New York Comic Con 2013: Panels

hisui_icon_4040 To continue my analogy from the post about the heart, mind, and soul of a convention it is time to look at the brain of NYCC: The panels.

Panels are the part of the convention most likely to stimulate your mind and maybe teach you something. Unlike your average anime convention all the panels at NYCC are done by professionals. The upside is the overall quality is higher as you have people who theoretically should be experts on what they are talking about. Some panels still end up being real stinkers for one reason or another but overall if you step into a room you can bet that you are going to be entertained.

The downside is everyone is shilling something on any panel you’re at. There are very few panels that are pure theory or uncut fandom. Even when they are they plugging something then are working on that they want you to buy. I don’t really have a problem with that. I mean I plug the blog whenever I do work on another site so I can’t fault anyone talking a bit about what puts food on their plate. I only saw one panel last year that was just an unapologetic commercial for an hour but that was an unfortunate exception to the rule.

I only mention that because some people have a real problem with the commercialism as opposed to the “purer” fan experience of a fan run convention. But if you have that attitude you are in the wrong place.

narutaki_icon_4040 At most conventions I spend a majority of my time in panel rooms, and I still spend plenty of time in them at NYCC, but it feels more like a piece of the convention as opposed to most of the convention for me.

The thing I enjoy most at NYCC is that I can go from webcomics to video games to classic cartoons all in a weekend. The panels most reflect the eclectic quality of the convention. I do however lament the lack of anime content that wasn’t simply screenings or industry panels. As such most of my attention was elsewhere.

hisui_icon_4040 The From Light Novel to Anime/Manga panel is probably the most academic discussion of Light Novels anyone will ever have outside of the offices of Faust magazine or after a Charles Dunbar lecture.  Shinichiro Inoue from Kadokawa Shoten started with the kodan stories of oral story telling how it eventually lead to the young adult novels of Japan. In a way the first part of the lecture was about the birth of Japan’s pulp literature tradition. I have to say that Mito Komon often comes up as one of the seminal series in Japan. Not particularly in a high art sense but as a series that despite it rather formulaic set up influenced a great deal of worth that came after it.

Mr. Inoue traced the first major boom of light novel to the Record of Lodoss Wars replay novels. Those were eventually adapted into the anime series which is how most people in the West know the series. He also played the commercial for the upcoming Blu-ray remaster of the OVA that is coming out soon (with some AMAZING promotional material). Interestingly enough it was Slayers that would really continue the light novel tradition with more fantasy. Slayers being another series more known in English for its anime than for its novels.

And so Light Novels would occasionally spawn anime and manga but the real modern light novel boom kicked off with the insane popularity of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The Haruhi anime really changed everything and made light novels from something that would occasionally be adapted into other media to the phenomenon we know today. Now you have multimedia franchises like Sword Art Online and Oreimo,

He then went into a bunch of charts with percentages of sales and other trends. But the most interesting take away was the fact that the felt that Twitter has a lot to do with light novels with incredibly long names. So it is your fault anime fans on Twitter. You are the monster that made light novels with incredibly long names. You have hunted the werewolf when it turned out you were the beast the whole time!

narutaki_icon_4040 I kicked off the convention by not only demoing the upcoming Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on the Show Floor, but also heading to a packed panel hosted by none other than Eiji Aonuma himself.

He introduced himself, which was probably unnecessary, but added something I found surprising which was NYCC being his first time interacting with fans at a convention.

He discussed the new HD release of Wind Waker, it was clear from the way he spoke how connected he felt to the project and that version of the Zelda universe. He even said how close it was to his heart as he went on.

Question strategy from the crowd tended to be attempting to pull more information about the new game from Mr. Aonuma with little success. Most answers tended to be the “maybe” type that kept the dream alive. Best example of this was when someone inevitably asked Majora’s Mask and a possible appearance in A Link Between Worlds.

We were treated to some exclusive new gameplay footage from the final version of the new game which cemented my need to own it ASAP. Everyone in the room seemed to feel the same from the hooting and hollering.

hisui_icon_4040 I started my convention with The Wheel of Time Turns and Epic Fantasy Remains Epic! panel. It was a panel of fantasy authors talking about the art of being an author in the genre. Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time were definitely brought up but the panel was more about tips and tricks to writing epic fantasy. There was a lively discussion of creating magical systems, when and why you should go with unfathomable evil as opposed to nuanced evil, how grim is too grim, and how many characters is too many characters for you series.

