On the Scene: WonderCon Hasn’t Lost Its Mojo

twitter On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its Mojo8facebook On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its Mojo0google On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its Mojo0pinterest On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its Mojo0tumblr On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its Mojoreddit On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its Mojo0stumbleupon On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its Mojo0email On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its Mojo

The biggest topic of discussion leading up to WonderCon has been the location. Most WonderCon goers have been very disappointed by the move to Anaheim, CA, over San Francisco. There’s ongoing chatter about whether it will move back to San Francisco in 2014, but no clear news on that possibility yet. If location alone is going to be a deal-breaker, there’s not much getting around that, but the convention itself, running in Anaheim, deserves some honest assessments about its merits or demerits, whatever they might be.

IMG 47681 300x225 On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its MojoTo start with, WonderCon 2013 allowed con badge pick-up and pro pass pick-up from noon the day before the con, always a good move. The staff were friendly and helpful, and it was a transaction bound to only take a couple of minutes, whatever the need. Glimpses of the convention center were promising: it’s a fairly spacious location with lots of impressive glass allowing light in, and a wide pedestrian zone in several directions, including fountains and palm tree lined seating nooks. The hotels in the same pedestrian complex as the convention center offered discount rates for the con weekend that were comparable, if not a little lower than the hotel deals available for other mid-sized cons on either coast, and rooms were still available for booking near the con period. The only downside of the hotels is that a couple of them appeared a little understaffed to handle the sudden influx of arriving guests between 7PM and midnight the night before the con opened, meaning somewhat long lines for check-in and a lack of staff to answer the needs of guests who had already checked in.

IMG 4771 300x225 On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its MojoThe con opened with less hassle. The lines were long for entry, but moved briskly, and once the initial entry period was over, there was an ease of access that was enviable in comparison to big cons like NYCC. All doors were available for entry from the exterior of the complex, regardless of the type of pass you might have, and then badges were checked before entry to the floor itself. This ease of access had some helpful implications. If during the day, you happened to want to return to the surrounding hotels to drop off heavy bags of con purchases, you could do so in a matter of minutes and be right back on the floor or into panels without missing a beat. These observations apply to Friday, the first day of the con. Saturday is expected to be the more high volume day of the convention, with passes sold out well in advance, and the procedure for admission may change to handle these numbers.

IMG 3905 300x225 On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its MojoThe interior of the convention center has an unusual layout, with halls and walkways front-loaded, including tall stairways and escalators leading up to three floors, two of which, as well as the basement, are used for panels and events, with the first floor mainly dedicated to the con floor. On a day of reasonable numbers of attendees (and Friday passes did eventually sell out early in the day), this functioned very well. There were no circuitous hallways needed to reach the upper or lower floors. The open areas, however, are a little narrow, and its possible that on Saturday this could lead to more traffic jams, but since all passages lead in straight lines, it’s likely to move reasonably quickly, rather than requiring complex strategies to get from A to B.

 

IMG 4781 225x300 On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its Mojo

The floor itself is spacious, and has  a wide range of tables and booths that fans would consider a staple of cons from major publishers, to small publisher tables, a few video game features, and plenty of small artisan sellers. Wonder of wonders, there were even freebies of comics and ephemera available from several publishers, something that seems to have disappeared from NYCC, but remains for the savvy at SDCC. Fan reactions were positive. Despite reasonably high numbers of influx, the passage ways between booths were navigable, even with cosplay photo options straddling the thoroughfares. Cosplay was strongly represented, though not a dominant feature of the day, and without the need to rush in order to spend long periods pushing through crowds, even the cosplayers seemed in a pleasant mood, more than willing to pose for photos and interact before going to hunt down a variant comic or discount trade on their list.

There weren’t a massive number of variant comics made available for WonderCon 2013, but the ones that were received a lot of attention. Dark Horse variants drew lines that moved briskly, whereas DC’s variants of BATMAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE titles were a little more unwieldy. To their credit, con staff kept the lines in order, but if you wanted a DC variant from WC 2013, it took a little determination and maybe an eye toward timing. Close to closing time for the day, the lines were only a quarter of their previous eye-rolling length. A common feature of the cons and local businesses was the overarching politeness and patience of staff. Maybe it’s part of the “happiest place on earth” Disneyland motif.

