Flurries of cosplayers meandered through the Los Angeles Convention Center with teased hair, multicolored wigs, homemade props and costumes of cartoon and comic book characters familiar and obscure. Camera shutters clicked and audible gasps sounded as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle strolled by. A moment later, princesses Cinderella and Belle paraded through the main floor, quickly garnering a posse of fans. The 29th WonderCon Convention, the first held in Los Angeles, was packed with comic book booths, old collectible figurines and a delightfully eccentric cast of characters.
“I love everything about [WonderCon],” a Naruto cosplayer who goes by Raven said. “I love all the comic book nerds, the community and the diversity that these types of events bring. I especially love how no one cares that they look like an idiot. We all get to look like idiots together,”
WonderCon is a place where fans of geek culture gather to participate in discussion panels, learn more about well-known cartoons, play demos of upcoming video games and share fan art of shows such as Bob’s Burgers. Attendees also come to enjoy the painstaking work and creativity others have put into their costumes. While casual clothes are perfectly acceptable, dressing up is a large part of WonderCon culture and most attendees take part, dressing as characters such as Princess Leia, Batman, or Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Many attendees not only dress as a character but also role play.
“Dressing up is personally my favorite part,” said a Princess Leia cosplayer who goes by Iris. “But what I think is super cool about conventions like this is learning about the processes behind our favorite things to watch and getting to talk to so many people who share your views too.”
Star Trek exhibits, booths featuring old comic books dating from the 1930s and tables set up by design arts schools showing off their sculptures of notorious comic book villains attracted swarms of individuals. Comic book artists mingled among these busy booths with their own stalls, to show off their artwork and sell merchandise featuring their main characters. Most artists specialize in trinkets and other goods, such as plushies and handmade steampunk jewelry. Somewhere in the middle of this array is artist Matthew Walker: owner, creator and writer of the comic Cool Cat Blue, a story about a traveling robot cat that goes around playing guitar and helping those in need.
“Cool Cat Blue is sort of a memory of growing up with a cat, my time as a musician and my ideal hero,” Walker said. “I gave up illustrating years ago when I became a musician and started to travel, but then I came to an event like this and was inspired enough to start again.”
During high school Walker pursued art and music and decided to become a traveling musician when he graduated. After touring cities playing music, he decided that his time as a guitarist had ended and chose to pursue art again. Walker has been a comic book artist for the last 20 years and although Cool Cat Blue has been Walker’s brainchild since he stopped playing guitar, it only came to life four years ago. He has attended ComicCon International (the largest convention of its kind in the world), which is held in his native San Diego, most of the past 20 years.
“I think it’s incredibly important as a student to have something to fall back on,” Walker said. “You might not realize it now, but whatever you’re good at, you really need to keep doing it. You might not know it but someday it could come back as just the thing you need, like art for me.”
WonderCon typically spans three days, with this year’s event starting March 25 and ending March 27. The convention fell on Easter Sunday, so many cosplayers handed out plastic Easter eggs filled with anything from chocolate to temporary tattoos.
“WonderCon and ComicCon are just full of excited, happy and wonderful cosplayers and non-cosplayers alike,” a Sakura cosplayer who goes by Glacial Pudding said. “Conventions mean that you get to let your inner geek out all the way and no one judges you. Being called a geek here is something to be proud of.”
Students who want to get involved with WonderCon or its mother convention, San Diego ComicCon International, or want to go but cannot afford tickets, can attend the conventions for free by signing up to volunteer on the ComicCon website. Volunteers will receive a free badge or ticket for each day that they volunteer. Ticket prices range from $18 to $65, depending on the number of days attended.
WonderCon 2017 will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center and will run from March 31 to April 2.