New York Comic Con 2012: Comics & Media Panels

NYCC is really the only convention where I get to celebrate my love of American comics so I try to take advantage! In past years, I’ve had an eye more toward the superheroes of Marvel and DC. This year saw a change in that for me, I was really focused on Image Comics panels and their current and upcoming titles. So while I still spent a good portion of my NYCC with American comics on the brain, very little of it was big name superhero fare.

As much as the anime and manga coverage is our bread and butter I think we would be remiss in not hitting up some of the panels that most people would say personify NYCC. If nothing else the Ongoing Investigations and APB posts should have provided plenty of evidence that Narutaki and I are at least casually aware of American comics (I would go as far as to say Narutaki is well-informed). If nothing else going to a few of these panels keeps our geeky diet more well-balanced.

Without a doubt the panel I was most looking forward to was Saga: Sex, Drugs, and Rocketships with writer Brain K. Vaughn and artist Fiona Staples. Considering the comics world is a buzz about this science-fiction comic that just completed its first arc, I was certainly not alone in my hype. A packed house joined the creators to celebrate this bright new work.

It was a very lively panel which made Saturday night quite memorable.

We were given some hints about what the 2nd arc would have in store: we’re delving into the past. It was really exciting seeing the next three covers. The third featured bounty hunters The Stalk and The Will, I really wanted to know more about these two especially so looks like I’ll be getting my wish.

When things opened up for questions from the audience, everyone was put on the spot by having to go up on stage and sit with Mr. Vaughn and Ms. Staples to ask them their burning questions. Those souls who were not intimidated also got a print!

Everyone was very curious about the process for this book and curious about the alien creation process in particular because there is such wonderful variety in Saga, you just don’t know what to expect next. Ms. Staples said Brain gave her a lot of freedom with these, even the main characters Alana and Marko he gave the minor direction of she has wings and he has horns.

As Mr. Vaughn has just returned to comics with Saga from Hollywood, there was a question about whether Saga could be a movie someday. He didn’t dismiss the possibility but emphasized that comics are their own special medium that offer a unique experience and comics are not just a blueprint for something else like TV and movies.

There were a lot of laughs many times during the hour. Everyone got a kick out of Mr. Vaughn’s answer for how long he imagines Saga to run: 1 issue longer than whatever The Walking Dead ends up being. Ms. Staples talking about the fan following who find The Stalk attractive was equally hilarious as she thanked them for being open-minded with a bit of question in her voice.

It was clear throughout the panel that Mr. Vaughn and Ms. Staples were really enjoying working together which makes the series feel all that much more special.

A started off my journey into panels as if I were Charles Marlow stepping onto a sailboat. Yes, I went to the Thursday My Little Pony panel. As Naruatki astutely pointed out I think I am a bit more lenient on these panels because the Internet so loves playing up the threat of the Brony menace that anything other than a full on bacchanalian orgy seems sort of tame to highly lowered expectations. It was not that the crowd was sedate. The Hasbro representatives running the panel did a decent job of keeping them in check but I know one person who just had to leave because the panel was a too rowdy. But an insane crowd barely kept in check is far better than one that has decided to run rampant. The panelists decided to focus on the mythology of the Friendship is Magic universe before opening the stage to Q&A. It was mostly how the staff worked on creating a consistent and original universe. It was a nice insight into their creative process.

Then the questions started. If anyone has been to anime industry panel they will know the phrase, “I cannot confirm or deny that ” really means, “I’m not telling you that because is so not in my best interest to say anything about that.” It turns out “maybe …?” is the My Little Pony version of that and they used it quite often when people try to get information from them about the new season or minor details about esoterica. The panel did admit that one of the reasons they run the panels in the first place is they are a good way to gauge what parts of the mythology the fandom is curious about. They hinted that there might be an upcoming about Luna’s home on the moon due to fan interest expressed at this and former panels.

