“Years ago, somebody wanted to start a Stan Lee comic book convention but nothing ever came of that,” said Lee, who will give speeches, sign autographs and take pictures with fans at the show, which will be Sept. 15-16 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. “It took someone like Regina who knows how to get things done.”
Carpinelli attributes her success to affordable prices. Tickets start at $12 and top out at $65 for VIP access, while Comic-Con tickets start at $150 and go up to $175 for access to preview night. (Kids 12 and under are free at both events.)
“That’s why we got such a big response,” she said. “More people are able to experience it, which makes vendors happy because consumers have more money to spend.”
Booths for vendors, who sell comic books and art, and exhibitors promoting video games, films and TV shows, start at $600.
What’s different than other conventions, Carpinelli said, are contests, gaming tournaments, and interaction with stars of the comic book industry.
A key point is that by staging Comikaze in Los Angeles, she’s close to the entertainment industry and hopes that will lead to partnerships with film studios and TV networks.
Lee, 89, said the venue is attractive because he can talk to fans about projects he’s working on and gauge their response in real time.
“We don’t even think of them as fans,” he said. “They’re friends.”
After the deal with Lee was made, Carpinelli turned down a $20 million offer to sell the convention.
“I get to hang out with Stan, I get to read comic books, talk to new creators, and I get to put up a show where thousands of kids are happy and smiling,” he said.
With Lee onboard, some of L.A.’s biggest comic book retailers have taken notice.
“Anytime Stan attaches his name to anything, it’s instant validation,” said Ryan Liebowitz, general manager of comics and memorabilia retailer Golden Apple Comics, which opened in 1979. “It’ll add higher visibility, more traffic, more clout and more attendance to the show, which ultimately, for myself as a retailer, would mean more revenue.”
Liebowitz couldn’t get a booth last year, but will consider participating this year.
But Gaston Dominguez-Letelier, who for 19 years has owned and operated Meltdown Comics in Hollywood, said San Diego’s Comic-Con will always be the pinnacle for such conventions.
However, he acknowledged that Carpinelli’s event will hold its own thanks to its association with Lee.
“Comikaze may pan out in the long run because it’s such a craftsmanship, L.A. lifestyle-based event,” Dominguez-Letelier said.
Other L.A. conventions include the monthly Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention, in operation since 1977, and the three-year-old Long Beach Comic Convention.
Comic-Con International’s portfolio includes Comic-Con, WonderCon and the Alternative Press Expo. But the 42-year-old company doesn’t view Comikaze as rivals, said David Glanzer, Comic-Con’s director of marketing and public relations.
“On any given month there are probably several comics conventions throughout the country,” Glanzer said. “I don’t know that we view any of them as competition.”
“We have plans on making shows internationally,” she said, expanding to Hong Kong, London and Brazil. “I want to expand Stan’s legacy.”