WonderCon 2014: An Aptly Named “Wonderful” Comic Convention

WonderCon2014
CREDIT: All photos by Bob Bretall.  All characters and comics copyright their respective owners.

WonderCon is really a great convention.  You generally hear a lot of folks in the Bay Area lamenting about how it was wrenched away from them and relocated to Southern California (Anaheim to be exact), but that was due to various realities of being able to reserve convention center space.  Hopefully the Con Committee will be able to move a convention back to the San Francisco Bay Area, heck they can even take the name “WonderCon” back to the Bay, but I think they realize that this kind of convention is a VERY viable proposition for a spring weekend in Anaheim.

WonderCon is what the San Diego Comic was about 10 years ago. Back before San Diego became the behemoth that it is nowadays with tickets selling out within an hour or two of going on sale.  WonderCon is a more relaxed convention and the lack of giant (& loud) Hollywood and video game booths made this con seem more oriented around comics and pop culture and less around the direct media exploitation of those things.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, getting the media attention has it’s positives, but the lack of the in-your-face media assault on the convention floor tends to make WonderCon feel a bit more laid back.  Even though the studios are not out in force the Con still has panels, cosplay, and booths selling plenty of pop culture from Star Wars to Doctor Who to anime to whatever else has grabbed the attention of fandom.

This con has something for all kinds of fans; Comics (both major publishers and all kinds of independents), TV/movies, anime, cosplay, gaming, and more.  Since it’s run by the same Comic Con International organization that puts on San Diego it has the one thing that sets these cons apart from everyone else: PANELS!  The quantity and variety of panels at these shows never ceases to amaze me.  At any point of any of the days I have at least 2 different panels I’d enjoy being at out of the THIRTEEN parallel programming tracks.  That means I have to make choices and I will miss some panels I’d have liked to see, but life is all about choices!  I’d rather have to make choices and miss out on something than be at a con where the choice doesn’t need to be made because there are NO panels I want to see.

People who know me know that I’m all about the comics.  While Marvel didn’t have an official present at this con, there were plenty of Marvel creators there and several Marvel themed panels.  DC had it’s booth and a lot of panels that were very well attended.  For me it was all about creators I love and independent companies that produce comics I love to read.

SergioAndMarkShow

I started out right on Friday with the always fun “Sergio & Mark Show”.  I absolutely love Sergio Aragonés and love listening to him talk.  I am also ecstatic that Sergio Aragonés Funnies has found a new home at Dark Horse Comics after it’s 12 issue run with Bongo.  From Sergio & Mark down to the show floor for a variety of autographs and show exclusives.  I got a pile of exclusives from IDW, Valiant, and Oni Press.  Autographs from several creators (I had brought stuff along to the show specifically to get signed) and I got on the commission lists of a few artists for my sketch covers.

Oddball Comics

Then it was back to the panels (which, by the way, are a welcome rest after charging around the con floor for several hours).  I always try to catch Scott! Shaw’s Oddball Comics panel at WonderCon and San Diego.  He shows crazy comic covers that were really on the racks (like the one above; “Brightly Colored Pages!” Yes, they are!) and I never tire of looking at these even though there are often repeats from panels I’ve been at in the past.  I can happily look at some of these crazy covers more than once.

IDW_Hidden Treasures

Right after Oddball we got the IDW Hidden Treasures panel where they gave the scoop on a lot of their upcoming original non-licensed projects.  A lot of great stuff that I’m looking forward to.  It’s always fun for me to hear the creative folks involved in putting the comics together talk about those comics.  Back to the floor for the final hour of the show, chatting with creators in Artist’s Alley, and that was it for Day 1.

That 70s Panel

Saturday started for me with “That 70s Panel” hosted by Mark Evanier.  Mark was joined by prolific writers & editors Marv Wolfman (on the left, above) and Len Wein (on the right).  Marty Pasko was supposed to be at the panel also but was sick.  If you ever get a chance to go to this panel…GO!  Hearing these guys reminisce and tell insider stories about Marvel/DC back in the days is fascinating to listen to.  They also take questions from the audience.  These guys have probably been working professionals in comics longer than any other people who attended WonderCon this year.

Valiant Panel

Then it was on to the Valiant Comics panel.  I’m reading all 9 books Valiant publishes in their shared universe and every one of those 9 are in my Top 25.  Three of them are in my Top 12.  Writers Joshua Dysart (Harbinger – 3rd from left), James Asmus (Quantum & Woody – 4th from left) and Robert Venditti (X-O Manowar – far right) we got some spoiler-free sneak peeks into what is coming over the next few months from Valiant, and I’m very excited about it!  Continuing a Valiant tradition, they gave out a password at the panel that fans could use to get a free Gold book (Quantum & Woody #1) down at the Valiant booth later in the con.  After the Valiant panel I hit a few more creator signings, and stepped outside for a while to enjoy the sun while I ate some lunch and watched all the people in costumes:

Cosplay plaza

After that it was time for the Aspen Comics Panel.  These guys are more like a family than just co-workers.  The Aspen panel always starts and ends with a loud “ALOHA!!” from everyone in the room.  They give the scoop on upcoming projects; I’m looking forward to Damsels in Excess and Zoohunters, both of which will premiere in the Aspen Free Comic Book day.  I’ll be putting a review of these up on the Comic Reviews blog right before FCBD, so you’ll be able to learn more about them then.  Aspen also tends to give out a free comic to everyone who attends the panel and also a free comic to anyone who asks a question during the Q&A.  I scored the 2 comics show below:

Aspen Panel Freebies

Next up: We are Boom!, a theme repeated with videos of many Boom! staffers and creators.  We got to see videos of George Perez talking about his new exclusive relationship with Boom! as well as a number of other creators talking about upcoming projects.

