WonderCon MegaPost, pt. 1 (Kyu’s Friday)

In All, Conventions by Kyu

Kyu here with your con report. It was fun! Con report over.

…okay, I guess I can give you a little more detail.


I came up with a few panels I wanted to go to on Friday, but for the most part planned on walking the Exhibit Hall at my leisure. First things first: obtain the con-exclusive alternate variant cover of Sandman: Overture‘s first issue. Arriving at the hall only half an hour after it opened, I made a beeline for the Graphiti booth. It was already swarmed with people, and I was directed by staff to the end of the line, past three separate line breaks. I sat in that line, not moving, for 20 minutes, until finally the pressure built up and I couldn’t take it anymore. I fled, vowing to return.

If you’ve never been to one of these cons, the Exhibit Hall alone is worth the price of admission, a massive space chock-a-block with people selling, promoting, demonstrating, and interacting, all patronized by a horde of (often costumed) geeks, nerds, children, and press. You can find just about anything there, so long as it comes from a comic book, video game, anime, or other fandom. A print featuring a “the morning after” Deadpool and Harley Quinn? They’ve got that. Suda 51’s new video game, Ranko Tsukigime’s Longest Day? They’ve got that. A Catbug plush from Cartoon Hangover’s Bravest Warriors; a bathrobe with the Batman logo on it; furry Tribbles that shake and make noise; geeky maternity wear; fantasy and sci-fi inspired weaponry; movie makeup lessons; steampunk costume pieces; and of course, comics. Yeah, they’ve got that.

My people

(Photo belongs to LA Times)

Some notable experiences while on the floor:

-Went by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s table, where they sell signed editions of comics to raise money for fighting comics censorship, and saw a complete, one-volume edition of Planetary, signed by Warren Ellis. A whopping $75, but still, it hurt to walk away.

-Saw Tommy Wiseau, director of unintentional comic masterpiece The Room, one of the worst movies ever made. Tommy is one of the strangest people ever born, and his movie feels like a Hallmark melodrama written and performed by spoon-obsessed aliens. He gave me a ticket for the raffle he was holding later. “What’s the prize?” I asked. “Basketball,” he said, as if that was obvious, and pointed to six or seven sitting on the ground by the wall.

-Found a group of makers showing off their remote-control droids, including R2D2 and a very, very high-quality Wall-E bot that moved around and exhibited emotion with his eyes. Really cool stuff.

photo (1)

[robot noises]

[robot noises]

-Got wrangled by a very enthusiastic gentleman extolling the virtues of The Pinball Arcade, the “only organization licensed to create virtual simulations of actual pinball tables.” We’ve all come across digital pinball games–I have a certain fondness for Sonic Pinball and the GBA Pokemon pinball game–but those are games that look like pinball, not actual pinball machines recreated in a digital space. To placate the barker, I played a couple balls on the virtual product they had there, simulating a Monster Bash pinball game. Ahead of me to the left was the actual Monster Bash machine. I began to have a Baudrillardian philosophical crisis: why was I playing a perfect simulacrum when the real thing was right over there? Which did I value more, the effort and skill that went into designing a game around the laws of physics or the effort and skill that went into coding a simulation of that game using the strictures of computer programming? “We’re very serious about this,” the man said. I politely walked away in search of less disconcerting entertainment.

"The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true. TILT! TILT!" - Jean Baudrillard

“The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true. TILT! TILT!” – Jean Baudrillard

From there, I wandered about looking for interesting swag. There’ll be photos of everything in a separate post, but my favorite of the day was probably getting a Scott Pilgrim 1up Coin. I narrowly missed buying the movie poster for Ti West’s The Sacrament, which I saw earlier this year at the AFI film festival and really liked, but the damn thing said “Eli Roth’s The Sacrament” (Roth produced it for West) and I wasn’t about to cover my apartment walls with lies. My list of things to check out grew (the movie The Grand Piano, the video game Constant C, reminders to get around to reading Grendel already).

