WonderCon Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Video Game Push

As comics begin to branch out into other mediums, this year’s San Francisco-based convention — taking place through Sunday — has the strongest interactive presence to date.

SAN FRANCISCO – Wonder Con 2011 has gone interactive.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this weekend at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, this year’s convention will host the largest video game presence to date.
“As with all things WonderCon, the gaming presence is moving forward, says David Glanzer, director of marketing for WonderCon and Comic-Con. “This year we have more gaming companies on the floor, as well as programs and panels devoted to the industry including some on how to write for and break into that industry.”
Glanzer says that as comics began to branch out into other mediums like video games, both Comic-Con, which had 126,000 attendees last year, and WonderCon, which attracted 29,500 consumers, have grown to include more video games and game talent into these shows.
Activision is using WonderCon 2011 for the world premiere of its new Spider-Man game. Spider-Man: Edge of Time will be featured on a panel during the show. The new game, which ships this fall, is based on The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 comic books. Peter David (co-creator of Spider-Man 2099) and Josh Keaton (voice of Spider-Man in The Spectacular Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions) will be on the panel with members of the Beenox game development team.
“I am almost awestricken when I look at what they’re doing with video games today,” says Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, Thor and Captain America. “It’s like watching a big budget motion picture, the visuals are just as good. To me, video games are like the highest form of the cinematic art.”
While Marvel Entertainment won’t be showing big screen versions of Thor or Captain America at WonderCon, attendees will be able to get their hands on the new Sega games featuring the actors from those movies. In Thor: God of Thunder, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston provided the voices for Thor and Loki in the interactive adventure. Chris Evans brings the First Avenger to life in Captain America: Super Soldier, a game that delves beyond the film’s storyline.

Comic book and Hollywood writer Christos Gage, who wrote the story for Sega’s Captain America game, says, "The characters need to ring true to both casual viewers of the movie as well as diehard comics fans. But at the end of the day, our job is to deliver a great game.”
In addition to debuting new 3D footage of Warner Bros.’ Green Lantern movie, actor Ryan Reynolds will also be seen in Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s new video game, Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters, which features an original storyline. And the Nintendo 3DS, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game will be available in 3D. (The games will be available at the DC Entertainment booth.)
“What I love about WonderCon is that while the focus is on the comics, it’s also a celebration of games and movies and all the ancillary media,” says Jim Lee, co-publisher of DC Comics. “The comics really create the universe the fans want to be a part of and the games give fans ability to live out that fantasy.”
Today’s games are better at telling stories in the games space, says Lee, who serves as executive creative director of Sony Online Entertainment’s DC Universe Online, which will eventually blur the lines between the gaming world and the stories comics creators tell. DC Universe: Legends, a new comic book based on DC Universe Online which debuts later this year, will bridge the gap between the online game world and the print comic book world.
The WonderCon panel, “The Evolution of Comics in the Transmedia Space” will explore this convergence as well. Double Barrel Motion Labs CEO Jeff Krelitz (Tron Legacy, The Muppet Show) and producer Diana Williams (The Crazies, Conan the Barbarian: The Motion Comic) will discuss the evolution of comics into other media, including video games. Panelists include writer Marc Andreyko (Manhunter, Ferryman), artist Dennis Calero (X-Men Noir, Cowboys & Aliens), editor Jeff Newelt (Harvey Pekar's Cleveland), Darren Romanelli (Doctor Romanelli), director Kyle Newman (Fanboys), producer Adrian Askarieh (Hitman, Kane & Lynch), and producer FJ Desanto (The Spirit, Shazam).
“Transmedia has now become a catch phrase,” says Askarieh, who is developing the transmedia project Leonardo da Vinci and the Soldiers of Forever at Warner Bros. “But when you look at it substantively, it allows you to divide an intellectual property into a pie and exploit its different slices in ways that allows the core property to reach an audience that is rapidly becoming fragmented.”
Another panel -- “Nerds! The Secret Origins of Game Designers” – will look at the development of blockbuster game franchises like Tomb Raider, God of War and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. It features Haden Blackman, Tim Longo, Jason Weesner and Scott Rogers.
And the popularity of massively multiplayer online role-playing games is the subject of “The MMORPG Industry” panel, which features game creators Scott Hartsman (RIFT), Nick Huggett (Runes of Magic) and Dirk Metzger (Zentia).
While WonderCon offers a smaller audience, it targets the same socially connected pop culture influencers that game companies and Hollywood rely on to generate awareness for key genre franchises.

Says Askarieh: “Guys like me who deal with high profile IP's like video games and comic books, or high concept original ideas which lend themselves to the transmedia application, are well positioned to take advantage of the new transmedia age. But at the end of the day, it's all about how good the property is and that's all about story and characters.”