(The) Wonder(of)Con(s) 2017: A Change in Tradition

I have shared my love of WonderCon a lot in this blog; from the first time I showed up in 2009, to my recent adventures in 2015 and 2016, I continue to look at this convention as a time I can rely on to raise my spirits higher. 2017 was a bit different, as I wasn’t only looking to raise my spirits, but to get friends into the spirit of it as well. The Panel to Panel team has been discussing this journey, and this year it happened.

When I think about WonderCon 2017, I think of the old wedding tradition: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. And as all those items have their significance, they also apply well for our trip.

Something Old: Prestige of Programming

WonderCon, and the Comic Con International organization, has a great history of bringing, artists, creators and contributors together. The program this year was filled with a lot of familiar sights and was able to deliver a lot of quality programming at all levels. While I personally only attended a single panel, you could see the amount of diversity and talent by simply walking around the convention, as well as picking up information from those who have attended panels and are discussing the impact and importance of those moments.

The panel the team attended was “From Big Idea to Brand to Business” looking for sagely advice from experienced creators. This panel showed up in a similar way at SDCC 2016, but it is always nice to see how organically the nature of the discussion shifts. Some takeaways we got from the panel were about realistic goal setting, interacting with your community and standing out in a sea of information. The panelists shared great perspective on their choices to engage in their passions full time, but also tried to frame their experiences responsibly. The panel is also a great sampling of different people who have over the past few years grown into different roles in the comic community. Stella Chuu has done cosplay and burlesque work on the side of her main career, but as patronage for the arts has improved, she is now allowed to create as full time work. Tony Kim began working conventions as an organizer and speaker, and has now expanded in working with the fashion that was a trademark of his persona. Chris Gore has continuously participated in podcasting and writing about indie films and is now a social media guru and consultant. Andre Meadows used YouTube in its infancy as his format and continues to produce and write comedy from his unique perspective. Each one shared useable and relevant information on how to progress with a grounded perspective on how to achieve that success.

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I took no pictures, so here is a picture of words…

There are a handful of things that seem to denote a good experience for me: getting selfies/ pictures of and with friends, meeting a person I admire or respect, wearing a new costume and a picture with a stormtrooper. Fortunately, all those things were accomplished, but I will save a further explanation for later.

Something New: Mindsets, Landscape and Costumes

WonderCon helped encourage more planning and thoughts. After attending the branding panel, we started discussing our goals and takeaways. While we’re not looking for fame, nor fortune, we authentically want to broaden our discussion and views to others, and we know that we need to find a better way to do it.  We spent a lot of our in between time asking questions and thinking over how to be better podcasters, cosplayers and presenters. I am a big fan of being a part of a convention and I definitely look forward to participating in the best way I can.

The environment was a little different this year. This was the first time the RFID system was used at WonderCon Anaheim, and it was interesting to see the extent in which it was used. Much of the area was restricted to badge holders and the RFID gates were placed at many possible entrances into the area, and as a result, the walkways were far less crowded than in previous years. We stayed at the Hilton Anaheim, so could only talk about what we saw from our travel back and forth. I heard the RFID gates were placed as far out as the arena, to stem as many non badge holders as possible. It is interesting to see where WonderCon literally draws the line, as both the iconic fountain and palm trees, where many people take photos, were part of the badge holder areas. It could be argued that CCI views these as integral parts of the experience and wants to ensure it is a privilege of the badge holders.

It is possible that the event was simply less attended this year, but I feel that there is a correlation to the placement and the feel. The exhibition hall felt more spacious, and talking to a small sample of people, there was a feeling that there was less people spending money and more people simply spending time at WonderCon.

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The yellow line was the RFID border that we encountered.

We also talked to Alfonso and Diana about how they felt and they were very much under the impression that this was a great event for cosplay and community. They have been to a few conventions, but became very fond of the environment and the attitudes of the people here. We stayed as a group most of the convention and they got to see how we spend our time. While not exciting, it definitely was accurate.

Saturday was a big day for all of us as we dressed out in our new costumes. Jeanette and I wanted to do a retrospective costume as we updated our Ruby and Jaune Arc cosplay from years passed. These costumes were a labor of love and a sign of progress in our crafting skills. We’re pretty proud about how far we’ve come and the result of our labors. Our first time out, Jeanette sewed her costume and I was in charge of props. Before we knew how complex it was, she wanted a transforming Crescent Rose. The time crunch forced use to settle on a cutout, but this time around I was able to complete a couple of props, the scythe which I am excessively proud of.

Cosplay in general was interesting as there was a nice mixture of mainstream interests, fan fiction and mash ups, and pop culture icons roaming around. Cosplay was casual and current, just as much as it played on creativity and nostalgia. I feel like the emerging trends are now part of the expected environment. Whether Prince Robot, Prince Charming or Prince, WonderCon is a place where popular culture remains relevant.

Something Borrowed: Kindness and Dividends of Time Invested

ALA last year was our friend con, the convention that made us feel like we were reconnecting with people and encouraged us to start working on costumes again. WonderCon was most definitely that con this time. Taking pictures to mark memories has become really important to us, but sometimes we get so caught up in catching up, we forget. We were fortunate to make take as many as we did, and these people have been a great reason to make this trip over and over again. Too many names to list, but most definitely every one of them is worth a look up.

Something Blue: Literally Blue Things, and the Hope it Brings

Three very important blues to us were at WonderCon: EndlessTees, @Iron.Lung, and @Mujer.Maravilla_. Each of them were new to the event as it exists now, and we’re glad we could share a few moments with them, as we continued to build our own. EndlessTees started their business roughly a year ago, and have been able to continue to build their brand and bridges to the convention scene. It was great news to hear they were coming down (although sadly, more for business than pleasure). Alfonso and Diana on the other hand got to enjoy the con as cosplayers, and show off some new costumes and updates as well. Alfonso rocked a regal receiver in his brand new Prince Robot. It was a great time hearing the reactions he was getting, and I swear every time we stopped, someone wanted a picture of him. The tough thing about the costume is that the head garners so much attention that often people are more intrigued than engaged. At WonderCon, it is so much better as most of the people would just yell “Prince! Prince Robot!”. Diana came out in her bright blues as we traveled together as a small Adventure Time group. The enthusiasm for the series is great, and the cosplayers are hands down friendly, just like her. Blue is usually a color representing hope (yes, like the Lanterns), and I feel that there was a lot of optimism from all these blue buddies.

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Old, New and New New-Becoming Closer to my Traditions

As I mentioned above there are a handful of things I examine to mark a good experience at this event: pictures of/with friends, person I admire or respect, new costume and a picture with a stormtrooper.

The picture part has been handled in spades, but in the past it was usually with the friends I brought, versus the ones I met up with. While I appreciate the new people who help make the trip worthwhile, there are a couple of guys that weren’t there that have been a big part of our con experience. So, hopefully Officer HD and Danimal can make it next year, so that we may resume some traditions.

For those who made it into the above collages, without a saccharine and overwhelming explanation, getting pictures with you guys represents admiration for your work, appreciation for your time, patronage and participation, and above all else a funny kind of love. These pictures used to be filled with strangers, but most of you have broken bread with us, been our roommates, and even called us when you were in town. That means a lot in an environment where we barely have a minute to spare, before we are swept away in our own little moments. thestylishgeek has also been a particularly good marker, as our conversations have greatly changed over the years. While she’s cutting back on the cons, we were still fortunate to fit one in, in an unorthodox way.

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The handsome fellow with the bat on his chest, as well as the one in the back, are pretty important guys. @bboyspiderman was an integral part of the Spiderverse meet up we attended. It was at that even that we met a lot of different Spideys that are now within our web of friends. So while we don’t know each other well, he’s definitely an important person in that respect. The man in the selfie is @darayz. Back when he first built his “Court of Owls” Bat Armor, we followed him and I spent a lot of time examining his work to better build my own things. Since that time I had made a variety of my own techniques (as most cosplayers do; we learn, but execute in our own style), but he is most definitely the cosplayer I think of when I make my stuff. He lives on the east coast, and I had asked him in the past if he had plans to come out here, but he didn’t at the time. Fast forward a few years to 2017, just by random happenstance we met him and @BeckaNoel . As we chit chatted, he examined my armor, poked around a bit and paid me some of the best compliments. While I take all compliments with a grain of salt, it made me happy that he was even willing to say it. Even got a nice response back on social media. IMG_7714

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IG response! Don’t judge my fanboy-ness.

Last is a strange one, but kind of important. Like luck or superstition, I tend to get a picture with a stormtrooper at some point. While in the beginning it was one of those things that always seemed to happen, these last two year have been particularly nice because of two sweet and energetic young women. Rian and Hendo have been my stormtroopers for the last couple of years. While I didn’t seek them out, it’s a silly significance that these two women get to be important to me in more ways than one. They were extremely helpful in getting Jnet and I to push our limits, and if it weren’t for them organizing two very large groups, we wouldn’t be enjoying conventions on so many different levels. Some of our most amazing work has been a result of wanting to be on par with them, and those groups have also put us into contact with great folks as well.  Knowing they are helping to keep my traditions alive is an irreplaceable feeling. If you take the time to read this, I know you tell us we’re important to you, but I wanted to put into words why you’re important to me.

So as the convention grows and changes, at its heart, WonderCon is still a special one to me. As the traditions I hold dear change, I have found that this year, change is good.

So was your experience wonderful, or were you left wondering? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear a bit about it.

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