The Wizard World Panels Post

By | Monday, August 12, 2013 1 comment
Part Three of an ersatz series on this year's Wizard World Chicago. Part 1. Part 2.

I can't speak for everyone, obviously, but I tend to really like going to the panel discussions at comic cons. And not the ones where it's one guy reminiscing about stuff he did 20-30 years ago, but something that I have a deep interest in and won't just find the panel just a rehash of things I've heard before. (Seems like a nice guy, but when was the last time Stan Lee had a new story or anecdote to tell?) I was only at the show for a day and a half, but I hit most of the panels I wanted to. Not surprisingly, they were mostly comics-focused.

What I liked about the panels that I attended is that I learned something from each of them. Not just a snippet or brief anecdote, but something fundamentally interesting and, at least at some level, profound. I was particularly surprised at this in the Batman & Psychology panel. Not that I was expecting it to be just an hour of fluff, but there were some very interesting points brought up about the Batman mythos that I hadn't considered before. The "obvious" questions like "is Batman crazy" or "does Batman have multiple personality disorder" were old hat for me, but the notion of applying psychology to Batman and his extended family concept as a whole proved illuminating.

The Roger Ebert panel was very educational, too, though not in quite the way I'd expected. The Ebert/comics connection was more loose than moderator Danny Fingeroth originally anticipated, but there was a deep discussion on Chicago comics fandom. And while it paralleled what I've seen/read in many other places, the specifics of Chicago-area fandom were interesting.

I also attended Brad Guigar's two webcomics panels. I was impressed with his overall approach. He talked about the more technical aspects of webcomics and largely eschewed the basics of comics construction itself. Although he didn't expressly say as much, he basically said that people making or seeking to make webcomics spend so much time on the comic itself that they forget/skip over all the other elements involved like user interfaces, marketing, etc. Despite having the mic to himself for both pieces, too, he made a point of adding that this was how he's found things to work based on errors he's made and, while it may not work for everybody, try to at least think about and understand how/why things might work differently elsewhere. Some of the content may have been a bit advanced for some people, but if nothing else, it prepared them to see some things they might not have expected.

I think my favorite panel, by virtue of it's broad content message, was Michael Foster's "Reinventing Information." I had expected this to be more about user interfaces and the technology of tablets, smart phones, etc. Instead, it was about using contextual appropriated media references as a means of a communication above and beyond the mere appropriation in the first place. Basically, an extension of the idea's classically portrayed in the Star Trek: TNG episode "Darmok." Interestingly, my referencing that episode also emphasizes the point that I'm making.

There were a few more that I attended, but didn't get much out of, and plenty I would've liked to have gone to but couldn't, but those were some of the highlights. Again, this was a show I hadn't put a whole lot of stock into because of its long reputation on focusing on pop culture, but the panels I sat in on were both very focused on comics, and pretty insightful and meaty ones at that!
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Michael May said...

I'd love to hear at some point what you learned at the Batman panel. Been thinking about his psychology myself lately and am hungry for other input.