IMG 3891 225x300 On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its Mojo

The panels offered at WC 2013 are also somewhat limited in number and range, with fewer cult-following creators as guests. That’s not to say that WC lacked worthy guests, but they were a little strapped to participate in several panels each to carry the load. The atmosphere of the con, more pleasant because of less stress and crowding, seemed to bleed into the experience of the guests as well, and they appeared laid back and informal in panels. Because things weren’t overcrowded, there wasn’t a need to stand in long lines to access panels with creators and pros, and there was more of a possibility that you’d be able to ask your own questions during Q and A sessions rather than battling it out to make it into long queues for the mike. During floor signings, creators seemed equally at ease and with a less crowded atmosphere, they were happy to chat with fans and actually had the time and space to respond to fans, often expressing their own gratitude for the support.

IMG 4801 300x225 On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its MojoSo, all in all, the con is showing strong signs of being well-organized, friendly, and appealing to fans. Enthusiasm was high, with plenty of excited chatter rather than grumbling complaints about discomfort. The outside areas available for relaxing contributed to this, and the pleasant weather didn’t hurt, either. It made the con feel more about a con space rather than a building that pedestrian areas surrounded the convention center with outdoor seating, and that the floor itself had an outdoor atrium with food vendors to complement its floor-based foodcourt, with seating available.

IMG 4775 300x225 On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its MojoRight now, Wondercon in Anaheim has all of the amenities of a mid-sized con on its way to becoming a large con without large con problems to contend with. It’s location may be a problem, but there are some selling points. Firstly, even flying into LAX versus a more local airport means only a reasonably priced shuttle ride to the venue complex, and secondly, there is a strong potential in Anaheim for a family-friendly experience. Cons are great for kids, and plenty were in attendance (some of the greatest cosplayers, in fact), but, of course, all the Disney locations are within a couple of miles radius of the convention center. Several pros I spoke to brought their families with them because of this feature, and were having a blast. In several panels, creators pointed out their spouses and kids in attendance, and the Disney location was, again, one of the reasons. Of course, this would mainly appeal to the demographic who have kids, but it was an interesting extra dimension to the con experience. Whether a Disney fan or not, the presence of Disney means lots of pedestrian areas, local transport routes, and two large restaurant complexes near the convention center. Within a mile of con, you could choose from dozens of restaurants and bars, and plenty of shopping to boot. So even though Anaheim seems like a strange location for the con due to its relative isolation, within Anaheim operating without a car and still having a night-life is definitely possible.

IMG 4770 300x225 On the Scene: WonderCon Hasnt Lost Its Mojo

Saturday, the biggest con day, may well be more trying for attendees, and any weaknesses beneath the surface in terms of planning and resources will no doubt become apparent, but taking the first day of WonderCon in Anaheim on its own, and weighing its virtues comes with plenty of surprises. In short, it felt easy to attend, interesting to observe, and exhibited a lot of the strengths of a well run con in an appropriate location. It may not be WonderCon in San Francisco, but it was still WonderCon, with a commitment to comics, pop culture, and the needs of fans.

 

 

Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.

 

Comments

  1. I’m in Artist Alley and I’m also here with my wife and daughter. They are having a positve experience, both the convention and with convenient hotel an restaurant locations. They are making it to panels and easily browsing the dealer floor. Saturday was very busy as well, but saw no complaints. I even saw a girl rollerskating down my aisle — just to illustrate the nice wide space given to attendees.

    Registration was also painless. As an exhibitor and as a pro. WonderCon has done a good job here.

  2. Great shot of the Lion Forge booth, come on by and learn more about us.

  3. Torsten Adair says:

    I was there last Summer for the American Library Association conference, which used the entire center (except for the basement hall and the hall above that, which was used for a volleyball tournament, which was really cool, as many of those girls also bought badges and toured the show floor along with librarians and other bibliophiles!)

    It’s a good building. Yes, the upper floors are a bit high, but easy to navigate. Disney encourages a robust hotel selection, so if you cannot afford the big buildings near the center or Disney, you can find something more affordable a mile away. I did this, walking to and fro each day, but Anaheim is flat, the weather was perfect, and there were cheap eats nearby.

