Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo continues to grow by leaps and bounds, expanding in its fifth year to fill most of the Los Angeles Convention Center compared to just one hall in 2014. Attendance, too, has grown by about 10,000 per year based on some estimates, with this year's crowds expected to reach 75,000 for the three day pop culture celebration of sci-fi/fantasy comic books, TV/film and video games.

One day is too little to experience most of what the event has to offer, but I packed as much as I could into the show's last day this past Sunday. I managed to walk the show floor in both main halls, get a couple autographs, take in a panel, see some props and cosplay, talk to some exhibitors and buy a few odds and ends. The schedule was grueling (I didn't sit once), but worthwhile.

I went first to the South Hall for a couple autographs. Normally I won't pay for the privilege, but decided I should take advantage of having Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek's Uhura) and Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov) in attendance, since I had James Doohan's (Scotty) autograph for years on the back of an Enterprise print. To pass the time until they appeared, I watched combat stunt professionals on the main stage.

The Iron Shields/Arms Combat Stunt A1:L5 Fight Team put on an exhibition of close quarters combat. The mostly inaudible participants weren't miked so any exposition felt like a wasted opportunity. But the stunts were the main attraction. While the choreography was decent, the action could be slow at times. Anticipation grew when two archers took the stage, until they put down their bows in favor of a more "traditional" fight.

New this year was the Prop Making National Championship. The finalists were on display nearby for attendees to vote on their favorites. The variety of props included a modified xenomorph cranium (Alien franchise) and Baymax head (Big Hero 6). The quality was comparable to actual props that appeared in various displays on the show floor, and no doubt will help increase foot traffic in upcoming years.

Some prop displays were courtesy design studios that showcased their artisans' creativity, training and experience. Star Wars related models were not uncommon in this year of The Force Awakens.

Speaking of Star Wars, the influence of legendary FX designer Phil Tippett was on display at his namesake Tippett Studios' booth. There, detailed props from hit films such as Starship Troopers and Hellboy showed off the Star Wars veteran's impressive legacy, and the continuing impact that the studio has on the profession and sci-fi/fantasy themes in film and on TV.

Nichelle Nichols actually showed up early so fans were able to get their autographs ahead of schedule. Her legacy in pop culture (and especially civil rights) was not lost on attendees as her line was the longest, but she was gracious and kind to everyone she greeted. Walter Koenig likewise was friendly and humble. Meeting both was a pleasure for this Star Trek fan, and I'm glad to have added their signatures beside the late James Doohan's.

While obtaining autographs, the main stage began hosting William Shatner's Man O' War: Cinematic Graphic Novel. The panel included Shatner and others involved in the digital comic book, which is pushing the envelope by incorporating animation, in-story sound effects and a music soundtrack. A demonstration showed how all such elements came together to create a more entertaining read.

During the discussion, participants were joined by Stan Lee himself. The banter between him and Shatner was amusing. At one point, Lee observed that if Shatner had been born just a little earlier he might have had a career in comics instead like himself. Taking the idea a step further, he exclaimed, "I feel sorry for Shakespeare, he died too soon!"

Later when Shatner mistakenly invoked DC Comics, Lee feigned hearing loss and ignorance. Shatner tried to recover from his faux pas by asking, "DC stands for District of Columbia, right?" During Q&A, Shatner addressed a comic convention controversy when asked if he was starring in the new Star Trek film. "Are you asking about a film? Isn't this COMIKaze?" he asked. (He did deny any association with the new film.)

Lee's appearance in fact was related to an announcement that the same folks working on Man O' War would be creating a cinematic graphic novel based on his poem "God Woke."

Exhibitor booths included a variety of decorations and props, including statues of Groot, Chewbacca, Optimus Prime (I think) and even Stan Lee (see first photo at the very top). One booth included a statue of Godzilla and a giant robot, which housed a DJ spinning records for booth visitors. All were meant to draw traffic to the variety of merchandise such as comic books, toys, models, clothing (including cosplay-related), jewelry, art and movies.

Another booth included a kind of hip hop red Stormtrooper dancing to a boom box background. It felt wrong, but it was amusing nonetheless. Seeing him pose with a pint-size Boba Fett cosplayer was a definite treat.

Arsenal (from "Arrow")

Cosplayers in fact were out in force, though I presume less conspicuously than prior days leading up to Saturday's inaugural Cosplay National Championship. Each year had had it's own cosplay contest, but show organizers upped the ante in 2015 by increasing the contest's profile. Combined with the new Prop Making National Championship, the retooled show is designed to dramatically increase its appeal.

Loki ("The Avengers")

A flashier Stormtrooper

Dia de los Muertos costumes; Pocahontas

A steampunk Darth Vadar (top) and related characters (below)

Hawkman crashes Stan Lee's party

Tali ("Mass Effect")

Artists always have been a mainstay among exhibitors at Comikaze and this year was no exception. Myriad styles were on display and themes covered the gamut from comic books to film to TV and original fantasy concepts. Most sold illustrations and prints while some commissioned artwork or drew caricatures. Authors were also present at publishers' booths to sign copies of their books and graphic novels.

One such writer was Sebastian A. Jones (above), whose The Untamed (with artist Peter Bergting) caught my eye. The new graphic novel follows a deceased character whose pact with the Devil to harvest seven souls of those who betrayed him may come back to haunt him. The story is being made into an animated TV series starring Sean Bean. I went home with a copy of the graphic novel and two related prints.

Other merchandise I purchased included Saga: Book One by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples, Gates of Midnight: Warrior of the Gate by Debbie Lynn Smith and artist Amelia Woo, and a Serenity (Firefly) keychain. Gates of Midnight appealed with its story of an Afghanistan veteran medic battling monsters both inhuman and human, and the series' use of international female artists.

In the end, I enjoyed my third visit to this burgeoning pop culture convention. The relatively affordable admission, compelling panels on a range of topics, entertaining and growing mix of celebrities and behind the scenes professionals, and merchandise deals all combine to make a visit worthwhile. That said, the increasingly crowded show floor (despite added square feet) and diminishing deals could be a discouraging trend.

But in the meantime, I'll probably continue to return to this welcome addition to the convention circuit.