Tag Archives: WonderCon

Celebrating 100 Blog Posts with 7 Days to Go Until ‘The Force Awakens’

Today, we are one week away from the official opening day of “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens.”

It also happens to be the day of my 100th blog post.

In another happy coincidence, the two-year anniversary of the launching of this blog is Dec. 17, the day “The Force Awakens” debuts in early screenings.

Nearly two years ago, I was on bed rest and bored out of my mind after pregnancy complications. I had been out of work for almost two months and hadn’t written a thing. I was considering organizing my photos to pass the time when I had a conversation with my sister.

“Don’t organize your photos,” she said. “Start your blog.”

It just so happened that I had the subject of a post in mind. I wrote it, then very awkwardly began learning the basics of WordPress. And here we are.

Two years of blogging has been fun, freeing and often frustrating. I appreciate my tiny, devoted and extremely gracious band of readers, but sometimes this feels like a thankless task.

I had lost much of my motivation for blogging when I had another conversation with my sister, this one about a crazy idea to count down to the release of “The Force Awakens,” with new, Star Wars-related content almost every day for a month.

That crazy idea has turned out to be a blast and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for writing about and editing all things nerdy and cinematic.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, and I’m glad we still have an entire week to go.

In celebration of the 100th post at lavendervroman.com, I’ve decided to re-run one of my favorite essays from the blog, an oldie but goodie that very much applies to the warm, affectionate feelings I have for you, dear readers, and the entire Star Wars community.

Here it is. Let’s keep enjoying this moment together. There’s no telling how long it will last.

I Hope My Daughter Grows Up to Be a Nerd
(originally posted April 28, 2014)

Several years ago, when my husband and I still attended the San Diego Comic-Con — back when it was more fun than exhausting — we would occasionally observe a couple pushing a stroller through the crowd, grim looks on their faces as the Red Sea of sweaty fanboys refused to part for them.

“They’re nuts,” I used to say.

It was time for me to eat my words when we decided to take our 3-month-old daughter to WonderCon Anaheim, the cozier little sister to San Diego’s towering pop culture extravaganza.

We booked a hotel attached to the Anaheim Convention Center, packed up the million items of baby ephemera required for an overnight trip with an infant, outfitted the little munchkin in a yoda hat stitched by a crafty cousin and made the pilgrimage to our favorite geek mecca. Our baby’s “Doctor Who”-worshiping aunt came along for moral support.

Soon I had become one half of THAT couple, maneuvering a stroller through hordes of spandex-clad superheroes, unidentifiable anime critters and hairy dudes declaring, via T-shirt, their allegiance to DC or Marvel. As the husband headed off in the direction of the Warner Bros. panel, the aunt and I waited for the exhibit hall to open and my tiny daughter got her first eyeful of the convention’s colorful passersby.

As Batmen in black body armor, Stormtroopers armed with blasters, gender-bending Thors and Lokis, wispy Elsas from “Frozen” and a guy painted entirely silver to look like a certain surfboard-carrying comic book character paraded in front of her, my baby’s eyes grew wide. She had entered a strange new world.

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That’s when I got to thinking. Many parents want their children to grow up to be doctors, lawyers, ballet dancers, Olympic gymnasts or the president of the United States. Those pursuits are certainly admirable but when I think about my daughter’s future, I have a different fate in mind. I hope she grows up to be a nerd.

I suppose the odds are in my favor. My little girl wakes up every morning in a house littered with the traces of her parents’ geekdom. Posters of “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” line the walls. Display cases full of Legos dominate the living room. Boxes of action figures are crammed into closets. Shelves overflow with books, many of them science fiction and fantasy. And on the mantle over the fireplace sits one of those fancy replica lightsabers, a cherished Christmas gift from dad to mom.

In this house, Sunday nights are dedicated to “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones,” the latest “Star Wars” news is hashed over and then rehashed and though we’re not a big comic book family, you’d better believe we’ll be there Friday when the latest Marvel movie hits theaters.

Most of our friends are nerds, too. Unlike the stereotype, they’re not 35-year-old men living in their mothers’ basements, playing World of Warcraft and guzzling Mountain Dew. They’re well adjusted, intelligent, productive members of society who also happen to read feminist comic books, debate the merits of “Star Wars” vs. “Star Trek,” play “The Elder Scrolls” online, re-read the Harry Potter books annually, line up at midnight for movies, countdown to the next seasons of “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who” and get excited about Hayao Miyazaki.

These are some of the coolest, smartest, most fascinating people I know and that’s why I hope my daughter doesn’t choose to rebel against her nerd heritage in favor of a boring existence. Many people slog through life doing the bare minimum — going to work, going home to spend the night sitting in front of some reality TV show.

