In the last few years, Comic-Con has made it abundantly clear that they want to make attending their event as difficult as possible. As a result, my con companion and I decided to trade out the massive epicness of Comic-Con for the smaller and more convenient WonderCon. Ironically, even though I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I didn’t attend WonderCon until it left the Moscone Center for the the one place I vowed never to return to: Anaheim. (My personal vendetta against the happiest place on earth has less to do with it being methodically quaint and depressingly suburban and everything to do with suffering through the worst concert experience of my life there.) Fortunately for me (and my bank account—the 3 day pass is only $40), WonderCon is a great alternative to the intense insanity that is Comic-Con San Diego. It’s big enough to attract a variety of celebs, artists, and sellers from a variety of mediums, yet small enough to be easily walkable and generally less crowded than you might think.
Panels: 35th Anniversary of Battlestar Galactica; Geek & Sundry; The Most Dangerous Women At WonderCon Anaheim; Femme Fatales: The Hit TV Show Comes Home; BBC America’s Doctor Who and Orphan Black Screening.
My friend and I took her teenage sister with us, and had the privilege of watching her experience her first con. WonderCon is the perfect introductory con, particularly for younger SFF fans and those new to the fandom community. There’s a little something for everyone, from comics to genre TV/film to books to industry insiders to social issues to breaking into the business. More importantly, to my feet anyway, the lines were few and far between. (The bigger the panel the longer the line, obviously, but even the 2 hours we stood around to get into the Much Ado About Nothing panel on Sunday was at the longer end of the waiting-in-the-queue spectrum.)
We unintentionally stumbled upon the BSG and Femme Fatales panels when we arrived early for our desired ones (Geek & Sundry and Doctor Who/Orphan Black, respectively), and they both turned out to be pretty interesting. Despite the fantastic panelists, “Dangerous Women” was a real disappointment. It failed to address it’s subject matter, and the moderator seemed to be both confusing and conflating sexism and objectification in SFF. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan (no, seriously), so even though no one from the show came out to premiere the new season, it was still exciting to see it with a bunch of other uberfans. And if you haven’t read any of the extremely positive reviews for Orphan Black, then have I got a great new show for you to watch. But, of course, “Geek & Sundry” proved fantastic. Felicia Day is made of sunshine and awesomeness. I want to be her when I grow up. The new season of her hit YouTube show returns next week, and the hints she dropped about upcoming shows indicate it’s going to be pretty darn cool.
Spoilers: Charlie is returning to Supernatural in episode 20, possibly with her new fairy girlfriend. The episode will be an “amazing arc for Charlie,” Day said. Squee-age ensues.
Panelist Quote of the Day: “There’s someone up front with a Ninja Turtles sex question.”—Guy with the curly hair who co-created Fetch Quest whose name I’ve spent 20 minutes Googling to no avail.
Panels: Inside Writing & Producing for TV; LGBTQ Subtext in Comics, Sci Fi, and Fantasy.
Some poor time management on our end meant we left for the con later than we intended, which meant the closest parking garage was full by the time we arrived, which meant we ended up parking at Disneyland, which meant walking the better part of a mile in the hot sun just to get to the convention center, which meant we were sweaty and exhausted by the time we set foot indoors. An overpriced sandwich and some relaxation under the air conditioner patched us up and we were bright-eyed and bushy tailed in time for the TV writing panel. These are my favorite kinds of panels. I have spent a lot of years on the farthest outskirts of the TV/film industry, so listening to writers and showrunners of some of the biggest shows and movies of the last decade (like Javi Grillo-Marxuach, Gabrielle Stanton, Ashley Miller, and David Simkins) was thrilling to say the least. There wasn’t a particular SFF focus to this panel, which didn’t bother me all that much because just being in the same room as all that successful creativity was a joy in and of itself. Afterward, we wandered the Exhibition Hall, where I stocked up on Baltimore, B.P.R.D., and Sandman comics and acquired my Holy Nerd Grail.
