This weekend, Moscone Center South in San Francisco attracted hoards of fans to check out the 25th Wondercon. Long considered to be the smaller, somewhat mellower sibling to the uber-event San Diego Comic-Con International, this year's Wondercon attracted what is sure to be a record-setting crowd for this show. While attendance figures haven't yet been released, it was quite telling that Comic-Con International (the organizer of Wondercon and SDCC) cut off one-day ticket sales for Saturday, turning away a few folks who didn't buy tickets in advance, but had hoped to just drop in and check out the show. Most veteran Wondercon attendees who were there this year would agree: there were way more people jostling each other in the aisles this year, so chances are, 2011 attracted way more folks than the 39,000 who came to check out Wondercon in 2010.
On each day of Wondercon, there was a nice mix of movie and TV premieres, celebrity appearances (including Ryan Reynolds, the star of the upcoming Green Lantern film from Warner Brothers), comics, sci-fi and even scholarly panels to check out, and loads of people in costumes.
What was missing in action at this year's Wondercon was much anime or manga-centric programming. Sure, there was a full slate of anime showings, but there were really no manga or anime-related panels, and except for Bay Area-based publisher EigoManga, video game company Capcom and toy company Bandai, there wasn't a whole lot of J-pop culture offerings for fans in the Moscone Center -- or not as much as one might expect from a metropolitan area with a lively Japantown and at least three annual anime/manga conventions.
Nevertheless, that didn't stop some fans coming out in full cosplay to pay tribute to their fave anime and manga series. I saw more than a few Soul Reapers from Bleach and villains from the Akatsuki from Naruto roaming the halls, along with several Black Butler, Cowboy Bebop and Sailor Moon cosplayers.
I wrote up a full-write-up of events for Graphic Novels Reporter -- so if you're curious about the sights, the events, and the intriguing graphic novels I found at this year's show, do check it out.
The big manga news at Wondercon (or at least as far as I was concerned) was being able to get my hands on a copy of Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths -- the much anticipated semi-autobiographical WWII memoir by Shigeru Mizuki from Drawn & Quarterly. It's technically not due out until May, but the folks at D&Q had a batch on hand, and well before weekend's end, they were sold out. This was also Drawn & Quarterly's first trip to Wondercon, which kind of surprised me since they're a perennial presence at Alternative Press Expo, the indie comics sibling to Wondercon and SDCC.
I'll be posting a full review of Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths soon, but in the meantime, here's an excerpt from my mini-review of the book that was posted with my Wondercon wrap-up for Graphic Novel Reporter:
Mizuki is best known for his creation GeGeGe no Kitaro, a supernatural boy who is part of a clan of yokai, Japanese demons and spirits. But there's much more to Mizuki's work than fantasy, as evidenced by Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths, a semiautobiographical memoir of a doomed platoon of Japanese infantrymen stationed in New Guinea.
Mizuki himself is a veteran of WWII; in fact, his stint as a soldier cost him his left arm. His first-hand experiences informs his work on this award-winning graphic novel, and infuses it with the kind of dark humor and graphic violence that can only come from someone who has experienced and survived time on the battlefield. Filled with pathos, humor and horror, Onwards Toward Our Noble Death an uncommonly quirky, tragic, and intimate look at the pointlessness of war.
It's got its fair share of graphic violence and dark humor, so Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths may not be everyone's cup of tea. But if you appreciate historical memoirs like Art Spiegelman's Maus and fictional epics set against real events like Osamu Tezuka's Ayako and MW, this Mizuki manga might just be up your alley. Check out this 7-page preview at Drawn and Quarterly (PDF, requires Adobe Acrobat)
I'll be posting more photos from Wondercon soon, so stick around, there's more to come.
Photo credits: © Deb Aoki, © Comic-Con International