We shall meet again! Just ... not this year.
We shall meet again! Just ... not this year. Dobino / Getty Images

Who knows what conventions are going to look like after all this is over, but I don’t entirely hate how they’ve made the transition from in-person panels to streaming.

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Of course, nothing will ever take the place of settling into those awkward linked-together convention center chairs; gazing around at the mix of cosplayers; getting lost in the maze of escalators while searching for that one weird hallway that leads to a Subway; and dreading the moment when someone gets up to the mic to ask a question that starts with “so, a quick story about me.” I miss IRL cons very, very much. But honestly, this weekend’s WonderCon@Home is shaping up to be a pretty nice online experience.

Normally held in LA or Anaheim, the ComicCon offshoot has been a welcome springtime fixture of the nerd con calendar since the 1980s. Its proximity to Los Angeles meant a higher concentration of stars in attendance than you might find, well, in Seattle; but it also meant traveling to Southern California, which, ha, no thank you. But now you can attend from anywhere in the world, which you should absolutely do, because these panels honestly look fantastic.

I think my fear is already pretty well-fed at this point, thanks
I think my fear is already pretty well-fed at this point, thanks Dobino / Getty Images

FRIDAY WONDERCON PANELS

One of the nice things about WonderCon livestreaming the panels is that they appear to be watchable even after they end, which means that you don’t need to intricately time your con activities to watch the whims of the scheduling gods — and, if you’re a frantic weirdo like me, you can watch the replay at double-speed. Some of the fun panels that have already broadcast are an animation-industry talk, a debate about which comic hero is the most neurotic, advice on running a Kickstarter, and one about digital journalism. (Ok maybe that last one’s just of interest to me, BTW have you read my comic book reviews?)

I am also interested in this talk about “Fascinating Gadgets, Gizmos, and Gear-Based Technologies,” but holy shit, how did organizers not realize what it looks like when you abbreviate that as FGGGbT?

There’s lots more of interest today (and to prepare you, WonderCon is using a frustrating scheduling app called Eventeny that is not the most user-friendly, so just be ready for a little confusion). Seek out “Creating Illustrated Books for Young Readers” and “Makeup Effects on a Budget” for some fun hands-on how-tos; and for behind-the-scenes insights, look for “Into the VFX” of various big-ticket TV shows and “Voyager 25th Anniversary Documentary Team.”

I’m also intrigued by a handful of storytelling panels today: “Exploring the Dark Comic-Book Origins of Blade Runner,” “Rise of the Latina Superheroes,” and a “Storytelling Techniques” panel coordinated by Image Comics.

For more animation fun, check out “Cartoon Voices,” featuring a star-studded lineup of those voice actors who are somehow on EVERY SHOW. Will Maurice LeMarche do an Orson Welles impression? I hope so.

Well excuse me princess
Well excuse me princess Dobino / Getty Images

SATURDAY WONDERCON PANELS

For big-ticket TV, check out “Dispatches from Middle Earth,” about the upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series, and “Behind the Screen” for more general making-of stories. “The Virtual Backlot” sounds intriguing — it’s a panel about using game technology to create TV shows, as was done on The Mandalorian.

Comics insiders may like “LGBTQ+ Comics and Social Activism” and “So You Want to be a Manga Editor?” as well as an artist-focused panel from Image, and a “Kids Comics” panel with the Pepper Page folks, among others. I’m curious about the tips to be shared in “How to Get News Coverage” (my advice: be interesting). Also promising is “How to Build a Loyal Fan Base From Scratch.”

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Storytellers, don’t miss “How to Create Your Own Novel,” as well as “Creating Content in a Constantly Changing World” for a talk about staying motivated. Tor will provide a look at their upcoming slate, which should keep you busy with nerdy novels well into whenever the next pandemic hits.

And those are just the panels! There are also a ton of game groups using the con schedule to meet via Discord, and the con is also coordinating movie-watch parties via Screener. (You’ll need a membership to a streaming service to participate in some of them.) They’ve also got a virtual “Exhibit Hall” that is essentially an alphabetical list of vendors, and is almost entirely unhelpful for browsing products you might be interested in. And they’ve got a “fan activities” page with a crossword puzzle, word scramble, and coloring page, like it’s the back of a kids’ meal placemat — I can’t imagine who on Earth is interested in those offerings, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to have them?

Some of the innovations that virtual cons like WonderCon have rolled out are great; I love watching from home and I love being able to timeshift panels that I can’t make it to in person. As for other offerings, like the hard-to-browse exhibit hall … well, valiant effort, and please don’t give up on trying to find a way to make it work.