+the scene
(Photo © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)

L.A. Comic-Con 2023: A Safe Space For The Dreamers In Us

Written by Mary Clavering and Fernando Flores. Published: December 04 2023

 

Who hasn’t dreamt of being a Superhero or a Supervillain at one point in their lives? Definitely not me. Nope. Definitely won’t tell you about my childhood superhero name, “The Flying Sombrero”...

 

As a lifelong fan of comic books, whenever the words “comic-con” are spoken, it fills me with giddy excitement. I feel like a kid anxiously awaiting Christmas morning. L.A. Comic-Con is a place where fans of comic book heroes and villains, as well as gamers, cosplayers, fans of manga, anime, and card games, all come together to celebrate their shared interests, passions, and hobbies. 

 

( © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)

 

L.A. Comic-Con started in 2011, founded by Regina Carpinelli and her two brothers. The very next year, they partnered with none other than the legendary Stan Lee himself. They changed the name to Stan Lee’s Comikaze and then rebranded it to Stan Lee’s L.A. Comic-Con. Today it is just called L.A. Comic-Con, held annually at the L.A. Convention Center. Attendance in 2022 was 126,000 and was expected to be even higher in 2023. The big crowds at the convention have also attracted many celebrity guests and entertainers.

 

( © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)
 

The event is spread out throughout the convention center with over 250 panels in various conference rooms; however, the bulk of the convention is separated in the South Hall and the West hall. The South Hall is where most of the vendors and exhibitors are situated as well as independent artists. Unlike other similar conventions where you have to wait in long lines to get to the big panels, L.A. Comic Con has its main stage inside the South Hall, so everyone in attendance can see their favorite celebrity guests! 

 

MAIN STAGE PANELS

 

Matt Smith: "Doctor Who", "The Crown", "House of the Dragon"

Every "Doctor Who" fan, AKA “Whovians”, has a favorite Doctor, and my favorite is the eleventh doctor, played by Matt Smith. So the highlight for me was catching his Q&A on the main stage. He also plays Daemon Targaryan in HBO's "Game of Thrones" spinoff/prequel "House of the Dragon". Matt answered every question with some of the wit that he is known for. When asked what was the most challenging part in playing such a complex character like Prince Daemon, he simply stated, “Putting on the bloody wig.” When asked what was the weirdest piece of merchandise he'd ever seen his likeness on, he said, “My face on underwear for 5-year-olds, I saw someone with a cool tattoo today; it’s just mad you have a tattoo of my face on your leg.” 

 

( © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)

 

Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, and Billy Boyd:The Lord of the Rings

The energy between all these actors was truly incredible and radiated on stage. The guys reminisced about on-set injuries, set talk, family life, visiting New Zealand, and what it was like being on a billion dollar yacht in Auckland. “There’s a lot of experiences that we all collectively had and many that we’ve shared together, and we are actually a great patchwork of our individual memories. What I will forget, they will remember, and vice-versa. It totally happens all the time,” said Elijah Wood. It was totally magical seing these guys together again, and even after two decades, the loyal fans all came out.

 

( © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)

 

Logic: Rapper/Producer, Two-Time Grammy Award Nominee

The talented rapper talked about his humble beginnings and how he loves talking to the fans. One fan got to show her skills and rap forLogic and the crowd! 

 

( © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)

 

MORE SOUTH HALL STUFF…

 

Where do I begin? So many people, so many costumes, from Batman, Superman, and Iron Man to some lesser-known characters like the Crimson Grasshopper. Actually, The Crimson Grasshopper is quite famous in Latin America under his Spanish name “El Chapulin Colorado”. That’s the best part of this whole experience -- anyone can fulfill their childhood dream. Speaking of dreams, Tyra Banks gave one fan the opportunity to be a character in her first graphic novel, The House of Smize, written by Tyra herself and Sabrina Besla. We got the chance to catch up with Sabrina and chat about this project!

 

YH: Tell us about The House of Smize graphic novel.

