WonderCon@Home: Bob’s Friday 3/27/2021 Panels reviewed

I love the @Home comic convention format, mostly because my favorite part of conventions run by the Comic-Con International people are the EXCELLENT panels they put on. 

For people who go to conventions to hang around on the dealer floor, cosplay, or various other activities that hinge more on physical presence, I can see the @Home format being a pale comparison, but I am enamored by attending panels.  With the @Home format I can watch them when it’s convenient for me, not only when they are happening live.  If 2 panels I want to see happen at the same time I can see them both (like Thursday 5pm)!  It’s great!

I was unable to watch the panels on Friday as they happened, and the same for the Saturday panels (I had an appointment for my Covid vaccination on Saturday I wasn’t going to miss).  But starting Saturday afternoon I was able to start watching the panels from both days at my own pace and enjoy them fully.

You can find the entire panel schedule here:
https://comic-con.org/wca/2021/athome/complete-programming
(You may need to use the arrows directly under the word ‘Schedule’ to set focus to March 26-27, 2021)
The full list shows the tremendous variety of selections available. Even if there is nothing I talk about here that interests you, there should be something on the full schedule that will interest every fan of pop culture/movies/comics.

Bob’s Recommended “Must See” Panels from Thursday:

  • Jack Kirby Tribute Panel
  • The Groo Crew
  • Putting The Science In Science Fiction

More detailed information/reviews/links can be found below.

Fri 10am: Jack Kirby Tribute Panel

Panel Description: Mark Evanier (Kirby: King of Comics) talks about the man some call “The King of the Comics” with author Neil Gaiman (American Gods) and TV host and mega-Kirby fan Jonathan Ross. They will attempt to discuss what was special about the work of Jack Kirby and why, long after we lost him, he seems to be more popular than ever.

Very interesting to hear Gaiman (a died-in-the-wool DC fan) talk about how he initially couldn’t get into Kirby’s Marvel work but REALLY got into it when Jack came to DC to create the Fourth World.  Ross, on the other hand, was initially a Marvel fan and was digging Kirby there but his move to DC for Fourth World got him to start collecting and love that corner of the DC universe.

Beyond this there was a lot of great conversation about creator-owned/underground comics in the 70s and also Wally Wood’s Witzend… how Jack was totally enamored of creators being able to do whatever they wanted and owning it, while that wasn’t his cup of tea since he had an ingrained ethic of providing for his family that prevented him going off on his own, opting instead for the steady paycheck at that time.

RECOMMENDED?  9/10.  I’m a HUGE fan of Neil Gaiman and have seen some of Jonathan Ross’ work… it was great fun hearing these guys talk about how Kirby influenced their love for comics and storytelling.

Fri 11am: Comics Arts Conference Session #1: The Power and Responsibility of Comics Pedagogy

Panel Description: The field of Comics Studies is an ever-growing scholarly space involving a wide range of participants. Susan Kirtley (Portland State University), Antero Garcia (Stanford University), and Peter Carlson (Green Dot Public Schools) examine this space while reflecting on their recently published work, With Great Power Comes Great Pedagogy: Teaching, Learning, and Comics. As the panelists discuss their approach to gathering comic creators, scholars, and educators from various fields and settings to set out the stakes, definitions, and exemplars of contemporary comics pedagogy into one edited volume, they analyze how sources of personal identity, nostalgia, and history affect our evolving relationships to comics. As they share the discoveries uncovered in their editing process, the panelists will reveal the purposes for cultivating the three key areas of this volume: Foundations of Comics Pedagogy, Comics Pedagogy in Practice, and New Directions for Comics Pedagogy.

pedagogy [ ped-uh-goh-jee, -goj-ee ]
noun, plural ped·a·go·gies.
1. the function or work of a teacher; teaching.
2. the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods.

This panel doesn’t seem like it’s something that will have a broad appeal, many people won’t care about this at all.  I found it interesting to hear about ways that educators are using comics in their teaching and teaching about comics.  Great for people who are educators or people who are just curious about education techniques.  Susan Kirtley uses an exercise to help illustrate some of what she is talking about.

RECOMMENDED?  6/10.  Interesting if you like this sort of thing.

Fri Noon: Taking it Personally: Comics and Politics in the Age of COVID

Panel Description: Is all art political? And should it be? Cartoon Art Museum Curator Andrew Farago discusses comics, politics, and productivity with an all-star panel of creators whose work combines the personal and the political. Featured guests are Derf Backderf (Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio), Darrin Bell (Candorville), Thi Bui (The Best We Could Do), and Nate Powell (The March Trilogy).

Nate Powell

The moderator had a flat undynamic presence, Derf Backderf was kind of in a bummer mood at the beginning but opened up later in the panel.  Darrin, Thi, and Nate were interesting throughout. 

I’ve read the featured work from all the creators on this panel and enjoyed them all, which is why I was so interested in seeing this panel.  The March Trilogy is probably my favorite non-fiction GN of all time.  Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio is one of the best things I read in 2020.

NOTE: I have determined I like the split screen mode for panels so you can see everyone at once and their reactions to one another talking (like at a live panel) as opposed to the swapping screen focus between each person as they were the featured speaker format used in this presentation. 

RECOMMENDED?  7/10.  Interesting if you like this sort of thing.

