Get Your Geek On
GeekCraft Expo founders Daniel Way and Kim Matsuzaki are eager to bring their “Etsy meets Comic Con” to Hawai‘i Convention Center Oct. 12-13.
What happens when creativity meets connection? Two things, actually: A winning relationship and a successful national event that is making its first appearance in Hawai‘i this month.
GeekCraft Expo, the brainchild of comic book and videogame writer Daniel Way and former Ubisoft senior community manager Kim Matsuzaki, will make its local debut Oct. 12-13 at Hawai‘i Convention Center.
“When you’re a geek, you’re all in on something that you love,” Matsuzaki says. “You display your fandom.”
Of course, the story of how GeekCraft came to be is a little more interesting when one understands what its quirky and talented founders bring to the table.
For Way, it all began with a love of telling stories. “I left home at a really young age, so I always had some goofy anecdote about something I did or saw,” he remembers. One day in the ’90s, he befriended a comic book shop owner who recommended he start turning his stories into comics.
“I was like, nah, comic books are dumb. They’re like power fantasies or people dressing up in silly costumes,” Way laughs. “But he said, ‘No, you need to understand comics is a medium, not a genre.'”
He gave Way some non-mainstream titles to try out. Way was immediately captivated by the depth and range of storytelling involved.
So he wrote his own book, Violent Lifestyle, and paid an artist to illustrate it. He then was fortunate enough to receive a Xeric Foundation grant that enabled him to get it published. He brought his book to the Small Press Expo in Maryland, whereupon Diana Schutz, then of Dark Horse Comics, discovered his work.
A few months later, he got a call from Marvel editor Axel Alonso, asking if he wanted to try his hand at writing Spider-Man.
At first, Way demurred.
“At that point, Marvel was in bankruptcy,” Way says, and he wasn’t interested in writing superhero comics. But Marvel was keen to get new voices and shake things up, so Alonso pursued Way until they came up with a story that would work (an entry in Spider-Man’s Tangled Web).
From there, 15 years passed — and Way made a name for himself, writing for characters as varied as The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, Venom, Ghost Rider and, most famously, Deadpool.
“I was always trying to resurrect forgotten characters and take characters off the trash pile who had fallen off the cultural radar, and Deadpool was like that.”
It’s hard to believe that today when Deadpool has starred in two solo, wildly successful movies. But Deadpool was swirling in the toilet bowl, so to speak, when Way got hold of him.
“I did my best to take a new approach, and obviously it resonated, and it’s the Deadpool you see now: I kind of put him on that path.”
Today, though, Way is back doing his own thing. He chose to leave his exclusivity deal with Marvel and “jump in with both feet” into creating his own independent works again. He’s never been happier.
Way teases that his next project has been “gestating” for a long time, and will take place in Russia, where a mercenary of sorts devotes himself to rescuing unwilling mail-order brides.
Matsuzaki is, at heart, a local girl. The Castle High School grad attended University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where she got a “safe” degree in information technology.
“I was never passionate about it,” she says.
Instead, she got in the habit of playing video games with friends after work. She eventually got restless and left Hawai‘i, moving to San Francisco, where she met someone who worked for EGM, a gaming-dedicated magazine.
Eventually, she found herself in the role of community manager for 1Up.com.
“It was that whole dream of, ‘I want to do the same thing I’m doing with my friends and get paid for it,'” Matsuzaki muses.
One thing led to another, and she found herself moving to Montreal, Canada, to work for videogame publisher Ubisoft as senior community developer, where she was responsible for communicating updates between the development team and fans, working on titles like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry 2. She later moved to Ubisoft affiliate Red Storm Entertainment, focusing on Tom Clancy titles.
“The community is just frothing at the mouth for upcoming games, more information,” she says. “I was the go-between for them. So I knew what the community wanted to hear, and I could go get the answers.”
She met Way at San Diego Comic Con, and got out of the videogame industry soon after, with an urge to focus on family (the couple have a 5-year-old daughter, Violet) and a new project: GeekCraft Expo.
GeekCraft is what happens when you bring a master of creation with the queen of connection.
Matsuzaki, after all, loves shopping, and especially shopping for items that reflect her eclectic tastes.
“Being geeks ourselves and going to a lot of conventions, I drag him through, shopping for things, and then being like, ‘Man, that was a big area. It’s been two hours and I only found this one thing,'” Matsuzaki says.
“We were both like, what if there was a craft fair, but it was just the handmade nerdy stuff from comic cons?” Way muses. “It just didn’t exist.”
