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WonderCon 2013

A little over a year ago I attended the Anaheim WonderCon for the first time, which is generally hosted in San Francisco, and had an excellent time.  After a hectic few days attending the San Diego Comic-Con last summer and being unable (as of yet) to get tickets for this coming summer, I was considering for a while to attend WonderCon again when it rolled around, despite it likely being moved up to San Francisco again.  As it turns out, the normal venue was unavailable and the event would once again be held at the Anaheim Convention Center.  Their loss, my gain.  While I covered each day individually last year, I spent more time hovering and will avoid getting too in-depth on the panels I did attend this year, so I’ll be doing a more brief overview of the event this time.  That said, let’s get started.

Although Friday was mostly uneventful (I didn’t attend any panels and spent most of the day in the exhibit hall), I did attend the one event that I was looking forward to more than anything else.  Last year, one of the panels I attended that I really enjoyed was the DC Nation panel, which covered the various DC Nation shorts, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and Young Justice.  The last two shows, despite their excellent quality and their respective fanbases, both recently finished their seasons without renewal.  But despite it’s ending, Young Justice co-creator Greg Weisman (Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man) met with a small group of fans (I numbered just under twenty) in the lobby outside the exhibit hall, and spent about an hour-and-a-half interacting with fans and answering questions about the various shows he’s worked on.  I did not ask any questions myself, but I enjoyed listening about the odds and ends of making the series and the many decisions that were made up to the second season finale.  It was a very fun experience being able to interact with one of my favorite writers in such an informal setting.

I returned to the center on Saturday, this time attending more panels, including one on Falling Skies featuring the cast and showrunner Remi Aubuchon, and a very interesting panel featuring the showrunners of multiple hit shows including Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, and the aforementioned Falling Skies.  The highlight of the night for me, though, was “The Writer’s Journey: Breaking into Comics and Hollywood Scriptwriting.”  I attended the same panel at last year’s WonderCon, and featured Thundercats writer Brandon Easton running the panel.  He returned this year to the panel, which also included writers Geoff Thorne (Ben Ten, Leverage), Johnathan Callan (Generator Rex, Ben Ten), and actor/writer Anthony Montgomery (Star Trek: Enterprise), who I should mention is currently working with Brandon Easton on his new comic, Miles Away.  Much like the previous year, the panel was a lively and entertaining hour, but also a very direct, no-BS discussion on the difficulties and the processes of attempting to break into the writing world.  While some might find that tone discouraging, I find these panels to be very reinvigorating when it comes to pushing me back into writing, and it’s far better to be truthful on the hardships of the writer’s world than to present a lighter, but false, view that can set aspiring writers for a fall.  The panelists discussed personal experiences and some very practical advice for writers, and the panel closed with a presentation for Lion Forge Comics, which I will be sure to keep an eye on for the future.

As for Sunday, I only attended the panel for the CW show Arrow, which I have been following since the pilot episode last fall.  The panel featured much of the principal cast, as well as executive producer Marc Guggenheim.  The whole panel proved to be quite a treat with some fun surprises (I had no idea Paul Blackthorne was British) and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the season plays out.  Outside of that, I spent the rest of the event outside of panels browsing the floor, checking out the various shops and guests and seeing what books or trades I could grab on the cheap.  The massive Zelda fan in me also found it very difficult to avoid purchasing a copy of Hyrule Historia at the Dark Horse Comics booth but I can’t really afford to be too thrifty with spending at this time.  Well, after paying for tickets and parking in the first place, anyway.  Regardless, it would take hours to describe the entirety of my experience on the floor, which I just don’t have the patience or desire to do.

I’ll close with a plug for my good pal Alex Willging who traveled all the way from Simi Valley to hang with me at my home in San Juan Capistrano and attend the first to days of the event with me.  He was kind enough to plug my blog in his own far superior WonderCon wrap-up, so go check out his own blog to see it.  It’s got pictures, too!

