by Transmute Jun
WonderCon first began in 1987, and came under the Comic Con International (CCI) umbrella in 2001. For more than a decade, it has fallen under the shadow of CCI’s other, world-famous convention, San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). Part of WonderCon’s problem is the inevitable comparisons to SDCC, yet its changing location (from Oakland to San Francisco, then to Anaheim, to Los Angeles, and back to Anaheim) and often undesirable dates (the convention has occurred on Easter weekend more often than not over the past decade) have not helped it establish its own identity. Yet this year (WonderCon 2019 held March 29-31), everything seemed to come together, and WonderCon felt more special on its own. There wasn’t one single thing that contributed to this feeling, yet it was noticed by many. Writer/Producer Bill Prady (Star Trek: Voyager, Big Bang Theory) stated in the middle of a panel that he felt that WonderCon was coming into its own this year, and moderator Wil Wheaton (Star Trek The Next Generation,Tabletop) quickly agreed. Lennie James (Fear The Walking Dead) said of WonderCon “It doesn’t get any better than this!”, while Walking Dead Chief Content Officer Scott M. Gimple described WonderCon as, “The more intimate, acoustic version of San Diego Comic Con.” Fans who spoke with FoCC Blog felt more lively, more engaged with the show this year, and it showed in the energy in the Exhibit Hall, in the Plaza outside of the convention center, and in the panel rooms.
Studios had a visible presence at this year’s WonderCon, with properties such as Legion, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Into the Badlands, Archer: 1999, Cloak & Dagger, Deadly Class, Big Bang Theory, She-Ra Princesses of Power, The 100 and Fear The Walking Dead all holding large panels with cast and producer participation. On the movie front, Dark Phoenix and Shazam! were clearly the stars, grabbing the attention of attendees all over the con. Shazam! held a sneak preview event on Saturday night of the con, giving fans a chance to see the film a week before its official theatrical release, and the buzz amongst attendees was strong the following day.
However, WonderCon isn’t all about television and film. Comics still have a strong hold on this con, particularly DC, which brought its game to both the Exhibit Floor and the panel rooms, allowing fans to get up close and personal with comics creators. Comic signings at the DC booth were especially popular. At almost every point on the Exhibit Floor, the comic book influence could be seen, and attendees loved it. The pinnacle of comics’ presence at WonderCon was the packed panels celebrating Batman’s 80th birthday, where fans reaffirmed their love for one of their favorite superheros, celebrating his origins with the people who bring him to life.
While most panels were joyous, some were contemplative, such as the panels remembering comic creator Stan Lee and CCI President John Rogers. Attendees appreciated the chance to share their memories and mourn these people who both contributed so much to the pop culture and convention boom as we know it today.
WonderCon was also lively outside of the convention center. As always, cosplayers had the heaviest presence in the Plaza, posing for photographs and participating in meetups all throughout the show. The pathway leading along Convention Way toward the Convention Center was lined with food trucks, and also home to 2 offsite exhibits: one for the Urban Decay Game of Thrones makeup line, and one promoting the release of the film Bumblebee on home video. Crowds were high, and no one went home disappointed.
WonderCon will return to Anaheim in 2020, with the con scheduled for April 10-12. I know that I’m already making plans!
Did you attend WonderCon 2019? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!