Tech. Travel. Nerd Culture.

WonderCon 2023 (unedited version)

The following is the unedited version of the experience I had at WonderCon 2023, which was published, in a more “family-friendly” version by Wakks on skaww.com. I place this unedited version, as it’s more of my tone in voice for my fellow rayhomdotcom folks who know me by this style. Although, you ain’t gonna find anything “too adult,” just refer it to as the rayhomdotcom version.

Hello, fellow Skkaw fans!

Ray here, to write about my experience at WonderCon2023, that occurred this past weekend. Thanks to Skkaw.Blog for the opportunity to “nerd out”! After about 15 years of attending Cons and enjoying traveling, in general, I learned not to have a rigid schedule. I’ve come to find comfort in the randomness that is NerdCulture. I don’t attend many panels or chase cosplayers, as much anymore. Those aren’t complaints, as I have to pick and choose my course of the battlefield that I navigate getting through to achieve a fulfilling Con experience. After my tale here at WonderCon, it may give you an idea of what I mean.

I am not a cosplayer, but I always have to make decisions about what to wear to the Cons, instead of my typical, civilian monotone color shirts that my friends like to point out, that’s common and predictable about me. What you see in the hero image above is my “go-to” default choice to wear. I’m a fan of the Watch_Dogs games, and it says “I Am DeadSec,” for those who are familiar with the hacker-themed game series, it’s just subtle enough, not too loud, to proclaim my “nerd cred”.

Day 1

On my walk to WonderCon, I’ve had a couple of passerbys point out my shirt, One person even took a pic, and I am NOT a cosplaying influencer at all. And, along the way, another person, pointed to me, screaming “Watch_Dogs, yeah!”, only to notice that he wore the same shirt. I am beginning the day in the right place.

Being the first day, I spent the time wandering through the exhibit hall, seeking artists I have listed on my phone’s notepad. It’s a small list, I keep my “things to-do at the Con” to a minimum. When traveling, I don’t create excel sheets or rigid agenda schedules. I find such processes can cause missed opportunities for organic experiences. I’ve witnessed traveling partners breakout in anxiety-inducing panics, when they didn’t get to do something on their perfectly scheduled sheet. If I missed something, I shrug off the disappointment, and move on to other options the world allows me…

I’ve cut down on purchases, as my collectibles museum at home is running out of room. But, I came across a post on the SDCC blog for a mini-poster of a Gremlins-themed “Lost Mogwai”. I thought it would be kinda cool tacking that on my wall, calling for help to find the losg Mogwai. Neeerrrrdddd!!! There was a variation of a graffiti version, of the poster, too. I found the booth, named Dreamforger Studios, and the artist is named Nick Kremenek. Nice dude, as you can see in the image below. He had plenty of other artwork to sell, but I was eyeing only the “Lost Mogwai”. We chatted about the graffiti variant, and he said out loud what I was thinking… the graffiti looks too clean. And, I said,”It’s not chaotic enough.” He agreed. But, I’m helping to find the lost mogwai. Follow Nick: @dreamforgerstudios

The next artist booth I visited was my buddy, Glen Canlas. I met Glen, as we were both guests, on an episode of the “Keeping It Nerd” podcast at Silicon Valley Comic Con, back in 2019. I’ve always visited his booth appearances, ever since, and even had him on my podcast, MEMCast, nice guy and talented artist. He designs official Marvel backpacks, amongst other cool stuff. I noticed he had more artwork, and asked what was new – he showed me his own rendition of Starkiller from the Star Wars: Forced Unleashed series. I told him that my brother, Stan Hom, was the character animator on those games, and friends with Sam Witwer! We discussed loving that game series, and disappointed that it’s no longer canon. (I’m restraining from ranting about that.) Follow Glen: @glencanlas

I’m a big John Carpenter fan. Horror movies aside, my favorites include his scifi stuff – The Thing and They Live. It’s debatable if they’re horror, I know, but I enjoy the alien aspects about them. Imagine my excitement, knowing, that his wife, Sandy King, is at WonderCon, this day. She’s the CEO of the comics publication, Storm King Comics ( @stormkingcomics ), and helps John co-produce and write some of his work. I had met Sandy last year at SDCC2019, but I could never get enough, as a fanatic of this stuff – comics and horror/scifi movies. I do this thing, when meeting celebrities, where I talk to them as if I know them personally. So, I said to Sandy,”How’s your husband?” Chatting with her, she explains that her and John are working on another movie, and four TV series! How do they have time to do all this stuff without passing out? I passed out, in front of my laptop, last night, while writing this blog post. Follow Sandy King: @theofficialsandyking

