It’s race day once again.
To recap: Throughout the year, I’m going to be previewing the participants in Con-athon 2016, this year’s gauntlet of six major anime/sci-fi/fantasy/comic conventions on two islands and a whooooooole buncha smaller events in between. Kawaii Kon was first out of the gate in early April, and they set a rather impressive pace for the other shows to follow: an 11th straight year of attendance growth (11,597 unique attendees!) and three guests already announced for next year (voice actors Vic Mignogna and David Vincent, and manga publisher Vertical Comics).
Since then, the remaining participants have continued to make progress toward their start dates (well, most of them, anyway; no one’s quite sure what to make of the continued silence on the part of Anime Matsuri Hawaii, which has yet to even announce when their show’s taking place nearly half a year after their last event ended). Next up to the starting gate is the convention that made the biggest splash last year: Amazing Hawaii Comic Con.
We knew going into Con-athon 2015 that Amazing Comic Conventions, while new to the local convention scene, would be bringing a top-shelf experience into town. Phoenix, Houston and Las Vegas all had Amazing experiences in place (no pun intended); the question was what the group could do with Honolulu, all the way out on a rock in the middle of the Pacific.
The answer: a heck of a lot. Just having one creator like George Perez, Kevin Eastman, Adam Kubert or Rob Liefeld headlining the show would’ve drawn a crowd. Having all of them, a number of other creators AND comic legend/obligatory Marvel Cinematic Universe cameo figure Stan Lee show up at the convention center in mid-September? Take our money, please!
When all was said and done, Amazing Hawaii Comic Con not only had the largest attendance of the four cons that debuted last year, it was already making a strong case for being Hawaii’s largest pop-culture convention against longtime mainstay Kawaii Kon, and it probably contributed to lower attendance at other events within a month’s radius, to boot. (It certainly seemed emptier at the Anime Days at Windward Mall event and Mini Con at McCully-Moiliili Library last year, anyway.)
All that popularity came at a price, though. And I mean that literally; to enjoy a good chunk of the show, one either had to wait in a line, shell out money, or wait in a line and then shell out money. Want to meet your favorite artist who happens to be the favorite artist of 25 percent or more of the attendees in the room? Wait in line and pay for the privilege. Want some con-exclusive comics? Buy some at the table outside the exhibit hall. Want to get upgraded out of the wristband-wearing common rabble and get an actual souvenir con badge? Buy a VIP package. And that’s after you get in to the con itself; here’s what the queue looked like before the doors opened on Sunday.
Sunday. Typically the lightest-trafficked day of any con. When I noted on my Facebook feed how this line emotionally drained me to the point where all I wanted to do was get my Stan Lee autograph and then I don’t know WAUGH, I got several comments saying something along the lines of, “Welp, this is what it’s like at a mainland comic convention, deal with it.” Well, I’ve dealt with big conventions before — ‘sup, Fanime in San Jose, Calif., how ya doin’ — and Amazing was a whole different level of crazy to me, mostly because there were a lot of people crammed into a small space. (To their credit, Amazing has expanded into two exhibit halls on the ground floor of the convention center this year, so hopefully things will feel less claustrophobic this year.)
As I’ve told several people, Amazing doesn’t feel like a traditional pop-culture convention as it does one of those food and new product expos at the Blaisdell, with rows of vendors and a spot for entertainers to do their thing and give people a break from all that shopping they’re supposed to be doing. It’s a different experience from what we’ve had at past conventions locally, and one that’s certainly attuned more to die-hard comics fans.
Key question for this year
How much of last year’s success was due to the Stan Lee factor? Let’s face it: Last year, everyone associated “Stan the Man” with this show. A number of people referred to it as “Stan Lee Con.” Heck, even the governor got in on the fun, proclaiming a Stan Lee Day:
This year? There’s a Walking Dead tie-in, a few guests who have connections to the next big comic-based movie — X-Men: Apocalypse — and links to popular franchises like Dragon Ball Z and Street Fighter, but there’s nothing that screams “major crossover celebrity appeal” like Stan Lee did. Then again, Kawaii Kon didn’t have that “it” factor, either, and it has yet to record a year-over-year attendance decline.
When/where: May 20-22, Hawai’i Convention Center
Admission: Online prices currently at $30 Friday, $40 Saturday, $30 Sunday; three-day pass, $65; limited premium packages, which include franchise-specific goodies (but not admission), also available. Children ages 10 and under are free. Online sales are ending really soon, so take advantage of that before the prices go up at the door.