As much as I might try to occasionally defend the fandom there is a reason it has the reputation it does. Most of the questions were nerdy but the same could be said about 90% of the questions at NYCC. But one mega creeper ask if they thought about making RealDoll versions of the ponies with a totally straight face. Part of me wants to believe that he was just trolling but part of me knows the sad truth.

Besides the Saga panel, I attend two other more general Image Comics discussions. One on speculative fiction in their comics line and one with many of the company’s female creators. Both were well-organized with good moderators and a small amount of audience participation which was the right choice since both panels featured quite a few faces.

Wondrous Worlds, Fractured Futures: Speculative Fiction and Image Comics was my very first panel of the convention, early on Friday morning. Despite the hour, the panelists were talkative from the beginning. What was most interesting was no one felt the need to make any of their stories really adhere to science. Ming Doyle added that she is no good at drawing tech so the upcoming title Mara set in a futuristic city was a challenge. They weren’t as focused on technology of the future as they were on saying something about the world.

I started the last day of the convention with Creating Comics with Two X-Chromosomes: Real Talk with Image’s Female Creators panel. The moderator brought up broad topics for the panelists to discuss and the audience could also ask questions throughout. When the topic of attractive characters came up, it was nice to see them discuss women as well as men. The point was made that in comics the range of what makes a man attractive is much wider so you already start with more options.

While both panels felt mildly crowded up on stage, they were lively discussions nevertheless.

On an amusingly enough less disturbing note I also saw the Walter Simonson and Ridley Scott’s Alien panel. It was all about Walter Simonson’s experiences working on the comic adaptation of classic Alien movie. I have to say if you are going to do a pitch panel this was the way to do it. Walter took what could have been an obscenely boring history of the comic and turned it instead into engaging anecdote. It seems like an interesting project because while he had to work his tail off to get the project done on time he has an unusual amount for freedom because they did not have time for a lot of bureaucracy. They also gave him an insane amount of reference materials and access that he have had and never would have in any other comic adaption he had done. He also peppered in some nice anecdote like a mix up with hotel reservations to keep things lively.

At the Geek Thoughts: Top Blogs Discuss Writing About Science Fiction panel I got to see how what I called the “Blogging One Percent” live. It was a roundtable discussion from writers at Tor.com, Boing Boing, The Mary Sue, io9, The Beat, and Bleeding Cool. So people who are all paid to blog for big name sites. It was slightly fascinating to see how their experiences are just competently different from your normal casual blogger. There are people who can get articles that get tens of thousands of hits and hundreds of comments. The sort of things Narutaki and I could only dream of.

The prefect example was when someone asked them when the best time to post was. Everything I have read says that the optimal time for the average person to post is weekdays at either lunchtime or about an hour before 4:30 to 5:30. That is when most people are either eating lunch or ready to go home at work or school so they are more likely to just be casually browsing the web. But the panelists answered you should post on the weekends and holidays which is in complete contrast to anything I had ever read.

Since I did not think he was lying and I had discuss with other people until I figured it out. It turns out when you are they high level you don’t worry about getting hits. They will come naturally. At his level he is more worried about competition from the few other big name sites and his fellow writers on his site. So the best time for him to post is when people normally do not post at all. It was the prefect sign of how these writers were just playing a completely different game with totally different rules.

I attend the Fables 10th Anniversary on busy Saturday. As the title implies, it was a celebration of the long-running comics series featuring a myriad of fairy tale characters like you’ve never seen them before. They talked a bit about upcoming stories, too and had some crazy antics during the Q&A.

While many spoilers were hurled around the room, Bill Willingham refrained from naming The Adversary which has already been revealed in the books. I was eternally grateful as I’m not up to that point yet! He did however talk about who wasn’t The Adversary: Peter Pan. Apparently, when he first started he wanted the head of the Lost Boys as the big baddie. Mr. Willingham had us all laughing as he recalled being scared of Peter Pan as a child since  he stole children away! But he found out J. M. Barrie’s story is not public domain so his plans changed.

When they talked about the new Bibgy story Werewolves of the Heartland, they decided to give away an early copy. Three unsuspecting volunteers came up, only to be asked to sing for it! Other prizes were given away but none required such public embarrassment for them.