I did think the most interesting discussion was the discussion of magical systems. I know that is a HUGE surprise to regular readers of the blog. The main point was that if your spells and items are completely spelled out and defined then it is easy for magic to seem like nothing more than science with a different coat of paint. But if the boundaries of magic are too ill-defined then it is too easy to make magic a random, lazy, or slipshod deus ex machina. They all agreed that magic should feel dangerous and mysterious but never seem like something the writer uses  to get out of difficult parts of writing.

That reminds me. I should finish off the Wheel of Time now that I can do that. SPOILERS: Braids will be tugged and disapproving sniffs will be given.

And one last random note: Who would people guess is my favorite Wheel of Time character?

narutaki_icon_4040 Adventure Time seems to have exploded even more thanks to the comics and Encyclopaedia so the convention was crawling with fans! And I was standing among them Sunday morning for the Adventure Time panel featuring the creative team as well as the voices of Finn and Jake.

Until this panel I hadn’t realized that Pendleton Ward is the voice of Lumpy Space Princess. Somehow this made me love LSP even more.

Anyhow, the panel was filled with wackiness, singing, and general revelry. Things got a little weird, as they do, as questions from the audience included Jeremy Shada (Finn) saying he loved a friend who couldn’t be there of a couple of girls in line and a guy who wanted a “selfie” with everyone on stage.

Mr. Ward was rather self-depreciating but still lobbed out some good advice to those hoping to get into animation. Most people at the panel, including myself, really seemed there to celebrate it Adventure Time. We were also treated to a couple of clips one which was unaired at the time.

Here is a pro tip: always check out panels being put on by Warner Archive. Not only are the people running them dedicated fans, they have access to rare footage. The retrospective panel on the designs of Alex Toth who created “the look” for Hanna-Barbara’s adventure cartoons was lovely.

The panel was a lot about how Mr. Toth got involved and created the iconic templates for things like Space Ghost and The Herculoids. And then how his style was put into practice on things like Thundaar and Sea Lab 2020. They also discussed his seclusion nearing the end of his life.

Mr. Toth came from a comics background and was working in both industries at the same time as Jack Kirby. The guys running the panel talked a bit about this, curious about a rivalry between the two, but said they actually met in person quite rarely. Still, they had very different views and seemed to clash. And despite Mr. Toth’s incredible legacy, he is certainly the more forgotten of the two.

The rare footage that appeared at this panel was funnily enough some Underoos commercials which Mr. Toth storyboarded.

hisui_icon_4040 It was intriguing to go to The Legend of Korra panel. I feel that a large part of the fan base that I see on Twitter and podcasts seems really unhappy with this season but the crowd at the panel was super enthusiastic. You will get that reaction with any fandom panel as they tend to be rather self selecting. If you has a major problem with the season then you probably went to something else like Kate did. I just thought it was worth mentioning.

The panel started with them showing the first half of the two-part Beginnings episodes. There was a little Q&A but they  then did probably the most interesting part of the panel which was a step by step look on how an episode is made with a scene from an episode later in the season. To someone like me who has a general understanding of animation, via my years of fandom, it was mostly telling me what I already knew. They showed scripts, storyboards, animatics, key frames, inbetweens, CG effects, and more. I felt a palpable ,”OH WOW!” from some of the audience who did not know how much work goes into in just a few seconds of animation.

They did mention that part of the team is already working on book four of the The Legend of Korra even while book 2 is still on TV.  Now I realized that they would be working on episodes far in advance I did not think they were working on anything that far in the future. Hopefully that means they have a strong overall plot for the remain 3 books that all ties them together and builds to a greater whole. It might explain why everything seems so frantic this season. They might be trying to speed through this leg to get to a more “important” leg later on. It is clearly not the best idea but it might at least explain why things are they way they are now.

I also went to the short Adventure Time Encyclopaedia panel. Since they wanted to maximize time for the signing afterwards they played a few clips and then did a very short Q&A before ending the panel. They did have a little original animation for the panel which was not very long but was an unexpected little bonus. Considering how long the autograph line was and how many people got turned away even with the extra time I understand why they did what they did. It was rather interesting to learn that Hunson Abadeer and Marceline are actually father and daughter in real life and that several parts of the character’s relationship (including the theft of food) is based on their actual experiences oddly enough.

