By Martin Bright
Just by walking up to the Anaheim Convention Center it was apparent that WonderCon 2013 was going to be bigger than last year in Anaheim, and probably bigger than it ever has been. By 9:30am the line to get into the Exhibit Hall at 12pm was already stretched along the entire front side of the building. The registration line extended outside (and was being well managed by Comic Con International). The first day of WonderCon was not a sellout but the crowd was still very large with some big panels scheduled for later in the day. Cosplay on the day 1 was visible everywhere including large groups posing on the new fountain plaza in front of the convention center.
On the outside, the new additions to the WonderCon and the convention center provided more open space for attendees to get fresh air and pose with friends and fans for pictures. The new fountain outside provided an incredible backdrop for photographers as well. WonderCon, the city of Anaheim, and the convention center also set up an area for five food trucks to park every day and provide additional food services for attendees. And no convention is complete without SWAG being passed out – the LA Times’ HeroComplex was out front handing out their newest magazine featuring Doctor Who on the cover and many studios had people passing out posters, tattoos, and trading cards to attendees and some lost tourists walking by all the craziness; the two biggest SWAG items were posters for ENDERS GAME and trading cards of the Jaegers (Giant Robot Warriors) from PACIFIC RIM (the latter having a panel on Saturday).
Inside the Anaheim Convention Center attendees found a much larger exhibit hall than in previous years. It took just over two hours to walk the entire floor from one end to the other and that did not include waiting in line to buy items or get autographs. DC Comics was the biggest “big name in the industry” booth but that didn’t stop smaller publishers like Lion Forge Comics from bringing state of the art booths and fan experiences to the floor. The absence of Marvel Comics from the hall was obvious but did not cause much grief. Video game fans were well entertained with booths by CAPCOM, Nintendo, Bandai Namco, and the DC Comics’ Injustice gameplay. There was not as much SWAG as fans would expect at medium sized show like this but there was plenty to look at. Dark Horse Comics was passing out the most SWAG where fans lined up to get lanyards, pins, prints, and sample comics. Artists Alley was also much bigger this year, and prints or autographs seemed to be the big business of the weekend. People were crowded around tables in Artists Alley to see the comics industry’s popular and lesser-known-but-still-awesome names with new prints featuring characters from every corner of the sci-fi/horror/fantasy/comics realms.
Panels on Friday were minimal but carried a lot of clout among fans. Fans of Comic Con International were probably surprised to see WonderCon programming was full of panels that were about comics for once rather than just about Hollywood. There were panels on breaking into comics, drawing workshops, spotlights on comics professionals, publisher panels with the latest news and more. In addition there were panels on Cosplaying, writing novels, various online geek channels (like GEEK & SUNDRY and THE NERDIST), Star Trek/Star Wars debate sessions. That does not mean that Hollywood missed out on an opportunity to visit with fans, especially being so close to Los Angeles.
For this first day of the convention, GEEK & SUNDRY hosted a panel to talk about their online shows. DC Comics hosted an All Access panel to talk about many of their series hitting stands over the next few months, including what’s next with the death in the Batman family. Scott Snyder talked about his new series Batman: Year Zero coming this summer where Bruce Wayne’s transformation is explored from the time of his parents death to the time he dons the cape and cowl. Warner Bros. did screenings and Q&A’s of their television shows like Beauty & the Beast and ARROW. That night the WB made the West Coast debut of Superman: Unbound, the next film from the DC Animated movies. Cartoon Network brought Regular Show on Friday as well. By far the biggest panel of the day was the screening of the newest episode of Doctor Who (showing a day before it was to debut on air around the world). That screening brought so many fans that WonderCon staff ended up hosting it two additional times Friday night and a repeat on Sunday to accommodate all the fans that wanted to see the show. A new panel for comic conventions this year, debuting at WonderCon was NETFLIX bringing their original programming; this year featuring their new werewolf series Hemlock Grove.
Overall, Friday was a good start to a weekend that was only going to get bigger (AKA more crowded) as the weekend went on; Saturday sold out a couple weeks before the convention. The most talked about and well attended part of the day (besides the Doctor Who screenings) was definitely all the cosplay and SWAG around the convention center plaza outside the show. Check back for details on Day 2 of WonderCon, “SOLDOUT SATURDAY” soon.