Bryant Dillon, Fanboy Comics: Hi, this is Bryant Dillon with Fanboy Comics. Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Regina Carpinelli, CEO of the Comikaze Expo being held in Los Angeles this coming Fall. Comikaze Expo is Los Angeles’ first and only large-scale, multi-media pop culture convention and plans to bring together the most exciting and innovative in comics, video games, original art, movies, television, and more! Regina, thank you so much for taking time to speak with me today.
Regina Carpinelli: Thank you for having me. I’m really excited. Fanboy Comics is a great website.
BD: Thank you so much!
RC: No problem.
BD: Yeah, if you haven’t seen it yet, we have a new website. So, make sure to stop by and check out the new look.
RC: Yeah, I definitely checked it out. I love it a lot [inaudible].
BD: You’ve been a very big fan of us on Twitter, we have to thank you for that.
RC: Yeah! No problem! You know what? The whole thing about Comikaze, we’re really supportive of everybody. Anybody who is supportive of us, we’re all about sharing the love and showing them support, too. And without sites like Fanboy Comics and some of the other ones, you guys really keep the geek going year round and you really help the [inaudible] like mine.
BD: Thank you!
RC: We’re all about sharing with everyone.
BD: Well, thank you so much! And, that actually ties a little bit into our first question which is: There’s sort of this shared element between Fanboy Comics and Comikaze Expo where you guys seem to be fans producing for fans, and, since you’re one of the founding members of the Comikaze Expo, I just wanted to start off with obviously the most important question. What are you a fan of, Regina? Are there any comics, movies, television shows, etcetera that you just never miss or always recommend to people?
RC: There are so, so many. I mean it’s really awesome how many. There’s so many great genres out there, and different books. I, personally, my likes go across the board. But, I have to say, my staple, that I always recommend for comics is Preacher.
BD: Oh! Excellent! That’s my favorite also. It’s the number one comic of all time for me.
RC: Nice! I know, Preacher is so amazing. I have friends that, like aren’t into comics at all, but they’re like, “Okay. What is this? What made you recommend this?” If you’re going to go in to something the first thing you should read, if you don’t want to do traditional superheroes. Read Preacher.
RC: I mean it’s everything. The art’s awesome; the story is phenomenal!
RC: You can’t go wrong with that. I wish it was a movie or a TV series.
BD: No, I totally agree. There are moments in that comic that hit so strongly, that you’re like, “I had no idea that the medium could be used this powerful.”
BD: Yeah if you haven’t checked it out, definitely you have to check out Preacher by Garth Ennis.
RC: Yes, definitely check it out. And then I’m also a really big Sailor Moon fan.
BD: Okay, excellent.
RC : As a teenager, my friends in high school and I used to dress up like Sailor Moon. And, this is before the internet was really popular, and we didn’t know what cosplay was, but we just did it anyway to be weird at school. And, we got made fun of all the time-oh. WOW-yeah. I run into people from high school, and they’re like, “Hey! You’re that girl who used to have Sailor Moon hair [inaudible].” And, I’m like, “Yes, and now I have a Comic Convention.”
BD: [Laughs] That’s awesome. The legend lives on!
RC: And, uh, for movies, I like a lot of horror movies. You know the classic horror movies, Night of the Living Dead, things like that. But, then I’m really into pop culture and cult classics, like I’m a huge John Waters fan.
BD: Okay, great.
RC: And Showgirls is one of my all-time favorite movies.
RC: Can’t go wrong with that. I love Star Wars. I love the whole Star Wars franchise. I’m a big Marvel fan too. Yeah, I mean I could probably do a whole talk about this for like three hours of what I like and give you complete details on why I like it, but- I’m a big, BIG Marvel fan. My first experience with Marvel was probably when I was in 3rd grade. I was collecting the Marvel comic cards and I had to collect every single one of them-
RC: -‘cause I’m obsessive-compulsive like that.
BD: As all the good geeks are. That’s how you complete your collection, people [laughs].
RC: Exactly. And then, you know, I like stuff like Firefly and I’m a big Dr Who fan.
