With thirty minutes left of WonderCon on Sunday afternoon, a small crowd of thirty to forty people gathered in Room 515 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in order to have an opportunity to address their concerns to John Rogers, Comic-Con International President.
Approximately two dozen attendees took turns at the microphone to voice their concerns and frustrations, as well as express praise and potential solutions. The topic that came up most often centered on the new badge and scanner system. Briefly, at this year’s WonderCon, attendees were required to tap their badge onto a sensor pad at entrance and exit points throughout the convention center. The height of scanners was a challenge for taller individuals. The bump strip on the floor at the scanner stations was difficult to navigate over if in a wheelchair. One person said the clips were difficult to use to attach to the plastic badge holder. Another attendee asked Rogers why the organizers implemented this system. He replied that, at past cons, people have been able to make decent forgeries of paper badges, ones that were good enough that the door attendants would not pick them out. Rogers also stated that people shared badges in order to help get friends in that had not paid, but the new system cuts down on these illegal activities. As to the height of the scanner stations, Rogers explained the stations were meant to be used for wristbands, but he is planning to talk to contractors about making taller sensors. An attendee asked about using wristbands, but Rogers stated they tried that a few years ago, but they got a lot of negative feedback using them. It was then suggested to try retractable badges, which could resolve the sensor height issue.
There appeared to be a communications gap with events that were held in the Microsoft Theater. A couple of people voiced frustration with restrictions on costume weapons and cameras. One person said the program versus the restrictions they encountered caused anguish, especially for those who had taken public transport. At the theater, they were told they could not take in their tagged weapons (ones inspected and approved at time of badge pick-up). Individuals were faced with either throwing away their weapons or not attending the event. There were also some conflicting restrictions on cameras. Another person advised that attendants at stations be equipped with hand wands in case scanner stations go down.
Concern arose around kid-friendly content. One person mentioned that at a cosplay event, The Purge trailer was shown, which the person felt was inappropriate for the age group of the audience, while another person expressed wanting more kid-friendly programming, suggesting workshops that show kids how to draw.
Panel logistics came up. One attendee said she was upset by one of the panels she attended, because she waited in a line for almost an hour to ask a question; however, the moderator asked so many questions that there wasn’t enough time for those in the line to ask their question. Another person brought up that there needed to be better method to match up the room size for the popularity of the topic. Rogers explained that hosts of panels may not want to be in a bigger room, thinking they cannot fill the room. He said that if it is between having the panel with a smaller room or not having the panel at all, he would rather have the panel.
Rogers was asked about expansion plans for San Diego Comic-Con International. Rogers stated that the current phase of expansion at the San Diego Convention Center is “no land, no money, no plan.” They have a signed agreement through 2018 for the convention center in San Diego. His stated his team regularly reviews the factors that influence location decisions.
Some of the comments were preempted by positive sentiments of their WonderCon experience. A few voiced preferring the Los Angeles location, while just as many were happy that WonderCon will be returning to Anaheim next year. A few people expressed liking the food options and that the hotel shuttle service was excellent. Rogers was asked if Panda Parking will be available next year, because the attendee had appreciated the ease of the service. Rogers responded the parking service was actually attached to the convention center and he did not know if Anaheim will have a similar service to offer con attendees.
Other topics included: crafts missing from Artist Alley, a request to keep media guests at a minimum to keep crowding down; and the suggestion for pre-sale purchases for t-shirts to minimize the wait at the booth.
The panel ended as WonderCon came to a close at 5 o’clock. Note that next year, WonderCon will not be on Easter weekend, but on Friday – Sunday, March 31 through April 2, 2017.
*Photo (right) by Michele Brittany