Welcome to the Legion!

271847_10151522064441892_1794170808_oHey Legion! I hope you’re going to join me at Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles this year. I’ve been a fan since the very first show and today I’m bringing you my interview with founder and President, Regina Carpinelli! This lady rocks! Check out what she has to say about starting her own convention, the show’s harassment policy, working with Stan Lee and Elvira and the INSANE amount of awesomeness this year! Guys, Gwendoline Christie will be there!

Legion of Leia: How did the idea for Comikaze Expo come about? I remember meeting you for coffee to talk about it before the very first one, and getting my tattoo to promote it!

Regina Carpinelli: YES! You were one of the first people to help us get the word out! It all started in 2010 when my brother and I could not get tickets to SDCC. We decided to do our own show! We had no idea what we were doing, and had money, but we knew we wanted something that was run by fans, for fans. We got our hustle on and had our first show, which had over 35k people. Shortly after, Stan Lee and Elvira — who were both guests — became partners, and the rest is history. We are really proud to have this great convention with two legends that is 100% for the fan and by the fan. We have listened to our fans and the community since day one and I don’t see that changing. Comikaze is so successful because LA’s amazing nerd community embraces it. I think we open our hearts and our doors as fans, and people see that. It creates this great, fun, party-type energy on the show floor. Its MAGICAL!

Legion of Leia: There must be an incredible number of challenges trying to start a con from scratch, and it’s EXPLODED! How has the planning changed since the first one?

Regina Carpinelli: Well, for one, we went from a group of people who had NO IDEA how to run a convention to being seasoned veterans. We have a lot of help from our partners at Advanstar Communications (one of the largest trade show companies in the world). We now have the resources and the reach to have everything organized. Comikaze has a phenomenal team that takes a strategic approach to all of our planning. We have also learned from our mistakes! Things that have been problems in the past are now fixed. We really listen to our fans and try to make everything go as smooth as possible. It takes about a year to plan in order to have everything go off with out a hitch. The 2014 show is going to be the most organized yet, but it took some growing pains to get here.

Legion of Leia: How did you get into geekdom? What sci-fi or fantasy character first affected you?

Regina Carpinelli: I grew up in a ranch in the middle of nowhere with four brothers. My childhood was Terminator, Batman, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Spider-Man. Since we had no neighbors, my brothers and I would re-enact these movies. The abandoned winery next door became the Temple of Doom, our neighbors horses allowed us to be knights. Our parents really encouraged us to use our imaginations and read as many books as we could. I learned very fast that a stick could be a sword, a gun or a light saber and rope could be a whip, or a lasso of truth. It all stayed with me my entire life. Although I am a 32-year-old woman, I am really a 10-year-old kid at heart. Batman has always been my favorite hero. I try to be Batman in all I do. The Chronicles of Narnia are also books that have stuck with me since reading them in the 4th grade. These characters really teach us values and morals, things I have taken with me as an adult. A big reason we made Comikaze and have kids 12 and under free is because I want kids to see that you really can grow up to be a hero, and that nerding out is a positive thing at any age!

Legion of Leia: You’ve been working with Stan Lee and Cassandra Peterson, a.k.a. Elvira on Comikaze. What has that experience been like?

Regina Carpinelli: It’s a dream come true. I am so humbled and thankful that I get to work so closely with two people who are not only my personal heroes, but have shaped and inspired popular culture. It’s always a pleasure and joy to work with both of them. It has created amazing, long-lasting friendships and relationships in my life. We are a big family! It really is a nerd dream come true, I kinda have the best job ever.

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Legion of Leia: What new and exciting awesomeness are you bringing us this year?

Regina Carpinelli: Enough awesome to fill 300,000 sq ft of the LA Convention Center for three days! Really though, we have a fantastic show and something for everyone. As always, Stan Lee and Elvira will be with us. From the TV side, we have Gwendoline Christie and Alfie Allen from HBO’s Game of Thrones (PS – Gwendoline is in a little known movie called STAR WARS that is coming out next year). We also have Jewel Staite from Firefly, John Barrowman from Arrow and Doctor Who, as well as Battlestar Galactica stars Edward James Olmos and Jamie Bamber. We have the full main voice cast of My Little Pony, which is super rad because they have never been at an event together EVER! Lots of great voice actors like Batman’s Kevin Conroy, Hynden Walch ofAdventure Time, a MadTV Reunion with Alex Borstein, Mo Collins, Michael McDonald and a bunch of the other original cast, Howie Mandel, The cast ofVideo Game High School, Dita Von Teese, Japanese music super star Yoshiki and Manga god Koike Kazou.

Our comic line up is STELLAR some of the most prolific and influential guests around Jim Lee, Brian Michael Bendis, Rob Liefeld, John Romita Jr, Marc Silvestri, J. Scott Campbell are all going to be at the show. Heck we even have Jambi from Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Barbra Eden and James Hong at the show! We also are proud to announce that Disney will be at Comikaze with Big Hero 6, their new animated feature. As will FOX with Gotham and Sleepy Hollow. Constantine will also be making an appearance and We also have some lead cast from HBO’s True Blood joining us. Plus over 500 vendors, museums and experiences like Spider-man Basket Ball, Hot Topic, FUNimation, Yes Anime and so much more.

And of course, we have the Ultimate Trick-or-Treat for kids on Halloween night — we have 75,000 pieces of candy to give away! We also have a Costume Contest with great Big Hero 6 prizes. Then on Saturday night, we have our Cosplay Contest with $10,000 in cash plus additional prizes that we’re giving away, and after THAT we have the Cosplay Ball at Club Nokia, which is free to anyone holding a Saturday or Multipass badge! We’ll have live music, a DJ, and a great way to wind down after the show. And no, costumes are NOT required.

You really can’t go wrong. It is a well-rounded, well-programed show with the best artists and vendors around!

Legion of Leia: I’d love to get your thoughts on the backlash against female geeks that we’ve been seeing lately and what you think we can do to change it.

Regina Carpinelli: It really makes me weep for society. The fact that their are people who are so un-evlolved and cruel is unsettling. We should be more sophisticated as a people. I really feel that the only way to fix this is for everyone to wake up and start spreading awareness. As a convention, Comikaze is committed to doing its part by embracing not just women but everyone. We have over 19 panels this year that are geeky, nerd-girl-centric, and I am very proud of that. We also make it clear that any harassment of any kind is not tolerated on our show floor or on our social. As a company founded by a woman we know that women are here to say and have the right to have fun and geek out in a safe environment. We will always push this fact and be a show open to all and exclusive to no one.

Legion of Leia: Tell people where they can go to sign up for Comikaze Expo!

Regina Carpinelli: They can get their tickets at www.comikazeexpo.com and use promo code LOKI for 10% off tickets! Also follow us on Twitter and Instagram for all our cool updates @StanLeeComikaze!

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Jenna Busch

Jenna Busch is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Legion of Leia and has hosted and written for sites like Nerdist, ComingSoon.net, Metro, Birth. Movies. Death., IGN, AOL, Huffington Post and more. She co-hosted Cocktails With Stan with the legendary Stan Lee and has appeared on Attack of the Show, Fresh Ink, Tabletop with Wil Wheaton, in the documentary She Makes Comics, on NPR and Al Jazeera America, and has covered film/TV/gaming/comics for years. She’s currently a co-host on Most Craved. She’s been published in the comics anthology Womanthology, is a chapter author for Star Wars Psychology: Dark Side of the Mind, Game of Thrones Psychology and Star Trek Psychology and more, and owns a terrifying amount of swords and 20-sided dice. There are also those My Little Pony trailer voice overs that give one nightmares.

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