SB: The House of Smize is loosely inspired and based on Tyra’s family. It’s about this family that lives in IngleSMiZe. It is a town that is run by Xylo, our villain… who does not believe in dreams... There will be an uprising with the family members, challenging Xylo to dream big.

 

YH: What’s the process like creating the characters?

SB: It’s been so much fun. Tyra is so hands-on. We had this idea a few years ago… It’s been really fun creating these characters with her. We are equal partners in this and it’s been such a blast.

 

YH: Is it more or a rebellion story? Is it a Superhero story?

SB: We are inspired by the whole Marvel Universe. We want to create that world as well. 

 

YH: Tell us about the how you plan to include someone from L.A. Comic-Con, a fan here, in the graphic novel?

SB: We have our little dream box here where people can tell us what their dreams are. They take a photo and hashtag it on social media, and we take a photo as well. Tyra is very hands-on on this; she definitely goes in there and picks the person. It’s been amazing and sweet to see people write out their dreams. They’re putting a lot of thought into it, and some are just hilarious. It’s all joy and happiness.

 

YH: What message would you like fans to take away from this?

SB: That no dream is too big or too small. If you really believe in something, you can achieve it.

 

While talking with Sabrina, I was enjoying some of Tyra’s very yummy Smize and Dream ice cream. If you get the chance grab you some. It’s delicious! There was a prize at the very bottom... but I accidentally ate it. 

 

“A lot of people never knew that Tyra Banks always dreamt of having her own ice cream company. It’s a memory for her that she shared with her mom growing up,” said Ashleigh Ellis, Executive Assistant to Tyra Banks. She added, “Her mom really taught her that you had to work hard for what you wanted in life for the dreams that you had and to never stop reaching deep for your dreams too. So this ice cream company is her dream coming to life, and we want to remind people that you’re never too young or too old to dream”. 

 

( © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)

 

Thank you, Tyra, and her amazing team! We definitely will never stop dreaming. Fully inspired, we started making our way to the West Hall to check out all the gaming goodies, and to our surprise, here’s what we saw!

 

WEST HALL

 

So many game stations to sit and play, all for free, but of course you had to wait in line for a game station to open up. The line was moving pretty quick, though, so it wasn’t bad at all. We also noticed that there was a crowd of excited fans in line to get a picture and autograph of actor Noel "Noel G." Gugliemi(Furious 7, "The Walking Dead", The Dark Knight,Bruce Almighty, Training Day, The Purge: Anarchy). We spoke to Noel and were able to ask a very important question.  

 

YH: I gotta ask you this question because there’s all these memes out there about you playing a character, Hector. You’ve played Hector in 8 separate, unrelated movies. Is that something you choose?

NG: [jokingly] I definitely choose that. I won’t do a movie unless my character’s name is Hector. Just kidding, bro. Every time I would get a script, the character names were either Hector or Carlos. It was just a coincidence because it happened so much. Now, when I have the opportunity, I will ask if my character can be Hector… It started out as a coincidence, and now I just made it a thing. 

 

YH: Tell me about your experience here at Comic-Con.

NG: I love L.A. Comic-Con. Love to meet the fans… Everyone is just smiling, laughing, and having a good time. It’s family-friendly fun… It’s like Disneyland but without the rides.

 

YH: What’s the audition process like for you?

NGl: Every case is different. Some people are like, "Hey, I wrote the part for you," and others are like, "Hey, we like you for this role but it’s  you and a couple of other choices come audition." 

 

( © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)

 

Gundam Base Mobile USA Tour

When I was kid, if I wasn’t dreaming about having super powers, I was dreaming about having my very own giant Gundam mobile suit to pilot. You can only imagine the excitement on my face when I saw the Gundam Base Mobile USA Tour. They had many model kits for sale, but the best part was giving fans a free Gundam RX-78-2 and a workshop to build the Gunpla model kit right there. Okay, it wasn’t a life-sized giant Gundam, but it was super cool nonetheless. Besides, I wouldn’t know where to park a 66-foot tall giant robot. Fine, I’ll stick with my Flying Sombrero. 

