Some Thoughts on WonderCon 2023 …

I enjoyed myself at WonderCon 2023, which was held last weekend (March 24-26) at the Anaheim Convention Center. From the looks of things, a lot of other people did, too, but I couldn’t help feeling that something was missing. It took me a while to figure it out, but I finally realized it was the lack of big comic publishers at the show.

I always felt that WonderCon was a bit of a hard sell for comics companies. It’s proximity to Comic-Con in San Diego, both geographically and calendar-wise, made it difficult for the larger publishers to justify the cost. For many years, DC Comics had a large (around 12 booths) presence at the event and I definitely miss that. Marvel only did the show a couple of times after Comic-Con took it over in 2002 (when it was still in San Francisco); Dark Horse and Image dropped out, too, after the show moved to Anaheim. And these days with corporate parents at companies like DC who obviously have no clue when it comes to fan engagement, I think conventions are going to suffer when it comes to large publishers; the days of the mega booth are long gone, I’m afraid, especially at smaller shows.

At Comic-Con in 2022, you could see where Warner Discovery’s head was at when it came to fan engagement: it was much more important for them to have a Shark Week blimp floating around the San Diego Convention Center instead of a presence in the Exhibit Hall. I’m guessing for the amount of money it took to keep that thing up in the air over San Diego—including crew, fuel, maintenance, and insurance costs—they could have had a decent-sized booth on the floor, like they’ve had for over 30 years. Maybe not with a Batmobile in it (unless it had SHARK WEEK spray-painted on its sides), but a booth nonetheless. These mega-conglomerate companies are more concerned with the bottom line that reaching out to fans and I can’t imagine any of them understanding comic books and fans.

Other than that, I had a real case of sticker shock at WonderCon when it came to buying old comics. Some of the prices were pretty ridiculous. I found one book that I was looking for at $35.00. I went back to my hotel room and looked it up on eBay and found the same book for $7.10. Even with paying $6.50 for postage, it was still a bargain compared to $35.00. It’s almost like these dealers—many of whom can definitely be described as “old school”—suddenly woke up from their pandemic-enforced nap and decided to start charging an arm and a leg for books they’ve sat on for years. It definitely has me rethinking what I want to buy and where I want to buy it.

Still, WonderCon seemed busy—especially on Saturday, with Friday and Sunday being the lesser of the three days, attendance-wise—and fun. Lots of cosplay (if you’re into that kind of thing), and once again the fountain area outside the Anaheim Convention Center was hopping even after con business hours. While I will probably go to WonderCon again, it’s definitely going to be something I have to consider more carefully in the future. The cost of hotels in Anaheim is a definite factor. Both hotels and food are at a premium price due to the nature of the location, right next to the Disneyland Resort. Retirement doesn’t allow for very many $200+ hotel nights.

Me with TwoMorrows publisher John Morrow at his booth at WonderCon.

I did get to have a nice chat with John Morrow of TwoMorrows Publishing. He publishes magazines and books about comics and I’ve been a fan of the company since his earliest days, when he started publishing his first magazine, The Jack Kirby Collector. I buy his products exclusively from him these days, preferring to see my money go directly to TwoMorrows. He’s also one of the nicest guys in comics and someone who clearly loves this stuff, and that’s very important to me. If you like the kinds of things I’m writing about with Tales from My Spinner Rack, you’ll love what TwoMorrows publishes. Click here to visit their website … I’m sure you’ll find something to dive into.

So another WonderCon in the books. Next year it returns to Easter weekend, which has always been a double-edged sword; sometimes it’s good for attendance and bad for company engagement, due to the religious and family aspects of the holiday (pretty sure it has nothing to do with biting the ears off of chocolate Easter bunnies … you can do that anywhere). I reserve judgment as to whether or not I’ll be attending WonderCon 2024. It’s hard to look that far into the future these days.

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