So, in 2016, the couple founded the first GeekCraft Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. It has since expanded to cities as varied as Seattle, St. Louis, Portland, Durham and, now, Honolulu.
What sets GeekCraft apart from conventional craft fairs or even Artist Alleys within larger comic conventions is its laser-sharp focus.
“Since we’re a curated show, we’ve done the groundwork. Every exhibitor that is there will have quality stuff,” Matsuzaki explains. “It will absolutely be handmade, and there won’t be a ton of the same thing. We’re not about exhibitors competing with each other for price. We want to make sure they complement each other.”
Some 40 vendors are expected to kick off the inaugural Hawai‘i event, with more than 2,000 people already pre-registered to attend as of press time.
“You just have to come in and make it. The more idiosyncratic, the more down the rabbit hole, the more nerdy — you may think this is too obscure, but you’re wrong,” Way says.
“There’s going to be someone who sees that and is so blown away that someone went that far with such an off-center idea that they just have to have it.”
GeekCraft Expo Hawai‘i runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 12, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 13 at Hawai‘i Convention Center. Admission is free with pre-registration via eventbrite.com; otherwise, it’s $5 at the door. For more information, visit geekcraftexpo.com.
The Local Touch
Daniel Way and Kim Matsuzaki have a vested interest in making sure GeekCraft Expo succeeds in Hawai‘i. (After all, they live here.) With that in mind, three special events will take place at this expo.
First is a pilot launch of a new program, Geek-Craft Export.
“We’ve invited some of our GeekCrafters from the mainland to send stuff over, so there will be an area of the show that will have handmade geeky stu~ that you haven’t seen on the island,” Way says. “That is a huge benefit for attendees because they’re getting new stuff.”
The hope is that the program will eventually work in reverse: Hawai‘i crafters can send their wares to the mainland GeekCraft Expos and get exposure and sales they otherwise would not have received.
The second is a special section called Da Kine Indie Publishing, which will highlight local publications to get them attention and press from larger publishers who will be in attendance.
“If it’s independently produced and published, then it fits,” Way says.
The third is a special three-hour event, “An Evening with Ken F. Levin,” running from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 12, after the first day of GeekExpo concludes.
Way’s agent and producer extraordinaire, Levin is the executive producer of TV series Preacher and The Boys, as well as movies like Road to Perdition, Wanted and more. The co-founder of 1First Publishing will discuss what it takes to get a property from written page to the big screen, and take audience questions.
Tickets are $20 in advance on eventbrite.com, or $30 at the door (if capacity allows).
The Background Story
Pictured behind GeekCraft Expo founders Daniel Way and Kim Matsuzaki (on the cover) is an original mural by Jimmy “Jimmy Sparrow” Ishizaki — one of the expo’s 40 participating vendors.
“I’m looking at every venue and opportunity I can get,” Ishizaki says. “This one (GeekCraft) is a brand-new one that popped onto my radar and seemed pretty cool to do. It’s important for them and me to be a part of — to help them get the word out, get more artists in, bring attention for the rest of the community that this is a new event they can do.
“It’s hard here. There’s only like two big cons and a few mini-events spread out throughout the year. People who are into this stuff, they want more events like this.”
The longtime local con attendee is known for his cosplay prowess, as well as his original stickers, shirts and prints, but he credits Davin Fukumoto, owner of Snack Addicted (another local con stalwart who sells flavored beef jerky, including oxtail soup and yakiniku varieties), for giving him the push he needed.
“I always want to support artists. I always want to support people who are doing what they are passionate about,” Fukumoto says, explaining that he was inspired to help Ishizaki after meeting him at a few conventions and getting to know him. “I have Jimmy’s stuff here (at the shop) because I want to help him.”
Snack Addicted, located in ‘Iolani Center next to PURVÉ Donut Shop, is a haven for geek culture, with one wall covered with different prints by local and mainland artists, as well as, of course, Ishizaki’s sakura mural.
Attendees will be able to find Ishizaki at GeekCraft Expo, and he’ll be bringing some of Fukumoto’s jerky with him to sell at his booth. Fukumoto promises there will be an exclusive flavor in honor of GeekCraft, too.
Those who miss the expo but still want to see more of Ishizaki’s work can find it at Snack Addicted (1234 Kona St., second floor). For more information, find Ishizaki on social media or at jimmyxsparrow.com. Snack Addicted can be found at snackaddictedhi.com.