NYCC – Panel reviews
During the most crowded day of a comics convention (or even on the other days), it’s never a bad idea to take in some panels. The best conventions offer a wide variety of programs in comfortable and intimate settings that you just can’t duplicate at a booth or exhibition hall. They represent just about any interest and subculture related to comics and other "geek-centric" entertainment, and create a participatory and egalitarian feel among panelists and attendees.
This NYCC saw a diversity of topics to please everyone from moviegoers to Japanophiles to old-school aficionados to the creators of tomorrow. One of the best things about it was the implicit acknowledgement that about as many women as men were expected to take in the programming. At least four panels so far have dealt with women in comics (real women storytellers as opposed to fictional women characters), and yet other panels having nothing to do with that topic featured female panelists as a matter of routine. This is the very type of situation advocacy groups like Friends of Lulu hoped to work toward for so many years, and it’s a real privilege to see it come to fruition.
Here’s a photo from a Friday panel. Some thoughts on it and a couple other panels attended so far:
On Friday the comics blogging panel proved an excellent gauge of just how many people are out there talking up comics. Heidi has an excellent review of this panel, which she moderated. As expected, around 90% of the audience members had blogs; if there’s one thing we love it’s talking about ourselves and each other! The panel stressed the value of positive and inspiring reviews and industry chatter, but lamented the fact that the most hits seem to come from snarkiness and strong opinions, so the balancing act between upbeat and personality-driven is sometimes tricky to maintain. (Tell us about it!)
They also noted the importance of adding context to their commentary for the benefit of readers new to comics, and that the exponentially-growing number of comics blogs doesn’t represent a competition as much as a mosaic of perspectives. One panelist wondered if this meant less community as blogs become more like personal fiefdoms, but I believe just the opposite has happened. Blogs foster connections — we’re always linking to each other — and if anything this has strengthened the comics community as we all seek to add more, not fewer, comics blogs to our regular reading routines.
The Black Panel "East" on Saturday afternoon was the liveliest I’ve seen in awhile. As you can see from the somewhat grainy photo above, ComicMix columnist Michael Davis invited lots of friends up on the panel with him, from Blokhedz creators Mike and Mark Davis to comics veterans Reggie Hudlin and Denys Cowan to Ormes Society founder Cheryl Lynn. The panel had a real established feel to it, very much like the NY equivalent of the San Diego phennom which it’s been for a few years now.
The audience got to see a preview test shoot of a Blokhedz animated series and heard news of upcoming projects like a Jackie Ormes biography, a graphic novel from Davis’ Guardian Line about the Underground Railroad, and teasers about Black Panther and Storm (who will be leading the Fantastic Four when Dwayne McDuffie takes over writing chores). During the Q&A there was a terrific discussion about the intersection of black and Asian cultures, how much synergy exists between the two and how much work still needs to be done to break down stereotypes. Professor William H. Foster III also mentioned the ongoing Africa Comics exhibition and the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC) in Philadelphia in May, and paid plenty of props to the pioneers who came before.
Speaking of which, the Marvel Bullpen panel featured Stan Lee holding court and Gene Colan, Joe Sinnott and Ralph Macchio occasionally getting words in edgewise, but some of us were there primarily to see "Fabulous" Flo Steinberg, radiant as ever. At the Women Cartoonists’ panel, Colleen Doran revealed (to Amanda Conner’s delight) that she once walked on coals — she described the sound as "like walking on Rice Krispies" — in order to face the fear of a blank page. This panel was supposed to be "four generations" but Ramona Fradon and June Brigman were no-shows. Likewise, Neal Adams and John Cassady never made it to the panel which wound up being a George Pérez spotlight. Not that this was a problem for the theatrical and fascinating Pérez, but more than a few disappointed attendees were doubtless surprised to learn that Adams told us, back in Artists Alley, that he had been waiting for a convention volunteer to come get him for his panel. Naturally, nobody did; let’s hope this situation improve a bit next year.