BD: Oh! Okay, great! Firefly is fantastic, I haven’t been able to dive into Doctor Who, but everyone I talk to is, you know, adamant, like, “You must check this out this out. Go watch it now.”
RC: Dr. Who is so cool, and I mean just the fact that it’s been around for so many years.
BD: Right, right.
RC: And it just spans, and it’s still interesting. You can watch the original ones and they’re amazing and the newer ones are phenomenal, as well. My favorite Doctor is David Tennant. You can’t go wrong with Doctor Who. So, there are so many things that I like, but those are probably my top picks right now. Especially Preacher. If I had to pick a number one, it’s Preacher.
BD : Alright, excellent, I can’t support that choice enough, so we’re on the same page there. Hey, having checked out the Comikaze Expo website, you get the idea it was created by you and your brother with the help of some close friends. Is there anything you can tell us a little more about the team behind Comikaze Expo and how it came together?
RC: Yeah, totally. I’m the only girl [inaudible], I have five other brothers, we’re all really close. We grew up in the middle of nowhere California [inaudible], and so our whole childhood, since we didn’t have neighbors, was spent re-enacting all the books and movies that we saw.
RC: Creating things, like jumping off the roof into the pool, pretending to be Spider-Man. Riding our horses and attacking each other on horseback, jousting. We really upset our parents [laughs] um, so you know we grew up and all of my siblings, we all played in musical bands, and we all had this really strong nerd/geek background, and we all formed our own companies, but we still went back home for all holidays and we’re like, “Hey did you check out this new comic?” or “Did you see this new movie?” [inaudible] We’d go to a lot of conventions. We went to a convention and um . . . after paying the ticket pricing and the parking and it coming out to be so much money.
BD: Yes, yes.
RC: And, then this convention in question didn’t even have any good panels.
BD: Oh no!
RC: No really great guests or anything. I felt, we felt really ripped off and here we are in our late twenties and thirties and we all own companies, my brothers and I, we’re pretty successful and I was like, “I didn’t expect to spend this much money. I would’ve brought more money. I didn’t know.”
BD: Right, exactly.
RC: Why did I spend $50 before I even walked in the door. The point of it is it really made me think. And, my brother, Mario, was like, “What about families? A lot of families probably can’t afford to come to this. And, the main thing about going to conventions, for me, is shopping. I’m a big collector, so I like to go [inaudible] stuff or see panels or see guests, these people are my heroes. So, that night, Mario and I went home and we came up with a business plan and everything we said, “Let’s do it!” And, that’s how it started, and two of my best friends, Klaus and Shelle, they’re other partners, we said, “Hey do you guys want in on this?” and they’re like, “Totally!” They wanted in because everybody in Comikaze, we, especially our team, we all owned separate business, but we all love, despite “geekness,” or any of that we all really appreciate art. Comic books have such amazing art, and so that really kinda got Klaus and Shelle on board, too, because they love the art of the comic books, as well.
RC: So, it all kinda formed together and all of our different backgrounds really contribute to making Comikaze and helping it grow. It’s like Voltron, one of us specializes in this form of media and one of us is in production and [inaudible] and one of us is you know, whatever. So, you know, it kinda came together perfectly and you know it’s really great working with my little brother. He’s taller than me, but he’s my little brother. He’s my best friend. And, also, with my two other best friends, it’s been really great and it’s awesome being supportive. Where one of us has a weakness, the other one has a strength, so it really balances everything out. It’s been really awesome being able to work with them.
BD: It sounds fantastic. It sounds like a grassroots type of start to it, which is a great thing, because, as we discussed, you’re a fan of so many things, and that really seems to be something that will transfer over to the convention itself.
RC: Exactly. I mean we are business people first, but we are still fans. And, you know, we know how to create something just from our business experience. I’m biased, and that opens the doors for everyone. A lot of shows (inaudible) really weed things out. There are four different minds that like different things, there’s a good representation of each one of us in our event. And, we’re all about starting it up like that, but we’re still running it like a business but with the best intentions. And I think that’s been really successful. We’re all about... we don’t have to do this for financial gain; none of us do. We’re doing this because we love it, so our whole thing with Comikaze is we’re really truly creating something that’s for the fans, it’s for the indie community, it’s for the community of Los Angeles, so it’s coming from a pure heart. We don’t see anything that we do as, “Oh, we’re going to make a lot of money on this.” We see this as, oh my gosh, we’re gonna really love this. And, we’re really all about supporting people, we’re all about supporting indie, local everything. Every aspect of Comikaze is very L.A. centric. A lot of the companies that we’re using are based in Los Angeles only; we’re all about supporting our city in every way and supporting, we’re all about supporting creators, but, especially, local creators.
