WonderCon 2012 Coverage
San Francisco comic event heads south for the first time...
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Comic-Con International puts on three major conventions each year, with the most famous being San Diego Comic-Con in July. The next biggest is WonderCon, usually held in San Francisco. This year, the Moscone Center there is under renovation so it was decided to move the event. And what better place to hold it than the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California? While it may not have been convenient for many of the regular attendees, this change of scenery gave a whole new audience a chance to experience WonderCon. Its proximity to Los Angeles and Hollywood certainly didn’t hurt either. With my Figures.com press badge secured I headed to Anaheim to see what all the fuss was about, and I wasn’t disappointed!
Last year WonderCon played host to nearly 50,000 attendees, making it roughly 1/3rd the size of SDCC. Not surprisingly, one of the most frequently heard comments on the exhibit hall floor was “it’s like San Diego, only smaller.” Indeed, WonderCon had just about everything people have come to love about SDCC but without the ridiculous crowds and overwhelming proportions. There was an exhibit hall full of great stuff, cool exclusives, amazing artists, comic books, TV shows, movies, programming, signings, and more. And like any good convention there were always multiple things going on at once and plenty for everyone to enjoy.
WonderCon’s exhibit hall provided endless hours of interesting things, as I can attest. While the placement of booths was at times almost haphazard, there were some basic themed areas. Just inside the front entrance were the major comic book companies. Both DC and Marvel were represented by large booths where attendees could pose for photos (on green screen with the Justice League and in front of a giant Avengers poster respectively), meet artists and creators, and find free stuff. DC went the extra mile and had two display cases of DC Direct items on display including New 52 figures, Before Watchmen statues, and plenty of Batman. Also on hand were IDW, Archaia, Aspen, Boom!, Bongo, etc., all selling comics and hosting exclusive signings. Combined with the many booths selling comics (vintage, modern, and trades) and all of the events, WonderCon really felt like a “Comic” Con!
Besides the comics there were a lot of other sights to see as well. Gamers of all kinds had plenty to enjoy with demos by Nintendo (Kid Icarus), Capcom (Resident Evil), and Cryptozoic (Locke & Key, Penny Arcade), while several card and miniature games held tournaments throughout the weekend. Movie buffs like me could check out upcoming films and classic releases, and I even got to meet Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman (pictured above)! Everywhere you looked there were t-shirts, collectibles, and enough toys for sale to satisfy any collector with everything from the newest releases to vintage figures. A handful of toy and statue companies had their own booths too, including Kotobukiya, Gentle Giant, Bluefin (distributor of Bandai), Quantum Mechanix, and Triad Toys. Meanwhile, the art toy scene was hopping with great stuff by Frombie, October Toys, Hyperactive Monkey, Kuso Vinyl, Squid Kids, and Super7. Most of those also featured cool exclusives, ensuring lots of activity at their booths.
An entire slice of the exhibit hall was devoted to hile even more dotted the hall in random locations. Like other smaller conventions, WonderCon offered great opportunities to meet and interact with artists, all selling distinctive wares and signing their offerings. Mixed between relatively small time artists were true industry heavyweights like Jim Lee (pictured above), Brian Buccellato, Bernard Chang, Mike Choi, Mike Mignola, Steve Niles, Scott Snyder, Fiona Staples, and many more. There were plenty of awesome independent artists too like Mike Walton of the amazing Dual and False Positive web comics (falsepositivecomic.com), Bobby Chiu of Imaginism Studios, Sideways 8 Studios, toonhole.com, and so many more. The hard part wasn’t finding something unique to take home, it was narrowing it down from the multitude of options!
Even that doesn’t really do the exhibit hall justice, with a Game of Thrones booth putting your head on a pike, Utilikilts, cute wool animals, giant Firefly art, minor celebrities signing autographs, hundreds of fans in cool costumes, and everything else you’d expect at a big convention. And then there was everything outside...
WonderCon had a full programming schedule as well with screenings, anime, signings, workshops, and more. Panels ran the gamut from SDCC-style film presentations with big name actors and directors to comic book writers, cartoon voice actors, a psychological breakdown of Batman (not as good as it sounds), TV shows, Kotobukiya’s newest offerings, lots of comics, and more and more and more. The Comics Creator Connection paired aspiring writers with artists, and workshop hosts offered their expertise on everything from sketching to acting and everything in between. As is usual these days, the biggest panels were recorded and put online shortly afterwards along with any content. This was especially true of the film panels (notably Prometheus and its new trailer).
I think it’s pretty safe to say that WonderCon in Anaheim was a huge success. Despite some bad weather (well, bad by Southern Californian standards) there were large crowds in the exhibit hall and full panels, but again it thankfully never reached the levels of SDCC craziness. It remains to be seen where WonderCon will be held next year, but if it stays in the Los Angeles area I know I’ll be signing up right away! Wherever it may be, it’s a great convention with tons of cool content and fun stuff to do. Highly recommended.
Article by Scott Rubin
Photos by Scott Rubin and David Yeh