Editor’s Note: We will add the links to the panels at the end of the article. They will be live for a short time. Comic-Con International reserves the right to remove them at their discretion. Watch them while you can.
I’d be on a train with a straight shot to San Diego from Los Angeles today, gearing up for the next few days of the pop-culture mega convention, Comic-Con International: San Diego. This year things have played out a bit differently for all of us. Instead of arriving in San Diego, I’m placed firmly in my computer chair in front of my Macbook prepared to enjoyed the event digitally. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Comic-Con, as we know it, was canceled. Still, in an attempt to keep the event alive, the convention is being brought into our homes with a series of virtual panels, mostly pre-recorded, and the hope that they can capture the same feeling of excitement of being in San Diego from the comfort of our bedrooms.
Wednesday, which is preview night for the main event, is usually a day to get a lay of the land before the real convention begins on Thursday. Perhaps this aspect of Comic-Con hasn’t changed when done virtually. You still need to figure out the at-home layout, which is why the day was void of any large panels just in case they needed to get the kinks out. Let’s get this out of the way: Nothing was going to top the feeling of being there. Once you’ve accepted that this is the new normal for this year, you can flow with things the way they intend it to go. You’re happy they’re at least trying to do the best they can, but you hope for a more interactive experience as the Con rolls along over the next few days.
The Power of Kids Comics
I decided to check out “The Power of Teamwork in Kids Comics”, which featured Gene Luen Yang (Dragon Hoops), joined by Chad Sell (Cardboard Kingdom) and science comics team Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks (Astronauts). The panel was moderated by Betsy Gomez and sponsored by the CBC Graphic Novel Committee, and it was all about collaboration and teamwork in kids comics. The discussion was a good indication of how some of these panels might work moving forward. The YouTube link was private until 3:00 PM sharp, and once the discussion started, you were just a captive audience member. There is no interaction, given the talk’s pre-recorded nature, but it was all very insightful, and the discussion felt natural and unforced. The moderator ran the panel as if she would had it been done in person as she gave every participant a moment to discuss their projects and their process. I can’t say that I was familiar with any of their work, but it was enjoyable to listen, and I did dig their enthusiasm.
The Power of Masks
Proving to be more impressive was the “GeekEd: Watchmen and the Cruelty of Masks” panel which featured Dr. Kalenda Eaton (University of Oklahoma), Dr. David Surratt (University of Oklahoma), Hailey Lopez (UC Berkeley), Robert Hypes (Phoenix Creative Collective), and Alfred Day (UC Berkeley). The pre-recorded discussion took place around the time of President Donald Trump’s now-infamous Tulsa rally, and looked into the idea that “masks make one cruel.” The panel sought to HBO’s Watchmen as their inspiration and insinuated we use “masks” to show strength and heroism or as a disguise to cover-up evil and cruelty. The panel discussed that on college campuses, many people, both students, and non-students have taken up virtual masks to make statements and take actions that would not be acceptable if done in public. Zoom bombing, doxing, and anonymous threats have caused much dismay, particularly as campuses move to remote learning due to COVID-19. They also talked about people wearing face-coverings during the pandemic, which has taken on the political idea of strength versus weakness. It was an insightful and compelling discussion that drove home how thought-provoking some of these stories can be as they put a lens on real-life circumstances and events. My only gripe was I wish it was an interactive panel because I would’ve loved to have asked them some questions. After all, each participant was insightful and had much more to offer in a more interactive setting.
It will be interesting to see if the panels for the rest of Comic-Con@Home will follow the pre-recorded route. I think a Zoom call approach would’ve been appropriate, but I assume scheduling and other issues may prevent this as the Con progresses. Preview day is always the starter pack for this event, and that proved to be true even experiencing the event from home. Let’s hope that the days ahead do more to make us feel like we’re there in the flesh experiencing the event first-hand.
The Power of Teamwork in Kids Comics (CCEL) | Comic-Con@Home 2020
GeekEd: Watchmen and the Cruelty of Masks (CCEL) | Comic-Con@Home 2020
Links to Watch: