WonderCon 2011: Wrap-Up

I am sitting here, wheezing a bit, nursing some kind of existential hangover, my right eyelid is twitching, I feel a bit nauseous…yup, it's the Monday after WonderCon.

Now, we did tape quite a few interviews with creators and you've read any of the news that came out of the show by now, so my writeup is really just my own experience, an experience that, quite honestly, is one that I really could never have imagined having when I started going to conventions.

First and foremost, the only panel that I ended up going to was the one I was actually in (which I will get to later).  This was a massive shift for me, but given what we were up to, it kind of made sense. For whatever reason, there was a real reticence, at least from the major publishers, to discuss stuff that was going to happen in the future, which, you know, is usually what people are interested in hearing about. There were rumors, of course, of secret plans and initiatives, but that's all they were. This is the way it is at most conventions, "Oh we can't really speculate," or, "Ask me in San Diego," or "Please stop staring at me," were the phrases I heard and overheard during the three days I was roamed the halls and (nicely carpeted) floor.

Ron and Conor got some great interviews, though, and I really think you are going to enjoy the video show that will be coming soon, lots of great discussions with some fantastic creators.  For my part, I had some non taped conversations with a few people that I was really looking forward to meeting, including Frank Quitely, who was the featured guest at the off-the-hook Isotope party on Saturday night. Frank was there until very late, talking with fans on the promenade deck, and I was just so impressed with how personable and amiable he was with the teeming masses of fans, many of whom, like myself, were kinda nervous to talk to someone whose work can quite rightly (quite frankly?) be labelled as "genius."  I joined a conversation with him and his friends in front of the store after 2AM, and told him how much I appreciated his take on Damian (I am convinced that without Frank's initial take on him, he would never have the kind of fan affection that he has today) and how l was truly and utterly inspired by his art. He was gracious and made great pains to stress Grant Morrison's influence regarding his work, which was neat.


The Isotope party was a crowded affair, to be sure, but it was well worth the effort of battling the crowds to get a peek at the pages Frank was selling.  Have you ever played with one of those fractal generator applications? You know the kind, where you magnify the image and you can just keep going further and further in, revealing more and more detail? That's what looking at Frank's pencil work was like. His detail, his line control defies accurate description. This was poetry in pencil, with the graphite dust being laid out in a way that described life, emotion and action in a way that I can honestly say I have never experienced before.  The wrinkles of fabric, the loose strands of hair, the furrowed skin — it was almost three dimensional.  Describing art reminds me of the Heisenberg principle, where to describe it is to alter the subject, so I will resist discussing it further, but suffice to say, seeing his pencil work was truly a sublime experience, and is something I will never forget.


I had a great conversation with Nick Dragotta, whose work on the final issue of Fantastic Four was the subject of much conversation in episode 273 of the Pick of the Week Podcast. My friend Chris introduced me to him, and I realized that although I had met him in passing earlier in the day, I had not associated his name with his work on that spectacular issue. It was fun to talk to him about working with Hickman, how he did his best to celebrate Romita's work, and his stealth decision to bulk up Spider-Man.  I got the sense I was meeting a guy who had been working at this for a long time and who was truly on the cusp of being a readily recognizable (and celebrated) creator in the world of comics. It was fun to hear how he was a regular listener to the podcast, and how he was really pleased with how we discussed the comic during the show.  I told him that it was pretty easy to discuss his work, given the quality! I had other discussions with folks, but you'll get a sense of them when you see the interviews on the upcoming video show.  


In addition to talking to creators, we had the much-anticipated Walking Dead Zombie Bus Tour with Robert Kirkman on Friday night. To sum that night up…well, I guess the word "unique" comes to mind — I certainly never expected to see Robert Kirkman staple money to some guy before leaping on a bus with its windows covered by screens onto which scenes from The Walking Dead were projected. Usually when I say "that night was a freak show," I just mean that it was kind of a random night – this time, I'm being literal: there really was a (carny-style) freak show that kicked off the night, with sword swallowers, block heads and…well…lots of stuff that I heard people reacting to (I couldn't watch, I just heard the screams from the audience). 


The bus tour itself was fantastic and I really appreciated getting a chance to meet so many of the iFanbase. It's a real thrill when someone comes up and introduces themselves; it's just a pleasure to get a chance to actually talk and hang out. It sounded like everyone who wanted to got to speak with Kirkman, too, which is great. He was a real trooper and I gotta give him credit–he lasted a lot longer on the tour than I thought he would!