 

“What we’re doing here today is, we have our Gundam Base Mobile USA Tour here at Comic-Con. It’s our mobile tour going around the United States and it brings our GUNPLA model kits directly to our fans. So you can come in today, sit down at our workshop to build a free GUNPLA model kit. It’s our entry grade RX-78-2. You can also purchase a large selection model kits on site. Everything from Entry Grade to Perfect Grade,” said Amanda Johnson, Account Manager for Pro Motion Inc

 

( © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)

 

I must say, these costumes are getting more and more creative every year. One of my favorites was a group of Yip Yips from "Sesame Street". Never laughed so hard. We also met some new friends along the way...

 

( © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)

 

Patricio Ginelsa: The Debut, Giant Sized Lumpia, Kid Heroes Productions

“We publish our own independent Comic Books. I started out just to promote the film, and now we went from movie to comic book, vs the normal comic book-to-movie adaptation road,” said Patricio. “The newest issue is a giant-sized Lumpia, based on a Filipino spring roll, fighting crime using lumpia as a ninja star. I like providing a platform for the fan-coined term, Deep Fried Universe(DFU), where a lot of people like to play in the sandbox and guard it with just us making movies, and now it’s including Comic book artist. If you can’t beat them, you feed them.” Patricio is known for crowd-funding everything he’s created. One of them is The Debut, on which he worked closely with Danny Trejo,Dante Basco, and the Basco Brothers. “They all believe in my wacky vision,” said Patricio. He’s truly an inspiration. What started out as an idea has evolved into it’s own ride. 

 

YH: We were just talking about how a lot of your comic books are mixing food with action and comedy -- there is a Filipino food that, in Mexican Spanish, means something really bad. Have you ever thought about merging those words and creating that character? [Referring to the dessert named "puto". You heard it here first with us, folks.]

PG: [laughs] We’re joking about it now, but the wheels are turning in my head already. One of my favorite foods because it soaks in all the greasiness that you eat. There’s your first clue -- it’s got to be a hero or a villain that soaks things in like a sponge... We’re creating this as we go.

 

( © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)

 

 

After a while of walking through the convention, something caught our eye that was truly remarkable. It’s using VR to cope with physical and day-to-day stress. Definitely something we all can use nowadays with our busy schedules. 

 

Christine Song: Flowly, Brand Marketing Lead

“We are bringing VR and bio feedback therapy at home,” said Christine Song. “Most people have heard of VR but with biofeedback; it measures your heart rate, able to show it to you in real time. Through VR and biofeedback, we’re essentially helping people take their nervous system from fight or flight mode (where a lot of pain, stress, anxiety, insomnia occurs) to the rest and relaxation mode, or what we like to call 'the flow stage'. We deal with a lot of non-structural pain, meaning pain when you go to a doctor [and] they cannot find an actual cause for the pain, and the reason why is because all the stress and anxiety, mental pain that we’re in is so much that it starts to manifest as physical pain. For example, 80% of all back pain is non-structural pain and no physical cause for you to have lower back pain." We got a chance to try out the VR and it definitely calmed our thoughts down a bit and felt more relaxed as we made our way through the rest of Comic-Con.

 

 

 

Richard Tango: President, Criticalcare Comics

“A one hundred percent non-profit organization, based at Las Vegas, who dresses up like Superheroes and delivers comic books and toys to sick kids all over our city,” said Richard Tango. “Every month, we do about 8 to 10 hospital visits and give away about a thousand dollars worth of toys and comic books. Our goal is to make kids a little happier in their hospital stay in a very scary situation and to bring joy to them even if it’s just with 28 pages. An orgaization run by volunteers. All the money raised goes to the comic books, toys, and any left over money goes to our scholarship foundation for childhood cancer survivors.". Truly an inspiration we can all learn from.

 

( © Mary Clavering/Fernando Flores)

 

TO WRAP UP…

 

What an incredible 3 days. This experience has truly ignited my “Flying Sombrero” days  into existence. With our busy schedule nowadays, we sometimes forget about the important things in life, and this experience was a reminder for me to never stop dreaming, because, in the Comic-Con world, anything is possible…

 

L.A. Comic-Con, you did it again. Until next time…