First Step into a Larger World: Watchmen

WatchmenIn mediums like comics and anime, there are titles commonly referred to as “gateway titles.”  These and other mediums of storytelling are met with apathy, ridicule and sometimes outright derision for containing bizarre elements or themes, as well as being associated, often without reason, with a specific audience outside the, for want of a better term, ‘social standard’ (I normally dislike the use of ‘society,’ as it’s become a buzzword on the web referring to anyone with a different opinion than the reader, but my mental thesaurus fails me at this time).  Thus, a gateway title is a work that, while expressing it’s story in the form of its respective medium, tends to do so without conventions normally associated with the genre, allowing the audience to better involve themselves in the story, and often has the result of the audience becoming more open to works of the genre that they would have avoided previously.  I can think of at least five anime that make excellent gateways, which I’ll save for another time (hopefully not long, it’s an article I’ve wanted to do for a while now) and stick with comics.  The comic in particular?  Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, probably one of the most popular gateway comics in the genre.

I have no idea when I first heard of Watchmen, though I remember seeing the name quite often during my time lurking around message boards online back during the days of the Justice League cartoon, and all I could gather about the story was that it seemed to be the comic book story.  Popular, critically acclaimed, and incredibly influential the works that followed it, it seemed to be heralded by nearly everyone as the masterpiece of the medium.  While attending my first Comic-Con with friends I’d made at school, I saw a large booth selling copies of Watchmen in preparation for the upcoming film adaptation.  After some consideration, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and bought a copy to read over the weekend home.

I found Watchmen to be an excellent read and well worth the hype I had constantly seen bestowed upon the title.  Despite my utter lack of familiarity with the Silver Age stories it was deconstructing, I still found the story fresh and the characters and their interactions very interesting.  As someone who grew up on the James Bond series and had seen every movie, I especially got a kick out of “thirty-five minutes ago.”  The tone of the story is one that I’m a fan of whenever it appears; neither naively optimistic or eyeroll-inducing bleak, but progressive shades of dark that ultimately fail to hide the shred of light that ultimately breaks through, especially prevalent in the “thermodynamic miracle” dialogue from Doctor Manhattan near the climax of the story.  Which itself happens around the same time New York is brain-nuked to Hell, but that’s beside the point.  The story itself ends on an open note that no doubt left fans wanting more, but ultimately was probably the best way to close the plot.  Nothing ever ends, after all.

For new readers, it’s possible that Watchmen could come off, ironically, as just another one of the “dark and edgy” stories in comics that it had inspired, but to brush it off as such would be misguided.  Though the efforts at deconstruction could be lost on those who aren’t familiar with the previous generations of stories, Watchmen still serves as a great story and an excellent introduction to the comic medium.

At Long Last: SDCC ’12

As I have mentioned in the past, I attended the San Diego Comic-Con twice, one day in ’07 and two days in ’08, but due to various reasons (chief among them being money, and my being in want of it) had not attended since then.  It wasn’t something I missed all that much, to be honest.  In 2007, I had been attending college for a couple years and had made many friends through the campus film club, which had a heavy assortment of students with various geeky interests, and quite a few of them were and still are avid comic buffs.  Needless to say, SDCC was an event they had attended multiple times prior and talked about with increasing frequency and excitement as the event drew near that year.

Eventually, I decided to give it a shot and attend a day that year, just to see what it was like.  I had an amazing time, traveled around the exhibit hall, bought some cool t-shirts, and attended a couple panels in Hall H, where the large movie panels are usually held.  Incidentally, this was also the first year the Con had sold out, with tickets running out at the door.  This would end up being the last time tickets were sold at the door, period.

The following year I attended two days, but it just didn’t have the impact it did the previous year.  I was unable to attend any panels on either day, and the convention floor was packed to capacity both days, making it very difficult to move around the floor.  In both years I had traveled to and from the convention via train, making it all the more tiring with the only rest being when the day was finished.  With it becoming increasingly difficult to make it to any panels and my own friends attending less, I just wasn’t as hyped for the event anymore, and with my own funds devoted towards finishing school, I wasn’t interested in putting a chunk towards an event I just wasn’t as interested in.

