Reunions. That’s what was happening all around me at WonderCon 2022. Everywhere I went, on the exhibition floor, by the fountain, or by the other fountain, in hotel room lobbies, in parking lots, in COVID-19 vaccination check lines, people were reuniting. It became familiar: the tap-dancing of the feet, accompanied by the slight bird-like tilt to the head, as though that gentle shift in perspective could help the face blindness so many of us have developed over the last two years.
WonderCon 2022 is the first since 2019, which took place at the Anaheim Convention Center from March 29-31 2019. This was a year before lockdown, a year before conventions seemed like they might never happen again.
Repeatedly I found myself in conversations where people talked about WonderCon being their favorite of the SoCal cons— when asked to explain why, I’d get intangible answers about the vibe, or maybe the location, something to do with the trees and fountains, and definitely the people. Whatever the case, people were very glad to be back.
Safety First (More or Less)
COVID-19 precautions remained in full effect, with vaccination or negative test checks as the first barrier to entry. Volunteers from the 501st Legion helped with these lines, which seemed generally fast moving, and at non-peak times, these tents were free of any lines at all. Staff gave wristbands out, indicating a vaccination/negative status, and as long as you held onto your wristband all weekend, you didn’t need to go back through these checkpoints. Masks weren’t required outside the convention center itself, and staff provided visual checks of badge, wristband, and masks to head inside. That said, once people were in the exhibitor hall itself, there was no way to enforce a mask policy, and many went without.
One of the challenges this year was a vague and constantly changing cosplay weapons policy. All prop weapons of any variety were zip-tied onto the cosplayer, to include in ways that made the prop more dangerous (prop swords tip-tied onto belts, for instance, ensuring the sword would swing around as the cosplayer walked). This policy seemed to shift as each day went on– some cosplayers, for instance, found that going through side entrances would ensure a more relaxed policy. Similarly, there was no bag check whatsoever. Lightsabers counted as swords for this year and were zip-tied to belts, though inside the exhibit hall, there were numerous sabers for sale. This led to confusion and a certain amount of angst for cosplayers who attempted to follow the WonderCon stated policies, only to be told by staff on the day of that they had “just been texted a new policy right then and there,” (as overheard by this particular blogger). The intention was safety first, but the execution needed some finesse.
Causeplay: Cosplay Volunteering
At the fan booths in the back of the exhibit hall, members of the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion Star Wars costuming/charity groups recruited new members for the Empire and Rebellion respectively. Droid makers from the BB-8 Builders Club, Mouse Droid Builders Club and others delighted fans with R2 units, BB-8, WALL-E, among many more.
One of these costuming charity groups, the Los Angeles Ghostbusters, were ready to delight fans of Ghostbusters of all ages. Their table was constantly bustling with excitement, and all of the members of the team were ready to bust a joke or some ghosts. Their fully kitted-out booth displayed a containment unit and proton pack, but the most remarkable thing on their table was their commitment to and collection for the charity they support, Starlight Children’s Foundation. Starlight is a non-profit headquartered in Los Angeles, California, whose programs include providing hospital wear, games, and deliveries to hospitalized children, according to their website. For more information on the Los Angeles Ghostbusters, visit them at their website or on instagram at laghostbusters.
At the booth next door, charity costuming group Avengers Initiative (AI) hosted their first-ever booth, at the center of which was a volunteer-built Hulkbuster suit. Volunteers staffed the booth all weekend to recruit new members into AI’s country-wide mission of gathering Marvel fans with a passion for Marvel costuming and service. These passions are combined to provide service to our communities, such as visiting sick children in hospitals, participating in walks for various critical causes, and going wherever the (volunteer) Avengers might be needed.
The Wasp: @louskyboo, Black Widow: @writergamernerd, Shang Chi: @bryan.s.lee, Starlord: @steve.makes, and Captain America (beside Iron Man): @nova.erm.
The Avengers Initiative hosted a panel on Friday night of WonderCon about Causeplay, using cosplay ins service of others. Panel members (including the writer of this post) shared stories about cosplay and volunteer work and hopefully inspired new members to join.
On Saturday, AI hosted a Marvel photoshoot, which saw hundreds of Marvel cosplay fans come out to participate. Avengers assembled that day, along with friends, villains, and multiverses. See the aweomse photo below! For more about joining the Avengers Initiative, check out their website: avengershq.com.
Hundreds of cosplayers showed up for the Marvel photoshoot hosted by volunteer group Avengers Initiative. Photograph provided by Roger Taylor III.
Final Thoughts Placeholder
If WonderCon 2022 was about reunions, it was also about stretching literal and figurative legs: cosplayers dusting off (and taking in/out) costumes and test driving new ones, shoppers perusing new merchandise, vendors cracking their knuckles to shake out their selling skills. In some places, the organizational cracks may have shown in the Comic Con veneer, but fundamentally WonderCon 2022 said this: we’re back. We’re back in this new world, this new context, with old faces (half-covered) and familiar passions. In the Anaheim Marriott, one man ran down the length of the hallway from the parking garage in pursuit of a friend he said he hadn’t seen in three years (this, he clarified, as he ran breathless through small crowds of people).
Conventions like WonderCon are about community. They’re about sharing and collaborating, making new friends and greeting the old. And during the beautiful sun-soaked days on the first weekend of April 2022, WonderCon was exactly that. See you guys next year.
Everyone, be sure to follow Alice via @writergamernerd on IG and Twitter to see more from her impressive cosplay and amazing writing. We can’t wait to find out what Alice has in store for us next!
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