I own an official John Giang “Transformers vs Terminator” (yes, that’s a real comic series) CGC variant and poster, signed, that I display proudly, at home. But, it took me awhile to track him down in person. There were Cons where they were announcing his appearance, only to have me running around in circles looking for his booth. John, later, explained to me that he couldn’t make the events, but the Cons, themselves didn’t take the announcement off their sites. So, I don’t blame John. He’s popular for a lot comic covers, as I love his intense style – you gotta check out his Star Wars, Harley Quinn, and Joker stuff, just to name a few… he’s also a concept artists for a lot of your favorite films like the Marvel stuff, TMNT, Pacific Rim, and more… I ended up purchasing some insane covers he did for Creepshow and Ice Cream Man (image below). Then we chatted about our favorite horror flicks (you see a pattern about my interests, don’tja?) – of course, The Shining and The Exorcist came up. Then, John, says something that shocked me,”I don’t really like horror movies.” I did a double-take, as I look at all his work, wall-to-wall, around him. He said that horror stuff gets stuck in his head. Then he told me an anecdote about how he got into art when he was busted for shoplifting, as a youngin’, which altered his life and got him where he is now. I’ll be back again, for John, to purchasing something more horrifying at the next Con (assuming he doesn’t cancel). Experience his work at John’s site: Orbital Harvest

For the rest of the day, I continued through the rest of the exhibit hall, looking for what’s new. Took a few pics of statues and booths, but nothing you fellow veteran Comic Con attendees would have never seen. (I’ll share some cosplay pics at the end of this post.) I retired from the Con for the day, and slipped out to L.A. to meet some friends for dinner and watch JW4

Day 2

I have a three-day professional pass because my mediocre life as a filmmaker in the early 2010s gained me an IMDB page that continues to earn me the qualifying Comic Con status. I’m not complaining at all, as it gets me to a place where I can explore nerd Mecca. The second day begins…

On this Day, I donned a shirt full of cinema icons, and it proclaims,”Let’s go watch horror movies!” This one was a bit less subtle, but it defines my personality. And, so, I had met up with fellow SoCal Con nerds – Justin, Berto, Mike, and that’s me at the end, to the right, in the above pic.

Again, most of the day was wandering through the Hall, and I’m reminded why I love monsters, aliens, and horror stuff… it’s the artists that create, build, and expand the worlds that get lost in my head. There’s a certain level of Con moments that help me manage and maintain my sanity, exorcise my demons, so to speak – I can tell fact from fiction, don’t worry –I enjoy these things to skin my thoughts over the mediocrity of what we experience as real life (alas the Con is a Simulation!).

So, I followed my nerd posse to the booth that was Kit ‘n Rivet… they, apparently, know the artist, Chris… scanning through the work at the booth, I see familiar stuff. I look to Chris and say,”I bought this from you before!” It was his “Vader lifting up the Death Star,” a rendition of the Greek Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders. It apparently is his most popular ones that sold out. I do count my blessings when I get my hands on stuff that have become rare. Then, I noticed, amongst his work, he did a “Full Metal Jacket” about Star Wars droids. I hesitated, reminded myself that I’m not supposed to buy too many stuff. Joggled the thought in my head, and looked at Justin,”I’m gonna get it.” Follow Kit ‘n Rivet: @kitnrivet

I’ve attended enough Cons where I’m bound to bump into people I know, or seem familiar to me. When we bumped into Victor Chi on the exhibit floor, Justin introduced me to him. Victor gave me a look, and I gave a look back. “Have we met before?” I know this guy from somewhere… I kept jogging my brain. “Do you know Clint?” I asked. “Clint Jung?” Victor replied. Clint Jung was an actor, great friend, who always threw parties with his movie-making network of friends. I’ve crashed at his place many times, after parties that never ended. Unfortunately, Clint has passed a couple years ago, he was last seen in shows like “Man in the High Castle” and “Mayans”. But, through Clint, I bump into good people like Victor, on occasion at these events. Victor is known for “Shameless, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Blackhat”. Check out Victor’s work: IMDB

While everyone was chatting with Victor, there was an artist in a booth nearby (unfortunately, I didn’t catch the name) that did amazing work, one, which was Thanos donning a king’s crown. Mike was eyeing it, but he told himself, “No, gotta save money for a wedding”, repeatedly. But, I kept whispering in his ear, that it’s still available, as I nodded over at the booth. Mike prob told me to shaddup, a few times. But, I kept whispering. He called me an ”<censored expletive>”, and walked over to purchase the artwork.

Next, we ended up taking a lunch break, at the nearby Hilton hotel, with other fellow Con friends – some fan attendees, some podcasters, some creatives. And, some I had met through Justin. While slurping my French onion soup, wolfing down a tasty burger, and washing them down with some Jameson whiskey neats (my drug of choice), I had befriended a couple of people.