Fast forward several years.  I’ve finished school, moved home, found work (not career-level, but these days it’s something), and have grown more interested in the comic medium as a whole.  Knowing that some friends were going to be making an attempt to attend the convention this year, I finally decided to try for buying tickets again.  In the last few years, the San Diego Comic-Con has grown even more frantic and popular, with tickets selling out within months, then within weeks, then within hours.  Despite the difficulty, I managed to procure tickets for two days again and found myself looking forward to the convention, having been away for so long.  In the meantime, I decided to attend the WonderCon in Anaheim, which I enjoyed immensely and have covered earlier.

This year I managed to snag a hotel room with my brother and a friend of his, and went down the day before my tickets allowed me to attend, giving me time to just get a feel for the area and explore around.  Although I enjoyed it greatly, my coverage of the event will be fairly brief because I honestly didn’t do a whole lot.  The highlights included the signings, in which I met and shook hands with Scott Snyder (Batman, Swamp Thing, American Vampire), Kyle Higgins (Nightwing, Deathstroke), and Darwyn Cooke (The New Frontier, Before Watchmen: Minutemen, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre), and walked away with my copies of Batman: Gates of Gotham and The New Frontier signed.  Unfortunately the line was cut off literally right before me for Trevor McCarthy (Batwoman, Batman: Gates of Gotham), so he’ll have to wait for another day.  I also got to make some small talk with each of them, in the case of Snyder and Higgins discussing Gates of Gotham being my first Batman trade purchase, and discussing the accessibility of limited series works like New Frontier to new readers with Cooke.  Both series I’ll be doing posts on at some point in the future.

Outside of that, and getting some excellent deals on trades I had been looking for, there was not really much else other than purchasing some trades from the present vendors, which I hadn’t done before, but having started looking into and buying trades following WonderCon, it’s something I’ll definitely be taking advantage of in the future.  Hilariously enough, most of the stuff I bought was written by Geoff Johns (Justice League, Green Lantern, Blackest Night), the trades in question being the first five volumes of the 2003-2011 run of Teen Titans and the much more recent Batman: Earth One.  Unfortunately, Geoff Johns being who he is, I was unable to make it to any signings, as the staff had anticipated that a great number of fans would attempt to make the signing, so bands were given out at the beginning of the respective days for priority signing (said bands ran out in about five minutes).  On one last note regarding signings, I scoured everywhere and was unable to find a copy of the first volume of the Young Justice tie-in comic, which I had searched around for as Greg Weisman (Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man, Young Justice) was signing that day.

Not really much else to discuss, I’m afraid.  I’ll still be attempting early preregistration for next year as the event has taken on a life of its own outside the convention center and the entire city has become part of the attraction, so it’s really something I look forward to attending regardless of if I make it into any panels or not.  As for the panels, news, seminars, and so on, I’ll leave those to the far less mainstream WonderCon, even when it eventually moves back to San Francisco.  That’s it for now, but I’ll be back the aforementioned Watchmen piece I’ve been meaning to do, as well as some others I have in mind.  Plenty in store to come!

Next on the Agenda

All right, so I haven’t made any updates since finishing the WonderCon coverage, but at least this time, it’s party due to just being busy and not just outright laziness.  I spent the better part of last month traveling driving up and down to the Los Angeles area doing work for my company at various private high schools.

I’d never been to a private school before, but it was an interesting experience.  Like a high school/college hybrid with Christian educational texts.

Regardless, it’s finished now, and I’ll be heading to the San Diego Comic-Con in a few weeks for the first time in years, and in the last few months I’ve gotten into buying trades.  So as part of the build-up, I’ll be making posts about some of the various trades I’ve read.

I’ll be starting with my gateway into the world of comics, which appropriately I purchased during my first visit to SDCC.  I’m talking Watchmen.  Stay tuned.

Update 7/12/12: OK, so things did not pan out as intended.  I have found myself unable to do some pieces on trades like I had hoped, nor was I able to churn some out and set them on queue while I’m out for the next few days at the Con.  Chalk it up to being busy and/or general laziness.  Regardless, I’m looking very forward to returning to San Diego Comic-Con this year, and I’ll have plenty for free time after this weekend, so I’ll get to covering the event and doing those trade coverages then.

