‘A friendly convention’: WonderCon returns to Anaheim this month

Cosplayers dressed as "Lord of the Rings" characters pose at WonderCon inside the Anaheim Convention Center.
Cosplayers dressed as “Lord of the Rings” characters pose at WonderCon inside the Anaheim Convention Center in 2023. This year’s event returns the weekend of March 29.
(Jessica Peralta)

Enrique Munoz said that at age 7, he was having trouble reading and writing. Then he came across a “Spider-Man” comic book, and something about the imagery with words helped. By the end of second grade, he was reading at a third-grade level.

Now, Munoz owns Comic Hero University in Fullerton, open since December 2012, where he shares his love of comics with others.

“I owe a lot of my life to comic books,” Munoz said. “For years, I have been a firm believer that comics are for everyone, so I do what I can to get people excited about reading comics.”


Munoz — along with many other comic and pop culture enthusiasts — continues expanding his network of fellow fans and seeing creatives up close every year at the annual WonderCon, which returns to the Anaheim Convention Center this month, March 29 through 31. The San Diego Comic Convention (Comic-Con International), which also organizes Comic-Con in July at the San Diego Convention Center, puts on WonderCon.

“WonderCon has always been known as a friendly convention and continues so today,” said David Glanzer, chief communications and strategy officer for San Diego Comic Convention. “The show has expanded its areas of interest, as has Comic-Con, as comics and related popular art expand into new mediums. Perhaps the most obvious aspects of WonderCon is its relation to cosplay. WonderCon welcomes a great many fans who dress in costume and many often congregate in front of the convention center at the fountain posing for photographs from fans and professionals alike. That focus has resulted in Janome America, the distributor of household and computerized sewing machines, being [an] exhibitor [at] the WonderCon this year.”

Cosplayers mill around WonderCon at the Anaheim Convention Center in 2023.
(Jessica Peralta)

Munoz, who’s been attending WonderCon since 2005, said his main goal is to network.

“I have plans for a show of my own that centers around comics — theme being comics are for everyone — and I usually go to conventions to speak to creators and editors,” he said. “I go because it’s fun. I like to look at the comics and dream about getting books I don’t currently own. I like to see people in costume. I like to run into friends I made when I used to work the convention circuit. I like to make more contacts in the industry.”

He said that over the years, comic conventions like WonderCon have expanded their scope.

“Comic conventions used to be about comic books,” he said. “Comic conventions have now become a multimedia pop culture event. As comic book intellectual properties became much more prominent in the public eye, the more the publishers began to focus on the multimedia and less on the comics.”

Actor, singer and director Chris Villain takes part in a panel at the 2023 WonderCon.
(Courtesy of Impact24 PR)

Actor, singer and director Chris Villain, of Fullerton, is moderating two panels for Impact24 PR: “All in the Details: Costume, Makeup, Hair, and Production Design for Film and TV” and “4th Annual ‘It’s Alive!’: Designing Sci-Fi, Horror, and Drama Film and TV.”

“Participating in WonderCon is so special to me. I’ve been attending this convention for so long as a fan of all things pop culture, so to be side by side with the people creating some of the magic of this convention is the best feeling,” Villain said. “WonderCon is really like a home away from home for me. It’s an event that I attend to meet up with all my friends and a place where we all get to take part in what we love.”

He said his shopping list for WonderCon is very long, and he’s always excited to check out the Artists’ Alley area of the show floor.

“This is where local artists, crafters and cosplayers sell things that they create,” he said. “It’s a must-see every year. That, and of course, all the incredible panels.”

A model of the Marvel character Groot.
Toys and other collectibles, many made by participants, appear at WonderCon, including a model of the Marvel character Groot.
(Jessica Peralta)

Impact24 PR Client Development Analyst Kreesh Teli, of Orange, said Impact24 PR’s Panel Superblock series takes place on Saturday, March 30, starting at 11 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m. with three back-to-back panels spotlighting industry creatives from projects including “One Piece,” “Loki,” “The Traitors,” “Flamin’ Hot” and “Welcome to Wrexham.”

“Witnessing the sheer enthusiasm fans bring to support their favorite projects is truly remarkable,” Teli said. “We’ve had the pleasure of seeing attendees arrive at our panels in cosplay inspired by the very characters the panelists have worked on. For instance, just last year, a fan cosplayed as Ellie from ‘The Last of Us’ because the show’s production designer, John Paino, was on our panel. Their impromptu photo session was a highlight, capturing a moment of pure fandom magic. It’s moments like these that make WonderCon unforgettable.”

FuseFX Visual Effects Supervisor Marshall Krasser, whose projects include “The Fall of the House of Usher,” is attending WonderCon for the first time and will be part of the “It’s Alive!” panel. He said he hopes to help pull back the curtain and reveal the start-to-finish creation and thought process behind the work.

“A lot of planning is needed to pull work like this off — maybe more than people imagine,” he said.

Mo Williams, of Los Angeles, is attending WonderCon as part of a live game called “The Gauntlet: A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure” on March 30.

“It is a competitive live-play session of DND [‘Dungeons & Dragons’] where characters from different famous fantasy/sci-fi worlds are all tossed together and must fight against each other for their heart’s desire,” he said. “We designed it to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ‘Dungeons & Dragons.’”

The annual WonderCon, pictured in 2023, returns to Anaheim Convention Center March 29 through 31.
The annual WonderCon, pictured in 2023, returns to the Anaheim Convention Center March 29 through 31. The convention is organized by the San Diego Comic Convention (Comic-Con International).
(Jessica Peralta)

Last year was Williams’ first time attending WonderCon.

“I really love the community,” he said. “It feels inclusive and welcoming. It’s a place where I can share my passions with like-minded people.”

He said the tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) group, RolePlay GrabBag, that is putting on “The Gauntlet” just launched a YouTube channel to showcase the many different tabletop role-playing games they play.

“By doing a panel, we are able to show people what we have to offer, drive traffic to our channel and build a community of collaboration with other groups, individuals,” he said.

Beyond cosplay, panels and a large selection of activities and entertainment, small (and large) business plays a big role on the show floor through exhibitors.

Franco Te co-owns Tee No Evil T-shirt business in Brea, which is themed around horror, anime and other pop culture designs. He said they’ve been attending WonderCon for nine years as a business.

“We love this event because we see a lot of our loyal supporters stopping by,” he said. “So many people said ‘hi’ last year. Hanging out with fellow horror fans and nerds is always fun.”

Chris Stever, of Chris & Jane’s Place: Zombie Gnomes, sculpts a zombie gnome during WonderCon.
Chris Stever, of Chris & Jane’s Place: Zombie Gnomes, sculpts a zombie gnome during a previous WonderCon.
(Courtesy of Zombie Gnomes)

Chris & Jane’s Place: Zombie Gnomes Co-Owner Jane DeRosa, of San Bernardino, said she and her husband started making zombie-themed yard gnomes in 2011 and have since created all kinds of gnomes and gnome accessories including middle-finger gnomes, mushroom houses and custom gnomes. They’ve been attending WonderCon as a business for about 10 years.

“It’s fantastic advertising for us. We also try to bring something fun and interesting for the crowds each year that draws their attention. Also sales are pretty consistently good each year. We have return customers almost every year, which is always wonderful to see,” DeRosa said. “WonderCon has such an array of people from all different fields that we get customers who want us to make custom pieces, wholesalers … It’s hard not to feel inspired when you are around so many creative people.”