BD: I think that’s great. I noticed on the website that there is a lot of focus on rallying the L.A. geek fan base, even though you’re obviously appealing to everyone, there’s a hometown feel to it. Which is great. Is there any reason that you think it has taken so long for L.A. to have a major pop culture convention inside the city? Not just outside city limits or that kind of thing?
RC: You know, I’m really not sure. That always kind of baffled us, too, why no one thought about this before. I guess there are a few others that tried, but they didn’t do so well. But, again, it kind of goes back to our personal backgrounds, and knowing how to create events. I’m not going to go into what I normally do because it’s boring. (Inaudible). But, because of our backgrounds, we know what it takes to create something big and really get the word out. And, I think, too, we’re coming from it from such an honest place, where most conventions see people only as dollar bills, they see their vendors as dollar bills, they see their attendees, they see their guests. I don’t. I see every guest that comes to our show, I don’t care what they did to get there; to me, they’re an Academy Award winner. And, they’re a major star. Because there’s somebody out there that feels that way about them, and who am I to decide that. And, I want to treat my guests like gold. And my attendees, I want them to come in and I want them to have as much money to spend on the vendors, and have such a good time, and to feel as though they got their money’s worth. And, that’s why our tickets are so low, and everybody that buys a ticket gets a free lithograph, too.
BD: Oh, wow.
RC: They’re worth between $79 and $189, you have your choice of lithographs, so you can pick from a couple. And then our vendor booth, we have our vendor booth really low, as well, because vendors are so important, and I feel like they get the short end of the stick at conventions, which is funny, because they are really what makes the conventions go ‘round. So, I really want our vendors to be able to make their money back, and be happy, and, regardless of what happens at Comikaze, if everyone comes in and leaves happy, no matter who they are, if they can be like, “Hey, maybe I didn’t sell a lot of stuff, but I had such a good time and people were so nice and they really took care of me.” That means that my show was a success for me, and, hopefully, we can continue that for years to come. But, we want to overthrow the status quo of conventions, and we’ve been working with a lot of really great people that love what we’re doing. There’s one company in particular, the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, which they started out a lot like us. It was a bunch of major executives, and they felt that there were no good haunted houses in Los Angeles, so they created LA Haunted Hayride. And now, it’s one of the top haunted houses in America.
BD: Oh wow.
RC: They have huge sponsorship and they didn’t need to help us at all, but they really love our passion and they really love where we’re coming from, so they’re really helping us out, and they’re such amazing (inaudible) to us. They’re kind of like Comikaze Expo’s big sister. And so, you know, that really brings up the whole sense of community, because that’s how we feel. We want... (inaudible)... is such a positive place, we want everyone to be inspired by anything in this world. And, that’s what we want to do. We want to inspire people, and when people join forces to create something awesome, it reaches out to more people. And, you know, there’s no hero, really, based in Los Angeles, if you think about it. I can’t really think of anything... I mean, Green Hornet was set in LA, but that was the movie. Other than that, is there really any superhero from LA? It’s not that we want a superhero, we want people to be their own superhero and to be inspired and to see how positive the world of comics and animation is, and horror, and all of that. That it’s a great thing. There are so many people in Los Angeles that come to LA to follow their dreams, but, at the same time, there are a lot of people here that don’t have any dreams because of their circumstances. And, comic books and every genre that we represent is a means of escape for people and it’s a positive escape.
BD: Oh definitely.
RC: You know, it’s a positive thing. So, that’s our whole thing, but the reception of Comikaze has been so amazing that people like Haunted Hayride love us and are helping us and are supporting us, and then a lot of our other sponsors, as well. And our fans! We have some of the most amazing fans ever! We feel so fortunate that there are so many people like you guys and everybody else that is supporting us; it’s a really great feeling for us and it feels like we’re on the right track. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty hard putting together this thing...
