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Arts & Culture

WonderCon is back in person this weekend

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Beth Accomando
Christopher Canole, also known as Dude Vader and Nathan Seekerman (far right) from the Comic-Con Special Edition panel on Star Wars Samurai Universe. They are repeating the panel for WonderCon and Seekerman will be once again showing off the Captain Phasma samurai armor he created. San Diego, Calif. Nov. 30, 2021.

WonderCon is Comic-Con International's sister convention and it serves up a smaller, less crowded pop culture event. Comic-Con had a scaled back special edition convention last November. So WonderCon, which runs Friday through Sunday, marks the non-profit organization's first full show since the pandemic hit.

WonderCon returns to in person event

Nathan Seekerman is a kind of superhero. For one he cosplays as Steampunk Han Solo and Captain America. And while he might be disguised as a mild-mannered programmer, he does display superpowers in fabricating spectacular costumes out of thin air.

"I'm a programmer as a day job but programming background lent itself immediately to being a 3D modeler so that you start to draw your own stuff. You start to print it out," Seekerman said "I've got a plan to do something new, unusual (for WonderCon), we'll call it a Clone Mando."

Doing a mashup of "Star Wars" characters will also be the topic of a Friday WonderCon panel he is on.

Star Wars Captain Phasma Meisho Movie Realization Action Figures (2).jpeg
Bandai Tamashii Nations
Ashigaru Taisho Captain Phasma is shown in this undated photo. The Meisho Movie Realization series re-envisions popular characters as they might appear in the ancient era of the samurai. The head of the First Order is re-imagined as Ashigaru Taisho Captain Phasma.

"It's called The Star Wars Samurai Universe," Seekerman said. "And we're going to be talking about the impact of Samurai armor culture on the 'Star Wars' universe. One of the things that I'm going to get to talk about specifically is a Samurai Captain Phasma armor."

Seekerman was commissioned by Bandai to build a life sized version of its toy inspired by the character of Captain Phasma who made her film debut in "The Force Awakens."

The stunning cosplay creation Seekerman made mixes Japanese armor techniques with do-it-yourself ingenuity and modern materials. The result looks exactly like the toy mashup but it can also be worn eight hours at a convention and allows for great range of motion.

Wondercon returns in person
Meet cosplayer Nathan Seekerman

LEDE: WonderCon is Comic-Con International's sister convention and serves up a smaller, less crowded pop culture event. Comic-Con had a scaled back Special Edition last November. So this weekend's WonderCon marks the non-profit organization's first full show since the pandemic hit. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando has this preview.

WONDERCON (ba)

TAG: Wondercon runs Friday through Sunday at the Anaheim Convention Center

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Nathan Seekerman is a kind of superhero. For one he’s cosplayed as Steampunk Han Solo and Captain America. And while he might be disguised as a mild-mannered programmer he does display superpowers in fabricating spectacular costumes out of thin air.

NATHAN SEEKERMAN I'm a programmer as a day job, but programming background lent itself immediately to being a 3d modeler so that you start to draw your own stuff, you start to print it out, and then you finish it. and I've got a plan to do something new, unusual. We'll call it a Clone Mando.

Doing a mashup of Star Wars characters will also be the topic of a Friday panel he is on.

NATHAN SEEKERMAN The Star Wars Samurai Universe. And we're going to be talking about the impact of Samurai armor culture on the Star Wars universe. And in fact, one of the things that I'm going to get to talk about specifically is a Samurai Captain Phasma armor.

Seekerman was commissioned by Bandai to build a life sized version of its toy inspired by the character from The Force Awakens. The stunning creation Seekerman made mixes Japanese armor techniques with do it yourself ingenuity and modern materials. The result looks exactly like the toy mash up but can also be worn eight hours at a convention. Each project represents a journey for Seekerman.

NATHAN SEEKERMAN It's like I’ve learned how to do something. I've gone and presented it. I received appreciation for the work and the storytelling and then an invitation to doing charity events and then maybe do some commissions.

Like many cosplayers he does a lot of charity work often with kids, which means a costume has to allow you to do one thing.

NATHAN SEEKERMAN You got to find a way that you can get down and actually be on eye level with kids, especially sometimes the kids are in wheelchairs and you get down to their level and now you can make a connection. So, yeah, gotta be able to kneel.

Although Comic-Con has a reputation for cosplay, WonderCon may actually outdo its sister convention. Comic-Con International spokesperson David Glanzer says the WonderCon cosplay community is great.

DAVID GLANZER Typically on Sunday when the doors close at 5:00 and everybody's going to be ushered out, the cosplayers stay in the courtyard area, take pictures, mingle with each other. Nobody wants to leave and I don't blame them.

Now that WonderCon is finally back in person, it is not just cosplayers celebrating that sense of community. Glanzer says that’s one of the lessons learned from putting on the scaled back Comic-Con Special Edition in November.

DAVID GLANZER People really did want to get together again. People wanted to see their friends in person as opposed to a computer screen.

This weekend’s WonderCon is the non-profit organization’s first full fledged show since the pandemic hit in 2020. It has always been a smaller show than Comic-Con so you might even be able to buy passes at the show. Plus the Anaheim Convention Center affords WonderCon room to expand.

DAVID GLANZER We have enough space to be able to accommodate a lot more people if need be. There's a lot of programming space, a lot of exhibit space, so people can be a little less frantic about that.

That means less waiting in massive lines and more time to walk the exhibit floor and attend panels. There will be a couple Hollywood panels most notably one on the Bob’s Burgers Movie. Plus the usual diverse range of panels covering everything from queer creators to the science and history of Doctor Who to monsters for everyone. You can also learn how to paint miniatures, build an R2, and learn to do cosplay makeup.

Masks have always been popular at WonderCon but this year there will be a mandatory COVID mask requirement as well as proof of vaccination. With WonderCon back people are also looking forward to Comic-Con’s return this summer but the show’s essentially sold out because tickets purchased in 2019 have been rolled over.

DAVID GLANZER As we wrap WonderCon we will look more fully into Comic-Con and decide if there's something that we can do.

What we need is a convention TARDIS that’s bigger on the inside and can fit more people. Where’s that Doctor when we need him or her.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

269127407_653269905821406_8807999833452155899_n.jpeg

Each project represents a journey for Seekerman.

"It's like I’ve learned how to do something. I've gone and presented it. I received appreciation for the work and the storytelling and then an invitation to doing charity events and then maybe do some commissions," he said.

Like many cosplayers he does a lot of charity work often with kids, which means a costume has to allow you to do one thing.

"You got to find a way that you can get down and actually be on eye level with kids, especially since sometimes the kids are in wheelchairs," Seekerman said. "You get down to their level and now you can make a connection. So, yeah, gotta be able to kneel."

WonderCon in Anaheim.
Beth Accomando
A sign for WonderCon in Anaheim, Calif. is shown in 2017.

Although Comic-Con has a reputation for cosplay, WonderCon may actually outdo its sister convention.

"It's always been a big cosplay show, and it continues to be," said David Glanzer, Comic-Con International spokesperson. "One of the great things about WonderCon is typically on Sunday when the doors close at 5 p.m. and everybody's going to be ushered out, the cosplayers stay in the courtyard area, take pictures, mingle with each other. Nobody wants to leave and I don't blame them."

Now that WonderCon is finally back in person, it is not just cosplayers celebrating that sense of community. Glanzer said that’s one of the lessons learned from putting on the scaled back Comic-Con Special Edition in November.

"People really did want to get together again. People wanted to see their friends in person as opposed to a computer screen," Glanzer said.

This weekend’s WonderCon is the non-profit organization’s first full fledged show since the pandemic hit in 2020. It has always been a smaller show than Comic-Con so you might even be able to buy passes at the show. Plus the Anaheim Convention Center affords WonderCon room to expand

"We have enough space to be able to accommodate a lot more people if need be," Glanzer said. "There's a lot of programming space, a lot of exhibit space, so people can be a little less frantic about that."

That means less waiting in massive lines and more time to walk the exhibit floor and attend panels. There will be a couple Hollywood panels most notably one on the "Bob’s Burgers Movie." Plus the usual diverse range of panels covering everything from queer creators to the science and history of Doctor Who, to monsters for everyone. You can also learn how to paint miniatures, build an R2, and learn to do cosplay makeup.

Masks have always been popular at WonderCon but this year there will be a mandatory COVID-19 mask requirement as well as proof of vaccination. With WonderCon back, people are also looking forward to Comic-Con’s return this summer but the show’s essentially sold out.

"Because we had planned on having the show in 2020 and the tickets went on sale in 2019," Glanzer explained. "Of course 2020 came with the worldwide pandemic so we had to cancel the show so those tickets rolled over to 2021 and then we had to cancel 2021. Those tickets rolled over to 2022. So right now the show is technically sold out. As we wrap, WonderCon will look more fully into Comic-Con and decide if there's something that we can do."

What we need is a convention TARDIS that’s bigger on the inside and can fit more people. Where’s that Doctor when we need him or her?

Full programming schedule is now available online.

Panel recommendations

  • Star Wars Samurai Universe (I was on the one at Comic-Con Special Edition) and make sure to attend WonderCon screening Akira Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress," which inspired George Lucas to make "Star Wars"
  • Diversity in Film, TV, Games, Comics: How YOU Can Help!
  • Spotlight on David F Walker (he has been a repeat guest on Cinema Junkie and is brilliant)
  • How Comics Influence STEAM, Social Justice, and Equality, one of multiple panels looking to comics in classroom
  • Fun behind funko
  • Hip hop and Comics
  • Doctor Who Science and History
  • We Are Groot: Large/Bulky Cosplay on a Budget
  • Empathy and the Anti-Hero (this looks especially good with multiple spotlight guests)
  • Monsters Are for Everyone (Chris Mowry of Toho will be there to represent Toho and Godzilla)
  • Queer Creators of Color Assemble
  • Storyboards: Unseen Art of Hollywood
  • How to Build an R2 Astromech
  • Law of Peacemaker
  • Lumpia with a Vengeance WonderCon Premiere Screening