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Oh, WonderCon, my WonderCon

Brian Hibbs

Well, I had a terrific time at WonderCon this weekend.

WC has been a weird show for a while — the last few years in Oakland had what looked like declining attendence, and tumbleweeds in the aisle, and the sale of the show to the San Diego ComiCon brought the show to San Francisco 3 years ago. The first two years at the Moscone can be charitbly descibed as marginal, where the show was dwarfed by the space around it, but 2005 was the year that broke big.

Friday’s attendence looked solid (for a Friday), but the place was reasonably quiet. This was actually great because it gave me a good chance to get some business done, talk to people I pretty much only see at conventions and the like. More than anything else, it reminded me of a San Diego show from BEFORE the move into the new convention space — those years when SD was THE place to be, yet you were still able to have half hour conversations with people while they manned thier booths. For me, as a person who would never ever SET UP at a show, yet has lots of comicy goodness and business to handle, that’s a perfect as perfect could be.

Saturday, the place exploded. Probably because of Whedon and Kevin Smith, yes, but the convention floor itself was pretty steadily packed full of people wandering AND, it seemed, spending money. The show opened at 10 am, and at 1:30 that afternoon, there was STILL a steady 100-person long line to get in, which kind of blew me away. Especially since, by that point, it was thudding rain down. I was told that they actually ran out of badgeholders, and they had to take scissors to the exhibotr and guest badges in order to meet demand. It also seemed that they ran out of those as I saw someone with thier badge STAPLED to thier t-shirt!

There were a couple of minutes on early Saturday where it was nearly downright unpleasent to be on the convention floor — the 10 minutes to walk 10 feet, because there are so many bodies in the place thang, and the for the love of god, turn on the air conditioners thang — which I took as a good sign, actually. Business seemed to be solid and steady.

I was struck by how few publishers actually came — DC, Image, Bongo and SLG were the only 4 traditional publishers set up (I very much missed Top Shelf and Oni, both of whom I wanted to discuss a few things with, and who were here last year) — but I think if WC continues its growth curve, this has the potential to become an excellent show.

I learned a lot of interesting things, almost all of which were of the “just between me and you” variety, so you don’t get to find out about any of them, but, in the end, I just had a terrific time…. something I haven’t said about a comics convention in a decade or more. (Probably since the Pro/Con years at WC)

Ben went with me on Saturday morning, riding up on my shoulders most of the time. He charmed the hell out of both the ladies and the chaps, but he could only handle about 2 hours before his baby brain started to get overstimulated. The beauty of having a show in my home town was being able to take him all the way home, and still being able to make it back to the show within an hour.

Saturday night was the party at the new location for Comic Relief. Traditionally, Rory and I swap off years for store parties, and this year was technically our turn, but with his new venue, I was happy to cede it to CR. Helping out a fellow retailing brother is much more important than banging my own drum.

CR’s new space is nothing short of impressive. Hell, given that they’d only had it for 18 days, and they had to prep WC, the quality of the presentation was nothing short of mind blowing. Comic Relief’s staff and family should be amazingly proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish. Y’know, a lot of time me and Rory (and most other visible retailers, for that matter), get conflated with our stores. We’ll say “Good Job, Rory” for anything that happens with CR — but that does a great disservice to the people who actually MAKE the store what it is. CR has an excellent crew, and the victory of the new store is something they should all take individual pride in, and ownership of.

I can’t say enough good things about the new space, however. It’s huge, it’s gi-normous; it’s a big as a whale, and it’s about to set sail! It is the kind of retail space that makes old men and young girls weep. It isn’t there yet (only 18 days old), but I think that a year from now (especially if a store planner is brought in, modern signage installed, etc. etc.) this has the potential to be the single best comic book store in the WORLD. Seriously. I’m jealous.

So, that was my weekend. Now I’m just waiting for Lester to send me the final bits for ONOMATOPOEIA (Don’t you love it when conventions and monthly deadlines collide?), so I can work all afternoon and evening. Hurray!

I might possibly squidge in with a few reviews on Monday (Here’s a quick free one: PROMETHEA #32: I’m too old to read a comic that needs constanly turning and flipping, and has mostly yellow lettering on light blue backgrounds! It hurt my widdle head when I contemplated it. INCOMPLETE), but, honestly, I wouldn’t expect it. I thinking I’m coming down with a cold, too.


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