So far, the best panel of the con was the LGBTQ one. It was everything “Dangerous Women” wasn’t—both featuring Jane Espensen, oddly enough. (Jane is the queen of the girl geeks, Felicia Day is our princess, and Adrianne Curry is our cool, crazy aunt who we all love but are slightly afraid of). Also on the panel were Marc Andreyko (Black Lightning and Blue Devil), Brad Bell (Husbands...the other star of the show, Sean Hemeon, was in the audience), Wendy Pini (ElfQuest), Sean-Z, and Jody Wheeler (founder and president of Bent-Con, respectively). Brad Bell recommended The Rope by Alfred Hitchcock as not only an excellent classic film, but one full of homosexual subtext (two of the stars, the screenwriter, and even the piano composer were gay). Celluloid Closet was also frequently referenced, and is a must-see for everyone, not just those interested in the history of LGBTQ in Hollywood. Pini made a great point when analyzing the discrepancy between the acceptance of lesbianism in the media and the disgust that is often thrown at gay men: “In our Western culture, the definition of femininity is more fluid then our definition of masculinity.”
Andreyko spoke of how he felt subtext as a tool of subversion (for LG, less so for BTQ) was antiquated, that it was a way for non cis het creators to slip themselves into mainstream media without violating the Hays Code or other forms of media censorship. He went on to say the gay experience in media today was less subtext and more metaphor, the difference being the undiscussed flamboyance of Paul Lind versus how Willow and Amy on Buffy the Vampire Slayer used their exploration of magic as a way to explore their romantic interest in each other. Bell went on to describe subtext as a means of “cloaking the message.” It was used when people couldn’t say what was actually happening between two characters, but now is often used as “bait” and “pandering” so as to not turn off those who’d be bothered by anything not strictly cis het but also to appeal to and appease those who aren’t. Bell accused contemporary subtext as “a very dangerous cop out.”
Spoilers: Gail Simone is introducing a trans character in her new series The Movement.
Panelist Quote of the Day: “I love all the ships. Keep shipping ‘em.”—Jane Espensen
Panels: Much Ado About Nothing; Nerdist Industries; Arrow Special Presentation and Q&A.
The allure of Joss Whedon is strong. Strong enough to drag me out of bed before noon on a Sunday. By the time we got out to Anaheim, it was just after 9am, and there was already a decent-sized line. Some people had been camped out since 6am for an 11am panel; that’s some serious commitment right there. Several of the actors were there (including Sean Maher, Tom Lenk, and Clark Gregg, but minus Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, and Nathan Fillion who was “sick with a facial disease” according to Whedon). The panelists were charming, engaging, amusing, effusive, and adorable, as per usual. And the sizzle reel and three scenes they showed of Much Ado (where Benedick—Denisof—overhears Leonato, Don Pedro, and Claudio singing Beatrice’s praises; where Beatrice—Acker—is sent to summon Benedick and he fails to impress her; and the one where Dogberry—Fillion—interrogates Borachio and Conrade) were utterly fantastic. I cannot adequately describe how much I cannot wait for this film to be released. A Whedonized black and white contemporary update to Shakespeare couldn’t go wrong even if they tried to suck.
“Nerdist” was one of those panels I was kinda interested in, but mostly sat through to get to the Arrow panel. I’ve been mildly annoyed with Hardwick since The Talking Dead decided to exist, but he’s so sincere in his love of all things geeky that it’s hard not to fall in love with him. Between the Nerdist and Geek & Sundry channels, I’ve some extensive YouTube-ing in my future. Out of all the panels of the past weekend, “Arrow” was the most disappointing, even more so than “Dangerous Women.” The moderator treated the whole thing like an interview rather than actually moderating a panel by asking insightful questions that get the actors to open up and have real conversations. At one point he even took questions off Twitter. And all this before he even went to audience Q&A. He directed most of his questions to the executive producer and kept asking him where the show was headed. Some of his questions were to Colin Donnell, Willa Holland, and Paul Blackthorne about what they thought about where their characters were headed, and the remaining few were basically him asking Stephen Amell what it’s like to be so sexy. We ditched out when they took questions from the audience, because we’d already pretty much sat through 40 minutes of asinine questions perfectly tailored for TV sound bites and absolutely meaningless or unanswerable (like the many times the moderator begged for spoilers).
After that, we took one last jaunt around the Exhibition Hall, then headed home. Well, headed to our friendly neighborhood independent comic book shop to buy all those comics the WonderCon sellers were overpricing at their stalls. All in all, a great weekend. I am fully nerded out. I feel like I’ve eaten a really good bacon cheeseburger: overwhelmed, satisfied, and ready to put on my sweatpants and take a long nap on the couch.
Spoilers: Nerdist shot a dating show at Gallifrey One called “Two Hearts” that will premiere soon.
Panelist Quote of the Day: “This is the nerd hierarchy: you watch the season finale, you DVR the season premiere”—Chris Hardwick
Alex Brown is an archivist, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.