Opening up on Friday, April 3, at the Anaheim Convention Center in California was the 29th WonderCon.
Driving and parking: Anticipating heavy traffic on the drive into the Los Angeles area on a Friday morning, I left early from my home and was there in 90 minutes. The Convention Center is located across the street from Disneyland, so convention goers had to deal with the traffic associated with Friday in a major city as well as theme park attendees. However, recently installed light up signs normally employed to direct Disney parking were used to show WonderCon participants where to park. Arriving at 8:30, I was lucky enough to park in the parking structure next to the Convention Center. It was $15 to park in this underground structure. This was well worth the price, having found myself right at the entrance to the convention after climbing one level of strairs.
Entrance: The convention wasn’t scheduled to open its doors until noon and there was already a healthy line for pre-purchased badge holders to get in. There was also a line for press and professionals to get in. I stood in that line for a little over an hour before being allowed in. Badge holders were ushered into a holding area not unlike the one used for the last two Comic-Cons in San Diego. Presenting their printed out receipts, attendees had their bar code scanned and then received their badges, got in a line to pick up a lanyard, promoting NBC’s American Odyssey, and a plastic bag, with an ad for BBC’s Orphan Black, to carry the program in. People could either wander the lobby, where bathrooms and food purchases were available, until noon or wait in the morning lineup area. I got in line for the latter at about 10:30 and in less than an hour the convention opened, a half hour early.
The Layout: There was a huge Artists’ Alley section, featuring Dan Jurgens, Sergio Aragones, Ron Lim, Rob Liefeld, and Babs Tarr, who had the longest line for autographs, but it was always moving. Moving forward, out of Hall B into Hall C, one would either cross into the publishers’ area or Autograph Area. Publishers present included IDW, BOOM! Studios, Zenescope, Aspen Comics, and Valiant. Celebrities in the autograph area included Lou Ferrigno, Richard Hatch, Herbert Jefferson Jr., Kathy Coleman, Wesley Eure, and Philip Paley. At this point many vendors are encountered: comics, toys, trading cards, autographs, books, and original art. There was a tremendous variety of items available. I was really impressed with this aspect of the convention. Having never been to a WonderCon I was concerned there wouldn’t be too many dealers. This was not the case. In fact, the only convention I’ve been to that exceeds the amount and variety of collectibles available is Comic-Con. Proceeding to the furthest wall, into Hall D, one would enter the Small Press area, with several creators selling their wares. Again, there was something for everyone here, and for any age. This was really impressive. Moving to the other end of the hall one would come upon the Capcom and Nintendo displays where games were up for attendees to try out. Progressing further, one would enter the Fan Groups, where one could see Agents of C.O.S.P.L.A.Y., Bay Area Ghostbusters, Cobra 3rd Night Watch, 501st Legion, and the 405th Halo Costuming Group: Pacific Regiment. There was so much to see, it’s impossible to take it all in with just a day. Thankfully, looking up, one could easily see what row one was in if you wanted to find your way and booths were also clearly numbered.
Panels: There were there areas for special presentations, upstairs on Levels 2 and 3, and the Arena. I went to two panels, the first one in a very large room and the second being in a double-sized room. Both had plenty of seating and the presentations could be easily heard. I went to the Arena on Saturday, and will save that for my Day Two summary. There were several volunteers asking people if they needed help location a panel and I never felt lost.
Cosplay: This was in full force, and it was only the first day. You couldn’t turn your head without encountering a Harley Quinn, Batman, Wolverine, the many different versions of Spider-Man now populating the Marvel universe, Disney princesses, Anime character, or some other creative person who decided to come as their favorite personality (I even saw three different Hunter S. Thompsons). These people rightly were getting their pictures taken by other fans. Often these impromptu photo sessions would stop traffic in rows, bringing those who were trying to get somewhere to a halt, but this was momentary, and if someone asked to get by, people were polite to step aside or move elsewhere. Comic Con, take note!
Food: There was food available on the floor, the traditional convention fare of salads, sandwiches, and burgers, but I chose instead to go outside where there were several food trucks. If there was any food you were looking for, it was there. This was an improvement over last year, several convention goers said. The prices were typical of food trucks. I got a corn dog with tater tots and a small bottle of water for $14. The tots were the best I’d had in years and the dog was so big I couldn’t finish it. I felt the portions were more than generous.
The final line: WonderCon, Day One, was a good experience and I would recommend it for anyone who’s trying out a comic book convention, but is wary of the experience in San Diego, or couldn’t get tickets to that monstrous event.