Text by Vince Zannelli
WonderCon returned to the Anaheim Convention Center Easter Weekend, March 29-31. In 2012, WonderCon Anaheim welcomed nearly 40,000 attendees to the Orange County area. One of the largest comic conventions on the West Coast, WonderCon boasts major comic book publishers in attendance as well as presentations from top television networks and Hollywood studios.
WonderCon Anaheim hosts over 700 exhibitors and 240 hours of programming while spanning nearly 2/3 of the Anaheim Convention Center. The event is produced and operated by San Diego's Comic-Con International and follows a format very similar to SDCC. This author has attended San Diego Comic-Con each year since 1991, and the exhibit halls at WonderCon Anaheim are very similar to the size and scope one would expect to find if attending the San Diego show around 2000 or 2001. Focusing primarily on art, artists, comic books, and virtually any and all aspects of the fiction genre one could think of, WonderCon is the ideal starting point for individuals or families just entering the convention circuit for the first time, looking to explore the phenomenon of attending a con that is pop-culture themed.
Notably absent from the show was Marvel Comics and Marvel Entertainment, as well as Hasbro, Hasbro Studios, local toy giant Mattel, and Southern California-based Gentle Giant Ltd. and Sideshow Collectibles. However, their absence was mitigated by DC Comics, EFX, Super 7, and Kotobukiya to name a few. Each company was more than generous in providing their time and assistance, and imparted vast amounts of knowledge that they were eager to have shared with the collecting world.
DC Collectibles displayed their upcoming Man of Steel movie statues including an incredible likeness of Russell Crowe as Jor-El, as well as their own pair of WonderCon exclusives: a 3 3/4" DC Super Heroes Guy Gardner and Larfleeze 2-pack and an Aardman Batman & Robin 2-pack, in addition to a WonderCon variant Justice League comic book cover.
Kotobukiya brought their 2013 New York Toy Fair display to Anaheim to give fans a preview of their 2nd quarter offerings, including the highly anticipated Marvel Comics Venom symbiote statue, and the DC Comics Dark Knight Returns Batman vs. Joker final confrontation display which depicts Frank Miller's classic work in epic style. For Justice League fans, a grayscale production version of the Cyborg figure was revealed and completed the impressive Koto Justice League display.
The EFX booth previewed their latest 1:1 scale additions to the Star Wars license with the upcoming Darth Maul lightsaber, an accurately marked and weathered Wedge Antilles X-Wing helmet, a Phantom Menace Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber, and the 30th anniversary Return of the Jedi Biker Scout helmet which perfectly matched the on-screen hero prop. A comparison photograph of the Biker Scout helmet was placed next to the display item for comparison, and the finished product looked simply stunning.
Perhaps the most impressive display on the show floor was the new 3 3/4" Alien movie action figures by Super7 based on the infamous cancelled Kenner line from 1979. Never displayed at any Toy Fair, the Alien action figures will finally see the light of day later this year as a set of five movie toys available exclusively through Super7 and select specialty retailers. The research and development team at Super7 truly did their homework, and for the first time ever, fans of the classic Ridley Scott film will be treated to Ripley, Ash, Kane (in spacesuit), Dallas (not yet ready for public display), and the infamous Alien with a very Star Wars-esqe telescoping inner-mouth feature located under the dome in the figure's head...which also happens to glow in the dark! To further add to the line's authenticity, Super7 met with those closest to the sculptors of the original toys (Rudy Zap and Bill Lemon) as well as the person responsible for the cardback art and design layout. Fans of late-1970s era Kenner sci-fi action figures will instantly recognize the promotional materials used by Super7 to appeal to the nostalgic side of long-time vintage collectors. In the event that these amazing figures are not enough to get your heart racing in anticipation, Super7 is also releasing a 4-pack of Alien movie glasses which bear an uncanny resemblance to vintage sci-fi fast food promotional glasses from a galaxy far, far away...
It is uncertain at this time whether or not WonderCon will return to Anaheim in 2014, but with an additional exhibit hall at their disposal which remained unused, as well as numerous ballrooms and concourses which could be utilized via neighboring hotel facilities, there clearly is plenty of opportunity to expand the show in order for it to reach maximum potential. Only time will tell as the next year unfolds; however, WonderCon Anaheim is a pleasant alternative to what has become the annual summertime behemoth known as San Diego Comic-Con, and with Disneyland located just across the street, the show truly had something exciting to offer all pop-culture aficionados.