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April 02, 2015

WonderCon set for pop culture playtime in Anaheim

Posted in: Comics,Fans,Movies,TV

batman comic1 WonderCon set for pop culture playtime in Anaheim

Fans of the Dark Knight, in comic book form, will want to be available at 12:30 p.m. on Friday for the Batman panel. With last year marking the 75th anniversary of Bruce Wayne's alter ego, creators will take a look at his future and that of the extended bat family. Moderated by Tiffany Smith (DC All Access), the panel includes Becky Cloonan (co-writer, "Gotham Academy"), Brenden Fletcher ("Batgirl," "Black Canary"), Tom King (co-writer, "Grayson"), Greg Pak (writer, "Batman/Superman"), and Babs Tarr (artist, "Batgirl"). (Room 300DE) (DC Comics)

bmanvsrobin1 WonderCon set for pop culture playtime in Anaheim

Continuing the bat theme is Friday's world premiere of the animated "Batman vs. Robin" film at 6 p.m. in the Arena. Part of the ongoing series of DC Universe Original Movies, the story is pulled from the comic's Court of Owls story line that pits Damian Wayne (Robin) against his father, Batman. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

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The convention-closing fun-for-all screening of "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" (Sunday at 3 p.m. in Room 300AB).

1844126 me 0418 wondercon 001 ik1 WonderCon set for pop culture playtime in Anaheim

These are the type of fans who would also love the Masquerade. Jelly Lee, 14, left, Nana Rump in Black Cat costume and Christine Pesch as Mario character Princess Peach are costumed up at the Anaheim Convention Center on the opening day of WonderCon in 2014. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

la et powers 051 WonderCon set for pop culture playtime in Anaheim

It hasn't been gangbusters, but "Powers," starring Sharlto Copley and Susan Heyward (pictured), will get a sneak peak on Sunday at 12:15 p.m. in the Arena. (Sony / Playstation Network)

la ca 1230 mad max fury road 0181 WonderCon set for pop culture playtime in Anaheim

Friday will also bring a 1 p.m. Warner Bros. presentation of two of the studio's biggest upcoming films: "San Andreas," which combines two natural disasters in pitting earthquakes against Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and the long-awaited post-apocalyptic tale "Mad Max: Fury Road," starring Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky (pictured). (Jasin Bolan)

mct lifehby comics4tns1 WonderCon set for pop culture playtime in Anaheim

On Saturday, the new series "iZombie" makes its WonderCon debut at 2:30 p.m. in the Arena. The brains-eating-comic-book-turned-CW-TV-show will bring a cast and crew for a Q&A session after a special video presentation. Included will be series stars Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, Robert Buckley and David Anders. Also attending are executive producers Rob Thomas ("Veronica Mars") and Diane Ruggiero-Wright ("Veronica Mars"). (Cate Cameron/Warner Bros. Entertainment)

la et 0417 orphan black 21 WonderCon set for pop culture playtime in Anaheim

The only thing missing from Saturday's "Orphan Black" sneak peek and Q&A will be the master clone herself, Tatiana Maslany. But fear not because the BBC America breakout hit will be well represented at its 6 p.m. Saturday panel. Co-creator and writer Graeme Manson joins stars Jordan Gavaris (Felix), Dylan Bruce (Paul), Maria Doyle Kennedy (Mr. S), Evelyne Brochu (Delphine) and Kristian Bruun (Donnie) on stage in Room 300AB. (BBC America)

A legion of superheroes, zombies, Jedi Knights and more costumed fans will be descending upon the Anaheim Convention Center this weekend for WonderCon, an annual pop culture expo expected to draw some 60,000 sci-fi, fantasy, horror and comic book professionals and enthusiasts.

The expo, which begins Friday and has its roots in the Bay Area but has been held in Disneyland’s backyard since 2012, serves as the unofficial kickoff for Southern California’s burgeoning convention season celebrating fandom and pop culture. This year’s lineup includes mid-April’s Star Wars Celebration, Disney’s D23 Expo in August, the gaming industry’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June, July’s Anime Expo, Stan Lee’s Comikaze in fall and, of course, San Diego’s massive Comic-Con International, set for July 9-12.

WonderCon is a sort of junior sibling to the San Diego mega-convention, which has drawn upward of 130,000 attendees in recent years.

