The other night I had to take the MacBook into the Apple store to get it checked out after a toddler-related spill. I got there for my appointment and waited…and waited…and waited….
Killing time with my Android phone felt a bit weird. If I hadn’t needed to stay close to the Genius Bar I could have at least browsed the gadgets and played with an iPad or a newer laptop with a Retina display, or something. There’s only so long you can spend looking at boxes of headphones and cases for devices you don’t own. I briefly considered reading the new Flash comic book I’d picked up earlier in the day, but thought to myself, “Nah, I bet this isn’t supported here.”
Then I saw this on the wall:
Well then, I guess it’s supported after all!
WonderCon 2013 returned to Anaheim after last year’s experiment, and the event felt more solid this year. As much as I hope they’ll be able to return to San Francisco, they’ve shown that they can put on a really good convention in Anaheim as well.
The Anaheim Venue
Since last year, the Anaheim Convention Center has replaced a long driveway between hotels with an extended pedestrian area, with fountains at either end. This turned out to be fantastic for the convention, because it gave people a place to hang out, visit, hold photo shoots, and more. This was also where five food trucks set up shop to handle the lunch rush, which added not just supply but more variety. Compare to San Diego, where most exits from the convention center make you cross a driveway, a major street, and two sets of railroad tracks, one for freight and one for the trolley, before you get to any sort of open space, and even that has been co-opted by off-site events.
Another difference from San Diego: The sections of the main hall are separated by permanent walls, including the food courts…and as I discovered on Friday, an atrium. That atrium was a bit of a shock the first time I walked into it, because it gave me an overwhelming sense of deja vu, like I’d just walked out of WonderCon 2013 and into WorldCon 1996. I could swear it’s left over from before the major remodeling they did in the late 1990s.
I spent the first Saturday of November in Long Beach for the fourth annual Long Beach Comic and Horror Con. Despite the name change last year, the show remains focused on comics, and horror feels like an afterthought tacked on to fit with the Halloween timing of the show. (It makes me wonder whether they’ll return to the original name next year, when it’s held at the end of November.)
Venue & Layout
There were four or five Star Wars-decorated cars outside the lobby and one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles van. I was way too amused by a convertible, tricked out to look like it had starfighter engines and gun emplacements, on display with a Yoda statue in the passenger seat. (I figure Jedi don’t ride shotgun, they ride lightsaber.)
On the main floor, Artist’s Alley continues to be the centerpiece, both literally and figuratively. SDCC has been shoving the artist’s tables off to one end of the insanely-long hall, Wizard tends to put them in the back, and I hear NYCC put them in a different hall entirely (not quite behind a door labeled “beware of the leopard”), but Long Beach has always made a point of putting them right in the center. Publishers at the front, fan groups at the back, dealers to the sides, all wrapped around the artists.
Way in the back, past the fan groups, there was a laser tag arena and a roller derby course (marked on the floor in tape. The derby replaced the wrestling ring they had the first couple of years. For some reason Chevrolet was plugging the Volt (so to speak) in one corner. The roller derby makes sense in the same way as the wrestling does (garish costumes, code names, and violence), but I couldn’t figure out the Volt. Continue reading
Comic-Con International was a lot more fun and a lot less overwhelming than usual this year.
Maybe it’s because we skipped the busiest day to go the San Diego Zoo. Maybe it’s because we picked our battles on what we tried to do. Maybe it’s because last year we crammed the whole experience into a single day, and having three days felt like a luxury in comparison. Or the fact that the logistics of getting to and from the con were so ridiculously complicated (more about that later) that they made the convention seem relaxing.
Whatever the reason, the floor did seem a bit less crowded this year. Both of us remarked on the fact that we never felt trapped as we usually feel on the busiest days.
(Skip to the photos if that’s what you want.)
