Peter S. Svensson drove six hours to attend WonderCon for Bleeding Cool. It was worth it.
Every convention has a specific feel, a vibe. This didn’t feel like WonderCon. Which is traditionally in San Francisco, held at the Moscone Center. The building that WonderCon normally gets was under repairs this year, thus necessitating a change in venue to Anaheim and the Anaheim Convention Center! WonderCon is run by the same people who run San Diego Comic Con, and I’ve recommended it to people who felt that SDCC has become overwhelming and impossible to deal with. It’s the little sister who is constantly overshadowed by her older, prettier sister who gets all the attention but that’s okay.
Effectively, this felt like some other convention. It wasn’t a bad thing, Just… not the same.
HOTELS: There are a ton of them. This is the city where Disneyland dwells. The prices vary from high to higher. Because there were at least two other conventions being held in the same building this year, if you wanted to stay at the official convention hotel, you’d run into problems. I found an absurdly great deal about 10 minutes away by car which necessitated…
PARKING: The WonderCon website said there would be two places to park. $12 parking at the convention itself, or $10 parking at the nearby Angel Coliseum where a free shuttle would drop you off at the convention center. They recommended the coliseum. Not being as familiar with the area, but aware that the parking at the convention center is always the first to go and hard to get into, I went straight to the coliseum where I paid my money, waited a reasonable amount of time for a shuttle, rode to the convention without a worry in the world. Apparently other people had trouble with the shuttles taking forever to arrive, and yeah, on Saturday I had to wait a while. In the rain. Alone.
Seriously, I didn’t have any problems. The folks who tried parking at the convention center proper apparently went through hell, which I could have warned them about but some folks really do need to have their car that close to the con. And unlike San Francisco, where none of the locals drive, in LA everyone does!
REGISTRATION: I will say this, the registration at WonderCon this year was fantastic. Mainly because the venue was set up so that all the people waiting to register could head down to the basement level where they had set it up, so that you didn’t end up with massive lines of people waiting outside. The Anaheim Convention Center is HUGE. Much larger than the chunk of the Moscone Center normally used by WonderCon. The big problem was that the unfamiliar venue made it so that finding where to go was hard. There weren’t the ubiqutious signage telling us where the con registration was, probably because we were sharing the building with what appeared to be a Volleyball Tournament and a Cheerleading Conference.
Overheard from a confused cheerleader: “That guy must be dressed as some sort of animal from a cartoon or something.”
EXHIBIT HALL: It wasn’t very wide, so at first you got the impression that this wasn’t a very large space, as both the San Diego Convention Center and the Moscone Center in SF are wide. This, this was deep man, so deep. The exhibit floor was large, large enough that you got everything but the panels in a single hall. Artists Alley? Celebrity Autographs? Gaming? Other Convention Tables? All there. It was larger than WonderCon was last year, which is still about 1/3 the size of SDCC. Maybe. I’m really poor at estimating numbers and I suspect that someone with actual working knowledge of mathematics will crunch the numbers and prove me wrong in the comments. I want that to happen.
As for the hall itself? The aisles were wide and made for pretty easy travel. I can see why this convention center is potentially large enough to accommodate SDCC. (Though in actuality it’s more that Comic Con International can use the threat of relocating in negotiations with the City of San Diego when they have a legitimate offer from somewhere else. All my research indicates that Comic Con International has a vested interest in keeping the Con in San Diego. But I digress, and my last name isn’t David.)
One of the first things I noticed is that Image Comics was not in attendance. This is because they put an extraordinary amount of effort into making the Image Comics Expo in Oakland to fill the void caused
by WonderCon’s relocation. (And belated thanks to Jennifer De Guzman and Jimmy Jay from Image for helping make that convention run so smoothly!)
Marvel’s booth was located next to the entrance, which caused a great deal of foot traffic problems because the Marvel booth is always a big, bustling, busy occasion with free swag being given out to hordes of packed fans and large lines for autographs or to get photos taken next to the giant Avengers movie banner. Scooting Marvel over would have probably been for the best.
Beyond that, there weren’t any huge displays on the floor. That’s more of a San Diego thing. You had a store that featured some rather creepy mannequins dressed like sexy superheroes. Some nice statues here and there, but no major gigantic affairs from movie studios or the such.
FOOD: Convention food is always overpriced junk. This time we had a wide variety of overpriced junk. Instead of the single stand that serves pizza, hot dogs, soda and prepackaged salad for way too much money, there were a bunch of stands and carts on the perimeter of the exhibit hall selling a wide variety of food. You could get tacos or bowls with Asian-y noodles, and a whole bunch of other ways to waste your days budget on food. There’s also an overpriced food court in the hotel.
