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Adventures in WonderCon
by Spotlight Mike

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The Comic-Book/Movie/Pop Culture Center of San Francisco

The Comic-Book/Movie/Pop Culture Center of San Francisco

Last Saturday, I attempted to attend the San Francisco cousin of Comic-Con in city of The Happiest Place on Earth. WonderCon, our northern neighbor was temporarily displaced due to renovations at their home base at the Moscone Center, and was moved down the coast to Anaheim, California.

This is my tale of woe.

I decided to attend the Convention at the very last minute, and at the invitation of a friend who invited me to come. So, the next day, I pile into the Clown Car and make the 90-minute trek upstate. Normally, this would be an uneventful, leisurely drive on I-5, reaching my destination before I even get into a groove. Now, the song It Never Rains In Southern California is basically true - normally. Saturday, however, I drive through a virtual monsoon (relatively speaking in sunny California terms), driving alternately from normal rain to downpours. Arriving in the city, The Happiest Place on Earth is unfortunately geared only toward the denizens of the Magic Kingdom. Every other attraction, well, it's not Disney. The 90-minute drive was virtually doubled trying to navigate the gridlock to the Convention Center and trying to find parking - three city blocks away. A leisurely stroll back to the Convention - through the rain - had me looking - and feeling - like a drowned rat as I walked into the Convention's registration area.

Fast forwarding, I met up with Fon Davis, former Industrial Light and Magic model builder, now owner of Fonco Design and Fabrication, who brought me up to speed on his pet project, MORAV, a live-action adaptation of his graphic novel series (see Twenty Questions with Fon Davis). He reports that the pre-production is moving nicely, weaving in and out of his real job
Hey - It's Anaheim - What Did You Expect - Trolls?

Hey - It's Anaheim - What Did You Expect - Trolls?
responsibilities with his own project. All roles have been cast, except for the female lead. He's looking for a beautiful, tough, but naive reporter-type. So, if any actress is interested in being the lead in a sci-fi movie being shot in San Francisco, look up Fon on his Facebook page).

There is an embarrassing story about a supposedly lost shirt, but moving on, I made several attempts to sit in on a panel discussion, or a preview, or pretty much anything other than wandering around the Exhibit Hall all day. Because I was not prepared, the sessions were scattered throughout the building, and the good ones had lines a few thousand people deep. So I wandered around the Main Hall, looking for stuff. Again, being totally unprepared, the Exhibition Hall looked like every other Exhibition Hall I've visited. The T-Shirt Wall, the Artists Row, the comic book vendors and memorabilia (in truth, this was one of the high points of the Convention. There was virtually no segregation between the actual comic vendors, the gaming areas, and the memorabilia vendors.) There were the usual assortment of celebrities signing autographs: The Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark , the remaining living members of the cast of the original Battlestar Galactica, and the one-movie wonders who were lucky enough to star in a cult movie were available to sign autographs. Even the cosplay was disappointing, the weather once again being a dampening factor. The cosplayers who did risk damage to their costumes and make-up were swamped by photographers, desperate to get good photos of anything.


I had been at the Convention only a few hours, but I felt I had exhausted my possibilities. I couldn't find any
Mike with Fon Davis, Creator of MORAV

Mike with Fon Davis, Creator of MORAV
decent panels, the memorabilia was really not stellar, and Stan Lee's entourage practically knocked me over while being escorted to his autograph booth.

I was not a happy camper.

I ended up at the Blood Donation Booth, where I donated for the first time in ten years, and had a place where I could finally rest a moment.

Exhausted, I slogged back to my car and headed back to San Diego, once again in the rain.

The moral? BE PREPARED

Had I prepared, as I have done for every other Convention, there would have been a decidedly different outcome. Had I better prepared for the weather, I would not have walked around aimlessly on the Convention Floor, drenched to the bone with no Plan B. Had I researched who would be there, where I could find them, and in short, the usual research that I do for every other Convention, this would have been different column. Let this column be a cautionary tale of not doing the proper homework when attending a convention. Be mindful of the three "K's:" (an unfortunate choice of abbreviations, I know). Know your convention, Know your celebrities, Know your city.

I don't blame WonderCon. They themselves were Strangers in a Strange Land, ripped from their homeland and conducting the equivalent of a tent show, sharing their space with a gymnastics meet. And judging from other reports, the Convention was definitely more positive than my own experience.

The trip wasn't a total wash, however. Because I donated blood, I got free food (okay, chips and apple juice) and a free T-Shirt, Fon was gracious enough to give me an autographed copy of his novel and his instructional DVD on model making (soon I'll be able to make my own AT-AT walkers!), and when I slogged back to my car, there was a group giving away The AMAZING
The Second Highlight of the Con For Me

The Second Highlight of the Con For Me
SPIDER-MAN T-Shirts! Also I've gotten a new respect for my 2005 Chevy Aveo. I disdainfully dubbed it my Clown Car when I first bought it, but because it has faithfully carried me back and forth up the coast repeatedly with no drama, unlike my previous cars, I have officially re-named it The Great Grey Hope (well, it's really silver, but I thought that was a little too pretentious).

George Santayana is credited with the saying, Those who cannot remember the Past are condemned to repeat it. Five years ago, when I first arrived on the Left Coast, I traveled to LA to attend the Los Angeles Wizard World Convention. As in this situation, I had never been to Los Angeles, I had no idea where I was going, and I wandered around the Downtown LA in the damp rain until I found the Convention Hall. I also stayed less than the expected time, thoroughly disappointed in both the Convention and the city. Since then, the city has redeemed itself with my visit to ComiKaze last year, as I was fully prepared and ready to enjoy myself (refer to Comitting Comikaze). I sincerely hope that in five years, my ADD won't kick in and do another disaster of a Convention visit.

Belated congratulations to fellow Matchflick columnist Dr. Karma Waltonen for an expectedly productive lecture that she conducted at WonderCon and apologizes for not being able to attend her discussion. I am sure that Dr. Karma will post a more upbeat report on the Convention.


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Mar 21, 2012 1:11 PM
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Did you get to meet Karma? I'm so sorry for the experience you had...but it makes a great story!
Mike Thomas
Mar 21, 2012 1:58 PM
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No, I didn't, Tim. After she read my Facebook post, she texted me, but I didn't read it until I was on my way back home. She was speaking the day before, and I missed her entirely.

Thanks for reading!
Jul 16, 2012 10:35 PM
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Ah, bad luck, Mike.

This local one for me in the Bay Area might be a good way to test myself before I try Comic Con.

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I Could Be Wrong
Every other Wednesday

Until I find my footing, I'd like to vent on the state of today's movies. I will occasionally praise a movie that piques my fancy. But it's a whole lot more fun railing against a person's work who makes more money on a single project than I would make if I lived 500 years. Oh, I will usually make observations on movies rather than films. The difference? Films are critically acclaimed, while movies are just darned good fun.

Other Columns
Other columns by Spotlight Mike:

In Praise of the Movie Producer

The Life of a Film Reviewer



The Real Unsung Heroes

All Columns

Spotlight Mike
Born in the Fifties with an extreme phobia for movies in general, I became obsessed with movies when I broke that phobia with the first movie I actually enjoyed, “The Ten Commandments.” I particularly like the kind of movie where you can put your brain on hold. I get enough reality and drama in my everyday life; I refuse to pay someone to subject me to the same.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Spotlight Mike by clicking here.

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