WonderCon 2014

Cosplayers, attendees, and passerbys mingling outside the convention center during WonderCon

WonderCon was fantastic this year. It's a smaller version of the San Diego Comic-Con, with comic publishers, artists and writers, TV and movie previews, cosplayers, sessions covering all sorts of geek culture, and a festival feel that only a large group of fanatics can bring to an event. And with only 50,000 or so attendees (compared to San Diego's 135,000) it is much more relaxed and accessible. Have I mentioned how much I loved this event.

This post is going to be a quick overview of the event. In later posts I'll go into more detail on specific geek topics.


Friday morning lineup before the doors open

If you can get to a con early and register, by all means do so! I drove down to Anaheim on Thursday and was able to pick up my 3-day pass with no line at all.

Friday was the first day of the con, and I got in line an hour and a half before opening. That's plenty of time for WonderCon, putting me towards the front of the line. The main reason to be in line early is for the quick-to-sell-out convention exclusives. As often happens, they let the line in 1/2 hour early (compared to the published start times), and that happened all 3 days of the convention.

I didn't do the line on Saturday and Sunday, because I was able to get the exclusives I was after on the first day. I just walked onto the exhibit floor about 15 minutes after the waiting lines were let in, and that was still about 15 minutes before the published start time. Did i mention how much I love this con?

Program Sessions 

Panel on the psychology of Star Trek vs. Star Wars, with Chase Masterson, Dr. Ali Mattu, Catherine Taber, and Dr. Andrea Letamendi. Not shown is moderator Brian Ward

This year I planned on spending more time at the programmed sessions, hearing presentations from various comics publishers and creators about their plans for the year. Also, there would be some instructional sessions, and some presentations from TV and movie studios about their upcoming features. I had mixed results, probably attending more than usual, but a lot fewer than I had planned.

It's at these sessions that I usually discover new geek sub-cultures. This time I discovered the Carol Corps, and it's a group I enthusiastically joined and will support. They are fans of the character Carol Danvers and her current superhero identity Captain Marvel (her overall history is a bit complicated). I was really impressed with the group's values (a distinctly feminist bend) and how they interacted. I also discovered Kelly Sue DeConnick, the writer of the character's current incarnation, whom I now adore and will read anything she writes. I think this was my overall find of the convention, and I'll write more about it all in a future post.

Another fantastic panel was titled Psychology of Star Trek vs. Star Wars. A pair of geeky psychologists (Dr. Ali Mattu and Dr. Andrea Letamendi) were joined by an actor from the Star Trek franchise (Chase Masterson) and a voice actor from Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Catherine Taber) in a fantastic discussion of relationships as portrayed in the two franchises. Rather than try and summarize the panel, I'll direct you to a pretty good recap of the session. Overall, the discussion was so good that I've now subscribed to the two Dr.s nerd related podcasts and I'll write more about them later.

The last of the really good panels (I attended others that were not so good) was called Batgirl Begins Again. The panelists were Gail Simone (the current writer of the Batgirl comic), Dr. Adrea Letamendi (yes, the same one who appeared in the previously discussed panel), and Dr. Travis Langley. They had a fantastic discussion of the portrayal of the Barbara Gordon character through the trauma of being shot & paralyzed by the Joker (and how she was used as nothing more than a plot device), through the character's transformation into the wheel chair bound hero Oracle, and the current transformation back to a recovered Batgirl. Fascinating, fascinating, stuff, and just reinforced my crush on Dr. Letamendi.

Toys, Collectibles, and Stuff

The only 'must have' collectible I had on my list going into the convention was the official shirt, which had a color illustration of Wonder Woman by Cliff Chiang. As I mentioned, on Friday I got into line early, and we were allowed onto the exhibit floor a half hour before the official opening time. I got into the Graphitti Designs line early and only had a 5 minute wait to get that shirt (and a few others). By the time I finished my transaction, it looked liked the line snaked down the convention floor. It pays to get in line early.

This year, I picked up a couple of the Pop Vinyl figures from Funko. I had seen them around the cons before, but when I was buying some comics, I saw an Andorian figure from Star Trek. An Andorian is on my cosplay TODO list, so I looked it over, and it really grabbed me. And at $10 it's an easy impulse buy. Later I saw a Klingon figure in the series and bought it. I figured I'd get a Vulcan to complete my set, and of course spent the rest of the con fruitlessly looking through every vendor's booth. There are HUNDREDS of these figures from every pop culture franchise, and so now I'm hooked.

Finally, I picked up a Darth Malgus figure (once again, my cosplay impacts my collecting) and a Wonder Woman statuette (okay, I have NO cosplay plans for this character, I'm just a fan of Wonder Woman).

Cosplay & Masquerade

As discussed in previous posts, I brought my Darth Malgus and Headless Horseman costumes. On Friday I took a couple of hours to be Darth Malgus, and I had a fantastic time! The crowds were great and very appreciative. I had forgotten how much fun the cosplay is, and at WonderCon, it was even more enjoyable. There were a lot of other cosplayers, but even so, it's not anywhere near as many as at Comic-Con, and so the cosplayers seem to stand out more. For instance, there were no other Darth Malgus cosplayers. And on Saturday, when I was the Headless Horseman, the crowds went nuts because there was nothing like him at the con.

One of the difficulties I have with my cosplay is that I can't easily take selfies. So all the pictures posted of me were found on the net, posted by other photographers.

There were a lot of other, fantastic cosplays at the convention, and here's a gallery of the pictures I took. There were so many more, and it looked like everyone was having a great time, both inside and out of costume. And the couple of program sessions that were full (and I couldn't get into them) were both cosplay related.

The masquerade, here showing the Nerds Who Say Ni.

On Saturday night was one of my favorite events, the Masquerade. This cosplay competition takes place in the arena, the big sports center that houses the large WonderCon events like movie previews. There's plenty of room, so I arrived just as it started. You can see from the picture that there's a giant screen presenting whatever is happening on the stage, so no matter where you sit you get a pretty good show.

Although I love watching people present their costumes and see the performances, I have no interest in competing myself. I am amazed by the detail of the work, and the fun (well, some of them anyway) performances. I couldn't even tell you who won what awards, so I'll just direct you to a better geek journalist who covered the event.

Two members of Saber Guild performing while the judges deliberated.

After the costume presentations, while the judges were deliberating, we were treated to a show by Saber Guild, a star wars themed theatrical combat troupe that uses light sabers. I would join that group in an instant if they were closer to Santa Barbara, but they're centered in Anaheim. For now I'll just enjoy watching their performances.

Comics & Artwork

Although I've put it at the end of the review, comics are the heart of this event. There are publishers, writers, artists, and retail vendors. And really, all the other geek activities I've discussed revolve around comics.

I bought a few recent trades paperbacks, including some of the Valliant titles. I also picked up a few older trades that I collect (Legion of Super Heroes) or which I've loaned out never to see again (early Fables). 

This year I only picked up a couple of pieces of art, including a stunning poster of Wonder Woman by Paul Gulacy, a beautiful Star Wars piece, and a couple of silly cat heroes (the Avengers as cats). No original comic art this year. I'll wait until Comic-Con.

And that's the brief recap. I'll be making more extensive posts on some of the topics introduced here. Overall, this was a very enjoyable convention, and a much more relaxed event than Comic-Con.