WonderCon 2024 Review: Day One

Not sure if it’s an intentional decision, but WonderCon is getting smaller. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is in the eye of the beholder. The programming isn’t attracting as many big names and projects from Hollywood like it used to, and in response, the attendance is smaller. In fact, a few days out WonderCon was still advertising ticket availability.

While on the plus side, there’s not the throngs of people to maneuver around on the exhibition floor and panels are easy to walk into. But on the negative side, a lot of panels are put on by fans. For example, “The Future of Doctor Who” is not put on by anyone associated with the show, but by a group of cosplayers who are fans of it. What could they know that anyone with access to the Internet couldn’t find out on their own? No idea how many people they drew, but am curious.

These are the panels I did attend:

Defending Comics Today: CBLDF Update: Comic Book Legal Defense Fund interim director Jeff Trexler and CBLDF board member Amy Chu were on hand to talk about issues facing publishers, retailers, libraries, artists, et. al. who are dealing with the current wave of conservative censorship that is effecting the country. Chu also spoke about the past censorship of Asian American history when it comes to presenting America’s history.

The Comic Art Confernce runs panels all weekend long. For some reason, technical issues caused the first panel, It’s the Harvey Kurtzman at 100, to start about 30 minutes late. Just as they got the panel going, an evacuation alarm went off and the room emptied out. Considering his work as writer/editor during the early days of Mad, I think Kurtzman would have been as amused as I was.

Buy Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America by Bill Schelly

Another screw-up occurred for Friday’s programming listings. The panels set for North 200A on Friday were actually held in North 200 B. The panels no longer appeared in the app. If using the website, one had to use the filter “U: Updated; 1: Programs” to find them because they didn’t appear if only filtering by “1: Programs” even though other panels that were either updated or cancelled were accessible.

The 24th Annual Animation Show of Shows: Acme Filmworks founder Ron Diamond has curated another collection of cartoons. Made by Hikari Toriumi while attending Cal Arts, “Polaris” (2018) was a touching story about a young polar bear leaving home and learning what is of value. I missed the title of the next one, presuming it appeared on screen. A man chops down a tree in the wintertime. He makes a rocking chair, marries, and has four children. The Impressionistic artwork looks good, but the film went on way too long. From Russia, “My Mom is an Airplane!” (2013) by Yula Aronova is narrated by a young child talking about their mom. The narration and artwork capture a child’s mindset and limitations with humor. The Oscar-nominated “Me and My Moulton” (2014) is a whimsical Canadian-Norwegian short about young girl who realizes her family is different. The program ended with the Oscar-winning “The Wrong Trousers” (1993) starring Wallace and Gromit, the funniest comedy duo made from clay, as they deal with a lodger that has ulterior motives.

The Beat at 20: Two Decades That Changed Comics: Celebrating the website’s 20th anniversary, editor-in-chief Heidi MacDonald led a panel of past and present contributors. They talked about graphic novels that first impacted them and she would call out audience members who were also site commentors. I left before they could reunite through the Q&A microphone.

The Spice Is Still Life: 40 Years of David Lynch’s Dune: Max Evry talked about his Dune (1984) oral history, A Masterpiece In Disarray, which started as a overview of movies from that year until he began working on it. He interviewed Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, film executives, and even Lynch himself. The audience got to hear Evry name other actors (Val Kilmer, Tom Cruise) who auditioned for Paul Atreides and how Lynch approached the material exploring Paul’s spiritual journey.

Buy A Masterpiece in Disarray David Lynch’s Dune by Max Evry

Godzilla Minus Lawyers!: The Legal Geeks puts on panels comprised of lawyers and judges that explore legal ramifications within entertainment franchises so if one is real nerdy when it comes to the law, this panel is for you. They discussed general issues regarding insurance coverage if a Kaiju stepped on your house, and the liability of Monarch or the government if they knew a Kaiju was headed your way and didn’t warn you. Focusing on the Apple TV+ show Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, they explored what to you do if you find an orphaned baby, and the legality of having two wives in different countries. The panelists were entertaining and it was fun hearing them dig in the subjects.

Puppet-Filled D&D One-Shot!: Apparently the gang from Perception Studio hosts a weekly show on Twitch where they play D&D. Two humans, Ryan Keiser and Connie Torres, and two other humans with puppets, Art Vega (puppeteer for “Chunk”) and Andrew Lockerbie (puppeteer for “Brian”), did that live for an audience at the con. With the internet and social media, people are more voyeuristic, but I can’t imagine why someone into D&D wouldn’t try to play a game then watch these people.

Greatest Comic Book Hero Tournament: With March Madness in the air, Geeky Guys 4 God created a 16-hero bracket, 8 Marvel characters on one side and 8 DC characters on the other with the 8th slot to be determined by a room vote. Audience members used their phones to access a QR code to vote their favorite in each match-up. I abstained as I was concerned the QR code would open me up to receiving emails or some other type of contact. As the brackets narrowed, members would make arguments on behalf of their hero. The final match was Batman vs. Spider-Man with the Caped Crusader taking the title. There was a small turnout but it was fun.

Those curious about Day Two, can read my review.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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