The Frame

Movies, music, TV, arts and entertainment, straight from Southern California. Hosted by John Horn

WonderCon wrap-up: Convention moving to Los Angeles as female fandom grows

by Mike Roe | The Frame

Cosplaying fans gather for a photo outside WonderCon Anaheim 2015. Pat Loika/Flickr Creative Commons

Hordes of super fans descended on the WonderCon comic convention over the weekend in Anaheim. From the same people behind the annual San Diego Comic-Con, WonderCon's the kid brother, but it still draws big crowds — around 60,000 fans compared to Comic-Con's 130,000. It was officially announced Monday that the convention is moving next year to Los Angeles.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti alluded to the possibility of other events in a statement, referring to Comic-Con in general after specifically addressing WonderCon.

"We look forward to establishing a long-term partnership with Comic-Con International, the presenter, and helping them establish a home-base in L.A." Garcetti said. "We anticipate the show to be highly attended and to set the precedent for future successful Comic-Con events in L.A."

For now, the new location is only set for one year, but there's a lot of money in a convention that draws fans from around the world — according to the city, WonderCon 2016 is expected to have a $32 million economic impact, and San Diego Comic-Con's impact has been estimated to be around five times that. They've long wooed the convention, trying to win it away from San Diego, and with a contract coming up soon, here's L.A.'s chance to show the organizers of the nonprofit convention that they can provide what's needed.

It comes at a time of greater diversity in fan culture, which has often been male-dominated, with both the convention and the creators providing more diverse content. For the first time this year, WonderCon launched a separate fan culture programming track. It included topics in areas that reach to areas beyond what's traditionally been covered at conventions, including body image, fashion, fitness and more.

While statistics weren't available, there appeared to be more female fans that ever in attendance at WonderCon. While they're largely drawn by the same things as everyone else, the large number of costumed fans (cosplayers, as they're known) included a lot of women dressed up as the leads from more female-centric series — those dressed as the star of Marvel's new series Agent Carter were particularly abundant. The comics have also recently swapped some of their major characters, with a new African-American Captain America and a female Thor, as well as introducing new more diverse characters, such as cult favorite Ms. Marvel.

The films are taking a bit longer for female leads to have as large an impact in genre movies, but TV has proven open to the idea. "iZombie" is the first show from DC Comics in years with a female lead, and star Rose McIver tells KPCC that one of the things she loved about the show is that it gave her a chance to play a character who wasn't what you always see in women's roles.

"We get to see men playing lots of different looks. And women, it's like, you're either really glamorous or you're broken. That's about all we see, and that is not all that there is," McIver said.

iZombie trailer

There's still plenty of room for the more traditional fare — the largest movie presentation of the weekend was the Warner Brothers panel for two testosterone-fueled upcoming films, "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "San Andreas." People had been hoping for Warner to surprise with a new trailer for next year's "Batman v Superman," but they were left wanting — the closest they got was a reunion panel with the cast of the late '70s and early '80s Superman movies directed by Richard Donner.

Fans are left on the edge of their seats to see what's next, with women in fan culture — and where they'll be gathering in the years to come.

The Frame's digital producer and KPCC's resident pop-culture expert, Mike Roe, spoke with John Horn about the shift to attract more female fans, as well as some of the highlights of the convention.


On what's changing in the world of fan culture:

There's been a lot more outreach to female fans. They have a new fan culture track at Comic-Con and at WonderCon that targets female fans. They talk about fitness, they talk about crafts, and various things that sort of make this whole fan lifestyle.

And at this convention, I saw more female fans than I think I've seen at any one of these previous conventions. It's definitely, I think, working.

For a long time, comic book TV shows have been about big bad superheroes, but now there's 'Agent Carter,' a female lead from Marvel Comics. There's 'iZombie,' which is a female lead character from DC Comics on the CW [television network].

And I had a chance to talk to some of the stars of 'iZombie' over the weekend at the convention, and they were talking about how great it is that they have this opportunity to reach out into that source material and comic books and be able to do this finally. 

On the upcoming TV shows and movies featured:

This year the big, new things they were promoting were [the film] 'San Andreas.' They had a panel for that.

San Andreas trailer

[The FOX television show] 'Last Man on Earth' did a big panel. One thing that's interesting about [WonderCon] being sort of the little brother of Comic-Con is that at the 'Last Man on Earth' panel they showed an upcoming episode of the show but they actually asked everybody, 'Please don't tell anybody about this.' It was one of those things, like they think they could get away with it because they're small.

Last Man On Earth trailer

On WonderCon's move to L.A. next year:

They've announced just one year in L.A. They haven't announced plans beyond that. L.A, for a long time, has wanted to land San Diego Comic-Con, so this is their opportunity to show that they can handle it.

You know, L.A's a bigger place, but it may not have all the same advantages that San Diego has.

With contributions from Sarah Sweeney and John Horn

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