Friday, April 9, 2010

A Look at Wonder Con

Karen: Howdy folks. I spent a good portion of last week in the San Francisco Bay Area - a place I called home for 17 years. I got to see a lot of old friends and check out some favorite places - if you're in the Bay Area, grab a comic at Dr. Comics and Mr. Games in Oakland, see a movie at the beautifully restored Alameda Theater , and sip a cool tropical drink at the Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge. But if you're planning a Bay Area trip in the spring time, you should really try to go to Wonder Con.

Put on by the same folks who orchestrate the enormous mega-event known as Comic-Con, Wonder Con is like a younger sibling. It's not as big (and I consider that a good thing) but it's still jam-packed with panels, dealers,and genre stars. I kn
ow all the comics news-sites have covered the big events, so I'll focus on my own experiences. Unfortunately we were only able to go on Friday and Saturday. There were actually more panels on Sunday that I really would have liked to have gone to, like the Max Brooks one. But que sera, sera.
I had planned for Friday to be my primary shopping day, for two reasons: the crowds are usually lighter than Saturday, and there were only a couple of panels scheduled that day that I was interested in. The first thing I did was make a bee-line for the autograph area. I've wanted to get Peter Mayhew's- aka Chewbacca - autograph for awhile now. The last con I attended where he was present, I stopped by his booth while he was out for lunch, and never got back to see him again. So I decided to make it a priority this time. You see, I already have autographed photos from Mark Hamill, David Prowse (Darth Vader), and Carrie Fisher. So Mayhew would sort of complete my Star Wars set. I got to his booth right after the con opened and appeared to be the first person to ask him for an autograph. I don't collect a lot of autographs, and I never buy pre-autographed items. For me, it's all about the chance to engage that person and come away with a memory. So while Mayhew was signing, I asked him about the differences between his original Chewbacca suit and the one used in the new trilogy. He became quite animated and described how the new one had a vest he wore underneath that circulated cold water around his torso to keep him cool. He said he really wished they'd thought of that the first time. I then asked him about the Minoton costume from Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (yes, I am a huge geek). He explained how it was constructed (from fiberglass) and that it was very rigid. The chest actually came up to the middle of his face, and when he was on break, it was difficult to get food or drink through that neckhole. But he said he didn't mind, it was great fun and gave him a chance to work with Ray Harryhausen. Mr. Mayhew was delightful and I'm glad I got to have a conversation with him.

I bought about a dozen comics while at the con. For the most part, prices seemed about right, based on both guide and other resources. There were a couple of d
ealers (one whom I've seen many times before) who appeared to have jacked up their prices beyond guide, but they were the exception. I got some very good bargains on a lot of 70s books, including Master of Kung Fu, which was a title I never read as a kid. So expect to see some Two In Ones with me covering that title soon.

I was disappointed with the DC Editorial panel. The last couple of cons I've attended, I've noticed that DC has decided not to make an actual presentation - the staff just shows up and takes questions. Personally, I'd much rather see them do what they used to: bring a slide show where they talk about what's going to be coming up in the titles soon, and then throw it open to questions. It feels like they are making a minima
l effort, and it really isn't informative. Most of the questions people ask are not all that interesting - I don't care to hear some guy whine for 5 minutes about how much he'd like to see a Phantom Stranger book!

Marvel had very little presence at the con; I think they had one panel, an X-Men one which I didn't attend.

By far the most interesting panel to me was the one held by Steve Englehart. Engleha
rt opened up by discussing his new book, The Long Man, and its predecessor, The Point Man. They both sound pretty intriguing and I just purchased The Point Man, which I'll read after I finish my current book. After describing the intricacies of the publishing world, he threw it open to questions. Someone asked why he was no longer interested in writing comics (something he had said at the beginning). Englehart said that he still liked comics but that the way comics are produced now is unappealing to him. There are too many editors involved, and the creative process is essentially quashed. He said if he pitched a mini-series, he would have to lay out everything that would happen in each issue in advance. But if he came up with an idea he wanted to incorporate while writing issue 7 say, he couldn't do it , because it hadn't been part of the initial plan. This is too constricting for him. He described the way things worked at Marvel in the early 70s - essentially, do what you like as long as it works - and said that his method for writing back then was much more seat of his pants. I thought his system for juggling 4 books at once was surprisingly simple: he just focused on a different book each week. One week, he'd plot Captain America; next week, The Avengers; and so on. Another surprising moment: hearing that the powers-that-were at DC thought that Marshall Rogers' and Terry Austin's artwork on their collaboration with Englehart for Detective Comics was terrible! The mind boggles.

I wasn't able to get into the Pixar/Disney presentation, which included clips from Prince of Persia, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Toy Story 3. The crowds for this were huge. I got in later and saw some clips from Warner Brothers, including one for a film based on a Vertigo comic, The Losers, which looks like it might be mildly
entertaining. Otherwise the previews I saw were forgettable. I didn't stick around for the big Kick Ass panel. I just don't have any interest in this film. I guess it's not surprising, considering I'd rather read comics from the 70s than the current stuff.

All in all, I had a good time. The crowds got a little difficult to navigate on Saturday, which lessened my enthusiasm for shopping. But that's just a tribute to the success of the show. It's also still much more affordable than Comic-Con, which frankly, I feel has gotten too damn big, and the near-by hotels have started just gouging
attendees. Wonder Con offers a nice alternative.

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