COSPLAY: There were absolutely no Organization XIII members in attendance. I know that reads as gibberish for most of you, so let me translate. You know those guys you’ve seen at just about every convention wearing black hooded robes with anime hair? They’re the antagonists of the Kingdom Hearts video games, and usually ludicrously
popular in the cosplay scene.
Instead, you had a flood of Adventure Time folks, most of which were completely unaware that there was a fantastic comic based on their favorite show. Boom started the weekend with copies of every printing as well as variants. They ended with a handful of third printings of issue #1. This was almost certainly the best selling book of the convention. You also had a tremendous amount of Homestuck cosplayers. That’s a ludicrously popular webcomic that most of you have never heard of.
Wonder Women are always popular at WonderCon for obvious reasons, but we also had quite a few more Disney princesses than usual, for also obvious reasons.
PANELS: were very very far away. The trek to getting to a panel room was much longer than usual, and knowing where each panel was located was a little harder than normal. The lack of signage hurt. (Of course, sharing the building with two other events probably made having the ubiquitous signs harder to manage.) Also, being in an unfamiliar convention center didn’t help.
If I had wanted to I could have attended nothing but comic book panels. As it stands, I also attended the DC Nation panel, which was close enough I suppose. The complaint of these cons becoming increasingly less about comics seems silly, when even if I wanted to there would have been no way for me to attend every comic-related event.
Last WonderCon was the first time I’d run into not being able to make it to a panel because it was full, something that has been a concern at San Diego for years. This year, no problems like that arose at all. (I suspect there may have been some for the big Hollywood presentations in the Ballroom, but I didn’t hear much grumbling.) I could get in to every panel I desired.
HEARD ON THE FLOOR:
Georges Jeanty told the story of how he’s at least somewhat responsible for the current direction in Angel and Faith, after a kibitzing session with Joss Whedon had him suggest that Giles fate be explored, mainly because Jeanty is a huge Giles fan and mourned what happened to him at the end of Season 8. Of course, standing next to us was someone who hadn’t reached that point yet and was now hopelessly spoiled. Oops.
Joe Hill is a really nice guy. Made a huge point of refusing to take even the slightest bit of credit for the success of The Cape comic, putting that all on his collaborator Jason Ciaramella.
Marv Wolfman has a beard now. Didn’t recognize him until he spoke.
Ben McCool is one of the most entertaining people in comics. Bing him.
J. Scott Campbell praised the work of new Danger Girl artist Chris Madden, who manages to hold down a full time job in the video game industry while still churning out a monthly title.
Kevin Keller creator Dan Parent said “The million moms protest was the best thing that could have happened to this book. I hope they protest every issue.”
THE FUTURE: “We have no dates for WonderCon in 2013 in Anaheim or in San Francisco.” was the official statement. The convention talkback was full of fans begging for another con to be added to the roster, where WonderCon is in San Francisco in the spring, Comic Con International is in San Diego in the summer, and Alternative Press Expo is in San Francisco in the fall, so as to become an alternative for those who can’t get to Comic Con or who no longer feel like it’s worth their while given how massive and overwhelming it has become. The question raised as that of logistics, as adding another convention would increase the workload of the existing staff and the math so far on their end suggests that the added income from another convention wouldn’t be enough to hire enough new staff to compensate. That being said, I strongly suspect that WonderCon will return to San Francisco next year, and that we’ll be seeing WonderCon South or the like from Comic Con International in the years to come.
But who knows what the future will hold? WonderCon could move permanently to Anaheim and Image Comics Expo could take the place of big SF Bay Area based con. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Jesse James also went to WonderCon for Bleeding Cool. This is what he came back with. As you can tell, he doesn’t need to eat or drink, he just keeps going on pure keenness alone.
I have always said that a Convention starts with the Anticipation before you get there. It’s when you check your email and you see that message saying “you have mail”. Its that Anticipation and the one second pause before you see the header that says “Wondercon ticket confirmation notification”. Your heart starts to pump and most of us pick up our phone and call someone and yell “I’m going to Wondercon”. For us Comic Fanboys, it’s our moment of success.
The Anticipation runs wild for me so much on this adventure not realizing I booked the wrong airport and departure. When I get to the airport and realize this, it means nothing to me. My desire is to get there no matter what. They book me to John Wayne airport and give me about a ten minute window to get to that gate. So, I run up and turn the corner just as they close the airplane door on me. No problem there are several more flights going to SOCAL so I’m not worried. However, the Anticipation has just doubled and I find myself trying to read the stock and bond page not knowing what I’m looking at, but it relaxes me. I finally get on the next flight and I’m moving towards my destination.
