to promote upcoming projects, DeMoulin calls the L.A. counterpart a convention “for fan, by fans.”

“There really is no limit to this idea of bringing together a mashup of pop culture fans everywhere on the spectrum of genres into downtown L.A. for three or four days to celebrate that,” he said.

DeMoulin said he and the event programmers engage with attendees and the fan community to seek ideas for guests, panels and events. For example, this year’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” panel featuring voice actors Tom Kenny and Rodger Bumpass makes a repeat appearance on the convention schedule after fans responded positively to it in 2019. Additionally, the popularity of “The Mandalorian” made a panel focused on the “Star Wars”-themed Disney Plus series a no-brainer, especially when stars Giancarlo Esposito and Ming-Na Wen agreed to appear.

The event’s proximity to Hollywood has made it more convenient than the San Diego event for some of these actors to attend.

“It’s really easy to roll down the hill and come do a panel and sign some autographs and meet some fans, and then get back in the car and be back home to have dinner with your family,” he said.

Additional guests included 88-year-old “Star Trek” actress Nichelle Nichols, making one of her final convention appearances, as well as her co-star Walter Koenig, and Bruce Campbell, star of the “Evil Dead” film series.

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