A friend of mine stopped our progress at the CME booth, entranced. Apparently CME is a family business that makes novels and comic books, and when I say a family business, I mean Dad comes up with the stories, his son draws them, and his extended family helps him create, promote, and sell them. It all seemed somewhat creepy to me. Especially when Dad started reading my friend and I his comic. It didn’t look half-bad, actually–some kind of parable about wolves after an apocalypse, with gorgeous art–but the book didn’t have any words in it. So the Dad is just describing what’s happening to us, page by page, for, I swear, 50 pages, pointing out both text and subtext in a way that drained all of my interest in reading the book. Not my friend’s, though, so I looked around at the other booths nearby while he and Dad got cozy.

There I discovered two things of note. The first was the interesting-looking graphic novel/art/card game/universe/whatever series called “Adventures of 19XX”, comprising several sets of complex pulp adventures taking place between the two World Wars. I am always down for pulp, especially when they come in the form of adventures, so this held my attention for quite a while.

The second was the art of Pascal Campion, with which I fell instantly in love. You can see some of his work on his blog here. Up close, his works had a beautiful impressionistic sense to them, each brushstroke small enough to see how it contributed to the whole, but large enough to be appreciated for itself. His use of light and color creates warmth, mood and emotion. I was tempted to buy half a dozen, despite the cost, but at the point my friend was wrapping up at CME and it was time to run off to the first panel of the day.

(But not before lunch from one of the awesome food trucks outside. Thanks, Burger Monster!)

I only saw two panels Friday. The first was a panel of geeks talking about all the great (and awful) genre films that came out in 1984. Looking back, it’s an astounding list, from high profile literary adaptions (Herbert’s Dune, Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010: The Year We Make Contact, and of course George Orwell’s 1984) to cult favorites (C.H.U.D., Blood Simple, Repo Man) to acknowledged classics (Gremlins, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Terminator) and fan favorites (Red Dawn, The Karate Kid, The Last Starfighter). Not to mention A Nightmare on Elm Street, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Once Upon a Time in America, Revenge of the Nerds, 16 Candles, Splash, Streets of Fire, Starman, This is Spinal Tap and The Killing Fields. Year was stacked, and the panel had a great time reminiscing about the films they loved from that time. Highlight of the panel, though, was a man after my own heart, a pedant who had been assigned Red Dawn despite never having seen it. He watched it the night before the panel and in amusing contrast to the rest of the panel, announced that time had not been kind to it. The rapid-fire discussion ranged over dozens of titles, talking about the excitement, the appeal, and the missteps with equal passion and wit. As the panel ended, I decided to come back the next day for that day’s panel featuring the same guys.

Finally, the day wrapped up with a panel on Queer Horror, featuring a handful of gay independent horror filmmakers, including Jeffrey Reddick, the original writer of Final Destination (whose very original concept and Rube Goldberg-esque death scenes has always held a special place in my heart). It was a fascinating, if frustrating, discussion of the past and present state of gay horror and gay films in general. Fascinating, because all of the panelists were working filmmakers with interesting opinions about gay representation in film and the business side of things–Reddick in particular had several interesting/dispiriting anecdotes about how difficult it is to stand up for broad representation in a risk-averse, small-c conservative business. It was frustrating, though, because the panel didn’t seem comfortable discussing the rest of the LGBTQ letters–even the L, since all of them were men. Also frustrating was their insistence that “queer horror” didn’t actually exist as a specialized genre or a specific use of horror, as they argued that there were no specific gay fears, just general ones that everyone could relate to. I’m used to looking at horror from an artistic, critical perspective–my ur-text is Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, and I believe that horror can be used to examine both personal and social anxieties. So it was disheartening to hear that these professionals didn’t share my views. Still, it was a worthwhile and thought-provoking experience. Overall, a fun first day at WonderCon.