Event Highlight: WonderCon
Comic-Con’s Little Sister Convention In Anaheim This Year
Friday, March 16, 2012
KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando profiles Comic-Con's little sister, WonderCon.
On the morning of March 3rd badges for Comic-Con went up for sale and closed in less than 2 hours. Twitter and FaceBook were abuzz with people either elated they'd gotten the coveted badges or enraged because they got shutout of the process and would not be attending North America's biggest pop culture convention in July. Comic-Con needs to cap attendance at 130,00 because it's maxed out San Diego Convention Center space. But WonderCon still has badges available for this weekend. What's WonderCon, you ask?
"WonderCon is like Comic-Con's little sister," says David Glanzer, "WonderCon started about 25 years ago, this is it's 26th year and it's always been in the Bay Area and it's very similar to Comic-Con in that it's a popular arts convention that centers on comic books first, but toys, games, movies, television, things of that nature."
But about half the size with 50,000 attendees last year. Glanzer is the spokesman for Comic-Con International, which oversees both conventions. He describes WonderCon as Comic-Con lite. Anthony Buonocore agrees. He's attended Comic-Con and had been to WonderCon 4 times.
"This one is smaller and less crowded," Buonocore states, "and I kind of like that. The Comic-Con is big and it's got a lot going on and it's fun to go to but this is less packed and when I'm looking for something specific it's a lot easier to get around."
And even easier this year because WonderCon is in a bigger space than usual. Normally WonderCon takes place in San Francisco.
"But this year the convention center in San Francisco is doing some renovtions so we had to find a new location and this year we'll be in Anaheim," says Glanzer.
This means San Diegans wanting a Comic-Con like experience but without the stress of having to compete for badges and then waiting in long lines for panels can travel less than two hour north and walk right up to the door and buy a badge for the 3-day convention. Anaheim is also the Convention Center trying to woe Comic-Con away from San Diego. But don't read too much into that says Glanzer: "There's no ulterior motive to having it in Anaheim if there is a side benefit it will be that we will have done a show in Anaheim so we'll understand how that facility works but we didn't put the cart before the horse. But one shouldn't read too much into that."
As for WonderCon, the plan is to return to San Francisco, but no dates have yet been set for 2013. The Bay Area is also where the non-profit organization hosts APE, the Alternative Press Expo, a convention geared toward very independent and self-published small press.
"We have a mission statement," according to Glanzer, "to bring comics and the popular arts to the public. And each of those three shows help us to fulfill our mission statement. All of our events we try to make it as easy to attend as possible. Whether that be disabled services or shuttles again trying to have enough volunteers as we can to assist people who come to the show and never been there before and sometimes it can be overwhelming."
And it pays to check out the schedule in advance says Glanzer: "As we always say, is look at the events guide, look at the program book , figure out what it is you want to see and take your time and have a good time."
WonderCon has DC and Marvel booths, a presentation on how to build your own R2 unit, panels on TV shows like "Fringe" and "Alcatraz," and a Hollywood presence. 20th Century Fox will have a panel on Ridley Scott's new film "Prometheus," the prequel to "Alien," and Columbia will showcases Marvel's "The Amazing Spider-Man." That panel is a sign of the changing nature of the comics world.
"Our company," says Marvel's Vice President of Brand Planning and Communication, Michael Pasciullo, "has evolved over the last 5 or 6 years from strictly just a publishing and a consumer products company to now where we're doing theatrical and we're doing television, video games, people who are introduced to our properties through movies can now learn about what we are doing in comics and television so it kind of let's us cross pollinate those different demographics and create an even greater interest and awareness in Marvel."
But it's all a part of our popular culture.
"It may not be traditional art but who says art has to be traditional," says Glanzer.
That lack of tradition is also reflected in the company that oversees the conventions. Comic-Con has about two dozen full-time staffers and none of them could be described as your typical business or corporate types.
"We are all fans, it sounds kind of corny but we really do put on the type of event we want to attend," explains Glanzer.
And a final word of advice for those planning to attend WonderCon this weekend:
"Wear comfortable shoes because you'll be doing a lot of walking. And stay hydrated," suggets Glanzer.
NOTE: Thanks to Comic-Con for the use of its archival video of past WonderCons.