Arne Ratermanis
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Adventures at Wondercon: Anaheim 2018

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So, you’re dying to know what happens at these comic conventions. Here’s a few of my nerd-takes on this past weekend’s WonderCon: Anaheim.

Held at the Anaheim Convention Center, WonderCon is a 3-day comic book, gaming, TV and movie convention run by the folks of the more popular and well-known Comic-con International: San Diego (CCI). It’s run very similar to CCI – just on a much smaller scale.

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My sons, Nic and Elijah, and I made the 90-minute drive to the con from San Diego early Saturday morning. Since attending the last few years, we found that going for just one day gives us enough time to roam the exhibit hall, check out a panel or two, and head outside to take in all the cosplay.

The exhibit hall is roughly divided into three sections. Booths for the Movie/TV studios, comic book companies as well as large gaming companies are located in the center. “Artist Alley” can be found off to the left and old comic books and memorabilia are on the right – with miscellaneous companies scattered throughout.

The “Artist Alley” area features over 400 of the finest artists and illustrators working in comics, science fiction and fantasy, and other popular art fields. The artists are there to promote their work, sell prints, interact with and/or sketch a favorite character for fans. It’s always inspiring to me to see the latest artwork and different styles of so many artists.

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A highlight of my day was meeting Jason Palmer, an artist I’ve admired for quite some time. His table is always busy, so I felt fortunate that he would step aside and make time to chat a bit. It was interesting to hear how he got his start, some ups and downs he’s dealt with as an artist-for-hire, and how he works the convention circuit. A talented guy and nice to boot! And he was kind enough to give me a sneak peek at an upcoming project in the works.

Autograph signings are always a big deal. This year, WonderCon tried out a new on-line lottery system for the bigger celebrity signings. In the past, you’d have to get to the convention early (up to a few hours or more) and wait in a line in hopes of reaching into a bag and pulling out a golden ticket (the winning ticket to whichever signing you were hoping for). Most signings had only about 90 tickets to hand out, and with over a 1,000 people in line, well, your chances are slim. A lot of time could be wasted standing around for nothing in return. So, this year was different, instead you could enter the lottery by going to the WonderCon website a few weeks before the con and clicking on the signings you were interested in. Then, a few days before the con, you’d check back in to see if you were chosen. It seems like a good idea and if it works without too many complaints it’ll probably be implemented at CCI this summer.

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Through the on-line lottery my youngest son was able to meet and have a poster signed by the cast from the new Steven Spielberg movie, Ready Player One. We also made it into the DC Comics booth signing for Matt Ryan, the actor from the TV show, Constantine.

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Cosplay (a contraction of the words costume play) started as a hobby where participants make and wear costumes that represent characters found in the pop culture arts. It’s popularity blew up in the 1990s and cosplay events have become a huge part of most pop culture conventions.

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We’ve found that WonderCon has one of the more ideal locations for cosplay. The outdoor area in front of the convention center is spacious and has fountains and palm trees – a perfect place for cosplayers and photographers to gather.

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One of my favorites to look out for is Alicia Marie, a fitness expert, author and well-known personality in the cosplay scene. I’m always amazed at the imagination, creativity and attention to detail she puts into each outfit. Her characters look like they’ve stepped right out of a comic book or video game.

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I’ve worked on a couple illustration collaborations with Alicia, both of them as Storm from the X-Men. And after seeing her latest Storm costume, I’m thinking a third illustration may have to be created soon.

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It was a nice day of geeking out with the boys. Had lots of laughs, connected with artists and other industry peeps, and returned home tired but inspired. A good warm-up to CCI in July. But until then, it's back to the drawing board!