But that commercial for Encyclopaedia was just plain bizarre. So very bizarre.

narutaki_icon_4040 One of my most anticipated comics projects of 2013 was Rocket Girl by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder. This comic originally started out as a wildly successful Kickstarter project which then Image comics picked up to distribute. The first issue was released the Wednesday before NYCC, perfect timing, and was being sold at their Artist Alley table as well as on the Show Floor at Image’s booth.

The panel served as a place to highlight the backend work on the Rocket Girl, but also a place for curious people to learn about it and for others to ask their burning questions. With only one issue on the shelves, many questions tended toward the theoretical. People were hopeful to see DaYoung encounter teenagers in 1984 as well as seeing her explore the outer boroughs of NYC.

I learned that Image has no hand in the series besides hyping it and distributing. I had no idea Image had so few editors! Creator owned is their way and it sounds like they really stick with their mantra giving artists and writers support but also the responsibility and freedom to drive their stories.

I attended the hilarious Webcomics and Beyond panel featuring Ryan North, Kate Beaton, and Chris Hastings. All known for their off-beat senses of humor in Dinosaur Comics, Hark! A Vagrant, and Dr. McNinja. Despite the “beyond” in the title it was mostly an anecdotal panel about working in comics and growing up (or not). The three of them are all friends so there was a good vibe between them and the flow was very natural.

hisui_icon_4040 I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Spotlight on J. Michael Straczynski. While he is a prolific author I mostly know him for being the creator and showrunner for Babylon 5. Kate mostly knows him as a someone who writes for comics so she was a little confused when I had put him on my schedule. I had never really seen him in person so I was curious to see what he was like.

It turned out that he was undoubtedly the most surprisingly interesting panel I went to. JMS was a bit snarky but it mostly seemed like a way to cover up that he was a big softy. Most of his stories and advice actually had a very positive and encouraging message at the end. He also had some great stories about how be scammed his way into classes, dealt with sexists professors, and learned the value of taking risks. As much as he claimed he was an anti-social guy who was not very good at talking it was clear that he was a writer and could spin a good tale.

His story about why Michael O’Hare had to leave Babylon 5 was sort of heartbreaking but it did answer a lot of questions about why his departure went down. It was sadly less a story of a petty difference of opinions and showbiz drama like some people suspected and more one man having to deal with personal demons.

I accidentally went to B.J. Novak’s One More Thing panel. I was going to go to the Welcome to Night Vale panel but I accidentally went to the wrong room being very silly. But B.J. Novak was fairly entertaining. He was hawking his new book that is a collection of short amusing stories. He read us a story about a man who kidnaps an astronomer to learn the secrets of dark matter as well as a women who goes to Tony Robbins on advice on how to seduce him. He was really fun when he was just talking but I sort of found him a little dryer when he was doing Q&A. Still for a panel I did not expect to go to I had a good time.

narutaki_icon_4040 The popularity of panels seemed to vary wildly as I had no problems getting into anything which I lined up for at least 1 hour before. For some this seemed like a joke on my part as whatever they went to needed much more dedication? In any case, I didn’t see a bad panel so I would highly recommend people checking out any of the offerings should they get turned away from something.

Thank you NYCC for the variety in entertainment options! I was able to partake in each of my hobbies in one way or another over the weekend.

hisui_icon_4040 As always whenever you go to New York Comic Con your probably miss half the panels you wanted to go to but end up seeing just as many great things. I would have liked to go to the Venture Brother’s panel as well as the Cosmos panel but that is what YouTube was made for.

It all just makes me hope that next year we can see Mike Rugnetta at NYCC next year. He would make such a great guest.

More New York Comic Con 2013 posts:

New York Comic Con 2013: General Impressions
New York Comic Con 2013: Show Floor & Artist Alley
New York Comic Con 2013: Masters of Animanga
New York Comic Con 2013: Our 7 Favorite Announcements
The Speakeasy #046: The Princess Bubble-tini, New York Comic Con 2013
New York Comic Con 2013: Podcasts

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