WonderCon: Day 3

Well, we’ve arrived at the third and final day.  Having already traversed the convention floor for two days by this point, there’s not a lot I can add that wasn’t already covered in the previous two days’ coverage, so I’ll just cover the important bits as well as the two panels I attended.

The very first thing I made sure to do when I arrived that morning was head right to the Avatar Press booth for the Max Brooks signing.  I had missed his signing times on Friday, so I had asked when he was signing on Sunday and made sure I would put it at the top of my priorities.  After a short wait in line, I had both my copies of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z signed by the author to my great joy.  Having no other signings or obligations to make, the rest was gravy.  Just before leaving, I did make sure to stop by and thank Brandon Easton for his panel on Friday like I had planned to, so I was happy about that.  In addition, thanks to several very timely visits to the DC booth, I managed to snag free #1 issues of Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and The Flash, which would be my first exposure to the New 52 line and would eventually lead to me finally entering the world of comics.  But that’s an article for another time.  Now onto the panels.

The first panel ended up being one I had been planning on attending, but I don’t think I was expecting to get as much out of it as I did.  The panel was “How to Write Action for Kids’ TV” and featured Dani Michaeli (The Aquabats Super Show!) as the moderator, with Nicole Dubuc (Transformers: Prime), James Krieg (Green Lantern: The Animated Series), Joelle Sellner (Teen Titans), Eugene Son (Iron Man: Armored Adventures), and Matt Wayne (Ben Ten) as panelists.  I had seen James Krieg the day before on the DC Nation panel, and I recognized Nicole Dubuc’s name as the writer for several Young Justice episodes, so I knew this was an event that deserved my attention.  The entire panel gave a lot of insight into the writing process for children’s animated action, and it was very cool to hear from a panel that’s worked on such a diverse set of cartoons, including some that used traditional 2-D animation and others with CGI.  Children’s animation is definitely a career prospect I would die for, and working on a cartoon like Young Justice or something similar would probably be a dream come true for me.  This panel and the next one went a long way towards revitalizing the creative drive in me to write.

The second panel was probably the most practical panel I attended all weekend, and was titled as “Full-Time Creative Work on a Part-Time Schedule.”  This plus the Writer’s Journey panel from Friday were the ones that sparked my interest in attending WonderCon when I had read them on the event listings, and made me realize that attending would perhaps prove beneficial career-wise and not just as something to do that weekend.  The event did not disappoint, and the panel featured a slew of professionals who have made strides in their creative endeavors while still managing to maintain a decent livelihood.  I learned a lot of great tips about networking and making connections, and will be making sure to employ those in the future.  My aunt had suggested the week before that I print business cards from a website online (one of the first things the panel recommended heavily was having some sort of contact information ready to be handed out at all times), and I’ll be sure to have them on hand when I attend the San Diego Comic-Con in July, which you can safely bet that I will be covering here as well.  It’s only going to be two days, but for as packed as WonderCon weekend was, a single day at SDCC is utter insanity.

And thatfinally completes the WonderCon 2012 weekend!  It took longer than I planned, but I’m very happy I was able to put my thoughts to paper (so to speak) on the event, and in the time it’s taken me to write these entries I’ve developed numerous article ideas that I will be updating with in the weeks to come.  That’s right folks, I’m only getting started.

‘Til next time!

WonderCon: Day 2.5 (DC Nation Panel)

Before I launch into panel coverage, a little background on what DC Nation actually is.  DC Nation is an hour-long programming block that premiered about two weeks before the WonderCon panel took place, and consists of the shows Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice, as well as various 75-second animated shorts dealing with various DC comics characters.  The Green Lantern series is one that I have not yet followed despite Bruce Timm’s involvement, though I am a full-fledged of the Young Justice cartoon and thus was my primary motivation for attending the event.  But enough pipe-laying, onto the panel!

