When die-hard comic book fan Regina Carpinelli and her brothers couldn’t get tickets to San Diego’s Comic-Con International two years ago, she decided to start her own show.
Carpinelli wanted to create a “champagne show for a beer price,” and set it in Los Angeles. Last year, the Comikaze Entertainment Inc. was born, and fans of comic, anime, gaming and sci-fi who were eager for a convention in their own city responded in force.
While Comic-Con is still the biggest and best-known comic book convention in the United States with more than 130,000 tickets sold annually, Carpinelli’s inaugural show made a mark with 40,000 tickets sold. She said she made a profit of $100,000. The company now has 30 employees at its Venice office.
Lower admission prices than Comic-Con and a promotional blizzard by Carpinelli contributed to that initial success. And it didn’t hurt to have comic book legend Stan Lee as the event’s guest of honor.
“We were the most unlikely people to have a comic convention,” said Carpinelli, 30, who co-founded the company with brothers Mario and Fabiano. “We’re just fans.”
For 15 years, Carpinelli and her brothers had caravanned south to attend Comic-Con, but in 2010, when the show sold out in the first 20 minutes, they instead went to a different convention and were disappointed with what they found. So the trio decided to craft their own convention, with lower ticket prices, and easier access to signings and meet-and-greets with celebs from the comic book world.
Carpinelli, who grew up reading comics – Batman was a favorite – on her family’s 3-acre spread in the wine country of Temecula, didn’t know anybody in the industry. She did, however, have some experience with marketing and events management, having worked for her parent’s Latin music promotional business. She parlayed that know-how and $10,000 of her savings to launch Comikaze.
Lee, who helped create some of Marvel Comics’ biggest superhero characters including Spider-Man, X-Men and the Hulk, was impressed by the newcomer’s success.
“Do you know how unbelievable it is for the first show to have over 40,000 attendees?” Lee asked. “In some big cities where they have comic-cons, it takes years for them to get up to 40,000, if they ever do. She did it with the first one.”
So when Carpinelli asked him if he wanted to become a permanent part of the convention, Lee signed on. His company Pow Entertainment came onboard with an undisclosed investment, and Stan Lee’s Comikaze was born. The partnership was announced this month.