The subject of Once Upon a Time and Grimm and their resemblance to Fables came up. Mr. Willingham was incredibly humble saying that what he loves about these stories and characters he is using is they are folktales, meaning they belong to the people. He was glad people were doing more with all these characters.

Best of all, two of my friends came along on a whim and have now become readers of the series!

I am usually pretty good at avoiding panels I am going to hate. I might occasionally go to panels that perplex me or I feel could have been improved but I don’t throw around the word hate around casually. But I was actually mad about the From Leia to Buffy: Creating Strong Female Characters in Sci-Fi & Fantasy panel. Why because it was bait and switch.

It turns out the panel had NOTHING to do with Strong Female Characters. It was just someone shilling their book and using the panel name to draw people in. They literally just asked the audience if they thought that Leia to Buffy were strong female characters and then went immediately into their sales pitch. At first I just assumed they were just talking about their book before getting into the meat of the panel. Overall I can’t fault someone for beginning a panel with a little push for what they do professionally. But as the panel went on you could see people constantly leave as they realized they had been duped. I left after 15 minutes just to make sure it was just going to be about this random book.

By the way I did not mention the name of the book on purpose. I feel like if I mention the name of the book the panelists won because I would be giving them and their underhanded technique free publicity. This way the NYCC staff will know they are untrustworthy panelists while making sure they don’t get any inadvertent sales for their duplicitous methods.

But the Ladies of Womanthology actually talked about strong female characters as well as female artists. Now that Womanthology is in full swing the mood was very different from last year. Last year was mostly a feeling of exuberance of actually getting to Kickstarter Funded and everything coming together with the book on the way. This year was a bit more contemplative.  With the first books a success and a new 5 part series on the way there was much more of a focus on building on the current successes and looking how to move forward to bigger and better.

After this and the two Image comic panels with several female creators it was fairly obvious that there was no simple common story that said, “This is how women get interested in comics and this is how they break into the industry.” There is no magic bullet. Everyone’s story was as unique as they were. Overall that makes perfect sense but I thought it was worth pointing out.

At then end of Sunday was the Disney XD – New Animated Series screening which turned out to be a new and old screening. The first thing we were shown was still pretty new series Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja which I’d sampled a bit already. It didn’t grab here either since the humor is of the mostly gross variety like fart jokes, ect. though there was some cool references in the Halloween episode.

This was followed by the new show which has now premiered on the channel, SlugTerra done in terrible CG animation which included creepy expressions on the human main character. The premise is about a world underground where slugs are captured and used as bullets to fight things. Eli’s dad was sort of like a sheriff down there but he disappeared, now that Eli is 15-years-old he is going to look for him and fight for SlugTerra. Apparently leaving his surface family without so much as a word or thought. Yes, really I swear that is a show. I was kind of at a loss while watching this, the slugs were cute I guess and they each have powers so you are supposed to collect them, but the entire thing felt so ridiculous. It just didn’t sell me at all.

But what do I know? There were a lot of kids in the audience that seemed to be having a good time.

As always with NYCC I often just look back over the schedule can easily point to 10 things I did not get to see but wish I could have. I sadly missed all the Marvel and DC stuff as well as anything in the IGN theater. But I can’t say that I regretted what I saw (other than the one exception). And that is what I consider the best part of the NYCC experience. Like a wonderful smorgasbord I did not get to try everything I wanted to sample but I walked away content.

I always wish I could see more panels but I was most pleased with what I ended up spending my convention doing. I didn’t hit the IGN theater at all this year so that might be something I try to do next year. But then again who knows what I’ll be focused on a year from now!

Other NYCC 2012 Coverage:
New York Comic Con 2012: Tweets
New York Comic Con 2012: Our 6 Favorite Announcements
New York Comic Con 2012: General Impressions
New York Comic Con 2012: Exhibitors Hall & Artist Alley
New York Comic Con 2012: Moyoco Anno
New York Comic Con 2012: Anime & Manga Panels

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