Claudio and Chondra

Claudio Sanchez (of Coheed and Cambrian fame) and Chondra Echert were on hand to talk about their new Boom! series Translucid, a deconstruction of the super-hero genre exploring the relationship between a hero and his arch-nemesis that debuted a week ago.  A great 1st issue, you should check it out.  We’ll be running a review one of these days when I have some time to write it.  It’s also kind of endearing to hear these folks talking to one another using nicknames (like ‘Chonnie’ for Chondra), it makes the con experience seem all the more personal.  I followed these 2 downstairs to the Boom! booth to get an autograph on my copy of Translucid and they took time to talk to each fan and they were engaged with us, not just slapping out autographs.  Very refreshing.

Translucid1

And since they put me into an “Autograph mode” I hit up a few more creators for autographs…

Autographs

…and then walked around Artist’s Alley again.  I had a GREAT conversation with Richard Isanove about his art technique while thumbing through a HUGE pile of originals from his recent run on Savage Wolverine.  Because I was interested, he went into great detail on his work technique and it was fascinating, especially while looking at the originals he had created!  I ended up buying this piece of art from him:

Isanove_SavageWolverine

Then it was off to the final panel of the day from 6-7pm and what a final panel it was!  Scott Dunbier, the “Father of the Artist Edition” was talking about upcoming IDW Artist’s editions (like John Buscema’s Silver Surfer and Walter Simonson’s Manhunter) as well as the process of tracking down art, producing the editions, doing trivia with the audience, and answering whatever questions we had.

Buscema_SS

I absolutely LOVE the Artist Editions, as well as their clones from other publishers (Dark Horse, Dynamite, and Graphitti are now also doing these with different names).  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.  They seem expensive at $100+ per volume, but they’re really a bargain when compared to how much it would cost to buy any page of OA that is faithfully reproduced in these volumes.

I capped off Saturday night with dinner with some friends that I mostly just see at cons and we spent a great few hours talking about comics, creators, and life in general.

JokerCar

Easter Sunday at WonderCon… where else are you going to see this car in the parking structure?  I started off the day playing Easter Bunny and bringing chocolate Easter eggs around to various Publishers, Writers, and Artists.  These guys work hard to entertain me every month, it’s a small gesture but I enjoyed giving a smile to a bunch of folks as they got a bit of chocolatey goodness to start off their day!  At the IDW booth Gabriel Rodriguez was hanging around and I was able to get my full set of Locke & Key HCs as well as the Artist’s Edition portfolio autographed!  Thanks to Dirk & Khalil in IDW Marketing for hooking me up with Gabriel!  What a nice guy!  We had a short conversation about Locke & key as well as about what he’s got coming up with Little Nemo, I’m really looking forward to that!!

Bob_GabrielRodriguez Locke&Key

First panel of the day was “Cover Story: Art of the Cover” hosted by Mark Evanier (I find Evanier hosting many of the panels I’m personally interested in seeing at this Con and in San Diego).

CoverStory

We had Len Wein on the panel providing an editor’s viewpoint since he spent many years making decisions about what covers would run and what corrections would need to be made to a cover prior to publication.  Joining Len were artists Tony Daniel and Paul Gulacy, who each had the opportunity to discuss 5 or 6 of their covers (chosen at random) that were displayed up on the big screen.  Next up:

LongGame - Comics and Big Picture

The Long Game: Comics and the Big Picture, moderated by Mark Waid.  This was a real writer’s panel, Waid moderated and asked questions about planning out story arcs and the kinds of planning that a writer needs to do, as well as dealing with things like writer’s block, editorial fiat, and working around mandatory company crossovers (that now seem to happen every couple of months).  Kelly Sue DeConnick stole this panel away, she is a hoot!  She’s so passionate and animated about what she does, and this really comes across listening to her talk about her craft.  We also got to hear from (left to right, after Kelly Sue) Francis Manapul, James Robinson, Tony Daniel, and Robert Venditti.  What a great panel, I always like to hear Mark Waid talk, and now I will not pass up an opportunity to listen to Kelly Sue on a panel either!

After this panel we took a short hop down to the floor before the final panel of the con: CBLDF You Can’t Draw That! Live Art Jam.   No pictures suitable for all audiences from this panel, I’m afraid.  Since all the violence and horror banned by the comics code is pretty much OK to put in comics today, the artists focused on the one taboo still frowned upon by our puritanical American society: Nudity.  Terry Moore, Scott Koblish, and Ted Naifeh all did drawings that were displayed up on the big screen as they drew and they talked about art, censorship, and storytelling.  Another stellar panel.  I never tire of watching a beautiful image emerge from a blank white sheet of paper.  Seeing the artists work was a treat.  All the art was auctioned off at the end of the panel, proceeds to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Sanfords_and_Bretalls

This took us up to an hour before the end of the con and another quite turn around the show floor.  Here I am with friends Andrew & Lisa Sanford (aka LARabbit & MrsLARabbit, Andrew also contributes to the Marvel Noise podcast).  And, for her first con appearance in 10 years, my sainted wife Janine who catalogs all my comics.

Wonderful creators, wonderful panels, wonderful friends, wonderful comics, WonderCon 2014…

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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One Response to WonderCon 2014: An Aptly Named “Wonderful” Comic Convention

  1. danaka says:

    fantastic overview , thanks

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