Wednesday, March 27, 2013
KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando previews this year's WonderCon, which returns to Anaheim for a second year.
If you were unable to buy tickets for this summer's Comic-Con then you might want to consider WonderCon, Comic-Con's little sister. But don’t wait too long because WonderCon tickets are selling out as well.
On February 16th, badges for this summer’s Comic-Con sold out in just over 90 minutes. People complained about technical problems and not getting badges. Comic-Con put out an apology. But the bottom line is Comic-Con’s just become too popular.
"I wish we could accommodate everybody who’d love to attend it just seems to be so many people who’d love to attend that we can’t do that," says David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations for the non-profit organization, Comic-Con International.
Pop culture conventions in general seem to be seeing a surge, most notably the young New York Comic-Con, which is entering its 8th year and already drawing over 100,000 attendees. Comic-Con in San Diego has had to cap their attendance at 130,000 because they’ve maxed out space at the San Diego Convention Center. But Comic-Con oversees two additional shows each year that offer some alternative choices says Glanzer.
"We oversee APE, the Alternative Press Expo, and WonderCon. APE has about 5,500 people and it’s a self-published, independent creator convention for your underground comics. WonderCon is very similar to Comic-Con except it has an attendance of about 40,000 to 50,000 people but also focuses on comics, movies, popular arts."
Both shows are usually held in San Francisco but last year renovations to San Francisco’s Moscone Center forced WonderCon to seek a new venue at the Anaheim Convention Center. This year a lack of available dates in the Bay City forced WonderCon to return to Anaheim for a second year in a row.
That means San Diegans wanting a Comic-Con like experience can travel less than two hours north and attend WonderCon. But unlike last year, 3-day badges are already sold out and only single day tickets may be available at the door. Popularity has followed the event organizers north.
"Our first year was really a surprise," states Glanzer, "And we didn’t know what the response would be. We were very happy to find the response was tremendous not only from attendees but from exhibitors."
Exhibitors like Rebecca Hicks , creator of the web comic "Little Vampires".
"From an exhibitor point of view Comic-Con has become so big and amazing and crazy it’s hard to get anyone to notice my stuff. WonderCon is like Comic-Con 10 years ago where it was big and awesome but still accessible and people went there to find new things as well as to see their favorite creators and to see Hollywood. So Wondercon to me is just at that sweet spot right now."
Glanzer describes WonderCon as Comic-Con lite but that still means 700 exhibitors and 250 hours of programming to choose from. Glanzer advises, "Look at your program book and decide what it is you want to see and try to plan out your day."
This year WonderCon will feature cult superstar Bruce Campbell at a panel for the remake of “The Evil Dead” movie and fanboy favorite Joss Whedon is hosting a panel about his film adaptation of Shakespeare “Much Ado About Nothing.”
There are also seminars on how to build your own R2 droids and how to break into comics, as well as a sneak preview of DC’s animated film “Superman: Unbound.” And then there’s my favorite panel, “Not Guilty by Reason of Zombification: Law and Forensic Psychiatry After the Zombie Apocalypse.” That’s the kind of programming that can only come from people immersed in and in love with pop culture.
"I don’t know of anybody that I work with that is not a fan," says Glanzer, "In fact the majority of the people who are employed here all started as volunteers and have been with the organization for many years."
So they put on the kind of show that they’d like to see. Maybe that’s why WonderCon and Comic-Con have become so successful because they canter to a fan base that they know firsthand. That may also be why fans are growing fond of WonderCon want it to stay in Anaheim.
"People have even suggested we have an Anaheim show and San Francisco show I don’t know that we have the resources to do that but that certainly has been brought up," Glanzer says.
WonderCon is supposed to return to San Francisco next year. If you want to take advantage of WonderCon Anaheim, Glanzer suggests buying your ticket online now because the event may sell out. Then wear comfortable shoes, stay hydrated, and oh yeah, have fun.
NOTE: "Little Vampires" will be at booth 700 at WonderCon. Stop by and say hello to artist Rebecca Hicks. She loves that.