WonderCon Anaheim 2014: Little Sister Growing Up Fine, Just Fine.

Picture it … early-morning Saturday, March 15, 2014: San Diego Comic-Con Badge Quest

  • 6:00a.m.  Awakened ceremoniously with rousing rendition of John Williams’ Star Wars Theme, performed by Boston Pops
  • 6:15  Fully awake, finally, after repeats of  Star Wars Theme
  • 6:20  Espresso
  • 6:30  Text cohorts in NorCal, registration codes and Member IDs ready to go
  • 6:35  Re-read official CCI email re: SDCC badge-sale
Remember, there is no need to rush to the landing page at 7:00 AM! You can enter the waiting room two hours before the sale begins [ at 9:00 AM] or 10 minutes before the sale begins, and your chances are the same. Your wait time is up to you!
  • Ha!
  • 6:56  Forefinger poised. Nobody’s going to get in before I do!
  • 7:00  Go! Go! Go! I’m in!
  • 7:05  Text cohorts again; You guys in? Huzzah! Everybody’s in! One of us will surely get our badges!
  • 7:05-8:56  More espresso. More texting. Granola and youghurt. Comic Book Men, Arrested Development and France24 news.
  • 8:56-8:59  Check pulse. High. Mellow out, dork; it’s just a stupid convention. One more espresso.
  • 9:00  Huzzah! We’re in the official queue!
  • 9:00-9:20  This is so exciting! Already doing better than last year! We’ll have such fun! Better get hotel a.s.a.p.!
  • 9:20  Saturday badges are running low. Hmm. That’s okay. “Low” does not mean “sold out”.
  • 9:25  Saturday badges are sold out. Okay. No worries, we’ll go Thursday, Friday, take off Saturday, back on Sunday. Awesome!
  • 9:30  Friday badges are running low. Cool. Cool. No problem.
  • 9:33  Friday badges are sold out. Damn it. Okay, okay. Thursday’s awesome! First day, fresh, that New Con smell!  Anything but Sunday. Sunday sucks. Nobody dresses, no good panels. Vendors only have crap left. Thursday will be awesome!
  • 9:35  Thursday badges are running low. Tina Belcher-style groan.
  • 9:36  Thursday badges are sold out. I don’t care. Sunday rocks. I love Sunday actually! Lighter crowds, all the vendors slash their prices, loads of people will still be dressed. Sunday is going to be amazing!
  • 9:40  San Diego Comic-Con is now sold out. Thank you for your participation.
  • M*&$%#  F#*&@%!!!!
  • Instantly recall The Big Bang Theory‘s “Convention Conundrum” (S7e14)
 It’s okay. You know, th-there’s always WonderCon in Anaheim, you know? Th-that’s just as good. Excuse me. (Turns to cry)

-Dr. Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory

Jennifer Susannah Devore as Louise Belcher, WCA 2014 Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
Jennifer Susannah Devore, a.k.a Miss Hannah Hart, a.k.a. Louise Belcher, WCA 2014 Photo: Twisted Pair Photography

No. No, Sheldon, it is not just as good; but, as this girl is quickly learning, it is not something to pish-tosh, either. WonderCon Anaheim (WCA: April 18-20, 2014 Anaheim Convention Ctr.) seems to be growing exponentially. Like the Richter scale used to measure earthquake activity, what seems like a fractional uptick is, in fact, a greater output than one might presume. Noting the difference between this year’s WCA and WCA2013, it may retain slightly less cachet than San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC: July 24-27, 2014 San Diego Convention Ctr.), but like your best friend’s little sister who just started law school at Stanford, she’s starting to look pret-ty, pret-ty good.

Attendance at WCA, in its third year now, was estimated at 56K for 2014 (Red Flag: roughly SDCC’s numbers in the early-Naughties), continuing its yearly climb. 2014 numbers are an increase from, according to Publisher’s Weekly, the approx. 40K attendees for 2012, and slightly higher than that for 2013.  Further, SDCC 2014 is predicted to once again reach its self-imposed max of 130K attendees; this is to be topped only by CES Int’l Las Vegas (150K) and New York Comic-Con (133K), itself up from 117K last year, citing Events in America, a North American trade show and conference directory. Clearly, the geek con continues to trend.

