Over the last weekend in March, WonderCon, a smaller brother to San Diego Comic Con, took place in Anaheim, California. Being local to the area, my family and I attended the three day convention. We are veteran comic convention attendees, having attended San Diego Comic Con for most of the 00s. We stopped going when it became so crowded that you couldn’t move in the exhibition hall and it took hours in line to attend just one panel. One of the things that is so appealing about WonderCon to us, besides the close proximity, is the smaller size. You’ll probably hear this a lot if you look into WonderCon reports, but WonderCon really does feel like how San Diego was in the 90s-00s, before Hollywood moved in. It is a much more intimate con and therefore much more enjoyable. Even though there were more people here for the second year, there weren’t the oppressive crowds like you can get in SDCC.
The Exhibition Hall, where all the vendors, publishers and artists were set up, took up two halls this year. There were some familiar faces as well as some new ones. Both my husband and I were disappointed that tables we had seen last year were not there this year, but this con was really more for our kids. This year was the first year we let our two girls, ages 16 and 14, go off on their own. They had money they had saved from Christmas and their birthdays as spending money. We only had panels we wanted to attend at the beginning and end of the day, so we spent most of the first day in the Exhibition Hall. It was fun running into them as we walked around. The girls also went off onto a panel on their own, How to Get a Job in Video Games, something my oldest daughter is especially interested in. It was a big step, not just for them, but for me too. They got to be one their own with the ‘rents hanging around, and I was able to let them go. Though I’d be lying if I didn’t worry about them one in a while.
There was a lot of Cosplay, people who dress up as their favorite characters, at the con. The Anaheim Convention Center has a large fountain at the entrance to the center, and well as a small alcove along the way to the arena and another fountain in front of the arena. These areas were taken up by the cosplayers and were great for photo opportunities. There was a wide variety of genres covered: Superheroes such as Batman and Superman, TV shows such as Adventure Time, movies such as Star Wars, and video games such as Mario. Doctor Who had a strong presence too, with both new and classic Doctors running around. My youngest daughter chose to dress up as Jade Harley, her favorite human from Homestuck. We found the Homestuck meetup on Saturday in time for her to participate. It was interesting to see one of these meetups in action. It was run but some older kids, maybe college age. All of the older folks there were like us, there to take pictures. It was organized by character, and photographers were given 10 seconds to get their photos. It was fun seeing the variety and ingenuity the kids put into recreating the likenesses of their favorite characters. Cosplayers in general are friendly people, always happy to pose for a pic and sometimes engaging in silly behavior. Saturday was also the only day to sell out at the con, and therefore the most crowded, so checking out the cosplayers was a great way to get away from the crowds.
There was a good variety of panels this year. Besides the panels that kids would enjoy, there were a lot of others for the adult and academic minded. The Comics Arts Conference had a lot of interesting topics, such as Comics, Queerness, and Identity, The Filter of Fiction: Batman, Spider-Man, and Real Life Drama, and Comics, Culture and Change. There were also a lot of panels about creating your own comic and self publishing. And then there were just the fun panels like Starship Smackdown Presents Alien Armageddon, which has fans pitting different aliens ships from sci-fi against each and deciding who would win, or The Psychology of Star Trek vs. Star Wars as psychologists and writers compared the worlds of the two shows, and even the fandoms to decide which one was the best. Hollywood did make a small showing, as Warner Bros and Sony brought sneak peeks, trailers and full episodes of some of their genre shows such as Revolution and Evil Dead.
If you just want a taste of what a con like San Diego or New York is like, WonderCon is a good place to start for West Coast fans. While Wondercon has been in Southern California because of scheduling issues with its usual venue in San Francisco, Anaheim has been such a success for them, that they are looking at have two WonderCons, one for each end of the state! I hope so, because even though I’m getting too old for the three-day con, my kids love it, and I want them to keep being able to have the experiences I loved so much when I was there age.