Derick McDuff is a freelance writer for WatchMojo. When he told me that, I was like,”Hey, I watch that stuff!” He writes top 10 lists like “Top 20 Greatest Sword Fights In Movies”. He also runs the Underrated Podcast, where he reviews movies that are “underrated and underappreciated”. We got to chatting about lists, and how I’ve got a bunch of queues of stuff that I may possibly will never be able to get through…. #TooMuchContent is a frustrating anxiety-inducing process. Check out Derick’s work: linktr.ee/derickmcduff

Sitting in the same booth, next to us, was a woman dressed up as Lollipop Chainsaw, the character from the video game, of the same name. I asked her how’d she know Justin and all the others… We chatted a bit about the chainsaw she sat down behind her, and how it would be messy to put prop blood on it. I asked a stupid question,”You look familiar… are you a cosplayer?” She is known as “lollipopheidi13” on IG. Her real name is Heidi, but for privacy, she never gives out her last name. Talked a bunch of stuff that could have been good material for a podcast, the cosplayer life she lives. That may be possible in the future, as I offered to interview her some day, and she’s up for the idea. Told her it was nice to meet, and cheered her with my “drug of choice”. Then headed back to the Con with my squad.

While walking back, Justin asked me who she was, and if I got her Instagram. I did a double-take back at Justin,”Wait, what? You don’t know her?” Found out she’s a friend of a friend of a friend that was amongst our lunch group at the Hilton. Follow @lollipopHeidi13

Again, back at the exhibit hall, my posse went over to a panel looking for their friend & actor, Earl Boyle, who’s speaking a the panel. I had to seek out a restroom – too much coffee and whiskey course through my system. More on Earl, in a bit.

I headed over to my buddy, Steven Yu’s, booth, and there, I met him and Dan Hale. I’ve known Steven from smaller Cons, years ago, back in the Bay Area, we kept in touch, and chatted a lot about achieving dreams. He’s got good advice on his social media and newsletter about going through the grind and struggle, to create your art. I’ve recommend you go grab a copy of his “Joan”. Anyways, I caught him mid-drawing a Robocop, for one of his fans, and noticed a comic titled “Half Breed” by Dan. It’s weird stuff, with catchy titles, like that that catches my eye. You don’t even have to explain what it’s about, I’m sold! Follow Steven @stevenyudesigner and Dan @danhalecomics

Regrouping with Justin and friends, I followed them to another booth… of Patrick Ballesteros. It may seem like I know most of the people, at the Cons, but these guys know Patrick. He’s one popular artist that I’ve been in long lines to check out. He limits his commissions, and it’s not cheap. Last year at SDCC2022, I even posted a pic I snuck of Patrick, where I said “When I wait in line to buy @patrickballesteros artwork, and I ask the guy standing next to me which one is @patrickballesteros, and that guy says he’s @patrickballesteros!!! I feel dumb and embarrassed at #ComicCon2022” Follow Patrick @patrickballesteros

That’s Earl Boyle, to the left above. Nice, chill guy. He’s the voice in a Tomb Raider game, among other acting gigs. He’s currently promoting The Lumpia movie, as he’s acting in that as well. We all ended up after-partying at Mike’s afterwards, but I don’t have pics of that because they’re not Con related, ya know what I mean. Cheers! Follow Earl @earlybgoode

Day 3

What happens when I attend these Cons is that I have an unusual burst of energy, as I go further into the event, although, I may be internally exhausted. I have to see what’s going to happen, even though I don’t have any hard plans, on what is going to happen. But, by the third day, I only had one plan..

On this final, day of WonderCon 2023, I had only one goal: to get a bunch of comics I brought with me, to submit to be graded at the CGC booth.  This is my  first in-person, drop-off I had ever done, so I wasn’t sure if the process was the same as online shipping. I had scrambled to Target looking for a box to package the comics, had no access to something simple as a pen or a printer (welcome to the digital age), so I just chalked it up, and hobbled back to the Con, bow legged (from all the walking in the past couple of days), with box of comics in hand.

Upon arriving at the CGC booth, I stood in line, as a fellow behind me asked how big is my collection. I said,”Around 20 or 30”. He sounded disappointed,”Oh… not like 300?” I don’t think he meant it as an insult, but sometimes, there’s an expectation of what nerds actually have in their collectibles.

The lady at the CGC booth (I wish I had caught her name) was quite helpful. Apparently, I don’t need to box my comics, as they still need to check and count what books I am submitting. While shuffling through my submissions of 15 (about half was for my buddy, Andres), she exclaimed,”Ooh, John Wick!” I’m getting the rest of my John Wick origin comics, also some Conjuring, and Transformers vs the Terminator #1s. Now, you have an idea of what kind of nerd I am of, with what things I have in my collectibles.

Skkaw requested that I’d try to get as many shots of cosplayers during the event. No fault of his, as he’s better at doing it. It was an intense task because of the crowds, and the professional photographers, it becomes a fight just getting a good glimpse of the cosplayers themselves. No regrets, it’s still fun, and these are the few of my favorites that I was able to capture…

That’s it for now, I do hope you enjoyed my tale of attending WonderCon 2023. Thanks to Skkaw for allowing me to write this post, and thank you, readers, for taking the time to read it. Until the next Con!

-Ray Hom, rayhom.com

I was a Comic Con attendee of the week in 2019:

Here’s a video I have of Skkaw at Silicon Valley Comic Con 2022 with his Sandman cosplay:

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