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WonderCon Wrap-Up!

Longbox Graveyard #40

“I’m coming back every year!”

That’s what my pal (and sometimes Longbox Graveyard collaborator) Chris Ulm said when he and I walked through the doors of the Anaheim Convention Center last Friday, the first day of this year’s WonderCon. It was like we’d been transported back in time twenty years, to when you could enjoy the San Diego Comic-Con without calling in the Scoops.

With WonderCon displaced from San Francisco for a year, my hope was that it would be Comic-Con Junior — the same content and professional organization as Comic-Con, but with a fraction of the crowds. And that’s pretty much exactly what I got. The aisles were wide, the crowds were manageable, the dealers’ floor was full of geeky swag, you could walk into any panel you liked, and you could actually run into friends old and new and just hang out and talk comics.

You know … pretty much everything San Diego Comic-Con is not these days …

the line-up just to get IN to Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con … practically larger than WonderCon attendance all by itself

Complaining about geek convention attendance ranks right up there with whinging about John Carter in the “first world problems” department, but hear me out. The iconic San Diego Comic-Con is facing crowing issues that in the past threatened to drive the show out of San Diego for Las Vegas or (ahem) Anaheim. Last year, San Diego programming space was expanded to include several area hotels, but line-ups for Hall H were still an all-night affair, and the dealer area was packed so tightly that I feared for a fire, an earthquake, or just a stampede if someone dropped a box of Twinkies.

How we can (or should) fix Comic-Con is a separate column, but WonderCon this weekend did provide a glimpse of what a better version of Comic-Con might be — most of the nerd with just a fraction of the herd. On Friday, especially, it was a breeze to get around the venue, and even at its most crowded Saturday peak, the dealer floor was nothing like the frantic scrum San Diego experiences on an “exclusive” preview night.

something you never see at San Diego Comic-Con — a largely EMPTY aisle!

Unfortunately, this Geek Utopia is only for a single year, as there is every reason to suppose WonderCon will return to its San Francisco venue in 2013. I have no desire to rob Northern California of their signature show, but if this weekend proves profitable for the con committee and merchants (who may not view lower foot traffic as such a wonderful thing), then we might see a move to get a second show going here in Southern California on a permanent basis. Given the choice between San Diego Comic-Con and another WonderCon in Anaheim, I’d take Anaheim in a heartbeat, even though it’s fifty miles further from my house and requires that I get a hotel room.

The kids in our clan had a fine time, which was most of the reason for going.

geeks — the next generation!

I do think the show was more lightly-attended than the committee would have liked. The Quick Draw panel — which has cartoonists improvising in real time — was billed as a “standing room only” event, but we breezed right in.

great seats for Quick Draw

On Friday, poor Michael Golden gave his workshop to about a dozen people in a room designed to hold five hundred (but soldiered on like a pro). Meanwhile across the hall, I was moderating my own “Triumph of the Small Screen” panel with my pals and partners from Appy Entertainment.

Hosting a con panel is even less glamorous than I’ve made it look here, but the guys did all right.

panelists Chris Ulm, Farzad Varahramyan, and Emmanuel Valdez of Appy Entertainment

Our audience started off as a friends-and-family affair but more folks trickled in as we went along, and by the end we had an energetic room shouting out questions about the future of apps as a platform for launching new intellectual properties.

For me, the highlight of the panel was meeting frequent Longbox Graveyard commentator Horace Austin …

Horace and your humble narrator!

I also got to briefly meet “Superherologist” Dr. Travis Langley, and reconnect with old comics pals like Jim Chadwick and Dave Olbrich, who promised me that he’d write at least one new column over at Funny Book Fanatic this year!

The dealers’ floor was the usual mix of trash and treasure, and I do admit to a certain “seen-it-all-before” weariness at this point (I know, more “first world problems.”) Most of the back issue dealers priced their wares as if they’d never heard of this thing called “the internet,” and even crappy books like the 1970s Marvel Godzilla series were priced in the double digits. I confined myself to picking up a couple half-priced Super-Villain Team-Ups, filling in holes in this legendarily good “bad” comic series.