Fri 2pm: Image Comics: Bestselling Writers and their Comics Storytelling Techniques

Panel Description: Top tier Image Comics writers including Rodney Barnes (Killadelphia), Alex De Campi (Dracula, Motherf**Ker), Kieron Gillen (Die), Scott Snyder (Nocterra), and Pornsak Pichetshote (The Good Asian) come together to share their storytelling secrets, behind the scenes process, and tease upcoming projects. Moderated by Image Comics’ Talent Liaison, Marla Eizik.

Great stuff for people who are interested in the behind the scenes stuff that goes into the creation of the comics they like to read.  Fascinating to see the personalities of writers whose work you may like, love or even not care for.  The unifying element is they all seem passionate about what they’re doing, and they all give credit to the artists that they work with and talk about how they collaborate with artists.

RECOMMENDED?  7/10

Friday 3pm: Solving Hard-Case Crimes and Uncovering Secret Histories with Cynthia Von Buhler’s Minky Woodcock!

Panel Description: Forbidden Planet TV’s Andrew Sumner steps back in time with talented author/illustrator Cynthia Von Buhler (The Illuminati Ball) and Hard Case Crime editor-in-chief Charles Ardai (The Home Front) to discuss alternate histories, merged genres, the dark world of noir comics, and their release of the latest Hard Case comic-book adventure of Cynthia’s ever-cunning detective Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Electrified Tesla!

I’m a big fan of Titan’s Hard Case Crime comics and have read Von Buhler’s work before so this was an easy choice for me, but a fascinating panel for anyone who likes the crime/mystery genres.  It’s always nice to hear about a writer/artist who puts vast amounts of research into their stories, as Von Buhler does.  For instance, she found the room where Tesla lived at the New Yorker Hotel, rented the room, and brought models there to use it as reference for art in the book.  Amazing!

Also fascinating/distracting was the fact that editor Charles Ardai worked with and knew Jeff Bezos at his job BEFORE he created Amazon and knew him while he was deciding to start Amazon.  Paths not traveled, as he didn’t get in on the ground floor with the guy who would become one of the richest people in the world because “selling books on the internet” didn’t seem like a million dollar idea.

RECOMMENDED?  7/10. 

Friday 4pm: Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes–Inside the Blockbuster Exhibition

Panel Description: Since its doors first opened at Seattle’s MoPOP in 2018, the Marvel: Universe Of Super Heroes exhibition has appeared at some of the US and Canada’s most prestigious museums, welcomed nearly 900,000 visitors, and brought fans a new way to experience the characters and legacy of Marvel, while also exploring the company’s long and storied history. Now, as the exhibition begins its fourth record-setting year, head curator Professor Benjamin Saunders (head of comics and cartoon studies, University of Oregon) and co-producer Brian Crosby (creative director, Marvel Themed Entertainment) bring you inside the galleries for a sneak peek at some of the priceless artifacts on display, discuss how they’ve brought Marvel to life in a museum medium, and consider the process of building an exhibition that can evolve and adapt to reflect the ever-changing Marvel Universe

Really short (clocked in just under 30 minutes), this would have benefited tremendously had they shared more pictures of past exhibits to give a visual representation of the things they were talking about as well as plans for upcoming cities where fans might be able to visit the exhibit.

RECOMMENDED?  4/10. 

Friday 5pm: Heavy Metal: Putting The Science In Science Fiction

Panel Description: Matt Medney CEO of Heavy Metal and writer for Dark Wing and Beyond Kuiper is joined by co-writer and aerospace engineer John Connelly and president and executive director of the Columbia Memorial Space Center Benjamin Dickow as they debate the science of science fiction.

This falls in the “awesome if you like this sort of thing” category… I definitely like this sort of thing.  These science guys geek out and nitpick science wins and failures in pop culture (and sometimes real life, as in talking about Elon Musk).  Their rant about the movie Ad Astra was worth the hour for me by itself.

If you like this WonderCon panel, these guys do a bi-monthly podcast (11 episodes so far) than can be found here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/heavy-metal-presents-putting-science-in-science-fiction/id1539194165

RECOMMENDED?  8/10.  I’ll be checking out the podcast!

Friday 5pm: The Groo Crew

Panel Description: The four guys responsible for the comic book Groo the Wanderer—Sergio Aragonés, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai, and Tom Luth—talk about how and why they create the adventures of the stupidest character in all of comics, and maybe we’ll get Sergio to talk about his 55 years with MAD magazine and Stan to discuss new and exciting new about his creation, Usagi Yojimbo.

Great panel for new fans, the guys recount the “Origin of the Groo comic” which is still fun to hear even for someone who has heard it before.  

They also caught up with Stan Sakai on his wonderful creation Usagi Yojimbo, where we got to hear about his kids comics ‘Chibi Usagi’ and his work on an upcoming Usagi Yojimbo animation project with Gaumont.

About 30 minutes in there was a good conversation about Mad Magazine followed by Serio showing off a lot of Groo original art he has recently completed for a book that won’t be out for a year or more. I’ll leave you with a fun photo of the crew from many years ago!

RECOMMENDED?  8/10.

I’ll have another Blog covering the Saturday sessions I’ve watched in a few more days… I’m still watching those as I write this!

Opinion piece by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics