It would be easy to assume from the General Impressions post that if panels existed at all they would be small little affairs mostly made up C-listers, has-beens, and wannabe big name fans trying to fill an anemic schedule. Truth be told while none of the panels were announcing major launches or changes in any series (those types of reveals are saved for SDCC and NYCC) there was a solid line up of recognizable names giving panels. I will never claim to even be half the American comics expert that Kate is even I recognize names like Chris Claremont, Gail Simone, Amy Reeder, and David Petersen. They are names that are big enough or lauded enough that I come to know them by nerd osmosis if nothing else. So while I’m sure a bunch of the guests would be instantly know by someone like Ed Sizemore or Eric Ma the fact that I know people shows that is was a strong lineup.
Saturday was the more compelling panel lineup. I spent the whole day in panels rooms other the brief time I spent scouting out the show floor before panels started. Sunday was a little weaker but such is the fate of most Sundays when it comes to paneling. I could have gone to more panels but I decided that I would spend some time really delving deep into artist alley with Kate. That said all the panel seemed well attended. While I was never in a room that had to turn people away all the room were at least half filled at all times. For a smaller first year convention that is a good turn out especially since the rooms were decently sized.
One final note before I start talking about the content itself: I never asked any questions at the Q&A section of any panel. All the panels had at least a small amount of Q&A at the end but there was never that long pause of death for any of the panels where no one asks anything until the panelists have to end early or start giving pity questions. While the questions were your normal gambit of variable quality they were always coming from an engaged audience.
The first panel that set the tone for the convention was Kickstarter and Comics: How to Fund Your Dream Project. It had a mixture of people who worked for Kickstarter and people who had successfully funded comics projects on the site. I really wanted to ask the panelists about other crowd funding sites like Indiegogo and Patreon but that seemed a bit of an awkward question given the Kickstarter staff members on the stage. The panel was a bit more of a sales pitch than a balanced discussion but they did not really hide the fact that there were Kickstarter employees so I’m not upset about that. I think I would have just gotten a bit more out of a panel just made up of people who used Kickstarter.
I would have really like to see if any of the artists who succeed on Kickstarter tested the waters with other sites or thought about using an alternative platform for new projects. It did really seem like once you started using Kickstarter you sort of got hooked. Everyone one of the artist on the panel was already planning their next crowd funded project. I also wanted to ask people what they thought of the common complaint that Kickstarter has become a pre-order system for popular projects more than a way to get otherwise impossible projects to their audience that standard channels are overlooking.
I also went to the big panels for the big two cape comics publishers. MARVEL: Next Big Thing was the big overall panel from the home of Stan Lee. I will say that the new Ms. Marvel got the biggest amount of applause of anyone who was shown on the screen. Even more than Deadpool. Also a good deal of the Spider-man questions were about Miles Morales. I think it is easy to assume those characters only get attention in the media and online but they did seem to have a sizable fan following in real life (at least at convention panels) as well.
I was glad to be reminded that they are reprinting Miracleman. I will a little surprised they did not plug the fact now that all the rights issues with that title had finally been settled Neil Gaiman would finally be able to go back and properly end the series. It seemed like something you would want to throw in when discussing that you can now get the out of print but incomplete story. Also if nothing else I am curious about On the Edge of Spider-Verse for one reason. Apparently it is going to have Toei Spider-Man in the series at some point. I’m mostly just curious if he is going to be more than just a one panel cameo. I mean we all need more Leopardon.
The main DC panel was DC COMICS – Batman 75th Anniversary. I have to say that Batman has really come to dominate DC universe. It always seems like there is Batman … oh and the rest of the DC players. Sort of like Wolverine and the X-Men. Batman is hardly the whole of the DC roster but at times you might not believe otherwise. I don’t think this panel helped dissuade anyone of that thought. The most interesting news out of the panel was probably the return of Julia Pennyworth. She seems like a bit of a dive into the back catalog for a mostly ignored character but she might have potential. She could also be one of those random “lets brush off this character with major cobwebs on them” ideas that works better on paper. It is all about the execution.
The more I hear about the upcoming the Gotham series the more I think that series is the LZ 129 Hindenburg in TV form. It just seems part of it was to be the fresh and original prequel, the other half needs to have a cast that you mostly know to have name recognition, and the actual show itself seems stuck in the middle with both sides tearing at what enjoyment could be there. I fully admit I have seen nothing more than a trailer or two and some stills. It could be better than my random first impressions. I would just be a little surprised. Everything about it now screams awkward and miscalculated.
I will admit that I partially went to the Archie: Life, Afterlife and Beyond panel because of one of my former roommates. Back in college I used to live with a girl named Kelly and she interestingly enough used to have a large collection of Archie comics knowledge alongside a wide variety of other geeky hobbies. She was the first person to inform me just how big the Archie franchise is despite the fact that it mostly flies under the radar of most comic nerds (in that same way that Doraemon and Anpanman do with anime fans.) I can’t say that Kelly ever made me an Archie fan but it did make it something I now respect and keep my eye on from time to time. Also Afterlife with Archie is probably the only “lets put zombies in this” concept I still find even remotely fresh. (But it is still not as good as Archie Meets the Punisher. But what is?)