I continued my fruitless search for superhero shirts. Sure, there are plenty of T-shirts, but I don’t do T-shirts. Would it kill them to put collars and buttons on these things?

Fortunately the lovely wife of the Longbox Graveyard is just fine with tees.

Batgirl has never looked better!

And there were some nifty geek robes, too … I was tempted by a Star Trek robe, and my little guy Jack scored a Tardis robe.

Mid-way through Saturday, my lads decided they’d had enough — the geek blood has run thin — and so we hit the road an hour or two early and bid WonderCon goodbye, but not before our nerd itch had been well and deeply scratched. Just the same, I’m probably still on the hook to take the kids to Comic-Con in July … unless there’s an announcement that WonderCon will return to Anaheim next year!

Please?

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #41 Flashback 1956!

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About Paul O'Connor

Revelations and retro-reviews from a world where it is always 1978, published once a month or so at www.longboxgraveyard.com!

Posted on March 21, 2012, in Other Media and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Given the “10 lbs of nerd in a 5 lb sack” that San Diego has become – that’s not a complaint, just a realistic assessment – it seems obvious that there’s room for a well-run companion show in southern California. Plus, as the bricks-and-mortar industry continues its decline, and cash-strapped retailers can’t afford to order everything, conventions are a great place to pick up stuff that’s not from Marvel and DC.

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    • Your comment about the size of Comic-Con attendees is something I was thinking about the other day. I’m actually concerned about the fire code at Comic-Con because of the size of the con attendees. And I say this as a fat bastard myself. If the code says you can have X people in the convention center, and the crowd is at capacity, but the average Comic-Con attendee is 10% bigger than your average Joe, doesn’t that make you 10% over capacity? Add to this that you’re going to have guys in walkers, moms pushing double-strollers, people in fairy wings, buys half-blinded by wearing Stormtrooper helmets, all the little kids tagging along & etc. … tell me (in all seriousness) that the crush of bodies on the SDCC dealer floor ISN’T a disaster waiting to happen. My hand to God, people are going to get trampled there someday.

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  2. Paul,

    SDCC = that scene in SOYLENT GREEN? LOL! Now it wouldn’t be funny if there wasn’t a kernal of truth to it!

    You wrote: “I do think the show was more lightly-attended than the committee would have liked.” I agree. Maybe because it was the first time? WonderCon in San Francisco always has healthy attendance, but it never sells out either.

    As a northern Californian, I’d be disappointed if WonderCon stayed in Anaheim. But, it wouldn’t keep me from going down there every year. I need to get my “geek on” as much as possible and last weekend certainly did the trick. And, I have to say, it was nice to be able to pick up a badge with no one in line. Wasn’t expecting that. SDCC has conditioned me to wait in long lines.

    BTW, nice recap and photos from the weekend.

    -Horace

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    • Thanks for the comment, Horace, and let me reiterate that it was a highlight of the show to connect with you, something that the civilized crowd level made more practical at this show than at SDCC. At Comic-Con it has gotten to the point where I don’t bother trying to make plans with anyone any more, as it can be such a battle to get anywhere in a timely fashion. I much preferred the relaxed pace of WonderCon — now they just need to provide break-out spaces for people to lounge and hang out. Why is it these convention halls are always so sterile and short on seating space?

      You are a dedicated soul to commit to flying down for WonderCon, Horace, I suppose you will shame me into flying up to San Francisco if the show returns there next year. Not that I need a lot of excuses to visit San Francisco.

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  3. Thanks for the Soylent Green video, that made my day. Also, Tardis robe is awesome.

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  4. Awesome sauce…Im sorry I missed it. I long for a more chill Con. The SDCC is waaaay too big while the LBCC is waaay to small. I agree with you Paul, I hope that Anaheim gets an ongoing wonder- con

    Great article…also dug the Flash one =)

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