Reporting from WonderCon Anaheim 2015

Most geeks and fans set attending Comic-Con as the highlight of their year, but I’ve always had trouble affording a long trip to San Diego and getting a group to go with. However, for the last few years, I’ve gotten a kick out of making the drive down to Anaheim with my good friend Dan and enjoying two days at WonderCon, where so many comic book vendors, cosplayers, talented artists, and fellow aspiring writers gather around Easter.

Here are the photos I took at this year’s WonderCon. Not as much cosplay as I would’ve liked, but plenty of good memories all the same.

Day One: A Casual Entrance

I started WonderCon as I think most people do: heading out onto the main floor of the convention center and wandering around the vendor and artist booths. I was lucky that, this year, I had a friend with her own table at Artists Alley, a nice mermaid enthusiast named Anita. This was her first time as an artist selling her work at WonderCon and I think she did very well for herself (as she should).

Later on, I went with my friend Dan to a couple of panels on the second floor. It’s funny in retrospect that both panels featured the same speaker, comic book writer and screenwriter Brandon Easton. First was “The Art of the Pitch,” where we learned all about the effort it takes to appeal to studio executives and producers with your premise, using a little “emotional truth” to make that connection across the table. Then we closed off the day with “The Writer’s Journey: Breaking into Comics and Hollywood Scriptwriting.” This panel is always a delight and a good source of ideas for aspiring creatives, with plenty of tips on how to get noticed, getting published, and building your own following.

Day Two: Building Connections

Day Two at WonderCon was long but lovely. I had the good fortune to running into more friends from LA there, including the talented Alex Hluch and his girlfriend Lindsay, who always cosplay. This year they came as the Joker and Harley Quinn, so of course they were quite a hit for anyone with a camera.

Speaking of cosplay, I will say I didn’t see too many standout costumes this year. Don’t get me wrong. It’s cool seeing so many folks dressed up like Star-Lord, Deadpool, or Avatar Korra, but there was a common theme and I didn’t see too many “knock my socks off” costumes like I did in previous years. That being said, I was so happy to run into a group of dedicated RWBY fans who came as the four main characters and got a fantastic lineup shot of them to boot.

I ended WonderCon with one last panel, “TV Guide Magazine’s Fan Favorite Showrunners.” Besides going to this panel last year, I had to attend this one because it featured Alex Hirsch, the mad genius behind Gravity Falls. Not only did I get a sweet poster of it, but I also got tons of cool stories from showrunners about how to stand your ground with the network on creative decisions and what it takes to graduate from staff writer to showrunner, whether you’re writing for basic cable or children’s programming.

In the end, I had a wonderful time at WonderCon this year. I’m glad it’s not as big as Comic-Con since it has panels I actually want to attend, tons of great cosplay on display, a beautiful location in Anaheim, and plenty of friends that I enjoy seeing there.

Here are some links to the Very Important People (i.e., friends) whom I’ve encountered during this trip, some of them friends and other new acquaintances. You should definitely check them and their work out when you have the chance.

Alex Hluch is a young filmmaker and actor with his own YouTube channel, Girl Pants Productions.

Anita Rae Silva is a lovely young artist who specializes in sketching and coloring mermaids and various Disney characters, many of which you can see on her Tumblr page, Fins for Brains.

Kate Mathis is an independent author from Tuscon who has produced many fine books in her Agent Ward novels. You should definitely check out her first book in the series, Living Lies.

Reporting From WonderCon Anaheim 2014

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.

Reporting From WonderCon Anaheim 2013

Last weekend, I had myself a little adventure in Anaheim: two days at WonderCon, one of the biggest comic book conventions in California (besides San Diego Comic-Con, obviously). After being convinced by my former roommate Dan to attend, I decided that I’d record my experiences through social media and try to promote this event as best I can.

After two days of photos and live-tweeting, I can finally give my readers a full report of what I saw.

When I wasn’t attending panels, I spent most of my time on the exhibit floor, where dozens upon dozens of comic book vendors and artists had set up shop.  The floor also featured hundreds of fans and fellow geeks in costume, along with official booths for DC Entertainment, Capcom, and various merchandise outlets.  And I also had to step outside every so often because the weather in Anaheim was too gorgeous not to enjoy.

Day One: Our Descent Into Comic Book Heaven

When Dan and I first arrived, my initial reaction was somewhat muted.  Long lines in the morning heat, constant confusion about where booths and entrances were located, and generally being crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with other convention-goers.  But my mood was vastly improved when Dan and I found who else but longtime writer and producer Greg Weisman, hosting “Ask Greg Live” in the ground floor lobby with twenty or so other fans.  We asked questions about the recently cancelled Young Justice show and his experience with the industry.  To cap it all off, we got a group photo with Greg, which I cherish dearly.

Friday night was even better, as I attended the exclusive screening of the new Doctor Who episode, “The Bells of St. John.”  All I have to say is that, while some of the plot seems a bit peculiar to take seriously, Matt Smith and Jenna Louise-Coleman are an absolute delight and the ending is well worth the price of admission.  My experience was only enriched with all the Eleventh Doctor cosplayers and girls in sexy TARDIS dresses waiting in line with me.

Also learned that, if you wave a sonic screwdriver toy around like I did, people will pretty much point you to the line for the Doctor Who screening.

Day Two: Unexpected Sights and Delights

The next morning ran a lot more smoothly.  We toured the exhibit floor again, where I purchased a Doctor Who comic featuring the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones (expect a review later on).  Then it was onto some more panels.

Close to noon, we caught the tail end of a live art session by DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee, who drew a very impressive Batman sketch and then gave it away to a kid celebrating his birthday.  Following that was a panel for Falling Skies, featuring several actors from the show and executive producer Remi Aubuchon, whom I later got to meet and shake hands with.  While I’m not entirely sold on the show, I’ve got a better appreciation for its storyline and how it tries to balance an alien invasion with the emotional tension among human resistance fighters.

At the end of the day, the last panel I attended was “TV Guide’s Fan Favorites Showrunners.”  An hour-long panel featured the producers for shows like The Vampire Diaries, The Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, Falling Skies, and Teen Wolf.  What followed was a hilarious and wonderful discussion on what it takes to be a showrunner, what inspired these men and women to produce compelling storylines, and what’s in store in their shows for next season.  Just the sort of thing to jump-start my creativity and a great part of WonderCon to end my trip on.

On the whole, I’m glad I got to attend WonderCon Anaheim and I hope to  attend more conventions in the near-future (though I won’t be at Comic-Con this year).  Looking back, I could sense that there is a shared enthusiasm that brought everyone there, both young and old, both artists and audiences.  I think my last tweet from the convention best sums it up.

I highly recommend my readers take a look at my Twitter page for what I tweeted during WonderCon.   I also recommend the blog and Twitter page for my fellow convention-goer and lifelong amigo, DJ McNaughtay, who gave a great review of last year’s WonderCon.