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WonderCon Makes a Triumphant Return to Anaheim

Written by: Abel S. Pinedo

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After a year in exile WonderCon finally makes a triumphant return to Anaheim, CA. I waited all year in baited anticipation for the return of this show. With camera in hand I set out early to cover one of the best conventions on the West Coast. With each passing year WonderCon grows in popularity, drawing increasingly larger crowds. Fans lined up before the break of dawn just to be the first inside the convention center doors.

As soon as I got through the doors I started to plan my day. As with any show of this size you really need to plan your time accordingly. My first goal for the day was to grab a cool Stranger Things pin from the Ninjabot booth. From there I headed over to see artist Audrey Miller and picked up an exclusive sticker. I then popped over to see my friends at Golden Apple Comics. Business was brisk as several people were already playing their $1 Instant Winner Game. Little did I know that today would be my lucky day.

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I wanted to check out the panel from JAKKS Pacific where they'd be discussing their upcoming slate of toys and figures. Everyone in attendance received a blind bag Ooshies pencil topper featuring various Marvel heroes. I was one of the lucky ones who scored the rare Falcon variant.

Those of you who collect the 20 inch "Big Figs" large sized action figures will definitely be happy with the output this year. JAKKS will be continuing the Star Wars line including some new figures that will have lights and sounds. They also demonstrated a new Dancing Baby Groot figure. The highlight of the panel was the reveal of the new DC Originals Tribute Series of figures. These are gorgeously packaged in storybook window boxes with comic artwork featured on the inside. The first four in the line are Batman, Superman, Harley Quinn and The Flash. They were on display and by correctly answering a trivia question, yours truly walked away with The Flash! Incredible!

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After I left the JAKKS panel I learned via Twitter that Ninjabot was sponsoring a giveaway of a hardcover copy of volume one of their Origins series.  To win, you just had to find their rep and say the code phrase. The hunt was on!

My next panel was for a screening of an all new episode of the ABC comedy, The Goldbergs, directed by Kevin Smith. Having never seen the show, all I knew was that this episode was about the family watching the 1989 Tim Burton Batman movie. I was thoroughly pleased. The show has humor and heart. Being a child of the 80's myself, I can relate to the themes of the show. I'm going to have to delve deeper into this sitcom now. After the screening, Smith moderated the panel where he talked to the creators about the genesis of the sitcom. The majority of the story lines are based on executive producer Adam F. Goldberg's childhood.

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Saturday was set to be another big day. It's the longest day of the Con, with the show floor opening two hours earlier than Friday. As soon as the doors opened I headed to my first panel. I listened as Jim Lee, Ryan Benjamin, Dustin Nguyen and a slew of others reminisced on the 25th anniversary of WildStorm. They talked about how it was a "frat house mentality" while they churned out such classic titles like WildC.A.T.S., Stormwatch (my favorite) and Gen13. During the panel, Lee and Benjamin were live sketching, and at the end of the panel they gave our their new creations to a few people in the audience. The big news was that in August, there will be hardcover graphic novel released, commemorating the 25th anniversary. What was started as a simple look back has now evolved into a hefty book featuring all new stories and artwork. Those of us in attendance each received postcards featuring the cover art. Way cool!

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Next on my agenda was the panel I was the Warner Brothers / DC Entertainment panel. First off, we were treated to the world premiere of the trailer for Annabelle: Creation, the prequel to the horror film Annabelle from 2014. Director David F. Sandberg talked about growing up a horror fan and trying to implement elements of classic horror films into this project. An additional scene from the film was screened that definitely caused several shrieks and jumps throughout the crowd. Sandberg also said that he hopes for a continuing expansion of the 'Conjuring films' universe.

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The second portion of the panel was dedicated to the upcoming feature, Wonder Woman. Director Patty Jenkins and producer Geoff Johns presented three different scenes from the film. I gotta say, they all looked really great! I won't spoil anything but there is plenty of action and humor. I was also impressed with Jenkins passion when she spoke of her fondness for the Wonder Woman series. There was some chuckling during the Q&A when someone asked Johns if he would confirm a Wonder Woman 2. He quickly replied 'I can neither confirm nor deny!' Throughout the day there was a very heavy Wonder Woman presence on the show floor and it all culminated at this panel.

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Sunday was a very emotional day, and not just because it was the last day of WonderCon 2017. The first panel of the day was dedicated to the memory of Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker. Hosted by members of several Star Wars fan clubs including the 501st, Rebel Legion and the R2 Builders club, the outpouring of emotion was near impossible to contain. Each person that took to the podium shared a memory of either meeting Carrie or Kenny or what Star Wars and Princess Leia in particular meant to them. Several choked up which led to subsequent sniffling heard throughout the room. The panel ended with a procession of everyone in the room who was in Star Wars cosplay as well as several remote R2 units, Chopper (from Rebels) and even an Imperial Mouse Droid.

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After that, I needed some levity. Today was the day I had planned to scout out Artist Alley. As I've said before, I always dedicate some time to strolling through this section of any Con. You just don't know what you'll find that you'll just have to have. What better souvenir of a Con than something unique and original? I added another piece by Brett Bennett, (http://brettbennett.deviantart.com/)  'Spidey-Kitty', which I'd had my eye on since the last time I'd seen it. I also purchased a piece by Megan Hutchinson (http://www.blackem-art.com/) featuring an angry cat. (Hmm, sounds like a running theme.)

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I need bigger walls so I can add some art from Camilo Rojas. He creates enormous art pieces consisting of acrylic on canvas that are tributes to some of his favorite artists. They look like giant panels ripped right out of comic books. (https://www.facebook.com/camilorojasart/)

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After leaving the Artist Alley I headed back to Golden Apple Comics just in time for the special appearance by Gabriel Luna (Ghost Rider from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ) and Felipe Smith, the co-creator of Robbie Reyes, also Luna's character. Both were signing an exclusive variant cover of Ghost Rider #4. They were excited to meet the fans and Luna in particular seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself as he posed for countless photos. He really comes across as a very appreciative and sincere person.

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As the show began to wind down I scoured the dealer tables looking for any good comic bargains. I happily walked away with a stack of great comics. Then it was time to make my exit. As is the case every year, the end of Con brings out a massive influx of cosplayers posing for those last few shots outside in the courtyard. With that, I said my goodbyes to some friends and made the long trek back to my car. I had an amazing time at the show. Dates have already been confirmed for 2018. I'll definitely be back next year for sure!

About the Author: Abel S. Pinedo has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade. He's also an annual visitor to such conventions as WonderCon, San Diego Comic Con, Wizard World and More. When he's not touring the convention circuit he can usually be found at his keyboard telling the World about his adventures.