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WonderCon 2010 Offers Comics Fan Fun With Hollywood Glitz

By April 6, 2010

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WonderConNow that San Diego Comic-Con has sold out almost four months before it has even opened its doors, many eyes turned to its Northern California show sibling WonderCon. Would moving the show's date to later in the season (early April instead of its traditional late February / early March timeslot) affect interest and attendance in this smaller, but ever-growing show? Would fans come out to play even on Easter Weekend? Early signs say yes.

Dogs: Bullets and Carnage cosplayWhile the weekend weather for WonderCon was alternately dreary and sunny,  that didn't stop fans and celebs from coming out to this pop culture fan-fest. By most accounts, business was steady and crowd density on Friday and Sunday was decent, but not insane -- but Saturday was when the fans came out en masse for this San Francisco show. Many long-time WonderCon attendees found themselves comparing the crowds in the exhibit hall to being almost as dense as Comic-Con levels of elbow-rubbing and jostling. (You can see for yourself in my WonderCon 2010 Photo Gallery)

Little wonder why -- Saturday was when stars like Nicholas Cage, Jake Gyllenhaal and Milla Jovovich came out to plug their latest flicks, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Prince of Persia and Resident Evil: Afterlife respectively. Buzz was also running high for the premiere showing of the latest Dr. Who TV series.

But first and foremost, comics and comics creators were the main focus of WonderCon, and there were many fan faves on hand to draw sketches, sign books, chat and share some juicy tidbits about their latest projects. Panels featuring news about the X-Men and "The Forensic Psychiatry of Arkham's Insane" drew capacity crowds and many were turned away when lines were cut off to popular events.

With so many other notable anime events happening that weekend (Sakura-Con in Seattle, Anime Boston in Boston and Anime Matsuri in Houston), anime fans had other places to see and be seen, but there were a few manga publishers on hand on the WonderCon floor, including VIZ Media, who were giving out free schwag and showing off (but unfortunately not selling) titles from their VIZ Signature and VIZ Kids lines. Last Gasp hosted two signings by manga creator Junko Mizuno and EigoManga showcased their various anthologies and graphic novels.

With MOCCA and Stumptown Comics Festival both coming up later in April, indie comics publishers like Top Shelf, Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly opted to skip WonderCon this time around, leaving Slave Labor Graphics and Oni Press to represent for the non-spandex crowd. Oni Press had several Scott Pilgrim exclusives to get fans jazzed about the upcoming feature film version of Bryan Lee O'Malley's action/romance/comedy tale.

Street Fighter cosplayA few game publishers also attracted huge crowds at their booths. Capcom showcased Super Street Fighter IV and Monster Hunter Tri, and EA tempted fans with previews of Dante's Inferno, while Ubisoft got bodies movin' to Just Dance, their new interactive dance and music game.

According to Comic-Con International's press releases, WonderCon 2009 attracted over 35,000 fans -- and my guesstimates is that 2010 probably exceeded that figure by a few thousand. Notably, I heard from many attendees that they opted to come to WonderCon, some for the first time, because they wanted to enjoy the fun of Comic-Con without the hassle and huge crowds of America's biggest comics/games/sci-fi event. If that's true, then it seems like the pop culture economy will continue to grow, and perhaps inspire other regional events to enjoy similar growth in attendance and fan enthusiasm. We'll see as the comic convention season kicks into high gear in the coming months.

Meanwhile, several other comics journalists took a deeper dive into the comics news, sights and noteable quotes from WonderCon -- check out their takes on the scene that was:

So did you attend WonderCon? What did you think? What were your highlights and not-so-great moments of the show? Add your comments below!

Image credits: Deb Aoki

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