WONDROUS GROWTH FOR WONDERCON 2018

WonderCon 2018

Edited by Christopher Edelen
Photos from Ariel Landrum

When people hear Spring, they envision bright sun, birds singing, and flowers in bloom. For the nerd community, it means convention season. Visions of cosplay and panels swim in their heads. This past weekend, March 23-25, the Anaheim Convention Center played host to the first big pop-culture celebration of 2018, WonderCon.

Having run for over 30 years, the event maintained many traditional aspects that veteran attendees have grown to expect: a variety of vendors, a large array of artists in the Artist Alley, an immersive gaming area, and a mix of panels catering to a variety of passions.

Panels are featured throughout the hall, yet panels with the largest crowds are held in the Arena. Out of all the Arena panels, there were two that were the biggest success when it comes to attendance.

The first was for the film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s bestselling novel of the same name, Ready Player One. Cline was joined on stage by screenwriter Zak Penn, and actors Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, Ben Mendelsohn, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki. Scott Matz moderated. The discussion focused on each panelists’ experience working with the director, Steven Spielberg, including an anecdote of his friendly “huggable” nature.

The second, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., moved to the Arena this year to celebrate the show surpassing 100 episodes. The panel included executive producers Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell, as well as series stars Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Lain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons, Natalia Cordova-Buckley and Jeff Ward. As usual, the Head of Marvel Television, Jeph Loeb, moderated. They focused on the fans, and some of the key elements that make the show popular, including the diversity of the cast.

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Regulars have come to expect DC animated films to premiere at the event. This year, the big hit was the much anticipated screening of Batman Ninja. The mix of traditional comic book Batman with the beautiful and intricate design of anime was the fusion that fanboys didn’t know they needed.

Though the traditional experiences of WonderCon were in place, change was in the Spring air. Newbies to the show added additional experiences for visitors. The Future Tech Live! and eSports areas featured displays of newer technology, including first-person-shooter VR games.

This year badgeholders were welcomed with an interactive entrance experience from AMC’s The Terror. Many wonder if this development is a hint for future growth at WonderCon. Currently, WonderCon is the only other convention put on by Comic Con International, the amazing folks who orchestrate the famous San Diego Comic-Con. SDCC is known for its activation zones that cover all of downtown San Diego. It appears CCI is ready for the expansion of WonderCon.

All of these additions were made possible by the new construction completed at the convention center. Known now as ACC North, the addition includes a brand-spanking new wing, accessible from a pedestrian bridge. This 200,000 square-foot expansion makes the Anaheim Convention Center the largest convention center on the West Coast.

2018 also saw more cosplay, and a new tradition of cosplay “groups” who connected via social media, meeting in front of the plaza fountains for photoshoots. More guests also meant an increase in security and an increase in food trucks.

As WonderCon grows, it continues to keep a balance between old and new, satisfying all types of devotees.  This celebration of all things comics, movies, animated features, and fandoms has already released their dates for 2019, running from March 29-31. We can’t wait to see the changes in story for next year.

For tickets and details on WonderCon: https://www.comic-con.org/wca

Follow Ariel L. on Instagram: @AirYell3000