New York Comic Con 2014: Panels

hisui_icon_4040 There really is only one major downside to having more anime and manga content at NYCC and that is it usually means I have less time for everything else. Since NYCC is really the only comic convention I go to it is usually the place I do all the other types of events related to my other geeky hobbies. So this year I did feel a little guilty that I did not attend more comic and table top gaming related panels. But in my defense I think I would have felt ten times more guilty if I had skipped the anime and manga content.

The again a lot of my life is me trying to minimize my overall guilt over silly things.

narutaki_icon_4040 As usual, at con feedback the crowd bemoaned how they couldn’t get into a single panel despite allegedly lining up hours in advance. Yet, I never lined up more than a hour before anything and attended every panel I waited for. It should be said this is in regards to Hall A, where all of the “smaller” events are held, but still people said this same thing about not being able to get in. So either I have amazing luck, I only attend things no one cares about, or everyone is insane; probably all three in some combination.

hisui_icon_4040 Some panel ideas seem insanely simple but at the same time infinitely useful when they are presented to you.  Comics: Where to Begin? is a panel idea like that. After a little intro the panelists just had people from the audience tell them a little about what they like (or what someone they know likes) and based on that they try to suggest some comics they would like. While it is easy to recommend comics to people it is hard to choose the right comics for the right people. That is actually a skill. It is all about being able to read what a person is saying to decipher what they want and then have an extensive enough knowledge of the world of comics to know of a title that will satisfy their cravings.

Overall I liked the titles they gave in response to the audience. The panel was run by comiXology so SHOCKINGLY most of the titles they recommended are sold through their site but they do have an insanely large library of comics from a metric ton of companies so it’s not like one publisher was only pimping their titles through the panel.

If you want a list of the titles they recommended at the panel they are collected here. I know they mentioned Chi’s Sweet Home at some point so I am disappointed it was left off that list. I swear the also suggested the Lumberjanes so I think they just forgot to put some titles on the list more than they left off titles not on the site. I was going to write down all the recommendations but since they said they were putting the titles mentioned online I did not keep my own record.

Gaming Geek Turned Author was a panel I had originally put on my schedule but then decided to put down the How D&D Changed The World and Why Role-Playing Games Rule panel instead as I wanted to go see Obata’s Friday Q&A. As it worked out I did not get into either of the aforementioned events but I did see the Gaming Geek Turned Author panel.

It was and editor and 3 professional writers talking about how the love of table top games helped them hone their storytelling skills that helped them make a living as writers. They did a good deal of talking about what parts of being a Game Master translates well into writing fiction as well as what traps you can fall into if you think too much like a gamer as well. They also had a little inside baseball talk about the RPG industry as they had all written for gaming companies at one point or another as well. It is clear that the tabletop RPG has all the benefits and flaws on any niche industry especially when it comes to publishing. You know the people running the panel were older when they spoke fondly of the original Traveler character generation system (where it was not unheard of to die during character generation) or talk about the elegance of the World of Synnibarr mechanics.

The CollegeHumor & Dorkly Present “How to Get Paid for Being a Nerd” panel was probably the least useful panel I went to. It was nowhere nearly as bad as THE PANEL WHICH WILL NOT BE NAMED but that is a fairly low bar that no one should ever hope to beat.

Imagine that you just graduated from college and you wanted to get a job. You then go to one of your acquaintances who works in the same field you are looking to break into for some advice. They tell you to have lunch with them and to bring your resume so they can punch it up and give you some advice for getting some inroads. The problem is when you actually sit down with them they spend the whole time talking about themselves, they only give your CV a cursory look, say it looks fine, and then take off leaving you the bill for lunch. That is sort of how I felt about the panel.

The panelists mostly just talked about what they were working on currently with a small amount for background information about themselves mostly for color. Beyond that a lot of “If I can do it then anyone can do it” which was the closest any of it came to solid advice. It was not totally a bait and switch panel but it felt profoundly half-baked, underwhelming, and not totally honest. The Gaming Geek Turned Author panel had more solid advice about how to get paid for being geeky than the CollegeHumor & Dorkly panel.

narutaki_icon_4040 This NYCC had a wonderful offering of panels focusing on the broad range of creators and fans. Each day had at least one panel devoted to women in one way or another.