Nerds want more. They’re not satisfied with reality and the status quo. Their imaginations are always churning, always musing, always wondering: wouldn’t it be cool if … time travel was possible, vampires existed, the zombie apocalypse happened, there was life on other planets, some rich dude with a cave and clever gadgets could save society from the evil within or if a British time lord could alter the course of history.

Nerds are passionate and playful. When they care about something they really care. They don’t do things by halves. They’re obsessed and they want to share that obsession with you. They’re not content to just watch or listen, they want to live it, collect it, wear it on a T-shirt, write about it in an Internet chat room, join a club or — as evidenced by the number of people who indulge in cosplay at WonderCon and similar events around the country — transform themselves into their favorite characters.

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Some would argue that such obsessions are childish, pointless and don’t make a difference, but the sheer momentum of nerd passion has turned comic book and fantasy movies into a billion dollar industry in Hollywood, resurrected cancelled television shows, united scores of disconnected individuals and, yes, even accomplished some good in the world.

Take, for instance, The Harry Potter Alliance, thehpalliance.org, a self-described “coalition” of Harry Potter fans who have launched campaigns for literacy, equality and human rights around the world, donating books to impoverished kids, sending disaster relief supplies to Haiti, building a library and pressuring Warner Bros. about the use of child labor in the manufacturing of Harry Potter chocolates.

I’d go so far as to say that the world would be a better place if we were all just a little bit nerdier. I hope my daughter grows up to love a television show dearly, to take an enthusiastic stance when it comes to “Star Wars” or “Star Trek,” Marvel or DC, to adore a movie so much she can’t stop talking about it, to create a costume so she can “become” her favorite cartoon character, to acquire a ravenous taste for books, especially fiction and fantasy.

I hope she embraces and is embraced by other nerds as warmly as I have been embraced by them. If she can find it in her heart to do this, I know she’ll be happy.

Photos: Nick Vroman, Lavender Vroman.

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Are WonderCon Glory Days Already in the Past?

It was a weekend of hellfire and brimstone, and geeks on parade.

It was the only place in the country where you could find scowling street preachers, moms and dads with cute, little Jawas in tow, gender-bending Harley Quinns and Hulks, and ladies in anime finery that made all but the perviest of amateur photographers blush.

It was WonderCon, that annual gathering of comic book nerds and pop culture enthusiasts, where the atmosphere is a weird, entertaining mixture of family friendly and R-rated.

Transforming the Anaheim Convention Center into a colorful sea of celebrities, comic book artists, superheroes, Disney princesses, “Game of Thrones” characters and animated critters, the event wrapped Sunday after three days of movie, TV and manga-inspired madness.

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This was my fourth year at WonderCon, an event I anticipate with relish. I love taking in the unusual sights and sounds of the convention, communing with fellow fangirls and -boys, and letting my enthusiasm for pop culture run wild.

This time around, though, the bloom was off the rose. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood, or maybe I’m getting old, or maybe I need to take a breather, but the convention is starting to feel a bit repetitive to me.

In 2012, organizer Comic-Con International moved its second largest event from San Francisco to Anaheim, an exciting development for Southern California pop culture enthusiasts. Since then, however, the programming at WonderCon has grown less compelling and less relevant with each year.

This is especially true when it comes to the film-related portion of the convention. Because WonderCon competes with its big sister convention, San Diego Comic-Con, the major Hollywood studios aren’t willing to expend the resources to make appearances at both events.

Disney throws its own convention, D23, so that rules out any Marvel movie or Star Wars presence at WonderCon. Meanwhile, Fox, Warner Bros. and their ilk won’t loan out footage or talent from their most anticipated comic book or sci-fi flicks when they’ll be bringing out the big guns in July at Comic-Con.

Initially, WonderCon organizers managed to scrape together some interesting Q&A sessions and sneak peaks anyway.

In the past, featured films included “Battleship,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Prometheus,” “Pacific Rim,” “The Conjuring,” “This is the End,” “Evil Dead,” “Godzilla” and “The Maze Runner.” Stars such as Charlize Theron, Emma Stone, Michael Fassbender and Seth Rogen appeared to discuss their projects.

Those days are apparently over. This year’s Hollywood programming could only be described as dismal.

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Aside from a presentation by horror outfit Blumhouse, the only major movie event at WonderCon this year was a Warner Bros. panel.

What did Warner Bros. deem worthy of showcasing to the thousands of fans who filled the convention center’s flying-saucer-like Arena? Aside from some admittedly electrifying footage from the upcoming “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the studio spent the majority of its (extremely brief) time hawking the cheesy disaster flick “San Andreas,” starring Dwayne Johnson.

The Rock couldn’t be bothered to attend, leaving director Brad Peyton and co-stars Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario to congratulate themselves on finding the “emotions” in this ridiculous looking film.

I propose that WonderCon organizers refrain from insulting convention-goers with half-hearted, mediocre offering and just jettison the movie portion of the event. They should focus on their strengths: the comic books, the TV shows, the nerdy Internet phenoms.

That isn’t to say that there wasn’t good stuff to be seen at the 2015 Con. I sat in on a delightful panel for BBC America’s “Orphan Black,” which returns for a third season on April 18.

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There were screenings and signings and sneak peeks galore. Geek icons Felicia Day and Chris Hardwick held audiences spellbound. There were Q&As and special screenings for popular series “Gotham” and “The Flash,” while viewers were courted by newbies “American Odyssey” and “iZombie.”

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The convention’s exhibit hall continues to be an overwhelmingly wondrous place to shop for nerd necessities, like action figures, comic books, T-shirts and pleasingly strange curios, although it does tend to feature the same vendors year after year.

The fans who attend WonderCon never fail to entertain, especially the ones who turn out in the elaborate handmade get-ups that inspire the rest of us to point with childlike glee and whip out our cameras.

My favorites this year included the entire, elaborately costumed team from “Big Hero Six,” a handful of convincing “Game of Thrones” lookalikes, a baby Tank Girl, a couple of tiny Jawas, a fabulous Poison Ivy drag queen and the usual assortment of Star Wars fans, who never fail to pull out all the stops when it comes to wardrobe.

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It has been reported that organizers plan to move the 2016 edition of WonderCon to the Los Angeles Convention Center, a development that raises all kinds of questions for the future of the event.

Will this larger, more Hollywood-centric location inject some much-needed novelty into the event? Perhaps give it the heft it needs to attract stronger programming?

Or will it turn it into the impossible-to-navigate, hyper-commercial circus that San Diego Comic-Con has become?

Only time will tell.

Here’s hoping time will be kind to us, the fans who love WonderCon.

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Photos: Nick Vroman, Lavender Vroman

I Hope My Daughter Grows Up to Be a Nerd

Several years ago, when my husband and I still attended the San Diego Comic-Con — back when it was more fun than exhausting — we would occasionally observe a couple pushing a stroller through the crowd, grim looks on their faces as the Red Sea of sweaty fanboys refused to part for them.

“They’re nuts,” I used to say.

It was time for me to eat my words when we decided to take our 3-month-old daughter to WonderCon Anaheim, the cozier little sister to San Diego’s towering pop culture extravaganza.

We booked a hotel attached to the Anaheim Convention Center, packed up the million items of baby ephemera required for an overnight trip with an infant, outfitted the little munchkin in a yoda hat stitched by a crafty cousin and made the pilgrimage to our favorite geek mecca. Our baby’s “Doctor Who”-worshiping aunt came along for moral support.

Soon I had become one half of THAT couple, maneuvering a stroller through hordes of spandex-clad superheroes, unidentifiable anime critters and hairy dudes declaring, via T-shirt, their allegiance to DC or Marvel. As the husband headed off in the direction of the Warner Bros. panel, the aunt and I waited for the exhibit hall to open and my tiny daughter got her first eyeful of the convention’s colorful passersby.

As Batmen in black body armor, Stormtroopers armed with blasters, gender-bending Thors and Lokis, wispy Elsas from “Frozen” and a guy painted entirely silver to look like a certain surfboard-carrying comic book character paraded in front of her, my baby’s eyes grew wide. She had entered a strange new world.

photo 2

That’s when I got to thinking. Many parents want their children to grow up to be doctors, lawyers, ballet dancers, Olympic gymnasts or the president of the United States. Those pursuits are certainly admirable but when I think about my daughter’s future, I have a different fate in mind. I really hope she grows up to be a nerd.

I suppose the odds are in my favor. My little girl wakes up every morning in a house littered with the traces of her parents’ geekdom. Posters of “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” line the walls. Display cases full of Legos dominate the living room. Boxes of action figures are crammed into closets. Shelves overflow with books, many of them science fiction and fantasy. And on the mantle over the fireplace sits one of those fancy replica lightsabers, a cherished Christmas gift from dad to mom. In this house, Sunday nights are dedicated to “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones,” the latest “Star Wars” news is hashed over and then rehashed and though we’re not a big comic book family, you’d better believe we’ll be there Friday when the latest Marvel movie hits theaters.

Most of our friends are nerds, too. Unlike the stereotype, they’re not 35-year-old men living in their mothers’ basements, playing World of Warcraft and guzzling Mountain Dew. They’re well adjusted, intelligent, productive members of society who also happen to read feminist comic books, debate the merits of “Star Wars” vs. “Star Trek,” play “The Elder Scrolls” online, re-read the Harry Potter books annually, line up at midnight for movies, countdown to the next seasons of “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who” and get excited about Hayao Miyazaki.

These are some of the coolest, smartest, most fascinating people I know and that’s why I hope my daughter doesn’t choose to rebel against her nerd heritage in favor of a boring existence. Many people slog through life doing the bare minimum — going to work, going home to spend the night sitting in front of some reality TV show.

Nerds want more. They’re not satisfied with reality and the status quo. Their imaginations are always churning, always musing, always wondering: wouldn’t it be cool if … time travel was possible, vampires existed, the zombie apocalypse happened, there was life on other planets, some rich dude with a cave and clever gadgets could save society from the evil within or if a British time lord could alter the course of history.

Nerds are passionate and playful. When they care about something they really care. They don’t do things by halves. They’re obsessed and they want to share that obsession with you. They’re not content to just watch or listen, they want to live it, collect it, wear it on a T-shirt, write about it in an Internet chat room, join a club or — as evidenced by the number of people who indulge in cosplay at WonderCon and similar events around the country — transform themselves into their favorite characters.

photo 1

Some would argue that such obsessions are childish, pointless and don’t make a difference, but the sheer momentum of nerd passion has turned comic book and fantasy movies into a billion dollar industry in Hollywood, resurrected cancelled television shows, united scores of disconnected individuals and, yes, even accomplished some good in the world. Take, for instance, The Harry Potter Alliance, thehpalliance.org, a self-described “coalition” of Harry Potter fans who have launched campaigns for literacy, equality and human rights around the world, donating books to impoverished kids, sending disaster relief supplies to Haiti, building a library and pressuring Warner Bros. about the use of child labor in the manufacturing of Harry Potter chocolates.

I’d go so far as to say that the world would be a better place if we were all just a little bit nerdier. I hope my daughter grows up to love a television show dearly, to take an enthusiastic stance when it comes to “Star Wars” or “Star Trek,” Marvel or DC, to adore a movie so much she can’t stop talking about it, to create a costume so she can “become” her favorite cartoon character, to acquire a ravenous taste for books, especially fiction and fantasy. I hope she embraces and is embraced by other nerds as warmly as I have been embraced by them. If she can find it in her heart to do this, I know she’ll be happy.

Photos by Fawn Kemble

 

 

 

Spilling WonderCon’s Best Kept Movie Secret

Among the main attractions of WonderCon Anaheim are the movie panels, which are almost as much fun as hanging out with shameless exhibitionists clad in spandex. The latest edition of the giant Southern California nerd-fest, which wrapped yesterday, highlighted anticipated films “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “Godzilla.”

However, the real thrill of the panels comes in the form of those little gems you discover when you least expect it. This year, the biggest surprise was director Matthew Vaughn’s upcoming comic book adaptation “The Secret Service.” Twentieth Century Fox unveiled some rough but intriguing footage of this stylized spy flick, despite the fact that Vaughn was reluctant to tip his hand so early, according to moderator Ralph Garman. The film is due for release in 2015.

Based on a comic book by Vaughn’s previous collaborators, “Kick-Ass” writer Matt Millar and artist Dave Gibbons, “The Secret Service” is about a rogue British intelligence agency designed to accomplish what the CIA and MI6 cannot. The movie stars Colin Firth,  Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine. It is also rumored to feature cameos by the likes of Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, David Beckham and Elton John.

The footage unveiled Saturday featured Firth in proper English gentleman mode, sharing a pint of Guinness at a pub with a young British street punk played by Taron Egerton. Firth’s seemingly harmless secret agent is attempting to recruit the incredulous lad when the meeting is interrupted by a gang of thugs. The actor calmly strolls to the establishment’s double doors, slides the lock shut, then proceeds to kick his would-be assailants’ butts, making particularly ingenious use of his umbrella. Of course, Firth never breaks a sweat. His dry British wit is his deadliest weapon.

The scene was followed by a montage of clips that were equally tantalizing, suggesting “The Secret Service” is Vaughn at his best with the hilariously violent edge of “Kick-Ass,” the action movie panache of “X-Men: First Class” and the gritty British quirks of the director’s debut film, “Layer Cake.”

“The Secret Service” appears to make excellent use of Firth’s quintessential Britishness, for which he was celebrated in “The King’s Speech” and “Pride and Prejudice.” And then there is the unlikely presence of Jackson, apparently on a quest to pop up in every comic book movie known to man.

As Hollywood persists in stripping the pages of every graphic novel it can get its hands on, from Marvel’s invincible franchise machine to DC’s ever growing repertoire, “The Secret Service” looks to be a smaller, refreshingly original entry in a genre built on endless possibilities. You should be hearing a lot more about in the future.