Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Weekend at Wonder-Con, by Jordan, age 25

Attending Wonder-Con 2012 in Los Angeles this past weekend was my first-and-a-half convention experience (I somehow managed to just casually go to Comic-Con for one day three years ago, but that's a whole other thing).

I went to all three days, and even though there was a goodly amount to see and do, I will say that it would probably take only two days to fully explore the convention, or one if you're extremely energetic and don't have many panels you want to see.
Less if you belong to the family Erinaceidae 
I am told that it's on the upper end of a medium-sized con, so if you've ever been to Comic-Con, it's not going to blow your mind. Wonder-Con is, however, a good event to attend if you're new to the whole geek convention experience, unlike the far less newbie-friendly Comic-Con.

So what were some of the highlights of my first full-fledged con experience?


Holy crap, you guys, so much stuff. If you have any sort of acquisitive drive, be prepared to drop a hundred bucks as soon as you set foot on the exhibit hall floor. Being the more discerning consumer that I am (read: broke), I managed to only spend $90 over the course of the weekend, but that's still about twice what I intended to drop. There's just so much of it!

Wall-to-wall capitalism, as far as the eye can see!
T-shirts, assorted apparel, toys, games, movies, original art, unoriginal art, novelties, and, of course, comics and graphic novels...all in abundance. Granted, a lot of the booths had some similar merchandise, but at times the pricing was wildly different. I would encourage any Wonder-Con shopper to walk the entire floor and engage in some comparison shopping to find the best deals. And man...do you know how to haggle? Seriously, do you? Because I don't, so come with me next time! I witnessed some awesome bartering on the floor, which adds a cool bazaar-type feel to the whole event. The real consumer fun was over in the Artists Alley and Small Press areas, where individual creators set up shop and were hawking their wares. This was the place to get some really cool and unique items, like self-published comics or artistic prints. It's here that you're afforded the opportunity to talk to artists and all manner of other creative people, and maybe support their efforts by picking up something awesome for yourself. For instance, I had a fun conversation with the creator of the comic Penguins vs. Possums, who totally sold me on buying the first issue (to be fair, I had already decided to purchase it based on the name). Some of the bigger publishers were also worth visiting: although DC and Marvel made a fairly lackluster showing, Archaia Comics had an amazing "buy 2, get 3 free" deal on their hardcover graphic novels!
You don't have to spend a fortune, but you will definitely have more fun if you bring a bit of money, since you never know what sort of treasures you might stumble upon next.
A sampling of my swag

I only went to one panel the time I went Comic-Con, since I had so very little knowledge of what in the hell was happening around me, so I resolved to be better prepared this time. Looking over the Wonder-Con panels in advance, I didn't find a whole lot that caught my eye. I didn't feel like waiting in line for one of the bigger movie panels, and I knew I was just going to read about the DC and Marvel panels online, so I decided to try and hit up a few of the more obscure ones that sounded interesting. I only ended up going to four panels (what if I missed something cool on the show floor?!): two on voice-over actors, one on the psychology of Batman, and my personal favorite, Quick Draw.

In the Quick Draw panel, three professional cartoonists with projectors over their sketchpads were asked by the panel moderator to rapidly sketch out a crazy number of random things---it was like watching improv comedy, only the jokes were drawn. The challenges ranged from drawing the child of two cartoon characters selected by audience members (the child of Gumby and Ursula from The Little Mermaid was one of my favorites) to playing a game of Pictionary with special guest Len Wein, but with difficult words like "anxiety" and "deja vu". The whole thing was ridiculously entertaining.
Cartoons: Serious Business.

In a word, overwhelming. Booths everywhere, people in ridiculously cool or just plain ridiculous costumes, crowds, mobile R2 units, and Lou Ferrigno...it took me a few hours just to interpret enough of what I was seeing to get my bearings on the show floor. Over the course of the weekend I was assaulted by both Deadpool and enough cleavage to satisfy even the most depraved 13 year old boy. I played a demo of the Penny Arcade card game (awesome) and managed to thoroughly misunderstand what I was supposed to be doing at the Game of Thrones booth.

I just remembered frozen yogurt is a thing!
All in all, much fun was had. Would I recommend attending? Most definitely. Bring cash, a packed lunch, snacks, and comfortable shoes, and prepare to geek out for hours on end. Wonder-Con is more modest in scope than Comic-Con, so it isn't as stressful or as difficult to navigate. Just relax, take in the sights, and support some awesome creative works. 

Oh, and don't pay $30 for an autographed photo of Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca...I know a booth two rows over where you can buy one for $25.
I will leave you with this gigantic Optimus Prime costume.
You're welcome.

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