I attended the packed Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender and the Comic Book Medium with Alitha E. Martinez, Vanessa Verduga, Jamila Rowser, Alice Meichi Li, Juliana ‘Jewels’ Smith, Barbara Brandon-Croft, and Geisha Vi. I found Ms. Martinez’s perspective from being an artist for the Big Two on superhero comics especially thoughtful. She spoke about her experiences, many unpleasant, and her getting little acknowledgment for her work. But she also said she doesn’t feel like woman of color are challenging these companies on their own turf enough. She called for women to show up and prove they can draw that new Superman story or the like. She definitely wasn’t diminishing independent work, but I felt like she made a good point about how hard it is to get these big companies to change if you aren’t producing those bigger works.

Vulture Presents: Carol Corps and Beyond: The Future of Female Fandom with Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gail Simone, and Sana Amanat was packed and buzzed with energy. It almost had the feel of a rally as Kelly Sue and Gail are known for being leaders in the community and their willingness to call out problematic behavior. Everyone spoke eloquently about women reclaiming their place at the comics table, standing your ground, and where you can find support.

Both of these panels were not only completely full houses, but were infused with energy. I found myself inspired by the women on these panels and the discussions brought forth. They were really empowering experiences that I have never had at a comics event before.

hisui_icon_4040 The One Weird Trick for Learning about Comics is another panel of lies. The only reason they ever told anyone the “one weird trick for learning about comics” was because someone asked what the titular trick was as the last question of the Q&A. I know you want to make your title provocative but if you come up with a clever title at least pay the darn thing the lip service it deserves.

Overall the panel looked like the manga blogger meetup with some additional people. There were more than just manga bloggers but there were enough of them in the audience that I recognised for me to take note of the fact.

Interestingly enough one topic sort of quickly dominated the bulk of the panel was that of nasty people on the Internet. It started out as a discussion of how women are treated in comics which naturally lead to how to deal with the monsters of the Internet in general. It is sort of a shame that any discussion of women on the internet basically can only end with a discussion of harassment and trolls. But such is the state of the Internet today. If anything at least all the panelists were generally optimistic that things could get better and might even be getting better all in all.

The crew that ran the Gaming Geek Turned Author panel looked like whippersnappers compared to the Survivors of the First Comic Con. That said it was an amazingly eye-opening panel. The panel was a gathering of people who had attended one of the first comic book conventions ever organized in the world. When they showed the guest and attendance list it was less than 50 people. There are more guests from certain genres at NYCC 2014 than there were in the whole convention back in 1964. It was an incredible insight into how different the world of comics was back then. They had stories of how Marvel and DC just gave them stacks of original art to give out as they were probably just going to throw it in the trash otherwise or how it was possible to just walk into the offices of Marvel and DC to get said art work.

The most interesting part to me was how much of the people in attendance were sci-fi and fantasy fans. It really just goes to prove how much of modern nerdy fandom has for better and worse been a derivative of sci-fi and fantasy fandom. Everything from comic, gaming, and anime fandom can trace their roots back to sci-fi and fantasy. Those two Ur geekdoms have influenced everything from conventions to fandom discussions and still have a lingering influence even today.

By the way one of the younger pups who attended the convention was a snot nosed 15-year-old George R. R. Martin. You probably know him for his work on Wild Cards. Yeah. Can’t think of any other reason you would know that name.

As Kate is the most knowledgeable about European comics I felt that she should do the bulk of the talking about the Publishers Weekly: Comics the European Way panel. I just wanted to back her up on the idea that the panel really came off as anti-manga. I had forgotten this was a panel she was also attending so I actually sat on the opposite side of the room from her and we only compared notes after the panel. I think that is important because it meant that we were not next to each other reenforcing the others ones impression of the panel. Manga came up during the panel. All three panelists mention that manga has really become popular much in the same way that it has taken off in the United States. They then proceeded to talk about it in the same massively passive-aggressive way that one might bitterly discuss and ex in mixed company. There were no direct attacks but it was obvious that they were no big fans of Japanese comics. The only thing that even got remotely that much distaste was Disney comics for some reason. Then again if you just think about the somewhat infamous Asterix and the Falling Sky comic then European comic artists having a strong naked dislike of manga and Disney comics is not as surprising.

All that said it was a good panel. I have always had an interest in European comics but overall they always seem a world removed. We don’t get that much in the way of translated European comics and when we do it is really only relegated to very niche markets. Still it was nice to hear some working artists talk about a very varied part of the comics world that we don’t see that much of over here.

narutaki_icon_4040 Having a European Comics panel with creators from all over the continent is pretty rare so I felt quite compelled to attend despite only knowing a few European titles myself.

