Con Talk: Denver ComicCon 2016 Day 3 – Cait


Denver ComicCon 2016 Day 3

Cait

For my final day of my very first Denver Comic Con, I managed to catch two very educational panels that helped me to learn a lot about graphic novels. While I’ve been reviewing them for over a year now in my segment Graphic Reviews, it was an industry that I honestly didn’t know nearly enough about. Today I was able to catch two very different panels which helped me to understand two different facets of the industry: the role of women in the industry via the Kickstarted project Womanthology and the process of creating covers for comic book issues.

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As a female reader, it was extremely valuable to attend the Womanthology panel and hear about the experience of female creators in the industry and their experience contributing to the Womanthology volume that set Kickstarter records for the time in which it was on the crowd funding site. The project was started by artist Renae de Liz in 2011 and was the product of frustration by women in the comic book industry who felt that their gender was preventing their work from being accepted and published. The contributors to the anthology were all female writers and artists and as was explained during the panel, the total 140 contributors were paired together with a newbie and an established professional so that each could take advantage of the other’s skills and experience for a total of 85 comics. Many of the panelists had contributed to Womanthology and those who hadn’t were able to speak about their experience in the industry. The panelists included Barbara Randall Kesel, Cat Staggs, Chrissie Zullo, Marguerite Sauvage (whose work on DC: Bombshells I reviewed earlier this month), Mindy Newell, Trina Robbins and moderated by Hannah Means-Shannon.  It was an incredible mix of talent, with Barbara Randall Kesel and Trina Robbins both having several decades of experience in the industry (Robbins in particular was able to talk about the very early days of comic writing both during and after World War II opened opportunities in the industry as it did in other industries) and Chrissie Zullo and Cat Staggs representing newer talents. Marguerite Sauvage (whose experience in the European comic book market was eye opening) and Mindy Newell in between. Hannah Means-Shannon was a brilliant moderator whose experience in comics as Associate Editor of Dark Horse Comics allowed her to ask insightful, interesting questions and field a great discussion with the audience.

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A sampling of the kind of art provided for comic book covers

This provided a very stark contrast to my second panel of the day: The Art of the Cover. This panel was a fascinating discussion with artists who provide the cover illustrations for the series on which they are working. The panelists included Joe Benitez, Joe Corroney, Juan Gedeon, Matteo Scalera, Robert Atkins, Shawn Crystal, Zach Howard (whose work on Wild Blue Yonder I reviewed earlier this month) and was moderated by R.C. Harvey. As someone who was unfamiliar with the process of creating the covers, it was fascinating to hear how the process worked. For many of the artists, once they have been given a project by an editor, they complete the illustration in anywhere from a few hours to several days depending on the speed of the individual artist. Some of the artists did both line work and coloring, others relied on a colorist to finish the project. If it’s not a creator owned project, the scheduling for the projects sounded insane. Many times the cover artists are working on the cover months before the actual issue comes out and have little knowledge of the script of the final issue. This is due to the fact that the covers will have to be provided to comic book store owners as a preview so that they can determine if they want to order the issue. This delay helped to clarify why so many covers in the present era are not detailed in terms of plot but rather are often non-specific scenes that feature the characters above all. I felt like I learned so much about the cover process from this panel that it was even more of a bitter disappointment to have such a terrible moderator. While I understand that maybe this isn’t R.C. Harvey’s wheelhouse, his managing of the panel was actively detrimental to the presentation. He never bothered to introduce himself or the other panelists, asked a single question before sitting down in the audience and leaving the panelists to field questions and then stood up at the end and cut off the final question several minutes before the panel was scheduled to be over. As a fan who would have loved to hear the artists answer the final question, it was an incredibly disappointing end to an otherwise great experience. The Art of the Cover panel was proof that even if your panelists are fantastic, you need a moderator who knows how to maximize the learning experience for the audience.

Overall, I would have to say that my first experience of Denver Comic Con was absolutely incredible. Having no experience with prior years of the convention, I don’t have anything to compare it to but I came away very impressed. Pop Culture Classroom gave attendees a very broad range of both educational and exciting panels and it was truly a struggle to decide which ones to attend. As a reviewer of graphic novels, the slate of panels devoted to that subject was significant and I ended the convention much more familiar with the subject than I was at the start, which I absolutely loved. The celebrity guest appearances of Lena Headey and Cary Elwes that I attended were also brillianat. It’s so difficult not to wax poetic about the con because it was truly one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. Even with my frustration at the poor moderating in one of the panels, it was overshadowed by the rest and I very much look forward to attending the convention in the years to come. Tune in to Graphic Reviews during the rest of June for further DCC 2016 coverage as I will be continuing to cover the work of DCC guests!

-Cait

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