    The shuttle takes about an hour from LAX. Traffic was not a problem. Convention shuttle buses also were quick and easy.

    The ALA show did sell a half-day ticket to Disneyland for attendees, from 4 PM to close (if I remember correctly) on the last day of the show floor. I know the Beatrix and others have made the pilgrimage to Disneyland after San Diego, back when Comic-Con was less hectic and draining.

    I do expect CCI to continue using Anaheim, even if WonderCon moves back to San Francisco. There is lots of space at Moscone Center (700K) for growing, as there is at Anaheim (815K). Anaheim does have an attached arena,which seats 9,100. (San Diego…615K, LA 720K)

    Here’s a question:
    People worry about a summer Comic-Con competing with Disney attendees for hotel space.
    Since WonderCon was held during Holy Week, and thus a major holiday for vacations (most grade schools schedule Spring Break that week), was there any noticeable effect or overlap between Disney and WC?

  4. Hannah Menzies says:

    I meant to include the overlap issue in my coverage Torsten and may still in a follow up. I think it made areas closer to Disney more crowded but the holiday may have meant more con goers rather than less.

  5. Quinton Peeples says:

    I had a great experience. Very relaxed and cheerful, as you said. My wife and kids shuttled between the show and Disneyland and were happier with this experience than what they encounter at SDCC. There wasn’t the variety of San Diego, but we didn’t expect that. I felt like there were more kids in general, which I like, and find encouraging for the future of comics.

  6. Chrisfs says:

    I’m glad that WonderCon was a hit in Anaheim, but as a Northern CA resident, I am very much looking forward to it’s return home to SF.
    Currently So Cal has two big comic conventions and Nor Cal has none. I have been patiently waiting for a con in my own area that doesn’t require a flight and hotel room to attend.

  7. Is WonderCon coming back to San Francisco? We miss WonderCon in Moscone! Please post if you know or heard from another news blog. Thx!

  8. The con has been great in Anaheim because 2 years running my family and I have chose to spend it in Disneyland, the funny thing about that is at the SFO wonder con I spend about $4,000 to $6,000, on Comics and CGC Grading. Now spending all three days at Disney I spend less then $500.00. This doesn’t include hotel. so yes Anaheim works.

  9. Master Sargent Naruto Uzumaki says:

    Just because Warner and Disney are being Greedy little So n’ So’s. Who don’t like Most Northern and Central Californian’s flocking toward’s San Jose’s FANIME-CON, Sacramento’s SAC-ANIME, and Up and Coming Stockton’s , STOCKTON-CON………..Doesn’t mean all the Nor and Center Cal Folks will be back to and buy into Comic-Con International throwing “Us FOLK’S” a bone.

    I’m sure STOCKTON-CON will continue to grow and probably exceed 10,000 by its’ next installment this Winter of Early 2014. SOCKTON-CON as well as SAC-ANIME are ahead of WONDER-CON’s return to NOR/CENTER CAL and that’s that they’re both held “TWICE YEARLY”. Sacramento having been established for many years before CCI abandoned San Fran and STOCKTON-CON opening up for business when Central Valley and Bay Area Folk like were desperate…… STOCKTON-CON can’t outspend CCI Wonder-Con but, they can be a lot more FAN FRIENDLY!

    i’M SURE STOCKTON-CON’S FORTUNES will continue to grow even with CCI Wonder-CON’s deep pocket’s!

  10. Master Sargent Naruto Uzumaki says:

    STOCKTON-CON & SAC-ANIME IN THE HOUSE FOLKS!!!!!!!

    ALL YOU BAY AREA and CENTRAL VALLEY FOLK NEED NOT CRY FOR WARNER & DISNEY TO THROW Y”ALL A BONE>>>>>>JUST HOP ON AMTRAK’S CAPITAL CORRIDOOR COMMUTER TRAIN TO SACRAMENTO FOR SAC-ANIME or AMTRAK’S SAN JOAQUIN FOR STOCKTON-CON……………WE’RE HERE FOR YA’ALL!!!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] On the Scene: WonderCon Hasn’t Lost Its Mojo [...]

  2. [...] at this Anaheim location, including the building, staff, and comfort of fans, with some images. You can read that here, my claim that WonderCon had not “lost its Mojo” despite the move in [...]

Speak Your Mind

*