Your starting guest lineup
…boy, there are a lot of them. Take a deep breath; here we go:
Robert Kirkman, the guy whom people love for creating The Walking Dead or hate for killing off their favorite characters at some point during the show’s or comic’s run. He’s not just about The Walking Dead, though; he’s worked on a number of other series, too. Isle debut.
Chris Claremont, writer responsible for a number of classic X-Men stories, including “Days of Future Past,” “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “God Loves, Man Kills.” Isle debut.
Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Last appeared locally at Amazing last year.
Jim Lee, the co-publisher of DC Comics who’s had one heck of a comics career. Consider: He started WildStorm Productions, helped launch Image Comics, sold WildStorm to DC, once served as DC’s editorial director, and currently serves as creative executive director for DC Universe Online. And he’s a heck of an artist and writer, too, particularly on Batman and Superman projects. Isle debut.
Scott Lobdell, writer responsible for another number of classic X-Men stories, including “X-Cutioner’s Song,” “Age of Apocalypse” and “Fatal Attractions.” The mutant Northstar also came out as gay under his watch. Isle debut.
Mat Nastos, artist, writer and former Oahu resident who’s worked on TV series like Phineas & Ferb (squee!) and Liv & Maddie (quiet double squee!) along with his own sci-fi novels. (The Cestus Concern, his first book in the Weir Codex series, hit #1 on Amazon’s sci-fi, cyberpunk and men’s adventure e-book lists!) He’ll be offering free sketches to children ages 10 and under on Sunday, so if you have young’uns, you’ll want them to get in on that. Last appeared locally at Amazing last year.
Paul Azaceta, Image Comics artist who’s currently working with Robert Kirkman on Outcast, a series about a man possessed by demons and the end of the world. Isle debut.
Tony Fleecs, artist and writer best known for his autobiographical comic In My Lifetime and his work on My Little Pony comics. Last appeared locally at Amazing last year.
Chad Hardin, artist best known for his work on DC Comics’ “New 52” version of Harley Quinn. Isle debut.
Rick Hoberg, artist who’s contributed work to books as diverse as Marvel’s original Star Wars series and DC’s Green Arrow … and Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! He’s currently the lead cinematic storyboard artist at 343 Industries, caretakers of all things Halo. Isle debut.
Jason Howard, Image Comics artist who’s worked with writer Warren Ellis on series including the sci-fi mystery Trees and the webcomic Scatterlands. Isle debut.
Ant Lucia, artist best known for his line of DC Comics Bombshells, reimagining the publisher’s most famous female characters as classic pinup icons. Isle debut.
Clay Mann, DC Comics artist who’s currently working with writer Amy Chu on the ongoing Poison Ivy series. Isle debut.
Joe Ng, Udon Studios artist who’s worked on various Street Fighter and Transformers projects. Isle debut.
Ryan Ottley, penciller and inker who’s worked with Robert Kirkman on Invincible and Haunt. Isle debut.
Matt Roberts, artist currently working on Image Comics’ Manifest Destiny. He’s also worked with Robert Kirkman on Battle Pope … anyone else see a distinct theme developing here? Isle debut.
Cory Walker Image Comics artist who co-created Invincible with … you know. That guy. The one who led off this section. Isle debut.
American voice actors
You like the Dragon Ball franchise? Or Street Fighter? Then this is your convention, featuring:
Sean Schemmel, voice of Lucario in various Pokemon projects and the newest Super Smash Bros. games, and Junk in Sadamitsu the Destroyer. (Seriously, someone bring up Junk and the fact that he gave voice actor Vic Mignogna the nickname “Filet of Tomorrow.” I’m curious if he remembers telling me about that when I interviewed him 10 years ago.) Oh yeah, and he’s the voice of Goku in everything Dragon Ball for foreeeeeeever. Last appeared locally at Kawaii Kon 2006.
Chris Sabat, voice of Vegeta, Piccolo and Yamcha in everything Dragon Ball for almost foreeeeeeever. (The voice clip that “over NINE THOUSAAAAAAAAAND~~~~!” meme is based on, though? Not him.) He’s also the voice of Armstrong in Fullmetal Alchemist, Jigen in a number of Funimation’s Lupin III-related dubs and Zoro in One Piece. Last appeared locally at Kawaii Kon 2012.