The panel itself started off fine. They basically talked about all their new titles. I could not help by laugh to myself when they were talking killing Archie in Life with Archie. You know that it is really an American comic when they make such a death a tent pole event despite the fact that it would never have any lasting effect. The audience seemed fairly polite at this point. People were conversing with each other but at that standard low tone that you do when you are an audience member. Then the change happened. They brought up Sonic comics.
Every fandom has its ugly stereotypes that sort of hang around their necks like a grizzly albatross. I try to ignore those preconceptions and judge each fan as an individual without the potentially unwarranted stigma that might come from their hobby. But you are always going to run into that person who proves why the stereotype exists in the first place. Special Edition NYC gave me a pack of them. It was like the floodgates opened up when that blue hedgehog came up. The little group in back of me just started commenting the rest of the panel as if the panelists NEEDED to know what they thought about everything like they were a very needy focus group. Also one of the more annoying parts of the pack actually asked if they could include a fan fiction character they liked in an upcoming issue. Part of me wants to believe that was just a joke but if it was a joke they played their part so straight that Andy Kaufman would be proud. Other than asking for more yiffing in the comic they were pretty much everything you would expect them to be when you think of the worst of Sonic fandom. I will say the panelists did their best to politely address them when appropriate but otherwise talk past them to keep things moving.
If nothing else Secret Identities: Transgender Themes in Comic Books and Reimagining the Female Hero panels prove that there is a good amount of diversity in the comics community if you care to look for it. It is hardly the part of the fandom that often gets the spotlight but it is there. Speaking of which the panelists were quite a diverse bunch of comic artists and writers. In Secret Identities you had a trans man and woman, a lesbian, and a guy who was writing a noir comic with a central transgendered character. The panel was a very general overview panel. It covered everything from golden age comics and independent comics to manga and bandes dessinées. It also looked at everything from characters who cross dressed as a gimmick, had complicated gender identity due to curses or mishap, as well as actual transgendered characters. The panelists looked at how cross dressing characters started out as jokes and gimmicks and how they have both expanded into a full-fledged examination of different identities. It was clear there was more material than what could be fit into a single hour so they went for breadth rather than depth which is always the best in an overview panel.
Since this is an anime and manga blog I am obligated to mention that the prime anime examples were Sailor Moon and Ranma 1/2. Kristen Enos love in describing Sailor Moon was quite evident. I really wanted to ask if anyone on the panel if they had read Wandering Son and Genshiken Nidaime. I felt like all their anime and manga examples were fairly old but Wandering Son is probably one the most sensitive looks at the life of a transgendered character in manga. Genshiken Nidaime does not get that as high a praise but as the series goes on it definitely raises the topic above the initial joke fetish it seems to be in the beginning. They would both make some good examples modern manga that could be added to the panel.
My last panel on Saturday was Reimagining the Female Hero. The panel was five female artists and writers talking about their experiences working on female characters as well as the triumphs and failures of the medium in general. It is worth mentioning that all the women on the panel worked for DC. It will come up later on. Most of the panel was discussing the influences of the women on the panel, how they approach their jobs, and what they would like to see from their fellow artists. The panel did focus more on the positive and would could be done to improve things than complaining about what is broken (not that problems were not touched on.)
Of course the Bechdel test came up as it naturally would during such a panel. The panelists were fairly even-handed about the subject. They mentioned that the main problem with the Bechdel test is when it is used like a hammer. It is more of a thought experiment and a litmus test of a medium as a whole rather than a definitive selector of what has good female characters. Something like Gravity would fail the test but Sandra Bullock’s character is so integral to the plot and can easily be augured to be a great female character. At the same time some rubbish movie could pass the test but be horribly misogynistic. The Bechdel test works best in two ways. The first is as a jumping off point. If a title passes or fails the test it should lead to a deeper discussion of why it did that. It also works best when looking at a genre or medium as a whole. The number of titles that pass or fail the test says a lot. If almost no titles in a genre pass the test it probably points to a greater trend.
OK. I have to call out one one part of the panel. When the panelists were discussing what female characters from comics and animation influenced them in their childhood a wide variety of characters came up. A lot of Wonder Woman, Sailor Moon, Jem, and even Batman villains like Catwoman were thrown around. It was a decent selection. That is not my problem. The thing was no one brought up the 90s X-Men cartoon. Really? I did notice all their comics examples were DC characters. If all of the panel was much older or really young I might buy it but considering all their other influences the fact that no one mentioned the X-Men cartoon stinks more of refusing to give a rival publisher their due more than a curious gap in media consumption. I generally found anyone woman who was in school in the 90s generally brings up the X-Men cartoon whenever they discuss what got them into comics. Not every woman will mention it but it’s probably the most common answer.
Overall I enjoyed all the panels I went to. I have to give some major props to the Secret Identities panel. As a rule a big professional conventions all the panels feel like they are selling you something. The Secret Identities panels really felt like it was about an idea. I’m not saying all the panels have to be like that. People go to the Marvel panel to learn what Marvel is doing. It is sort of one of the biggest draws to a convention like this. I just wanted to give a little praise to something that stand a little above the pack.
Other Special Edition NYC 2014 Coverage: