The Wild West of 1850s southern California never saw WonderCon coming. Originally an agricultural collective of pious, German farmers and vintners, Victorian Anaheim would have plotzed at the site of The Joker, Jawas, Hobbacca and G-stringed Supergirls crossing Katella and Harbor, headed into their Anaheim Convention Center. Although, he might have appreciated some of the more inventive steampunk costuming, 1857 co-founder George Hansen must have just come to grips with Disneyland when WonderCon steamed into town last year. This year, it descended upon the O.C. once again and, if Hansen’s ghost gets his wish, it should be headed back up north, to San Francisco’s Moscone Center for 2014. If the rest of us get our wish, parent company Comic-Con International will permanently add this southern substitute, WonderCon Anaheim, to its regular menu des plaisirs.
WonderCon Anaheim (March 29-31, 2013) is best-known now to the O.C. public as the week of visiting geeks. The baby sister of San Diego Comic-Con, WonderCon mixed with the usual, inland-Orange County population of Disney geeks and overran Hansen’s “Home by the Santa Ana River: Ana-heim“. The Anaheim Convention Center was a safe place to contain all the geekage, like a well-lit, glass-and-steel roach motel, keeping the community-at-large safe from countless iterations of Batman and, simultaneously keeping said-geekage safe from countless wedgies. ‘Twas a few, relaxing days where being a pale, obsessive, Simpsons fan actually brought about accolades and wearing a rhinestone dog collar, mini-kilt and Manson boots brought compliments, rather than propositions.
Like most comic book conventions, behind the cosplay, superiority complexes and aisles of overpriced crap sitting alongside collector-worthy art, there are serious discussions happening: academic panels, legal seminars, artistic advisory groups and the like. True, a lot of them are more Family Guy table-read than Algonquin Round Table. Still, these all-inclusive chats in the upstairs meeting rooms are worth the convention entrance fee, even if the downstairs floor full of steampunk dorks, Star Wars tees and vintage action figures is not your cup of Darjeeling. (Captain Picard’s space beverage of choice, duh.) I had the opportunity to cover a couple of these panels and interview some of the panelists for GoodToBeAGeek.com: All Shapes & Sizes Welcome and Geeks Get Published – and Paid! Industry insight is always good gossip!
Without a doubt though, the best part of any convention -and I’ve been to more than a few, including NAB, NATPE and the MIPCOM/MIPTV conferences in Cannes- is the après-mingling in the hotel lounges and nearby restaurants and bars. True, ’tis no Cannes or Nice, but Anaheim, my pretties, much to the chagrin of dear old George Hansen, has more than it’s fair share of suitable martini outlets. The Anaheim Gardenwalk is replete with moderately-priced, chain dining establishments, but the king is P.F. Chang’s. There is not enough space here to go on about their Chinese 88 martini (topped off with champagne) and their tofu lettuce wraps. ~insert Homer Simpson-style drool here~ Roy’s Hawaiian serves a tangy, yummy, signature pineapple martini and offers a warm, sugary, tropical atmosphere, bringing the diner into the island spirit, not totally unlike being on Kauai, which is surprising, considering one’s in inland SoCal. Of course, the best mixing by far is the hotel where the con sits. This one was Hilton Anaheim and its Mix Lounge.
Mix was crowded, dark and lively and the staff worked off their patooties to keep the Stella Artois, Sapphire gin and dried wasabi pea snackies flowing. Nice fellows and patient as saints, especially when a drunken, impolite, cabbage-waving, Flava Flav doppelgänger insisted on buying a round for nearly half the bar, rudely yelling the orders to the bartender. (Yours truly declined. Far too obnoxious, even for a gratis G&T.) Oddly though, the con cosplay at Mix was sparse. There were some costumed folk hither and thither; my companions even forced me into a picture with a sad-looking, all too fay, nervous He-Man. Why so few costumes, I wondered each night? I would later learn the Hilton was mostly where the journalists stayed; the Marriott was the place for the cosplay crowd. So, book your hotels accordingly next year, con-goers.
The whole event was nicely wrapped up with an unexpected dinner, especially for a vegetarian. My Viking, a deathly-tightly-corseted Dr. Lucy and I ended up at Morton’s Steakhouse when my brother-in-law and professional pirate, a.k.a. Cap’t. Maurice Bloodstone, -who some of you may know from my novel, Savannah of Williamsburg: The Trials of Blackbeard and His Pirates– happened upon an SFX idol of his in the Hilton parking lot, twice. The second, chance meeting with Mr. Cleve Hall proved too much serendipity for our excitable Bloodstone and a dinner invitation was proffered.
Best-known, currently, for SyFy’s Monster Man, Cleve Hall is hardly a newbie in the Hollywood special effects game. Like Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches, Cleve and his immediate family have been lurking around the Deep South and the West Coast for eons; his family in the prop and SFX business, the Mayfairs in banking and real estate. For Cleve himself, above-the-line credits (incl. actor, producer and director) as well as hair & makeup and costume & wardrobe fall solidly within his ken. Cleve himself has a wide umbrella. How to Train Your Dragon, Ghoulies, Ed Wood and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure are just a few titles under his Victorian, silver-handled umbrella.
Now, my brother-in-law is as taken with the master’s oeuvres as he is generous. Ergo, it had to be, Bloodstone invited Mr. Hall to join us for dinner. Morton’s Steakhouse was the closest option and, after three days in five-inch platform boots and too-tight ponytails, I was ready to sit and drink anywhere.
Mr. Cleve is, in a word, gentlemanly. He is, in my experience, quiet, pensive and, similar to an attorney I once interviewed in Philadelphia for a tech-boom documentary, careful about choosing just the correct word when telling a tale. He does not name-drop, although he certainly could, does not dominate the table, although this raconteur could. Instead, he answers queries succinctly and adds just the right embellishments to the conversation, like the perfect, silver, poison ring or red, contact lenses. He did not overpower our dinner; he did make it memorable. He was spot-on, to boot, when at dinner he talked of the popularity of Monster Man and Face Off. Quoting his daughter, I believe, he said “Family gets meaner and strangers get nicer.” Thank you for your southern hospitality, but the pleasure was all these strangers’, Good Sir.
So, like Christmas décor or Hallowe’en costumes, WonderCon Anaheim 2013 is wrapped up nicely and packed away gingerly in the rafters. What’s next for this geek girl? Coverage of the upcoming X-Files Season 10 “premiere”, in comic book form that is: Season 10 in comic book form, not my coverage. Meeting the IDW publishing team at WonderCon, those creating and distributing the new comics, makes interviews for this June post easy-peasy. Then, comes July … San Diego Comic-Con!
I’ve submitted yet another article for consideration in the annual Souvenir Book. History says I should make it in; after all, the last two (Peanuts and Tarzan) made it and one of those was even cited by TIME magazine. (Hey, look at me! I’m a Peanuts expert!) Still, my goal this year is to garner the lead article for the “20th Anniversary of Bongo Comics” theme … that’s The Simpsons to the uninitiated.
So, look to me as your unofficial Bongo historian and for X-Files revival coverage and your insider to San Diego’s summer antidote to the cool kids on the beach. Also look to our Dr. Lucy and her amazing Twisted Pair Photography. See you in the Sunday funnies, kids!
BTW, I ordered the chopped salad, sans the bacon and red onions, and a blue cheese-stuffed olive martini. Cheers!
All slideshow photography by Twisted Pair Photography … loads more here at their Flickr page!