My general strategy at a comic book convention is to walk the show floor early before it gets too crowded, and then attend panels for the remainder of the day. I break with this procedure if there’s a panel I want to see earlier, which is rarely an issue. I also have to adopt a different strategy at the largest conventions like NYCC where attendees need to queue more than an hour in advance to get into a 45 minute panel discussion. I won’t be going back to NYCC until I forget about how miserable the lines were.
I choose panel and discussions that help me understand the technical details of producing comic books or provide some information about the history of comic books. Honestly, I spend enough time on twitter to have a sense for the current social issues and the near future of the industry. I don’t need to be in the room for a special announcement about next summer’s special event. I don’t need to feel a room fill up with anxiety and tension while we get upset about there not being enough women on comic book creative teams. As an added bonus, I find that the technical panels also have smaller crowds and more engaged panelists.
At C2E2, I accidentally got a taste for 3 different kinds of panels, despite walking into the room each time expecting something more inline with my preferences.
Celebrating 25 Years of Deadpool
What I expected: Marvel editors would go through a brief slideshow, maybe showing a popular cover from each era of Deadpool comic books. When they got to an era where an editor, artist, or writer was physically present, they would let them speak for a few minutes about what it meant for them to work with the character. I was hoping that all of the creators who worked with the character and who were in attendance at the convention would be part of the panel. They would conclude the survey with a reminder of all the new Deadpool series planned for the next year, you know, advertise to a captive audience?
What I got: Absolutely no planned content. Marvel editor Jordan D. White played ukelele. Fabian Nicieza threw a pity party about how anyone else has written Deadpool since the character’s creation. He insulted fair-weather fans who only knew the character from Tumblr and memes. We listened to an hour of random questions from the audience where everyone on stage tried desperately to not insult everyone in the room with their answers. I didn’t make Deadpool pansexual! Fabian shouts, That was Tumblr! Notably absent from the event was writer Gail Simone, although statistics may have required her to lead yet another “women in comics” panel at the same time slot.
Color in Comics
What I expected: A discussion on the role colorists play in modern comics. Maybe a mention of how technology has improved techniques and allowed for faster work. Maybe a comment on how to get more recognition for colorists in addition to artists and writers. I wanted to see sample work, and explanations of technique. I was particularly curious about how how artist/colorist pairs form, for example, McKelvie/Wilson, Shalvey/Bellaire, or Cassiday/Martin. Is this an organic relationship or something that editors cultivate? I’ve also always wondered why so many more women seem to end up as colorists instead of artists.
What I got: A discussion about people of color in comics. While this is an important topic, it’s not what I was expecting. However, middle class white people can’t stand up and walk out of a conversation about race, so there I was. Half of the panelists were missing, so only two men were running the program instead of a team of half a dozen. After showing an introductory video they had no discussion planned, no visual aids beyond tracking a preposterous hashtag on twitter. They avoided answering any questions from the audience.
- Is tokenism a step in the right direction? Like isn’t it okay to start with 1 black Avenger, prove it’s a popular idea, and then start adding stand alone minority characters?
- Similarly, are minority versions of existing characters a step in the right direction? How do we convince large companies that it’s working and we want more? Like it’s great that Thor is a woman right now, how do we convert that excitement into creating a new standalone female warrior book that’s not about a girl version of a man?
- What about when a book does everything “right” on paper, but then sucks A LOT? Am I still obligated to buy a minority led/created book if it’s shitty?
- If I have to choose between a book with a minority creative team, and a book with a minority character, which should I choose? Which sends a stronger signal to the publishers?
- Wouldn’t a fair depiction of a transgender character be indiscernible from a depiction of a cisgender character? Like, if the transition isn’t part of the plot then how would we know? And wouldn’t making transition part of the plot feel a little exploitative?
I don’t expect these questions to have easy answers, but the nervous and panicked discussion hosts were barely able to put together a complete sentence. I’m still curious about the best way to support diversity in comic books, but even more confused than when the panel started.
Editorial Process in Comics
What I expected: An experienced comic book editor who has worked for several brand name publishers would lead a discussion which featured input from several well known writers and artists. Topics might include:
- how to develop a pitch
- some publishers put creative teams together vs. expecting creative teams to be included in the pitch
- the added value of hiring an editor for self-publishing, and how to find a good editor
- the difference between a beta reader and an editor (editors can be more like project managers)
What I got: Exactly what I expected, plus bonus extra love and admiration for everyone in involved in the event.
Logistics Make Everything OKAY
Overall, the programming at C2E2 wasn’t the best. However, it’s not my fault for having specific expectations for the content. I want to highlight for a minute what was perfect about these panels.
- Sufficient seating in the rooms and waiting areas outside
- Lines <15 minutes long, and only for the largest panels with TV stars
- Functional Audio/Visual equipment in every panel room
- Decent soundproofing between rooms (I have been to a convention that split panel sessions using a only curtain…)
- Good air circulation and lighting, unlike the dungeon basement of some convention centers
It may seem like these elements should be standard for any convention, but that’s definitely not the case. Maybe I’m cynical, but I’m always pleased when people do their jobs properly. I would add the well run panels to my long list of reasons why everyone should be trying to attended C2E2 next year.