I can’t remember if I brought up the topic here or on my other blog, but the comic convention scene in the Los Angeles area still is in the midst of… sorting itself out. It’s in flux. Would I call it royally fluxed? That’s probably a bit dramatic, but shows keep popping up and flaring out, with Long Beach Comic Con (where I shall be by the time you read this, at Artist’s Alley table #2013!) currently being one of the eldest ongoing at a mere four years. Meanwhile Comikaze Expo, which had seemed to sort out co-existence with Long Beach this year by happening in September rather than November (which created a debacle in 2011), announced that for 2013 they’re right back to November again. This is going to be a tad rough on Long Beach, especially since they rebranded themselves starting last year as the “Comic & Horror Con”, hoping to take advantage of the fact they happen around Halloween. Now? They either have to move their dates, or end up directly competing for nerd attentions and dollars with Comikaze again. Could they do a Spring show instead for 2013?
Well, right there ran into the question of what would be happening with WonderCon. WonderCon, which for years had been a NorCal, Bay Area show, found itself suddenly homeless in 2012 as its host the Moscone Center was undergoing renovations. Its unlikely savior was the Anaheim Convention Center, which Wizard World had tried to start a franchise with in 2011 but then gave up on after a single outing. Anaheim had also recently had its hat in the ring with other cities hoping to lure Comic-Con International away from San Diego, but had failed in that bid. WonderCon is very much like a smaller San Diego Comic-Con, though, which is due in no small part to being run by the same people.
The connection is close enough that exhibiting at WonderCon supposedly counts towards some hidden points system that helps prioritize San Diego placements and availabilities, but in any case Comic-Con International looks kindly on those who participate in the other shows on its docket. It’s no brilliant deduction to scale that up and say that if the entirety of WonderCon suddenly needed a new home, Comic-Con would look kindly on the city willing and able to provide one.
But that’s not to say Anaheim is only dating WonderCon to try to hook up with its bigger, more popular sister. The goodwill didn’t hurt, I’m sure, but I don’t think anyone expected the show’s move would be any more than temporary. Even with Wizard World’s exit, there are a lot of conventions in Southern California (including SDCC itself), and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the NorCal crowd about even one year’s absence.
The problem, at least from everything I’ve read and heard, is that the Moscone Center and the surrounding hotels in downtown San Francisco couldn’t give less of a fuck about continuing to accomodate WonderCon. When WonderCon went to see about getting back to business as usual for 2013, Moscone had booked up all their dates for the first half of the year, the time period in which the show traditionally occurs. The rumor is that relations between the two entities have been lukewarm if not outright chilly for years, and the renovations were the perfect excuse for Moscone to finally boot WonderCon out the door and then bar it behind them.
Oh sure, there was talk of scheduling the show in Autumn instead, but Autumn is APE’s domain, and while APE is a very different kind of comics show from SDCC or WonderCon, it is again run by the same people, and more than that is located in… San Francisco. At the Pacific Concourse rather than the Moscone Center, but we’re still talking places you can *walk* between in less than 30 minutes. And the Comic-Con organization, I think, had settled into a nice routine… APE in Fall, WonderCon in Spring, SDCC in Summer. Admittedly, these days SDCC exerts such a gravitational pull that no part of the year escapes it, but APE is probably looked forwards to as much more low key, allowing some downtime after the craziness of July. I can’t imagine the organization is eager to stick in another show during that time period.
The Moscone lockout caught them off guard, no question. It seems strange to think that the same company could have one show that no less than three big cities were salivating over like starving dogs, which its current host fought (and is fighting) tooth and nail to keep, while the other show, which I attended in San Francisco in 2011 and found quite bustling, gets thrown out in the cold. The timing is particularly bizarre because 2011 saw a huge jump in WonderCon’s numbers, which I have no doubt was in part due to people wanting to get something approaching an SDCC experience but being among the ever increasing number of fans unable to get tickets for the latter.
The only sane explanation (and I feel like I should put “sane” in scare quotes… there we go) is that Moscone has the same “fuck you, nerds” mindset as that goddamn Chevy’s restaurant across the street from it which Dawn and I had the misfortune to experience. Under those circumstances, why stick around, especially if you’ve got another suitor ready and eager to catch you on the rebound? San Francisco’s loss is Anaheim’s gain. Anaheim didn’t even care if the show was going to be called WonderCon or if CCI wanted to make up some entirely new brand, by the end of August they had booked them right in for Easter weekend of 2013 and were content to let the company get APE over and done with before tackling any further details.
Well, the early exhibitor applications have been sent and the word is official: the WonderCon brand returns to Anaheim, and not only that has been given the two prime halls at the front of the Convention Center instead of trying to squeeze into a single hall tucked away behind the volleyball and cheerleading tournaments. The real estate should hopefully be much better for this second show after the sometimes desperate measures of the last (for example accidentally booking more Small Press tables than they ended up having room for), and my fingers are crossed for a better parking situation, as well. I feel like Anaheim *wants* this franchise, which they see as having a lot of growth potential with the continuing interest in comic book movies and the continued inability of the San Diego show to accomodate all the nerds that want to gather there. Every show in Southern California aspires to be the next San Diego Comic-Con, but I daresay WonderCon has the inside track on that. The connections are all already there, including the official Marvel and DC company presence the other shows so far lack.
Meanwhile, the nerd population of Northern California is not happy at how things shook out, and I can’t blame them. But I do offer this possible, subtle hope: never before has the logo for WonderCon included the name of the city where it’s being held, and if you go look at the WonderCon page that’s exactly what’s happened. It’s not just “WonderCon”, but “WonderCon Anaheim”. That leaves open the possibility that they still intend to try to do a show under the same brand name, but with a different location, much the way Wizard World has several different conventions in different cities under its banner.
So could there still possibly be a “WonderCon San Francisco” or “WonderCon San Jose” in the cards? And is CCI capable of expanding to four shows a year while still managing the now year-round task of the overgrown San Diego monster that occupies so much of their energy?
It’s a good question. As 2013 comes and goes, I’ll be interested to see the answer.