WonderCon 2017 is going full swing at the Anaheim Convention Center and I was lucky enough to be able to attend opening day, March 31.
The first thing you should know about the Anaheim Convention Center is that it’s located across the street from the Disneyland Resort (Disneyland and California Adventure). That means there will be traffic. The freeway wasn’t bad getting to the event, but once on the streets, everything changed. Thankfully, there were several variable-message signs set up alerting drivers about where to park. For me, I was informed that Convention Center parking was already full and that I would have to make a U-turn to go to the Honda Center (where the Anaheim Ducks play). I was able to flip about and get there in about 15 minutes. Parking was $10, the same it would have been at the Convention Center, and there was a free shuttle. The shuttle dropped me and about ten passengers in the Disneyland Resort parking lot, where it was a short walk to the Convention Center.
As a side note, the California Association of Bilingual Education was holding a conference in one of the nearby hotels. They, too, had to park at the Honda Center, and there were several wide-eyed looks at those sharing the bus with them, due to the costumes, and those around them as they walked from the Disneyland Resort parking lot.
We were on the grounds at 10:30. Line up to enter the Convention Center was nicely set up: if one had their badge, they simply scanned it to enter the premises, while those that had to pick up their badge waited in a line, of which my daughter was in line four, and then walked to the badge pick up. My daughter and I were in line for less than an hour. Once inside, attendees waited in several large holding areas until the convention officially opened. This experience is similar to any opening day of the San Diego Comic-Con or a Star Wars Celebration. We were in this holding area for maybe twenty minutes before they opened early at a quarter to twelve.
One of the nice things about WonderCon is that it’s not as huge as the San Diego Comic-Con and it’s fairly easy to get somewhere. There are the occasional obstacles of fans mobbing a particular booth, people talking in the center of an aisle, or cosplayers getting their photos taken, but it was never for more than a minute or two.
The first area that attendees enter is the Artists’ Alley. Going through this section one may be lucky enough to catch the next rising star or well known creators, such as Sergio Aragones, Tim Bradstreet, Michael Cho, Kevin Eastman, Bob Layton, Todd Nauck, Chris Roberson, Alex Sinclair, Jamie Tyndall, or Mark Waid. I stopped by Chris Roberson’s booth to tell him I enjoyed his novel Firewalk, and asked when the concluding book would be out. He said it had been turned in to Night Shade Books and that he hoped it was soon. I also came upon Ace Continuado, artist of Robyn Hood: I Love NY #10. He had some of his highly detailed original pages for sale and was doing commissions for fans. He was extremely warm to speak with. I had to stop at Sergio Aragones’s booth, as I’ve been following his work since the 1970s. He was nice enough to show me some of the pages he was inking for Groo: Play of the Gods that will be coming out from Dark Horse Comics. It’s rare to see original hand drawn pages, let alone those from Mr. Aragones. They already had been lettered by Stan Sakai, so it was a double treat.
Once leaving Artists’ Alley the Exhibitors’ Booths begin. They could be large or small, depending on who or what you’re looking for. Gaming supplies, art supplies, posters, tee-shirts, jackets, cosplay supplies, and collectibles were readily available. There was a healthy mix of the old and the new, with several vendors selling items that were several decades old, as well as those that had just come out recently. Some items seemed to be at every booth, the number one being Pop Funko vinyls. You couldn’t shake a stick without hitting several. Next would be mystery boxes: cardboard boxes that booths had created that sold from anywhere to $40 to $75 dollars that contained surprise items based on themes, such as Pokemon, Star Wars, horror, or video games. There were also several publishers present, such as DC Comics, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, Zenescope, Skybound, and Neal Adams’ Continuity Comics, with Mr. Adams there. It was incredibly enjoyable to be able to walk through the rows of exhibitors and be able to check each out and talk with people without being smashed into others. This is one of the joys of WonderCon. There is also a Small Press section to check out independent comics creators and Fan Club tables for those who wish to join a group of cosplayers or like-minded fans.
A majority of cosplayers were inside the Convention Center, but outside the Exhibition Hall. This was really nice, because it allowed them plenty of space to have their picture taken without bogging down attendees trying to get somewhere. Just outside the main entrance to the Convention Center there is a huge fountain. Many cosplayers and groups will take pictures in front of this continual cascade, so if you’re looking to snap a picture of someone who looks like your favorite character, this is also a good location to go to.
There are several programs scheduled throughout the day and night. Depending on the demand, seating can be difficult. The two events that I wanted to attend weren’t difficult to enter due to the size of the rooms and the way in which Convention Center employees assisted attendees. I attended The Mark, Sergio, Stand, and Sometimes Tom Show! at 12:30 and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Two Decades With Feeling: A 20th Anniversary Celebration — Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman at 4:00. The first event was easy to attend because it was the first meeting of the day in that room, while the second one had an external waiting line in another room that then allotted people to enter the actual hall, as a panel on Logan was winding down.
Food is very easy to find at the Convention Center, with several establishments available in the center of the facility and several food trucks that lined the entrance outside. In fact, I was impressed to see that after the convention had opened, tables had been placed in front of the food trucks, allowing people to sit and eat — this was a major improvement from when I attended two years ago. There are also several eateries surrounding the Disneyland Resort for every price range and all within walking distance. Bathrooms were also easy to get to within the convention center; I never saw a line outside one.
If there’s anything negative to be said, and I’m really looking for something, it’s that it was crowded for opening day. It was opening day, so this was to be expected. However, I went to WonderCon two years ago, and it was just as enjoyable an experience, but this year there were a lot more people. It was a manageable number to navigate around and deal with, but there were more. I had intended to go to WonderCon on Saturday, but they had sold out and I couldn’t get my daughter a badge for that day, so we went Friday. I’m glad we went on that day because I do wonder what it will be like on Saturday.
WonderCon remains one of the best conventions, where one can move about and speak with the creators of some of their favorite books, shop for those hard to find items, be impressed by some sensational cosplayers, and just have a fun, family time.