As I arrive at the Anaheim Convention center I see the best sign possible, three Stormtroopers escorting a chained Chewbacca across the street. To many, there is a odd stare. For a fanboy, like myself, I know I have hit the promised land. Now, there is that last step to move on from that Anticipation that is riding you back. Its the line to get your badge. I get to go to the press badge area so the line is very small. Yet one person in front of you is like 50 people blocking your path. The 2 minutes seems like a hour. But then my turn comes and I give my name. I wait patiently to start my adventure. Then it happens the pause of “what’s your name again?” As I repeat Jesse James about 3 times my Anticipation has become Adrenaline. Then all is well. It Seems all the tickets were put in one bag under Bleeding Cool. Its now that Moment you see in movies were Sly or Arnold are putting all their weapons on their body. Its the moment you put that badge around your neck and the lanyard rolls down your chest saying “Let me in, I’m official”. You head towards the main hall and you tilt your badge so the guard at the door can see your authenticity. You walk through and its officially “Game on!”
Wondercon is like San Diego and New York you just walk in and you go with the flow. No pre planned map. Just walking in a direction feeling the force drawing you towards utopia. There are so many artists in the building its hard to imagine you will get too see them all. You also see an abundance of fans everywhere. It’s loud, but its that noise you like to hear. Comic book fans in general thrive in this type of venue. We are a amazing breed. We can literally walk and look at the sights around us never really looking straight and not knock over anybody in the process.
Depending on the door you come in you either walk straight in to DC or Marvel. Both have huge areas and showcase their top line books and characters. DC had someone signing just about every hour and Marvel allowed you to be part of the Avengers Movie poster.
Aspen was there. They are ready to dance and brought it big time. You can feel the good vibe on what they are doing. I get to talk to Benitez for awhile and enjoy his Variant WONDERCON St ‘ Day cover. I highly recommend taking a couple of minutes and just watch him do his magic. There is a flow that you get into as his image starts to form on the paper in front of him. Simply amazing!
IDW really did a great job of presenting their books. They had plenty of people there to help you and guide you as well. Same thing with Avatar, Zenescope and Bongo nice layouts of their comics.
The Dealers were there in full force and were slinging a lot of comics as well. One of my favorite dealers, Jay Company was there with two major booths. They seemed to always have a huge group of fans surrounding their tables. I really never saw a dealer that wasn’t busy. I really think its a great sign to see so many fans spending money on comic books. It also assures that future cons will have no empty spots and give the fans a bounty of genres to look at.
The Artist Alley areas is jam packed. Some of my stops included, Mark Dos Santos, Staurt Sayger,Norm Rapmund, Mike Mckone, and Nei Ruffino. Its really cool to talk to artist who travel many cons during the year and see them upbeat about this con. You can tell they are having fun and it spills over too the fans as well. Norm Rapmund seemed like he was in the groove. My camera ran out of juice but he had a smile that was ear to ear. I really enjoy my time meeting and becoming friends with these artist. It takes some time and many shows but its cool to get a wave or a “Hey” from these fine creators.
Now, I love all the creators but there are three must when you go to a convention. If there on the guest list make sure you staple this list to your arm. The Sakais, The Portacios, and the Naucks. You hear it all the time. When you want to know how a creator is happy and successful usually its the spouse that helps them get them there. I love the family atmosphere and the culture you feel. If you want to see how a team works these three spots are where you go. All three were at Wondercon and will be part of my fondest memories for 2012.
Now the Cossies were out in full force. I will tell you, I saw some of the best Cosplayers at Wondercon and they were really fan favorites. To see 5 and 6 year olds striking poses as Darth Vader and Batman were amazing. There was a huge Gi Joe presence and of course Star Wars owned the floor. However, there was a very cool red outfit Star Trek cossie who had a hand full of Tribbles I thought rocked the house the best. There was also a Cosplay show down that really was entertaining as well.
The Special guest line up was outstanding. Though my whole time in that area was devoted to Elvira or should I say Cassandra Peterson. They had a bounty of guest and really touched every genre and generation. A note to everybody. You can cut in front of me and I wont care UNLESS its Elvira then there will be a beat down coming. Though it was the farthest back I highly recommend this area for those whom might not be into the comic book groove.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time this year. There is so much that this con offers to the fans. Its truly your full weekend con and you’ll probably still walk away not seeing everything. For someone like myself, its a family reunion with all my fellow store owners across the nation and a chance to speak to publishers about needs and purchase some cool stuff at the same time. In reality sense the smiles weren’t that big anywhere about 2 years ago at any con. However, the smiles are back and the sounds of comics being sold and talked about are booming again.
I would like to thank Wondercon for having me out this year. A special Thanks to Karen and her Awesome staff for taking care of the Bleeding Cool team. Though you weren’t there I went back and high fived your team for a job well done.
Now, I’m heading home on the right flight and time. I’m relaxed and have a smile on my face. I cant wait to sit down and talk about my trip and about the new friends I have met. However as I type this, the ANTICIPATION begins to creep in for WONDERCON 2013.
See you at the next con!
Six Shooter Jesse James