BD: Oh, I’m sure. It’s quite a task, but there is that positive energy, and I feel like you attract people who share that positive energy, which is always helpful.
RC: We’re all about being positive. I mean, all of our guests that are coming... I mean, I’m sure you’ve been to conventions and there may have been somebody that you wanted to meet, but they were a little grumpy that they were there. We don’t want that. We only want to have guests that are excited to be there and excited to see their fans. You know, we want everyone around us to be positive. We’re not hippies, but we’re all about having a good vibe. So yeah.
BD: Well, I definitely think it shows, and I’ve also noticed on the website that there’s a goal of what you call doing a “balanced alternative to the standard convention.” So, I’m wondering what someone who might be attracted to this and might be a first-time convention goer or a casual geek of one of the genres, what would make this a great experience for their first time?
RC: You know, how I feel, and from my experience with one of my personal friends, I don’t care who you are, everyone is a geek. You may love a horror movie, you love a video game, you love a comic book, but there is kind of a stigmatization of comic book conventions and conventions like Comikaze, so our whole thing is: there is something for you here. You’ll come, you’ll find one thing that maybe you really like, then it’s worth it, because the tickets are so cheap.
RC: Everyone that I’ve ever taken to a convention was always like, “I would never go to a convention, but I have a stack of comic books under my bed.” And then, they would go to a convention, and they’re blown away. Because, they are so cool. So, I think that we’re trying to attract people that would want to go and we want to make it a family event kind of thing. Once they get in the door, everybody will find something that they love. You know?
BD: Fantastic! Now that we know what would apply to the casual fans, what would you say to someone who might be more skeptical, because they think of themselves as more a hardcore geek? And, they’re like, “I only go to the best conventions.” What would you say to get them to come to Comikaze?
RC: The same thing. I mean, hey, our tickets are cheap, it’s worth it, and we’re bringing people that other conventions don’t have. I can’t tell you who, but they will be announced in the next month, but, at the same time, with the people I can mention, is that we’re not just bringing people from southern California and LA. We’re bringing in people from all over. You know, we have Top Shelf Comics, which, Top Shelf - the only other comic convention that they do is Comic-Con. They’re coming to our show and they’re bringing Robert Venditti with them, and they’re based out of Atlanta.
BD: Oh nice!
RC: The other one, Radical Comics, is based in Los Angeles, but the only other convention that they’re doing this year is San Diego Comic-Con. So, they’re coming to our convention, and they’re coming in a huge way. There’s going to be a press release about what they’re doing in the next few weeks, but they’re doing all kinds of crazy stuff. And then, we have YA author Caitlin Kittredge, who is flying out for us. She hasn’t done a west coast show at all, I don’t think. Maybe she’s done or does San Diego, but I know that she doesn’t do the small shows or the local shows. So, there are people who don’t normally come out that are coming to our show. And that, for us... I mean, there are more to be announced, but, if you’re a hardcore fan and you see these names, then you’ll know, “Oh, hey, that’s pretty sweet.” You know? It’s like, “I want to meet them, or I can’t believe this publisher is coming.” So, we’re catering for everybody. So, I don’t think that there should be any problems with betraying the news fans and the hardcore fans. And, of course, everyone is going to complain. I mean, hey...
BD: We are geeks.
RC: You know, that’s cool. And, we want to know... we want to hear from our fans, too. Who do you want to see at Comikaze Expo? So, we give everyone a voice. I mean this show is for everybody, so what better way than letting people have a voice of who they want to see and who they want to meet at Comikaze? So, I can’t promise that every one is going to happen, but we can try our hardest.
BD: And taking that kind of connection with the fans and actually taking advantage of it, that is something that a lot of conventions don’t really do. Not many conventions I see are saying, “Hey, who do you want to see next year?” You know?
RC: No, of course. A lot of them, it goes back to that they want to make money. We just want to create something cool for our city. Our higher objective is that we want to create something cool, positive, and inspiring for the city of Los Angeles, and that’s what sets us apart and makes us a different kind of convention.
