WonderCon 2019: A Relaxed Convention Experience is New to Me

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By Jared 

A couple of weeks ago, on Saturday March 30th, I got up before the sun and made the relatively long trek via public transit from the Valley to Anaheim for WonderCon 2019. I was able to attend on behalf of my Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. podcast, Project T.A.H.I.T.I., and But Why Tho?, and got to see the S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 6 panel and premiere episode screening with my podcast co-host and good friend Jess (who covered the panel wonderfully). Even though I’ve been to dozens of comic conventions, this was really a brand new experience for me.

I worked in comics for 16 years, first as a freelance colorist, letter, and overall comics production goon. Then I was fulltime in comics production and digital comics conversion. During this time I got to attend every San Diego Comicon, and for a few of those years, New York Comic Con, as well as the Emerald City, and Rose City conventions. As fun as those experiences were, and they include some of the best times I can remember, they were utterly exhausting, physically and emotionally, because I worked those conventions behind a sales desk, or restocking shelves, or liaising with creators at signing table, or providing line management.

So, I jumped at this chance. To go to WonderCon 2019 with the express goal of covering the S.H.I.E.L.D. panel with Jess for the pod. I got to arrive when I wanted, figure out how best to line up, and just explore the convention floor. Being there as press, and just as an attendee, was such an incredible time!

For one, the lack of constant responsibility was a relief compared to working a convention as an exhibitor. The atmosphere at WonderCon was so welcoming! Everyone I encountered was open, friendly, and the attitude just felt very relaxed. People were respectful and polite as they asked for pictures, and as I’ve come to expect from every convention I attend at this point, some of the cosplay was absolutely unbelievable! (Yubaba and Zeniba from Spirited Away were probably my favorite)

The panel we were there to see was held in the massive arena at the Anaheim Convention Center, and when we came to see if a line was forming we were sort of rushed in to the panel that preceded it, and before we knew it, Jess and I saw the pilot episode of and entire panel for NOS4A2, the upcoming AMC adaptation of novelist Joe Hill’s supernatural serial killer horror tale. It was pretty great, with outstanding performances from Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Zachary Quinto, and star Ashleigh Cummings. It also stands as a fantastic acting debut from Jahkara Smith, who stole the show at the panel with her excitement for the material, and sharing her new experiences as an actor with the audience.

The fact that we were not only able to get into our panel without waiting in any lines, but got in two panels ahead of schedule, just walking in, was another stark difference from my previous con history. There’s no way a S.H.I.E.L.D. panel at SDCC or NYCC would have been so easy to get into. Jess and I would’ve waited in line for probably hours, because that’s just how it goes at those conventions. At WonderCon it was simple, quick and easy, and epitomized the overall vibe of the show.

It was a fantastic day. I got to see incredible feats of cosplay engineering and construction and share in my love of movies and television and comics, and specifically S.H.I.E.L.D. with thousands of other fans, and everyone I encountered seemed happy to be there. This is also drastically different from my time working conventions, where all my coworkers and exhibitors in neighboring booths were drained and burnt out by the end of the first day.

To see attendees, exhibitors, press, celebrity guests, security, everyone around me smiling, it was a wholly unusual comic convention for me, extraordinarily so. I thoroughly enjoyed myself at WonderCon, and would recommend it to anyone in the area who loves pop culture and comic conventions.