As of last weekend, I’ve been to more WonderCons in Anaheim than San Francisco, and more with a kid in tow than without. And I’m finally at the point where I’m no longer comparing the current incarnation of the con to the previous one, and just taking it on its own terms.
(Jump to the Photo Gallery if you don’t want to read my ramblings on the con.)
WonderCon is still a lot like old-school San Diego Comic-Con, with the mix of various media presence but without the cattle-drive crowds. It’s the kind of con where you can find the high-profile events or guests and actually visit more than one in the same day!
The era of gigantic booth displays (other than the tower of T-shirts) seems to be over, or maybe exhibitors are saving them for the bigger cons. I was surprised that DC didn’t have a booth, since they’ve been heavily involved in WonderCon every year I’ve gone, though they provided the program cover/T-shirt as usual, hosted panels, and of course were well-represented by artists and writers.
Even without giant booths, the main floor filled most of the convention center. Artist’s Alley was probably about the same size as at SDCC, but easier to navigate. It’s a bit of a blur, actually, but I remember:
- Looking at a lot of art
- Comics sellers (though I only took the time to look at the discount books that were actually organized)
- Pirate-themed devices
- Antique keys, tools, drafting instruments and the like. (In some cases the artifacts weren’t actually that old. There was a Swiss Army Knife that looked pretty much exactly like the one I was carrying in my backpack, for instance.)
- Tentacle Kitty!
- Talking to several artists including: Phil Foglio, from whom I bought a Girl Genius-inspired card game; Amy Mebberson, who got a kick out of Spider-Elsa; the writer of an indie comic about airship combat with amazing artwork called Skies of Fire.
- What is it with me and airship comics?
Panels: Into the Arena
Programming at WonderCon and SDCC is usually strong, but for some reason this year there wasn’t much that interested either of us…except for Friday afternoon and Saturday evening, when we couldn’t be there.
We mostly ended up at TV-related panels this year. Both of us caught the iZombie cast-and-producers Q&A. I also caught the Flash panel (details at Speed Force) and Powers. We’re both enjoying iZombie and The Flash, and while I haven’t seen Powers yet, I’m looking forward to watching it when it eventually shows up on other services. Katie also went to the Writers’ Room panel, featuring writers from various genre TV shows.
Funny: it’s been years since I’ve even tried to set foot in Hall H at SDCC, but this year the only WonderCon panels I went to were in the Arena.
Sadly, I failed to get into the Flash TV cast signing. The ticket drawing was scheduled to start at 10:00. We finally parked the car at 9:50. Even though I ran parts of the way and just barely made it on time, it turned out that they’d capped the line 20 minutes earlier.
Costumes have gotten more and more common, more and more elaborate, and more and more specialized. Mash-ups have become very popular (ex. Hans Solo), as well as with steampunk and armor/warrior variations. This year was a big one for more obscure but still canon costumes, as well (ex. Ariel in sailcloth). The lobby and the fountain out front continue to be cosplay gathering spots, but I never got the impression that Long Beach sometimes gives me of two separate cons.
Katie observed that sooner or later, everything gets turned into Slave Leia, Sailor Moon, or a Dalek. Now I’m waiting to see the inevitable Sailor Slave Leia Dalek.
Spider-Gwen, Agent Carter, and Big Hero 6 seemed to be all over the place.
As for us, Katie wore her Alice outfit from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland for its second con. She was thrilled that people recognized the character, especially since no one said a thing at SDCC last year. Our four-year-old debuted as Spider-Elsa. The Frozen webslinger was a hit until a chocolate ice cream incident caused us to deploy the back-up costume: a low-key minion.
Bringing a four-year-old to a con is so much better than bringing a three-year old!
The stroller’s gone, which makes movement much easier in general, and means that he’s actually moving and doesn’t need to run around just to stretch his legs. (Not to say that he never ran off….) He can appreciate looking at stuff now, so the toys, costumes and displays were interesting instead of background noise. Impulse control is still an issue, but he had a great time checking out random stuff and we kept him from breaking anything. We were able to get someone to watch him on Saturday, and bring him along on Sunday, which works out better schedule-wise than the other way around.
Plus there was the whole wearing-a-costume thing!
The kid made out like a bandit, though. I think we bought more toys for him than anything for either of us!
WonderCon continues to settle comfortably in Anaheim — which makes it especially weird that they’re moving to Los Angeles next year. They’ve been really pushing the “WonderCon Anaheim” name the last few years. Will they rename it again next year? Maybe they can call it the “Los Angeles WonderCon of Anaheim.”
They added a shuttle to the Garden Walk parking structure this year. Between waiting and the fact that it has to plow through the same traffic as people trying to park closer, it took about twice as long as it would have to walk. It was convenient at the end of the day, though, especially with a tired preschooler.
Once again they had a bunch of food trucks out front to take the load off the convention center and hotel food courts, plus a couple of pop-up restaurants in one of the inside courtyards. I wish the coffee places inside the convention center would stay open a bit later, though. Once mid-afternoon hits, they shut down, and if you want coffee you need to walk over to the hotel Starbucks and wait in line for 30 minutes or longer just to order.
One big change was cordoning off access outside the convention center. The walkway between the convention center and the nearest hotel, the space in front of the entrance, and the gathering area by the fountain were all blocked off, with access restricted through turnstiles. No one said so, but I’m sure it’s a response to the continuing presence of religious protesters with giant signs and megaphones, who were busy telling us we were all going to hell for raising our kids to be Batman or Superman. At least this time they were outside the rope.
Frankly, I find their presence not only annoying, but insulting. They’re operating under two assumptions: Fans are godless heathens, and we’re living in a fantasy world. (Well, three, including that their particular branch of their particular religion is the right one and the rest aren’t.) But there are plenty of fans who are religious, and I’ve heard them complain about the protesters, too. And religious or not, we know the difference between reality and fantasy.
It’s probably best not to introduce them to Neon Genesis Evangelion, though. That’s enough to make anyone’s mind explode.
This is going to be our big fan con for the year. We couldn’t get tickets to San Diego, and when work gets to a point where I can actually take a break to travel, we’re probably going to visit people we know instead of going to a con. But there’s more stuff going on in the area. I always enjoy Long Beach Comic Con, and I’m beginning to think the kiddo might enjoy ComiKaze this fall. Whenever it ends up being. Should be fun.
And if we do make it to ComiKaze, I’ll be checking out the space with a bit more of an eye toward how WonderCon might fit next year. That’s going to be an interesting change.
Check out my full cosplay photo gallery on Flickr.
See Also: Convention Photos & Write-Ups