The event opened with the introduction of the panelists: Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti for Young Justice, Giancarlo Volpe and James Krieg for Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and Ben Jones and Lauren Faust for the DC Nation shorts.  There were cheers for all the panelists, but especially for Lauren Faust, which puzzled me for a moment before I remembered why.

First up was Green Lantern: The Animated Series.  My history with the Green Lantern character is one that started back in the 90s, where my first exposure to the character was on Superman: The Animated Series in the episode “In Brightest Day,” which featured Kyle Rayner as an artist working at the Daily Planet who receives the ring and fights Sinestro.  Years later, Justice League starred John Stewart as the team’s Green Lantern, who to this date is probably my favorite interpretation of the Lanterns.  During my time watching Justice League and browsing the various message boards online, I kept hearing about this “Hal Jordan” guy, who’s supposedly the best Green Lantern and the greatest hero ever and one day he would return from Comic Book Limbo and lead us all to the Promised Land.  Said Promised Land ended up being the Green Lantern film, which was, to put it in cosmic-related terms, less than stellar.  But time passed and Hal Jordan is back in a big way, being the lead in the aforementioned film and the new CGI-animated series, as well as returning to prominence as the central Green Lantern in the comics and representative League member.  He also appears as a member of the Justice League in Young Justice, alongside fellow Green Lantern John Stewart, which I find to be a nice touch.

Wow, got sidetracked there.  Back to the panel.

Several clips from upcoming episodes of the series were shown, including a run-in with the Red Lanterns, Carol Ferris as Star Sapphire, and Saint Walker (which the crowd took nicely to), which shows the cartoon will be adapting a ton of the material Geoff Johns bought to the mythos in the last decade.  This was even addressed in the panel’s Q&A, with the panelists even hinting they may consider doing a “Blackest Night” adaptation sometime down the line.  I loved the Blackest Night crossover, though I’m curious how as to how they’d adapt such a dark and violent storyline what’s first and foremost a children’s show, but I’ve been surprised before by what animation can get away these days.  All in all, I was intrigued by the show after this panel and seeing James Krieg again at a Sunday panel, so I’ll definitely be checking this show out in the future.

Next up was the DC Nation animated shorts, which I have to say was probably the most pleasant surprise of the panel.  We were showed a series of full-length shorts that had yet to air on the network, including a Doom Patrol short (Ben Jones has apparently been pitching a Doom Patrol series to the network for the last eight years), a claymation short featuring the Batman characters, and Lauren Faust’s “Super Best Friends Forever” which I did enjoy and I think a half-hour cartoon of it would do very well.  But my far and away favorite which had me and the crowd in stitches were the pair of animated shorts featuring “Animal Man,” a character most well-known for his run under the pen of Grant Morrison, which makes it somewhat odd a rather dark character is getting such a humorous take, but I enjoyed it a great deal and can’t wait to see it aired so I can show my friends.

Young Justice was the last one up, and featured a three-and-a-half minute trailer recapping the story so far, as well as highlighting the various character storylines and villain appearances.  There were some cheers for Zatanna and Vandal Savage, as well as a lot of high-pitched screams when Red Arrow showed up (ladies love their Crispin Freeman, it seems).  But the highlight by far was the last ten or twelve seconds of quick snippets of footage from the upcoming second season, with the crowd erupting for a brief half-second appearance of Blue Beetle. Young Justice ends its first season this month (and I will possibly be doing an article on it following the conclusion), and launches immediately into Young Justice: Invasion the following week.  If you’re not following the series, I highly recommend doing so.

That’s it for day two.  Stay tuned for the third and final day!

WonderCon: Day 2

Alright, I had intended to do these entries each day I returned home, but I had forgotten just how exhausting these weekends can be and I allowed my goals to slide.  But I’m back now, so let’s do this.  One unfortunate note; I’m not sure if my camera can properly link to my computer because the OS has advanced in the last couple years since I’ve uploaded pictures, so until I figure out a solution I will not have any pictures of the event.

Much like the previous day, I ended up attending two panels, one early and one late, and spent most of the time in between browsing the exhibitors’ booths on the floor.  Unlike the previous day, it was pouring rain and absolutely packed inside.  I had expected it would be a lot busier on a Saturday than it would be Friday afternoon due to school or work, but I still was not prepared for just how chaotic the floor would be.

