For the month of March on Toucan, we've asked all of our regular contributors to talk about conventions in general and WonderCon Anaheim in particular. Each Toucan Tuesday, our monthly columnists will offer their own advice and thoughts about attending conventions. We begin WonderCon Anaheim Month with Maggie Thompson's own WonderCon memories and some advice on attending this year's event in Anaheim.
Full disclosure: Conflicting schedules have recently messed up my being able to travel to the early-season event that is WonderCon Anaheim. Nevertheless, I’ve found whichever times I have been able to attend to be among the most memorable of the varied comics events.
The many wonders of WonderCons for me personally have included: (1) a preview of a comic-book computer-inventory program that I use to this day; (2) a convention speech that actually changed my attitude about my convention behavior; and (3) my first meal at a dim sum restaurant.
While your mileage will certainly vary, these experiences are typical of what you can find at WonderCon Anaheim.
(1) Previews: WonderCon is big enough to attract a wide variety of exhibitors—and, for that matter, fellow attendees—who have the potential of introducing you to tools, concepts, projects, and friends you’ll treasure for years to come.
(2) Lessons: It was at a WonderCon-associated event that Todd McFarlane (at the height of the Image debut) addressed a number of young creators with an anecdote. It’s not the only good lesson I ever took away from a con—but I’ll always remember it in connection with WonderCon. I summarize it as follows: “When I was first going to comics conventions and there was a creator I wanted to meet, I’d go to his table. If he wasn’t there, I’d say to myself, ‘Well, he’s probably busy; I’ll come back later.’ If he wasn’t there the second time, I’d say, ‘OK, I’m a fan; I’ll try again later.’ But, if I stopped a third time and he still wasn’t there, I’d say, ‘I give up and I guess I didn’t like his work that much, anyway.’ Be at your table when you say you’ll be there; when you can’t be there, leave a note saying when you will be there—and then keep that promise.” Todd changed my attitudes about “table duty.” You won’t know till you’ve experienced them what sort of information this year’s WonderCon will have to offer.
(3) Bonuses: Previews and lessons: I’ve also experienced them at a variety of shows. But that dim sum restaurant (in which small servings were brought from table to table, providing diners with a wide variety) comes to my mind in connection with WonderCon. It was the first time I’d eaten at such a restaurant, and the reason I was able to do it was what the con city had available within walking distance of the con. It’s a different venue this year, but, as Mark Evanier commented in February, “You certainly won’t lack for things to buy or programming to attend at WonderCon Anaheim.” He’s right—but you also don’t know what you may find in addition in what I call a “plus you get” experience.
In his love letter to Comic-Con—Comic Book: The Movie (2004)—Mark Hamill’s film included a scene in which “Derek Sprang” and his wife and son (played by Tom Kenney and his wife and son) took a break in the San Diego Convention Center lobby. Derek enthused about the event, “San Diego’s a great town.” He said, “They’ve got museums, they’ve got zoos here.” But his wife responded, “How would you know? How would you know? We haven’t left the convention!” Despite all that San Diego had to offer to a family, Derek told her, “I didn’t say we’d go to the beach. I said we’d be near the beach. We saw it on the drive up with the sand and the water, you know?”
This year, the “plus you get” experience of WonderCon includes the location of WonderCon Anaheim. Though hopes are to return WonderCon to the San Francisco area, this year it’s located at the Anaheim Convention Center, where attendees can take advantage of the extra lures. Maybe you’ll bring family and friends and come early and stay late to make it the sort of full-fledged family event “Derek Sprang” didn’t. Disneyland, the California Adventure Park, and the Downtown Disney district are nearby. (Even if, like “Derek,” you don’t leave the convention, these will all be treats for your family.)
But you know what? No matter what you’re looking for at a comics con, the neat thing is: I will bet you’ll find it at WonderCon Anaheim.
Maggie's World by Maggie Thompson appears the first Tuesday of every month on Toucan.