These are the type of fans that would also love the Masquerade. Jelly Lee, 14, left, Nana Rump in Black Cat costume and Christine Pesch as Mario character Princess Peah, are costumed up at Anaheim Convention Center on the opening day of WonderCon in 2014. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

These are the type of fans who would also love the Masquerade. Jelly Lee, 14, left, Nana Rump in Black Cat costume and Christine Pesch as Mario character Princess Peach are costumed up at Anaheim Convention Center on the opening day of WonderCon in 2014. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

“People talk about WonderCon reminding them of Comic-Con maybe 10, 15 years ago,” said David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations for Comic-Con International, which programs WonderCon and the San Diego event. “In San Francisco, it had a very congenial vibe to it, and I think that transferred to Southern California.”

WonderCon, in its 29th year, was born in Oakland and moved to Anaheim after renovations at San Francisco’s MosconeCenter forced the convention to seek a new home in 2012. Nearly 40,000 people came to the expo in its first year in Anaheim, and attendance has increased steadily since.

This year’s event has expanded to make use of more of the available exhibition space at the Anaheim complex, but its organizers want to keep it relatively small, at least in comparison with Comic-Con.

“We’re not really looking to grow WonderCon,” Glanzer said. “We’ve been lucky that we’ve been able to accommodate more people attending. We have the meeting space that allows us to do more programming and the facilities allow us to expand. So right now, it’s very comfortable.”

The expo features more than 800 exhibitors and over 200 hours of programming, including panel discussions for comics, movies and TV shows. Saturday features an onstage costume competition (known as the Masquerade), and there is also a children’s film festival and tabletop gaming presentations throughout.

Friday will also bring a 1 p.m. Warner Bros. presentation of two of the studio's biggest upcoming films: "San Andreas," which combines two natural disasters in pitting earthquakes against Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and the long-awaited post-apocalyptic tale "Mad Max: Fury Road," starring Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky (pictured). (Jasin Bolan)

Friday will also bring a 1 p.m. Warner Bros. presentation of two of the studio’s biggest upcoming films: “San Andreas,” which combines two natural disasters in pitting earthquakes against Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the long-awaited post-apocalyptic tale “Mad Max: Fury Road,” starring Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky, pictured. (Jasin Bolan)

Compared with the San Diego convention, which has become a key marketing venue for Hollywood’s big-budget blockbuster movies, WonderCon is much more comics-focused; about 25 of the expo’s 30 announced special guests are comics writers or artists, and major comics publishers DC, Marvel, Image, IDW and Boom are hosting panels featuring their titles.

Several comic book-inspired TV series will offer preview screenings of coming episodes and Q&As with cast members. Some highlights includeBBC America’s breakout sci-fi hit “Orphan Black,” Fox’s Batman prequel series “Gotham,” and the CW’s DC Comics superhero show “The Flash” and Vertigo Comics adaptation “iZombie,” the latter a new series about a brains-eating morgue worker who helps the cops solve crimes.

Warner Bros. will be on hand to preview two of the studio’s biggest upcoming films: “San Andreas,” which combines two natural forces in pitting earthquakes against Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the long-awaited post-apocalyptic tale “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Horror film house Blumhouse Productions will also showcase “Unfriended” and “Insidious: Chapter 3,” with cast members and filmmakers on hand to answer questions.

Genre entertainment giants Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm, both owned by Disney, have a diminished presence at WonderCon this year; instead, the highly anticipated sequel, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” will be a major focus of the Star Wars Celebration, a four-day event at the same Anaheim Convention Center that begins April 16. Promotions for Marvel superhero films are expected to draw big crowds at the D23 Expo, Disney’s biennial fan confab, Aug. 14-16.

“I don’t know that we look at competition as a negative,” Glanzer said. “I mean, how can you begrudge somebody giving audiences what they want? That’s fair and fun and enjoyable and helps promote the medium. We see ourselves as a big umbrella.

“People seem to forget that not every company comes every year,” he continued. “If a big company sits out, Comic-Con attendees or fans will wonder, ‘Oh my God, are the fans being shunned?’ No. Sometimes the projects just land at a time that isn’t appropriate for one of the shows. I think it’s all good and we keep doing what we do.”

Noelene Clark  and Jevon Phillips | @LATHeroComplex

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