Although I write this blog with the intent of keeping a positive tone, at this time I would like to address everyone who attended the event with a baby-stroller or, God forbid, a double-seated stroller; congratulations, you have succeeding in earning my intense dislike.  With that settled, let’s move on.

Much like Friday, I avoided purchasing anything, though I did browse around a lot for clothing or items I’d be interested in getting the final day of the convention.  Shifts at the bookstore have become few and far between due to the slow period in the middle of the school semester, and I’m going to be attending the San Diego Comic-Con in July, so I have several reasons not to spend thriftily.  By the second day of touring the booths, I had seen pretty much every exhibit set up and, other than checking out the various signings, the whole thing had become fairly monotonous.  One highlight did include walking right by DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio for the second time in as many days, though I did not speak with him, mostly because I wouldn’t have really had anything to say other than “please give me a job” or “I haven’t really read comics, but I hear the most awful things about you online.”

As the lines for the incredibly overpriced concessions (not that I’m one to talk, I used to work at a movie theater) were just too severely long for my taste, I decided to brave the rain and head outside the convention center for eating.  Though I mentioned in the previous entry that I hope one day SDCC will pack up and move to Anaheim once the contract is up, the one downside is there’s little to eat immediately around the center, and Downtown Disney and the Anaheim Gardenwalk are about fifteen minutes or so on foot from the center, and that’s not counting the time just to walk from the back of the convention center to the front entrance.  However, it beat standing in line and I’m no stranger to long-distance walking, and I wanted to get out and get some fresh air.  Not to reinforce geek stereotypes concerning hygiene, but there were times walking by where it smelled like some patrons had died earlier that week and were only kept active by their undying passion for comic-related media.

I had about a four hour period between panels, so I took my time and walked out to the Anaheim Gardenwalk and ended up going to the California Pizza Kitchen there.  It ended up being crowded, not with WonderCon attendees but volleyball teams from the tourney that was going on in the convention center that weekend.  Fortunately I was by myself and was able to grab a seat at the bar and eat there.  After making it back to the con, I was able to meet up with a friend of mine who was pitching his comic around at the event, and we wandered around a little and I was even introduced to one of the owners of the Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, which was pretty cool.

Of course, the most fun came from the two panels I attended that day.  The first one was the World of Capcom panel, which I waited in line for outside because the previous panel had filled the entire room.  Apparently Adventure Time (which I’ve never watched) is insanely popular.  The panel featured some of the higher-up Capcom staff, and they basically covered the games that had just recently come out, especially Street Fighter X Tekken, and their other titles that would be released within the year, namely Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Dragon’s Dogma, Devil May Cry HD Collection, and Resident Evil 6, as well as a host of PC games.  They had a few attendees come up to play some Street Fighter X Tekken, some of whom had clearly played the game more than others, and they closed off with a viewing of the trailer for Resident Evil 6, which unfortunately had the sound off by about ten seconds and amused the crowd more than anything else.  Then after asking if the fans wanted to know more about the game, which was met with cheers, they said they couldn’t and they’d tell more about it in San Diego, which was not met with cheers, and the panel ended.

The second panel I attended was probably the most fun I had all weekend, and that was the panel for DC Nation, the new programming block on Saturday mornings on Cartoon Network.  I’d been a huge fan of Young Justice since I got into the show around early 2011, and I was excited to see the creators, Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti, as panelists for the event.  Alongside them were also James Krieg (who I’d see at another event the next day) and Giancarlo Volpe for Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and Ben Jones (Batman: The Brave and the Bold) and Lauren Faust (My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic).  All of them got strong reactions from the crowd, in particular Lauren Faust, which surprised me for a moment before I remembered that MLP is insanely popular with adult males for reasons I don’t entirely understand.

There was a ton of great stuff at this panel, but I’ve already written quite a lot already, so I’m considering devoting a whole new post just to the DC Nation panel.  Otherwise, stay tuned for day three!

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