I don’t always go to conventions, but when I do, I prefer them to be exactly like WonderCon in Anaheim, CA.
I know, I know—it must be blasphemy to say that, especially with the august and oh so esteemed Comic-Con still in existence. But here’s the difference for me. Comic-Con is big, mainstream, and expensive. WonderCon has a nicer venue, a more local crowd, and panels that I can actually attend without being stuck in line for the better part of two hours (mostly).
Below, you can see the photos I took from last weekend’s WonderCon, as well as a summary of the best panels and sights I enjoyed there.
Day One: Panels Galore!
Arriving in the company of my good friend Dan, we found ourselves swept up into the convention floor, exposing to dozens of cosplayers from dozens upon dozens of fandoms. By my count, I’d say the most popular fandoms were Attack on Titan, Doctor Who, and Homestuck.
I decided to make my first stop a visit to the panel entitled “Animal Farm All Over Again.” Hosted by such authors as Kiera Cass and James Morris, the event was a discussion about modern allegory and the ongoing types of discrimination in fiction, whether on the basis of gender, race, or class. Sad to say, I wasn’t as enthralled in the discussion as I thought I’d be. It’s a worthy issue to bring up, but the panel was so quiet and listless that I couldn’t keep track of who was speaking and when (with all due respect to the moderator and participants, of course). But as it turned out, I had more interesting panels to attend later.
From 5:30 to 8 pm, I sat in on two amazing panels. The first was called “The Writer’s Journey,” which has become a mainstay at WonderCon. With such guests as actress Erika Alexander and Brandon M. Easton, I got a very in-depth account of what it takes to make it as either a TV writer or a graphic novelist. We were treated to a step-by-step overview of how to hire and respect one’s artists and illustrators, as well as the kind of attitude to take when breaking into the industry.
Then, at 7 pm, came a behind-the-scenes panel devoted strictly to TV writing. Dan and I learned a lot about how the struggle to produce solid content in today’s industry and the passion it takes to make it all happen. We left with our heads held high and our brains buzzing with ideas of our own.
Day Two: Cosplayers Assemble!
Though we encountered heavy traffic the next morning and some long lines inside, twas all worth it in the long run. At 2 pm was the highly anticipated panel for Star Wars Rebels, perhaps the biggest thing to get me excited since the announcement of J.J. Abrams helming the upcoming Star Wars sequel trilogy. I felt right at home among so many Star Wars fans, especially in line behind a crew of Mandalorians. But the panel itself was a treat, from Vanessa Marshall (voice of the great Jan Ors if you’ve ever played a Jedi Knight game) to an exclusive clip of animation and soundtrack. This show is definitely hearkening back to the roots of the saga, all the way to the raw adventure of A New Hope.
That was the only panel of note, but not the only noteworthy thing about the day. I think it’s safe to say that I found some amazing cosplayers on the convention floor that afternoon, whether it was the throngs of My Little Pony fangirls or the handiwork of my friends Alex and Lindsay, who showed up as a very striking Gambit and Rogue from the old X-Men cartoon (you can never go wrong with the classics).
I may have also attempted to stand in line for the Adventure Time panel, but after half an hour of desperate waiting, the majority of us didn’t get in. Being all the way outside and stuck in the same spot while the line behind me kept growing and growing, I was forced to keep sane through such clever tweets as this:
Day Three: One Last Ride
The final day (which I didn’t attend last year, it being on Easter Sunday) was quieter, but no less enjoyable. We took our time getting into the convention hall, with my only concern being able to make a panel on novel-writing led by Richard Hatch (author and actor of Battlestar Galactica fame) and the lovely Winner Twins, who wrote and published their first novel at age 13. The audience was a bit mild, but the panel was a great perspective on staying focused as a writer and getting right to the heart of a good story from beginning to middle to end.
As for the rest of my day, I wandered through convention floor. Perhaps the best highlight was that I met a ginger Eleventh Doctor (actually my good friend Alex), who then had the equally good fortune to running into a very fine Tenth Doctor cosplayer. Dan and I also made a point of going past a booth that was selling merchandise for the infamous cult film The Room… where who else but Tommy Wiseau himself should be, tossing out t-shirts into a crowd of onlookers and tossing around a basketball with random fans. And while you may say, “What a story, Mark!” rest assured that I have the photographic evidence to prove it.
Getting lost in the flow of the crowd, I came to realize that I felt right at home among the throngs of young men and women in costumes and props, that my Schrödinger’s Cat t-shirt was a badge of honor instead of an oddity within those walls. Everyone here was a fan, whether they were a vendor, cosplayer, creator, or just a spectator. We could all share in the joy of being part of a larger universe when we snapped pictures of a great costume or dropped cash on an amazing t-shirt or comic book. It’s a fantastic experience and I hope to continue returning to Anaheim around this time of year again and again.