Wondercon 2018: A Fan’s Thoughts

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Con season is in full swing, and Wondercon, sister convention to the epic monstrosity known as San Diego Comic-Con happened this past weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center in southern California. The weather was perfect for a con: sunny, but with just enough breeze to keep a jacket close by. Cosplayer groups and camera folx gathered around the fountain in front of the Anaheim Convention Center for pictures while brave nerds danced to blaring music from who-knows-where. I think Wondercon is the only con where the percentage of cosplay between pop culture icons and Disney is nearly 50/50 (for those unfamiliar, the Anaheim convention center is down the street from Disneyland so this comes as no surprise for locals). Though I was there to work, I did manage to sneak in some time to go to panels, spend money I shouldn’t have, and hunt down as many The Adventure Zone cosplayers as I could.

It was such a glorious feeling to walk around a convention floor without feeling like a herded cow. I was able to spread my arms! Do you know how liberating it feels to go to the restroom and not wait in line?! Wondercon’s size and its ‘local, fan-focus’ vibe are definitely different than the corporate, Hollywood invaded sister-con. There was plenty of time to see the whole convention floor and attend panels. Here are a few highlights of panels I attended.

Artists’ Alley

The area designated for independent creators was three to four rows. Compared to Emerald City or New York Comic-Con, a few rows is nothing, but there was still plenty to see and buy. I was very happy to spot a few booths carrying The Adventure Zone art and merchandise. Art inspired by Overwatch and Final Fantasy XV dominated the floor.

Spotlight: Gail Simone

Gail Simone

I love reading Gail’s honest tweets and her answers to fans’ @s so I decided it would be fun to see it in person. The panel started a bit late since Gail’s team discovered they had no moderator, but Simone’s husband took one for the team and took over, despite not really having much moderating experience. It was cute to see this married duo talk about how Gail got into comics and him gushing how amazing what she’s done so far, particularly with Secret Six. There were times, however, when I thought her husband went into anecdotes too often and didn’t leave room for fan interaction. The hour flew by and I walked around the main floor until the next panel on my list.

Queer Comics at the Crossroads

From left to right: Viktor Kerney, Sean Z. Maker, William O. Tyler, Sonya Saturday, and Ajuan Mance

Year by year, media representation gets better and better despite some queer folx’ opinions the improvement is incremental, myself included. Panelists Sean Z. Maker (Ramonah Rising), Ajuan Mance (Gender Studies), William O. Tyler (Queerbait), and Sonya Saturday (Sonya Saturday’s Comics and Art), most of them in the webcomic sphere, shared queer highlights of the year. Sonya mentioned that she was “proud of the younger generation taking leadership roles where their parents/grandparents have failed them.” When the question of queer comics being inclusive came up, there was a general consensus from the panelists that characters tokenized created or made for marketing ploys are ‘annoying’. Panelists highly recommended the audience to go to zine fests and find and support indie presses that showcase such works. Before the panel ended, panelists were asked to name webcomics they were enjoying (Agents of the Realm, Rock and Riot, and Banquet). This panel was near the end of a very long day, but I came out of the room glad that I attended and hopeful for more inclusive comics in the near future.

Wondercon is considered a big convention, but it manages to maintain its size while still focusing on the fans. I can safely say that my Wondercon experience was a fun one. Now to save my energy (and money) for San Diego Comic-Con.