BD: Definitely. And, as you’ve mentioned, tickets are currently available on the website and are extremely affordable, ranging from $12-$45 the last that I looked. Now, another standard convention wallet-bleeder is the dreaded convention food stand. How much should Comikaze attendees set aside for food and drink?
RC: I can’t tell you how much because everyone eats differently, but I know the one thing is that we have all these options and the really cool thing about L.A. Convention Center is that they have an actual food court. So, you can eat inside the convention center.
BD: Oh, nice.
RC: They have a McDonald’s, they have a Starbucks. I mean not everyone likes McDonald’s.
BD: But they have the choice.
RC: Yeah. You have choice so it’s not just like hot dogs or whatever. And then, being that Los Angeles Convention Center is right next door to L.A. Live, there are also those really fantastic restaurants for every price range as well.
BD: That’s very true. It’s in a very good location. If you just want to go outside, sometimes, at other conventions, you have to travel quite a few blocks, but this-
RC: You literally have to walk out the door and go across the street and you have access to everything. There’s high-end, there’s sit-down, there’s grab-and-go, so you have everything. And the other really cool thing about Los Angeles, and we’re still working out the details so it might come to pass or it might not, but I’ll tell you, we’re trying to do. As you know, living in Los Angeles, we have some of the best food trucks ever. We have some of the coolest ones, so we’re trying to get a special permit, so we’re not sure. But, if it works out, we’re going to have some of the great, local L.A. food trucks.
BD: That’d be fantastic!
RC: I mean, that might not work.
BD: Well, we’ll keep our fingers crossed for it!
RC: So, you know, there are different meal options. It’s not just the yucky concession stand best bets. Unlike most conventions there are a lot of great options. And, as long as you have your wrist band on, you can go in and out and eat where you want.
BD: That’s definitely great to hear and thinking that most of the fans, hopefully, will be L.A. based, so they won’t necessarily have to buy a hotel. They can buy a cheap ticket and eat for pretty much their choice to the amount they spend on it. It could be a really, really affordable convention for people. That’s a great thing to have!
RC: Exactly. That’s what we’re going for. The other really cool thing about the convention center, there are all these courtyards with tables outside. We live in southern California and it’s not very cold, so you could even pack a lunch and enjoy it outside, hang out, and check out all the people walking in.
BD: Excellent. Well, another element shared by both Fanboy Comics and Comikaze Expo is a focus on building the geek community. Comikaze has been holding a number of community events and will continue to do so in the lead up to the convention in November. Can you tell us about some of your upcoming events and sort of explain the purpose behind them?
RC: A lot of our events, you know they’re obviously to raise awareness of Comikaze Expo, because we feel that you’ve got to keep a connection with your fans. So, having once a month parties and stuff like that or meet ups is always a great thing to do and also it helps enable us to support our community, support local businesses, and things like that which really goes with what we stand for. And, I’m keeping it year round. You know, there are a lot of people who say we’re going to do this and this and maybe they do, but maybe it’s only once a year when we like to be all the time. So some of the things we have. We have all sorts, we have big parties, we have art shows coming up, we have gaming tournaments. We’re doing things like beach clean-ups and things like that. We have some movie nights that will be coming up, for maybe just a couple horror movies or comic book movies. It’s just things that’ll bring people together and create something positive. We work with a lot of charities, too, so we’re always a part of the charities we work with and we’re always at their events, too. They’re the real heroes here cause they’re really helping people. And, we like to support that and just anything that brings people together no matter if it’s five people in a room or five hundred. All our parties have been pretty interesting. We had that one party at the Celebrity Vault Gallery event in WeHo. Michelle Rodriguez was deejaying, and we had the DeLorean parked out front and there were all these different geek celebrities, but then fans too were there, and it was really cool for the fans to come and hang out.
BD: Yeah, it was very exciting. I was there and it was just a really great environment. Very friendly, very geeky, it was just perfect.
RC: Yeah, it was a cool thing. We have a lot of mottos like “L.A. invasion” and [inaudible] ... so we had that whole night where geeks take over Beverly Hills. Yeah, we like to do things like that. We’re fun people. We’re not a bunch of suits.