Thursday was the day I spent mostly on the floor, exploring. I hit the usual haunts: DC Comics, Sideshow Collectibles, Studio Foglio. DC was really plugging their upcoming fighting game, Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Sideshow seems to be displaying more figurines (and a wider variety) every year. Their Lord of the Rings figurines are absolutely incredible. Though I’m not sure what the target audience is for the life-sized Han Solo in Carbonite or Boba Fett. I can’t see putting one of those in my living room. They also had a very cheesecaky Poison Ivy statue. I overheard someone saying they couldn’t see themselves buying it because it would be like having that lamp in A Christmas Story. At another booth I discovered that you actually can buy that lamp.
Last week, the webcomic XKCD ran a strip, Umwelt. Or perhaps it would be better to describe it as several comic strips.
As explained in the mouseover text, the title refers to the idea that because animals have different senses, each animal effectively inhabits a different reality. This can philosophically be extended to human perceptions.
As an art project, it’s the best use of browser-sniffing I’ve ever seen.
You may have noticed elements of the 1990s creeping back into comics, music, movies and TV. There’s a reason for that: pop culture seems to be obsessed with its past on a 20-year cycle, and the current love affair with the 1980s has passed its peak.
I go into more detail — including thoughts on some of the implications for the 10-year and 30-year troughs in the cycle — at Speed Force in Return of the 1990s.
WonderCon’s first year in Anaheim* was a lot of fun despite the rain and wind. I actually enjoyed it more than the last one I attended in San Francisco (WonderCon 2010). Partly that’s because a lousy trip into SF soured my mood, and partly it’s because I spent all three days at the con this year, but it’s also because this year’s con had everything I’ve come to expect at a WonderCon, with more space, so the crowds never got unbearable.
»Skip to the photos if you’re so inclined.
There was a very strong comic book focus to the con, maybe not so much as at Long Beach, but all the major comics publishers were there, plus many of the minor ones. I was surprised to find webcomics wrapped around the large-press area and not hidden off in a corner. The small press and Artist’s Alley areas were huge (especially when compared to Wizard’s Comic Con in the same hall two years ago). And there were comic book dealers all over the place.
The only real complaint I had about the layout was that it seemed a bit haphazard. Marvel, IDW, and DC were front and center, but Studio Foglio and the Winner Twins were stuck in between IDW and DC. Zenescape was off in a corner rather than being clustered with fellow indies Archaia, Aspen and Avatar. And when I say the comic dealers were all over the place, I mean scattered all over the place.
The rest of the convention center was being used by a girls’ volleyball tournament and a cheerleading competition. I was encouraged by the fact that the players were just as interested as the fans in taking photos of and with the people in costumes, from Captain America and Bucky through Optimus Prime.
*They’d like to return to San Francisco after Moscone Center’s renovations are done, but that’s still up in the air.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Comikaze Expo, and I’d just been to Long Beach Comic-Con the weekend before, but I was curious about the new show, and for $12 a day, I figured I’d check it out. Getting a discount on that already-low price through Goldstar clinched it, and when I found out my friend Wayne was going, we decided to carpool.
What we found was a surprisingly big show, with a wide variety of exhibitors, though I’d hesitate to call it a “Comic-Con.” More of a general geek pop culture show. There were certainly comic book artists and dealers (a few of whom I recognized from last week), but it reminded me a bit of the last Wizard con I went to (Anaheim 2010). There were actors & celebrities, artists, indie publishers, authors, dealers, T-shirt and nerdy craft sellers, costumers, fan groups for everything from G.I. Joe to Firefly, tattoo artists (that’s a new one), a giant card game area, a giant tabletop game area, and a video game demo trailer. All in all, it was somewhere between Wizard and San Diego without the big names.
When I heard that Long Beach Comic Con was rebranding itself as Long Beach Comic and Horror Con this year, I was a little concerned. One of the things I liked most about it the first two years was the heavy emphasis on comics compared to San Diego (which has plenty of comics, but is so big that it’s easy to miss them) or the Wizard conventions (which seem to have refocused around celebrities). As it turns out, the horror didn’t drown out the comics at all. The front of the hall was still mainly comics publishers, with dealers (mostly comics and collectibles) behind them in a U shape, wrapped around the core: a gigantic Artist’s Alley.
Of course, Halloween and horror did make their presence known, starting with the signs for zombie parking, and continuing with programming, guests and costumes. (Jump straight to the photos.)