Regina Carpinelli, CEO and founder of Stan Lee’s Comikaze, the 3-year-old Los Angeles-based baby of a comic convention (Nov. 1-3 this year at the LA Convention Center) that’s quickly becoming one of the largest anywhere, says she’s a lucky young woman surrounded by amazing father figures. Carpinelli grew up in the middle-of-nowhere Temecula, California, the only daughter in a family with five sons. “We had no neighbors, we didn’t watch television, and our parents encouraged us to read,” she recalls. “I didn’t grow up playing with Barbies; I grew up reading comic books.”
The Carpinelli kids were comic book geeks through and through, and made annual pilgrimages to the San Diego Comic-Con International. When Regina Carpinelli came of age and moved to Los Angeles, she realized there was a need for a similarly-scaled comic book convention based in that city. With barely any money to her name, she and some friends scraped together an initial $10,000 and she says she decided to “just do it.”
“That was always my father’s thing,” says Carpinelli. “If you want to do something, just do it. He raised us not to have fear and not to see limitations.”
That first year, Carpinelli and her brothers ran with their dream. They convinced the LA Convention Center to give them some space. When that was secured, they tirelessly went after their two favorite childhood icons, Stan Lee and Elvira, to persuade the legends to join forces with them. “We bothered and harassed Stan Lee’s and Elvira’s managers to the point that they were either going to get restraining orders on us or say yes,” recalls Carpinelli, chuckling. (Thankfully, both of them said “yes”.)
In its first year, 2011, Carpinelli says they expected to see somewhere around 5,000 attendees at the convention — and 35,000 showed up. The next year, the convention drew 50,000. Carpinelli says when Stan Lee attended the convention that first year, he was impressed with the number of kids and families he saw as opposed to simply adults. He liked the overall atmosphere they had created, and felt an instant and mutual kinship with Carpinelli and her partners. In April of 2012, just a few months after the first convention, it was announced that both Stan Lee and Elvira were both going to become partners in the endeavor. The convention was then branded “Stan Lee’s Comikaze.”
Stan Lee weighed in via e-mail for this article on why Comikaze was THE con he wanted to put his name on. “The Stan Lee Comikaze Con,” says Lee, “makes extra efforts to give the attendees as much free entertainment as possible. Regarding the things that must be paid for, such as admittance tickets, we make every effort to keep those prices as low as possible. This is one con where everything is done with the fan in mind, because to us the fan is the boss.”
Carpinelli adds, “When Stan Lee asked if he could join forces with our show, it was like a childhood fantasy come to life. Now I have three amazing father figures in my life.” She is referring to her own father, with whom she says she is very close. The others are Stan Lee, and Klaus Moeller, who is one of the primary backers of the convention, but whom Carpinelli describes as her mentor.
“Stan Lee has taught me so many things,” says Carpinelli. “I feel he’s the Walt Disney of our generation. I admire the fact that he’s 90 years old and he still works tirelessly, but even more than that, he does everything that he does with a smile on his face. I’ve always heard the saying that you shouldn’t meet your heroes because inevitably it’s disappointing. It might be true sometimes, but not when your hero is Stan Lee. He’s very humble, and treats everyone he comes into contact with with respect. He greets everyone with a smile. He’s an amazing inspiration and father figure.”
So how does Lee feel about being regarded as a father figure by Carpinelli and so many others, including colleagues and fans? “The fact that some regard me as a father figure or mentor weighs very heavily on me,” he says. “I try to behave in my personal life as well as my business life in such a way as to never let them down.”
It’s hard not to be reminded of his most famous quote, originating with Spider-man: “With great power there must also come — great responsibility!” It sounds as if the King of Cons truly lives by those words.
Image at top ©Comikaze Entertainment Inc.