I'll admit it–Saturday was rough. I think I looked a lot less myself and more like one of the zombies from the night before as I shambled along after Ron and Conor as they took care of interviews. I walked the floor with my friend Chris a bit, had fun talking to the legitimately cool folks running The Game of Thrones booth, and realized that I am never, ever going to find Hellblazer: City of Demons #1, which I have been looking for for far too long.


The big event of the day, to be sure, was the iFanboy vs. Comics Alliance panel discussion that night.  It was my first panel, and I don't mind telling you: I was nervous. I have literally imagined what it would be like to speak at a comic book convention panel more than a few times (like way more than a few times), and, suddenly, I was sitting at a table behind a name card with my name on it, complete with the text reminding me that there were mostly likely kids under eighteen in the audience (there was one!). It was freaking awesome (the picture at the top of this article was taken from my seat as people were finding their seats while the AV was being set-up). 


For those of you who were at the actual panel, thanks so much for coming, first off, and second, you could probably tell I was of very little help to Conor and Ron for much of the actual proceedings, but that's okay. The panel was a welcome departure from the normal "how do I get stared in comic book podcasting?" and more of a friendly gameshow style competition moderated by Ryan Penagos, from Marvel Comics. It was a lot of fun to be on, and the feedback from the audience seems to point that it was a lot of fun to watch, too. A very loud shout out has to be made to Rick Remender, who was a key part of the evening success. We had an interview contest where David Brothers from Comics Alliance and Ron talked with Rick for five minutes each in front of the audience. For my part, both interviews were equally fascinating (with zero overlap, interestingly enough), and Rick was hilarious and insightful during both.  


On Saturday night, Conor and I left Ron to manage the door at the Isotope party and basically hung out in an overflow bar during part of the evening because the party was just so packed. Discussing how fun a party was is even harder to do than discussing art, but suffice to say, it was a party. With music. And art. And some really great people. And toilet seat art, like Isotope's newest edition from guest of honor Frank Quitely. (Above, left.)


WonderCon is my appetizer for San Diego but for Ron and Conor, it was the 3am pizza slice after the four course meal from earlier in the evening, having gone to three of these things in a month's time. I don't know how they do it! It was fun to get a chance to help out with the show and finally meet fellow iFanboy contributor Ali Colluccio in person—it was a reminder of just how much the iFanboy staff has grown over the years, and how interesting, fun and sharp the team is. Kind of intimidating, but in a good way!


While some news came out of the weekend (I was impressed with the Green Lantern trailer), for me this convention was much more about listening to a variety of creators discussing not only their work, but how they collaborated with their partners to tell stories. Rick Remender's discussion of working on Uncanny X-Force was just fascinating and I was really taken with what he said about working with gifted artists like Jerome Opeña. Basically, he found himself removing a good amount of the dialogue because the pages told so much for the story. Dragotta said something very similar, when we discussed the notion of the silence in the last issue of Fantastic Four. The emotional narrative of loss and grief came out more strongly without the word balloons; it let the reader's personal experience of tragedy inform the moments more. WonderCon is nice that way; you can have these discussions with creators that go deeper than "I like your work" — you have a bit more time to discuss the process of comic book creation.  And if you're talking to Jason Aaron, you can figure out which books his beard is going to write once it gains sentience.


So, I survived WonderCon…barely. Like I was murmuring to Conor after it was all said and done, it would be great if I could just get a bacta tank and rest in it until San Diego, but I'll walk off the Con SARS soon enough.  Thanks to all of you who introduced yourselves, thanks to all of you who made it to the panel and the parties, and I hope you had a blast. If you have a second, share your thoughts below!


Mike Romo is an actor with writerly notions who lives in LA. Twitter/Facebook.


  1. The Isotope party sounds like a lot of fun.  I wish I could attend all these cons (or at least the parties).

  2. I’m all blurry in that picture. To the left of that sceptre.

    Great review though. the iFanboy vs. Comics Alliance panel was hilarious.

  3. Wow, I really should’ve cut my hair before the convention.

    That was a really fun panel. Romo and Remender really stole the show. 

  4. Is there any footage of the ifanboy/comicsalliance panel? I mean @WonderAli did a great job summarizing it but I’d love to see it too.

  5. @TheNextChampion  Yes, there’s video. We’ll be releasing it at some point soon.

  6. Hey! Thats me in the white shirt slightly behind a guys head. Great article Mike. I talked to you briefly at Shine and you were super nice. I think everybody I saw on Saturday was looking rough if they did the crawl the night before. If that was your first panel, you’re being too hard in yourself, you did a good job.

