WonderCon 2018: Day One

A smaller convention grows

WonderCon 2018 is in action at the Anaheim Convention Center in California and I attended the first day, March 23.

This is the third year I’ve attended WonderCon and it’s definitely gotten bigger! Parking is always an issue in and around Disneyland but there was parking again at the Honda Center, for $12, and a free shuttle to drop one off at the Disneyland resort parking, with a short walk to the Convention Center. This year my family volunteered to spend the day at Disneyland while I went around the convention. What sacrifices they make.

The convention was slated to open at 10 o’clock, at least in everything I read. I found a small line at 9 o’clock on the west side of the Convention Center with about 20 people in front of me. I stood in that line for less than ten minutes when we were all escorted by one of the convention handlers to the Convention Center holding center. We bypassed the usually long lines of the main entrance. This was great! We walked in and got our lanyards and program brooks and we ushered into a waiting line. We were in the sixth row to get in! How could this get any better? People were on their phones, playing games, reading books until 10 o’clock rolled around. Everyone got up to go in. It was 10:10 and we hadn’t entered. 10:20, still no entering. People began to sit and I could see from my vantage that people were still setting up in the exhibition halls. The holding area continued to fill, considerably. At 11:15 fans were finally let in. This is my only major issue with opening day. Stick to the time, WonderCon.

Attendees were let in right at Artists’ Alley. In this area the artists included Sergio Aragones, Scott Blair, Nidhi Cahnani, Terry Dodson, Jason Fabok, Larry Hama, Jody Hauser, Kelley Jones, Dan Jurgens, Aaron Lopresti, Mike Mayhew, Marat Mychaels, Todd Nauck, Norm Rapmund, and Cat Staggs. There were many other names there as well as rising stars. One big change from the previous years was how crowded it was. I go to conventions to find out about comic books and their creators, and it’s been sad the last few years in how few attendees visit any Artists’ Alley. Even at the San Diego Comic-Con, the creators have been pushed aside of the convention to make way for television or movie companies’ oversized stages or set pieces. Not at this con! I went back at around 3:15 and it was a mob scene! It looked like every creator in attendance had someone in front of them. This made me extremely happy! Further to the east is the Small Press area. This is where those creators who want to self-publish are showing their wares. I picked up one book from a creator that I’ll be reviewing soon.

After getting into the convention at 11:30 I thought it would be a good idea to purchase lunch, so I wouldn’t have to stand in a long line inside or out; there were several food trucks outside the main entrance to the Convention Center if one wanted to eat outside. There were several food facilities inside the convention center, so I walked up quickly to one and ordered a large sandwich for $9, which isn’t much more expensive than one would pay for a comparable meal at Subways or Jersey Mike’s. It was good, I was filled, and then I went about checking out the convention.

The number one item on sale looked to be Pop! Funko figures. They were everywhere. You couldn’t shakes a stick without hitting some. Old and new editions of these collectible figures were on either side or both sides of any isle one walked down. They were also at every possible price. Mystery boxes were again present but didn’t seem so plentiful as last year. There were lots of publishers present as well: DC Comics, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, Zenescope, Skybound, Aspen Comics, and Continuity Comics, with Neal Adams in attendance. Also about in the same area were booths for J. Scott Campbell and Jamie Tyndall, which had several fans about them each time I walked by. At the Zenescope booth, I met Dave Franchini, writer of Cinderella and the current writer of Belle: Beast Hunter. He was nice enough to show me the black and white proofs of Bong Dazo’s art for the third issue of Belle. Further to the east of the center is the Small Press area. This is where those creators who self-publish are showing their wares. I picked up one book from a creator that I’ll be reviewing soon. If someone is looking for a comic that’s different from the mainstream, there’s bound to be something there to satisfy that desire.

I had two fairly close panels coming up after exploring for a while, so I went upstairs to attend them. First was The Sergio, Mark, and Tom Show at 1:30 and the Spotlight on Gail Simone at 3:00. Thankfully their rooms were right next to each other, so I felt I could go from one to the other easily. If you ever get the chance to attend a Sergio, Mark, and Tom panel, do it! And you want to get there early. I’ve been to four of these panels and Mark gets there early. He’ll talk to the attendees and answer any general non-Groo questions, as he’ll save those for the panel. He arrived fifteen minutes early and talked with the mass of people there. Sergio and Tom arrived right when they were supposed to all three spoke about Groo, the comic business, as well other things. They are always entertaining. I went into the panel for Gail at 2:45 and she and her husband Scott, who moderated the panel, were incredibly fun to listen to. I learned a lot about Gail and got to hear Mark Waid ask her an eye-popping question that burned up the internet recently.

After the panels, I went down and checked out the rest of the convention. It was crowded, but not nearly San Diego Comic-Con insanity. I was impressed by the merchandise available: old and new books, hardcovers and trades, toys, tee shirts, statues, CDs, props, and anything else one could imagine. And they were available at every price one could imagine. The farthest western area of the convention is comprised of book publishers, independent and well know companies, looking for fans to give their books a try. Like the small press areas for comics, if you’re looking for something off the beaten path, there’s bound to be a novel here for you.

I was starting to burn out around 4:14, doing so much walking. I’ve aged a little since my first Comic-Con in 1986. I went to a stand I had seen that was selling hardcovers for half off, picked up a Marvel Masterwork, and called it a day. I exited out the front to head to California Adventure to meet up with my family and entered cosplayer central. This was a surprise to me because there weren’t many cosplayers on the floor of the Convention Center. This is where they were. There weren’t as many Harley Quinns as I had seen the previous years. The popular costumes were Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Anime related outfits. This was a welcome change after the Harleys that were everywhere. I took two quick pictures of two cosplayers that I thought looked cool.

I was in and out of this WonderCon in less than six hours. For an old fan like me, it was plenty of time. There weren’t any other panels I wanted to attend on Friday, though I saw there were a few I wouldn’t mind attending on Saturday or Sunday. I got off pretty cheap. I spend $9 on lunch, $50 on a hardcover, and $7 on a comic. That’s a really inexpensive day. Could I have spent more? Certainly. But I was satisfied.

WonderCon is obviously growing in popularity, given the larger crowds. This is still one of the better larger cons to go to that’s not going to overwhelm you like San Diego does. I would definitely recommend this for fans of all ages and is the perfect place for families with little ones to attend.

To see photos from my WonderCon experience visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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