There was much talk about how the process and timing of European comics is different from other types from around the world. If one were looking at the speed and volume which comics are produced (generally speaking), European would be the slowest with Japanese being the fastest and American being somewhere in-between. All of the panelists displayed dismay at the turnaround schedule for American comics.

When the panelists were speaking about manga one thing stood out to me was their dislike of the page layouts. Juanjo Guarnido, artist of Blacksad, especially felt that panel layout should be clear, clean, and straightforward and this is pretty evident in many Franc0-Belgian comics.

Continuing on my kick of learning about processes, I attended The Art of Animation and Saturday Morning Cartoons with Animator/Director Tom Cook who worked for Hanna-Barbera and Filmation. He regaled us with stories of him entering the industry, the change that many studios made to out-sourcing (but not Filmation), and various tales from working on He-Man. We can all have a good laugh about the less than stellar animation of a series like He-Man but once you learn about the production schedule you have a better appreciation.

hisui_icon_4040 It is not really a comic con unless you see some premieres as well.I can’t very well always be talking about how much exclusive content there is at a convention like this and then not see any of it. I went to the  Elementary Panel, the Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, and I sat in for a bit of the The Americans 3rd season premiere panel.

The Elementary panel was pretty exciting. It was a bit unusual to get into a main events. I did not even realize there was a wrist band system until later in the day when the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was closed because they had given seats by the time I arrived to see if that panel still had room. I am sure that if it were a Sherlock panel the wristbands would have disappeared in an instant. It is not  Elementary is an unpopular show. I think it just speaks more to the age demographic and general audiences both shows cater to.

A few notes about the new season of Elementary. It is nice to see Joan come into her own as a decisive. In the first season she was distinctly a side kick with potential. By this season she is far more her own detective. It would have been far too easy to make her stay in this static realm of competent but not too competent but they have instead show her growth as a character as the series goes on. I think part of that just has to do with Lucy Liu’s force of personality that would let her play anything less than what she has become but it is worth noting.

The other thing was the introduction of Kitty Winter. She is sort of a deep cut Sherlock Holmes character. I feel most long running adaptions eventually throw in characters like Mycroft and Irene Adler but Kitty Winter and The Adventure of the Illustrious Client is an unusual place to expand upon the Sherlock Holmes mythos. It really helps the series feel another important step different from Sherlock.

I was a little disappointed that  Justice League: Throne of Atlantis panel was just a short sneak peek and not a full showing but that is what I get for not reading the full panel description. The most interesting thing to me is that  Aquaman has become such a strange character. He is well-known enough that shows feel like they always have to include him but at the same time he has become such a joke that you can almost palpably feel the writers going, “For serious, Aquamna is cool. Please believe me.” Batman: The Brave and the Bold wisely embraced Aquaman’s legacy but most attempts to counter the image of Aquaman too often just feel like overcompensation more than anything else.

I’m not sure how I feel about this iteration of the character. The clips showed some real potential but at the same time it looked like the character could easily fall on some emo and overpowered crutches in an effort to shatter the silly image that character has developed. If you try too hard to kill the old perception of the character is can often be counterproductive and just make a new set of reasons for people to dismiss the character. I’m curious to see how that turns out especially considering the fact that the DC animated efforts have almost always been far stronger than their cinematic ventures.

I don’t really have that much to say about The Americans panel other than I got a really nice bag from the panel and it turns out my dad watches that show. I was recounting what panels I did at the convention to my family and that panel came up and I found out that is a show my dad regularly watches. I found that a little odd as he usually talks about shows he watches at length so the fact that he never mentioned that was slightly unexpected. It does seem like an interesting period piece about spies but I just have enough of my plate that I just can’t randomly jump into a new show that has been running for several seasons.

narutaki_icon_4040 This year’s panels felt very substantial to me. I felt like I didn’t just walk away with a smile but also with more knowledge and more resolve. What a wonderful line-up of panels with so much to offer. I hope this is a continued trend in 2015.

More New York Comic Con 2014 posts:

New York Comic Con 2014: Our 4 Favorite Anime & Manga Announcements
The Speakeasy #058: Gods of Death Love Apples, NYCC 2014

New York Comic Con 2014: Anime & Manga
New York Comic Con 2014: Show Floor & Artist Alley

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