The growing popularity in geek culture manifests not only via the annual mass-disappointment amidst failure to obtain SDCC badges, but also in the burgeoning desires of Hollywood. Longtime con-pros (distributors, producers, manufacturers, publishers) will tell you, quietly over a Dirty Shirley at Mix Bar in the Anaheim Hilton after the con doors close, that many of the old-timers still love the concept of the con, but philosophically loathe the H-town intrusion. “I noticed the change coming like a locomotive in 2004,” said a dead ringer for The Simpsons‘ desperate salesman ol’ Gil Gunderson. “Hollywood changed everything. Yeah, we’re makin’ more money, but it’s not the same,” he hung his head over his drink with the resolute shame of a jaded, tired mob wife. To drive the point home, I quote Mark Hamill’s character Donald Swan in Comic Book: The Movie (2004).

The movie people? I know they’re just doing their jobs; but they don’t care about us. They only care about our wallets.

Beefsquatch!! Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
Beefsquatch!! Photo: Twisted Pair Photography

Still, Hollywood is nothing if not shameless and persistent, and has now taken notice of wide-eyed, wallflower WonderCon, The Other White Geek, and is asking her to dance, too. Changes at WCA this year included, most notably, the restriction of badge sales to online only: nothing at the door this year. Wise move, considering it sold out completely. As well, whereas last year’s event used one exhibit hall, this year’s took over two, fully. “Artist’s Alley” and “Small Press” areas were expanded and, to boot, nearly every upstairs room was utilized for panels and L&D.

Of note, amongst hundreds of events were the following panels: Bob’s Burgers featuring Loren Bouchard, Kristen Schaal, John Roberts, Dan Mintz and Larry Murphy; Rotten Tomatoes moderating “Your Opinion Sucks” featuring Matt Atchity; Frozen: The Art of Story featuring Jeff Ranjo; Hanna-Barbera History featuring Jerry Eisenberg and Wally Burr; and Once Upon A Time featuring Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Never enough hours in the day or days in a Con; choose wisely when planning future cons and get in line early.

Another tell-tale sign WC is starting to hang with hip crowd? Celeb sightings are on the rise. Eric Bana, Jerry Bruckheimer, Joel McHale, Kristen Schaal, Ethan Spaulding, Olivia Munn and Kevin Smith. (Smith was more a snub than a sighting. We said, Hi! He appeared focused and on a mission. You still say Hello, big guy.) There was even a Captain Bloodstone sighting: best known as Blackbeard’s loopy first mate in Savannah of Williamsburg: The Trials of Blackbeard and His Pirates.

Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., DC Entertainment, BBCAmerica and Dreamworks were all present in force. Sony offered a sneak peek of Deliver Us From Evil; Warner Bros. presented the world premiere of Son of Batman; and BBCAmerica delivered the exclusive screening of Orphan Black‘s S2 premiere.

If Disney is your gig, as it is for so many of us comic geeks, you spent your evenings across Katella at Disneyland, or if you wanted to save your hard-earned Disney Dollars, went to the admission-free Downtown Disney. Back inside the Con, it was a treat to see Margaret Kerry at her booth: Walt Disney’s very own pick, the original model on whom Tinkerbell was based! Aimez-bien Les AristoChats? Gary Dubin, voice of zee chaton Toulouse from Disney’s AristoCats was also on-site, signing colour animation stills.

Other easily chattable guests on-hand included Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), Kaite Cook (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), Marjorie Liu (Dark Wolverine), Jim Pascoe (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica).

Where cosplay is concerned, if you’re thinking WCA is like going to a club on a Wednesday night, thinking you can leave your A-game at home, you’d be wrong. Cosplayers are as serious and creative as ever, if not as numerous as SDCC. Fewer folks might be dressed than at SDCC, but those whom are, are in their Saturday night best. Listen up, wheats; you know if Adrianne Curry, Mistress of the Dorks and cosplay queen, is in the house, you’d best get your act together. Professional stage makeup, Colleen Atwood-quality costuming and the spirit, personality and energy behind it all to make every character pop. Cosplayers don’t just pose, they become their characters, for your pleasure. They know their characters intimately and want to interact with you. Of course, de rigueur, there are lots and lots of boobs. There are always lots and lots of boobs. Funny thing is, after a few years of this, I’m beginning to recognize some of them.

Most popular costumes this year? Doctor Who variations, by far. The best Doctor Who costume? Not a Who, but a What: the villainous, ever-moist Lady Cassandra and her attendants. Halo Kitty was a bit unsettling, as was a male version of Morticia Addams. Thankfully Mary Poppins & Bert, Zelda & Link, Harley Quinn & The Joker, all the Pirates of the Caribbean, a score of Japanese Lolitas and a very attractive Morticia & Gomez (phew!) cruised the con floor and our Hilton lobby. There were also a few Bob’s Burgers folks: Beefsquatch! The Bob’s Burgers panel must have been a wild scene! Damned Anaheim Gardenwalk Happy Hour got in my way of getting there. I blame P.F. Chang’s Asian pear mojitos.

Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
Lady Cassandra and her attendants, WCA 2014. Photo: Twisted Pair Photography

Vendors, as always, number too many to recall. However, I do treat myself each year to a few tidbits, as I like to help the economy and support independent artists whenever I can.  This year’s fave choice? Besides a couple of Big Bang Theory, babydoll tees, I acquired a beautiful bit of steampunk art from Awkward Affections of San Francisco. Charming and shy, the pretty artist known as Kaz proffered an eccentric, quirky and whimsical selection of cards, custom invitations, matted prints, and canvas wall art featuring animals I would very much enjoy meeting, all with a  Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland and Edward Gorey style and sensibility. Other fave pieces included her “Anatomy of a Mermaid” and “Anatomy of a Unicorn”. I say! (Of course, if you read my Savannah of Williamsburg novels, you’ll understand my weakness for les animaux anthropomorphic.)

Steampunk whimsy by Awkward Affections Courtesy: Awkward Affections
Steampunk whimsy by Awkward Affections Courtesy: Awkward Affections

If, like Yours Truly, you originally failed in the March morning mayhem that was the SDCC badge-massacre, I guarantee your first thought was similar to Sheldon’s: “At least there’s WonderCon. Right?” Well, kids, if you thought WonderCon was your Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free card and waited too long to buy those badges, epic fail. Now look at you. You’ve got no Comic-Con and you missed out on WonderCon. What a mook.

To make matters more tenuous, WonderCon is rumoured to return to San Francisco’s Moscone Center next year, it’s original home for nearly thirty years. (WCA was supposed to be a temporary show, as Moscone Ctr. received a full refurbishing.) Of course, CCI did take the effort to officially name the Con next to the Mouse House, WonderCon Anaheim. Maybe it’s here to stay? Maybe we shall have a Norcal and SoCal WC? Maybe you bring a sport coat next time so we have some options for dinner? As of the date of this posting, nobody, official or otherwise, has an answer. The best I could learn was to check the San Diego Comic-Con/WCA website over the year; WonderCon 2015 updates, be they North or South, will be posted there.

In the end, I’m still not sure I’m buying the common line heard at WCA. “You know. I really prefer this, to Comic-Con. The crowds are lighter, it’s easier to get a hotel room, it’s just nicer all around.” Sure. That’s like saying, “Dude, it’s so much easier dating Debbie in accounting. Kate Upton is probably totally high-maintenance. Debbie’s way easier to deal with, and a much cheaper date.” Sure. I do have to admit the Starbucks is nicer at the Hilton Anaheim, as opposed to the Sbux carts at SDCC. Of course, the line is so outrageous, who has time to wait, what with all those amazing panels and vendors such?

It's not a Con w/o my Starbucks! Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
It’s not a Con w/o my Starbucks! Photo: Twisted Pair Photography

If you can’t get an SDCC badge, WC is an absolutely fun and doable alternative (like Debbie). If you did get an SDCC badge, WC is just double-fun for you (You cad!). Yet, think about next year. Whether you get into SDCC or not, WC is fast-becoming a good time all her own and very possibly, depending on how things line up, just as high-maintenance. Next year, Debbie might not be available … if she’s even in town.

As for this kitten’s last-ditch chances for SDCC? As Orange County’s own George Bluth says, “There’s always money in the banana stand.”

"Oh, thous musn't speak to Master in such a manner." Sarah Sanderson Photo: Twisted Pair Photography
“Oh, thou musn’t speak to Master in such a manner.” -Sarah Sanderson, WCA 2014 Photo: Twisted Pair Photography

 Et voilà! Dr. Lucy’s Famous Slideshow!

Photo Credit: Lesli Devore, Twisted Pair Photography

For more WonderCon Anaheim 2014 pics, visit Twisted Pair Photography!

Special S/O: Speaking of supporting independent artists, if you like my Louise ears, and I cannot count how many folks at WCA loved them, please know the quality is superb, the cap-portion is very snuggly and comfy and the ears actually stay upright. Available via Epic Costumes on Etsy!

 

@JennyPopNet #WonderCon #SDCC

Hannah’s other fave places to haunt online?

JennyPop.net  jenniferdevore.blogspot.com and amazon.com/author/jenniferdevore

 

 

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