BD: That’s great. So, if people are interested in coming to these events, should they just check out the website or how would be the best way to find out about them?
RC: The best way is to check out the website. I think our calendar is not up because we’re adding a bunch of stuff, so we took it out of view, but it will be up again soon. Also, follow us on Twitter and on Facebook. We’re really vocal on both those social media sites, so you’ll hear about them and when they’re coming up and also we’ll invite you to some of our partner’s parties too. They always want us to spread the word and invite people, so it might not be directly a Comikaze event, but we always look out to share and support other events. I mean, I know one of our supporters has an apocalypse play that is coming out.
BD: Oh, wow!
RC: Yeah, so we’re going to start promoting that pretty soon. Even though it’s not our event, we support it and it sounds like a pretty hilarious play. So, I guess it’s all part of the fringe thing. We support and promote everyone, so, if you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll definitely hear about it.
BD: Awesome. Alright, let’s take it over to independent creators. People who are looking to break into comics or other mediums. How will Comikaze Expo serve them? Will they be able to come in contact publishers or any kind of portfolio reviews?
RC: Well, they’re going to be publishing houses there and that’s going to kind of be up to them.
BD: Of course.
RC: And, Comikaze is a pretty big networking event for all kinds of people if they’re networking, and that’s what we want because that’s how you get started. By allowing people to network. We’re all about our budding artists and people trying to break in. That’s why we have our artist’s alley tables for only $175, which, if you’re an artist or a creator of something or even if you have a web series, but you don’t have a big budget, that’s a great way to really get the word out and really start networking and meeting people.
RC: So, we’re all about that and supporting it. And, if you sign on, we totally support you and we always announce everybody. If you have an announcement, we post it on our Twitter, we post it on our Facebook. You know, keep the love going year round, not just during the show.
RC: And, these artists have the opportunity to meet the published companies or just even meet the other collaborators. There’s a really great group coming to Comikaze called Latchkey, and they’re a collective of comic book artists and I know every time they go out they always get more members and people and they’re really supportive of each other. Also, another group supporting us is Comic Book Sunday.
BD: Oh, nice!
RC: And, they’re so friendly and awesome.
BD: Yeah, they’re a great group.
RC: Yeah, they’re all about anybody coming to their event and coming to network. Those Comic Book Sundays, you see some magical stuff happen right before your eyes.
BD: Definitely. And similar to Comic Book Sunday, the thing I’d say to independent creators is definitely go to some of the networking events and lead up events that Comikaze Expo is doing, because you have that same experience where you could meet some collaborators or someone in the business you had no idea would be there. I mean, these are great places to meet people.
RC: Exactly. Pretty much we always have different people there. We did a benefit with Sweet Heart Japan which was put on by a bunch of anime voice actors and that was really cool. All the Los Angeles anime people came and checked that out. It was a great opportunity, it helped raise a lot of money for Japan. Everything we’re a part of or we do, there is always great networking. There’s so many amazing creative people out there and, fortunately, they’re fans of us as well, so it’s always a cool place to meet people. Maybe you’ll meet your next husband or wife or something.
BD Yeah, you never know. You have to check it out.
RC: You never know what will happen.
BD: Well, our final question, Regina, and obviously the most important, will you be allowing Cylons, Skrulls, and other intergalactic troublemakers into the convention? We need a warning, at least.
RC: We’re about the heroes and we’re about the villains and the [inaudible] can come, too.
BD: And they look human, so I assume it would be hard to decipher who is a Cylon, a Skrull, whatever, you know.
RC: Exactly. We’re for everyone. The dark side, as well.
BD: Alright, Sith! You are welcome. Come, Sith.
Well, Regina, thank you again so much for taking time to speak with me today. The Fanboy Comics staff is very much looking forward to Comikaze Expo, and we encourage all our listeners to check out the official website at www.comikazeexpo.com, especially for those upcoming events. Thanks a lot, Regina!
RC: Thanks for having me.
BD: And, again, this is Bryant Dillon for Fanboy Comics, signing off.