Chuck Huber, voice of Android 17, Garlic Jr. and Emperor Pilaf in everything Dragon Ball and Hiei in Yu Yu Hakusho. Isle debut.
Bonnie Gordon, voice of Rainbow Mika in Street Fighter V. Isle debut.
Taliesin Jaffe, voice of Adon and Blanka in Street Fighter IV and ADR director on shows including Hellsing Ultimate, NieA_7 and R.O.D. The TV. Isle debut.
Chris Rickabaugh, voice of Sean in Street Fighter V and Hwoarang in Street Fighter X Tekken. Isle debut.
Jordan Byrne, voice of Kazuya Mishima and Jack in Street Fighter X Tekken. Isle debut.
Michael Coleman, voice of Cody in Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter X Tekken. Isle debut.
Azim Rizk, actor who played Jake Holling, the black Megaforce Ranger and green Super Megaforce Ranger in Power Rangers Megaforce. Isle debut.
Alex Heartman, actor who played Jayden, the red Samurai Ranger in Power Rangers Samurai. Isle debut.
Linda Le, aka VampyBitMe, professional cosplayer. Last appeared locally at Anime Matsuri Hawaii last year.
Will cartoonist Jon Murakami be here?
Yes! Look for him in Artist Alley, table K1, with new issues of Gordon Rider, limited prints featuring Steve the Monkey and Rider Girl, original sketches, and an array of shirts, prints, books and buttons.
(Yup, Jon’s still our measuring stick for Con-athon 2016, considering he’s going to almost all the things.)
Anyone else of note?
Of course. Along Jon’s row will be several members of the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance, a group that includes pretty much everyone who plays a major role on the local comic scene. Roy Chang (with his new Aloha Pepe comic!), Sam Campos, Chris Caravalho, William “Doc” Grant and the Lime Media Hawaii crew (with new installments of Hawaii Star Manga Project series!) … all of them will be there, and many others as well.
How many people are we talking about? Have a look at this limited-edition print, featuring a number of members’ creations, that they’ll be offering free with purchases of $5 or more:
Collect everyone’s signatures and post a picture of the signed print to social media with the hashtags #hawaiiancomicbookalliance and #amazinghawaiicomiccon, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize package.
Many friends of the blog are carrying over from Kawaii Kon to Amazing, joined by a number of vendors who are promoting some really cool stuff. Entering the exhibit hall, you probably won’t be able to miss the Friends of the Library of Hawaii/Hawaii State Public Library System booth (802), where you can get free stuff from friendly librarians for showing them your library card — ask about the HPU bumper stickers! — or buy used comics and graphic novels for cheap. Terri Dux and Karl Miyashiro’s one-stop shop for local apparel with clever phrase twists, idkwhat2wear, will be in booth 910, while Charisma Industries will be set up in booth 106 and in Artist Alley, table G7. Local comic stores represented at the show include Choice Comics (304 & 403), Dragon’s Lair (308), Enjoy Comics (206), Other Realms (1006) and Westside Comics (804 & 903) There’s even another Con-athon participant who’ll be represented, with Anime Ohana at booth 1003 sharing details about their show in early November.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Tentacle Kitty is back. I first saw them selling their plushies last year at HawaiiCon, and … well, here’s what one corner of my work desk at the Otaku Ohana Home Office looks like now.
They were at Amazing the next weekend — I talked to the seller, who I saw at both cons, and he mentioned that they decided to bring their stuff over from Hawaii island to Oahu on a whim. It must have been a successful whim, because not only did you see Tentacle Kitties wandering all over the place with their new owners last year, they’ve returned for another year. Find them at booth 401.
Toward the back in Artist Alley, you’ll find Marisa Gee with handmade jewelry and charms at Kawaii Mono (H8); Stacey Hayashi and the Journey of Heroes comic book about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion (K9); beadspriters extraordinare Dinnercrew Crafts (P1-P3); Star-Advertiser colleagues Lorenzo Trinidad, selling his own comics and art and a few others’ works as well under the Trinigrafx banner (Q9), and Erika Engle with her handmade jewelry and charms (G8); and artists Reid Kishimoto (R8), Theo Lee and Kanila Tripp (F1-F3), Headshot Heroes (F9) and Michael Cannon, under the Artildawn banner (Q7). Finally, if you have some kind of cosplay emergency during the show, Heidi Shimada and her helpers will be ready to help you at tables L1 and L2.