  7. Great article Mike.  I gotta agree with your third paragraph, it seems that the at least the big 2 publishers never really release info at their panels. Gotta tease, keep it all hush hush. 
    Sounds like WonderCon is similar to Emerald City, were you can get in good conversations with creators.

  8. Thanks Conor/Ron/Mike for taking the time to take a photo with me on the last day of the con!  By the way, you guys are like giants in real life…

  9. Wondercon was great. I enjoyed conversations with you (Mike), Connor and Ron. Oh, and Mike even bought me a beer…though to be fair…I was with my friend Josie, (who is a girl) and Mike was being nice and offering both of us…she declined, but I was still like, “I’ll take a beer, of course!” Thanks Mike, I owe you a beer. Oh, and thank god you and Conner were talking with Josie and I by the bar while the carnival freak-show was going on…I couldn’t look either…which, by the way, is a compliment to a freak.

    Dom – “Jesus! I can’t even look at you!”

    Freak – “Why thank you. You’re too kind.”

    Oh and on the panel…how did no one come up with the title, “Roth the Reich Choice to Play Hitler” during the fake news story headline category?

    – Dom

  10. As @dgazzuolo points out I’m a girl and therefore have much to apologize for: 
    a)Sorry for not taking you up on that beer Mike I had slowly spilled my previous drink all over someone

    b)Ron, I’m sorry for slowly drizzling my drink all over your shoes like some sort of weird torturer I will as you suggested bring a sippy cup the next time I’m at a bar. Then I’ll accept drinks from everyone!

    c) Other guy that gave me a pink drink I’m sorry I handed it off to someone else (see above apology to Mike.)

    d) Dom, please don’t make fun of me like you did on Saturday when I brought a my own bottle of oj/vodka to the bars.

    So after all that nonsense of apologizing. I brought my billy club to the ifanboy vs comics alliance panel. I was really gearing up for an all out brawl, but was calmed by your surprise guest star Rick Remender who I can now say is my favorite on the page and off. The con wouldn’t have been the same without you guys. Hat’s off to ya.

  11. This was my first convention, and it was amazing. The party at the Isotope was overwhelming to say the least. I still question if it was all just a dream. Glad to hear I was not the only person nervous about meeting Frank Quietly. He just has this rockstar like presence to him. Glad I worked up the nerve to chat with him, because he really is such a nice guy. While exhausting, I’m thrilled WonderCon lived up to the hype.  

  12. @joVSz  you brought your oj/vodka bottle not to a bar, but to a nice Italian Restaurant. Classy.

    …and there’s no need to apologize for anything at Wondercon, it was awesome. Thanks for driving!

  13. Totally agree on the publishers. Dark Horse ran out of material 15 minutes into their panel and finally decided to end early when the questions dwindled. Also, as informative as the iFanboy panel was last year, this year’s competion format made it a must see event! I can’t wait to rewatch it on the video show and hope there may also be some footage from the first stop of the pub crawl. We only made it out to Zeitgeist but everyone we met from the community was friendly and fun to talk to. I especially enjoyed getting to meet Mike and Ali. Can’t wait for summer!

  14. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here but I really had an astounding time, and met such lovely, friendly folks. Much fun was had, (sometimes scary overwhelming fun but still fun), so a big thank you to everyone and everything that made wondercon such a great experience. Hopefully catch you guys again some time!

  15. WonderCon was just incredible. It was great finally meeting and getting to chat with you, Mike!

    @AbeFroman – your shirt at the IFanboy v. Comics Alliance panel was AMAZING!

  16. @WonderAli

    Thank you! It’s an old Woot shirt but I think you can find it on a site like teetrade. Too bad April 1st has passed because it would have been funny to have a headline like “Wonder Woman costume gets a kinky twist” and see the comments. (The fanboys went crazy in the discussion section of the above link.)

  17. I’ll bet the bar crawl was a blast.  I took my wife back to the hotel after Shine (she’s in her 2nd tri-mester and bar crawls just aren’t her cup of tea now)  Cannot emphasize how amazing the sideshow guys were, big shout out to Jelly Boy the Clown for taking those staples in unmentioned areas. Good to meet you three seperate times Mike and Conor and it was awsome to meet Ron at the Isotope Saturday night.  Anyone else think that Kirkman has clones?  Maybe he was just stalking us, but it seemed he was everywhere we were.  My hat looks pretty good in the picture.