One of summer’s most obvious absences are festivals, big and small. There’s no sprawling parks full of concert stages, no small towns bedecked with smiling strawberries leading you towards the vendors, carnival rides and bad local acts, and no summer convention season. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that in some cases, the move to online festivals, concerts and conventions means that more people have access to things they’ve only dreamed of before, and that you don’t need a cool hundred dollars (or more) just to get into the doors. There’s no badges, there’s no full panel rooms, there’s no frantic rush for hotel reservations, no press lists or parking problems or really, enormous travel expenses.
We’ve not yet been able to make the annual nerd pilgrimage to SDCC, known to Muggles as San Diego International Comic-Con but if you’re not aware, this is the grand poobah of conventions. It’s the original, dating back to the days when comic cons actually centered on actual comics and weren’t such all you can eat buffets of nerdy pop culture immersion. It’s also one of the few conventions that giant franchises, huge brands and high profile celebrities know they should be seen at, providing a great array of programming that serves to tease what’s to come and celebrate the nerdy things we all hold so dear. In other words, it’s a big deal, and it’s been on our bucket list to attend for some time now.
So, in a surprising bright side to the dark spectre that is 2020, now it’s a lot less complicated to get our chance. Instead, we can pull on our best pjs, pull up a comfy chair, make a great snack and find our favorite device to get in on all the fun from right here in Chicago. And even though we will miss all the cosplay, chaos and cornucopia of nerdy goodies that the merch halls always boast and hope to return to that one day, we’re going to count this a net positive. And at least for us at Third Coast Review that means it’s time to buckle up for another Choose Your Own Adventure Comic-Con@Home Preview. We’ll get you started with a guide to Wednesday’s programming, and once you’ve had your fill of pop culture goodness Wednesday, you can count on us to give you a new Choose Your Own Adventure guide to every day of Comic-Con@Home so you won’t miss a thing.
One tip to get us started: You’re gonna want to bookmark this.
Wednesday July 22
Everything kicks off for Comic-Con at home on Wednesday, July 22 at 3pm, when YouTube becomes Convention Hall H (and every other panel room) and your living room becomes the VIP section for the big show. What that looks like is up to you, as every color of the nerd rainbow will be represented. All you need to do is sit back, relax and decide which path you’re feeling like travelling down right now.
3:00 PM PDT (5:00 PM CDT ): If you’re a writer, bookworm, or narrative nerd in general, you’ll want to check out a more cerebral panel to get your mind ready to be blown for the next few days. GeekED: RE-storied: Reimagining Creative Privilege is one way you can attack it out of the gates. This panel looks to be a supremely interesting and thought-provoking look at the changing landscape of storytelling and how that relates to privilege. Panelists include Sarah Ellis, the director of digital development at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Linda Sellheim, the education program manager at Epic Games, and Tess Tanenbaum of UC Irvine’s Transformative Play Lab, among a few notable others.
If you’re a teacher, parent or simply an interested citizen of the world, you may want to check out Teaching and Learning with Comics, which features both educators and creators like Antero Garcia from Stanford University, Nick Sousanis of Unflattening, Ebony Flowers of Hot Comb and David F. Walker of Naomi on practical activities and theory involved with using comics as a teaching tool
At 4:00 PM PDT (6:00 PM CDT), there’s a few more “thinky” panels that are more than worth your time–especially given the extreme importance of current social issues and the pandemic.
If you’d like to discuss a whole lot of hot button issues through the lens of pop culture, tune in for the GeekED: Watchmen and the Cruelty of Masks panel. And no, it’s not about whether or not you should wear a mask during the pandemic which, spoiler alert, you should! It’s actually a deep dive into a theory floated by HBO’s Watchmen–the idea that ‘masks make one cruel’ and delves into the idea of the virtual masks we wear online that allow us to do things we wouldn’t otherwise if the veil of anonymity was lifted–either for good or for evil.
If you’re someone who wants to make a difference in your community, check out Make Programming Your Superpower. This panel features librarians from the San Diego Public Library talking about ways that they create interesting, education and engaging programs for all ages of kids, and will also cover what they’re already learning about virtual programs as they, like everyone else, adjusts to the new normal.
On to the 5:00 PM hour (7:00 PM CDT) you’ll be faced with two very relevant, interesting options.
Choose to delve into something more historical yet currently relevant with an eye on how conspiracy theories and propaganda exist in comics, shows and movies and correlate to our current social climate with the Conspiracy Theories and Propaganda Throughout Pop Culture panel, which features J.D. Lombardi of YouTube’s Lombardi Labs as well as screenwriter G.L. Lambert who’s also the titular host of the G.L. Lambert Explains It All podcast, as well as Guadalupe De La O, a STEM teacher from Alliance Schools, as they discuss where these theories and propaganda exist, what they mean, and what to do to combat it, including the importance of science literacy for all.
If you just want to get into the comics, man, we recommend New Kids Comics from Eisner Award Publishers. If you’re not familiar, the Eisner Award is basically the Oscars for comic books, and are generally presented live at SDCC. This panel features Jerry Craft (Class Act, New Kid), Faith Erin Hicks (One Year at Ellsmere) Robin Ha (Almost American Girl), Derick Brooks (Bright Family: Versus the Multiverse), and Jonathan Hill (Odessa) and is moderated by Candice Wing-yee Mack, Vice President of the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association and the topic du jour will be new kids graphic novels.
Long about 6:00 PM PDT (8:00 PM CDT), there’s more to learn
If you’re interested in the intersection between comics and college, you should make sure you’re watching Comics on Campus: Fandom at Academia. It’s a panel that looks at the more recent prevalence of comics in academics, whether they’re discussed in formal or informal classes and gives viewers an inside look at the courses being taught in colleges around the country about comics. Guests will be Paul Levitz (Columbia University, Pace University), Frank Cammuso (Syracuse University), Rob Salkowitz (University of Washington), Karen Green (Columbia University) and Darlynne Overbaugh (Ithaca College) and the panel will be moderated by Ed Catto, also of Ithaca College.
If you’re an aspiring writer or artist or a teacher who wants to create with your class, consider Spirit Skies: How to publish an international youth comic in the Age of Covid-19. This panel is for fans, artists, students, writers, and teachers, and is meant to inspire and educate. If you’re not familiar with Spirit Skies, it is a graphic novel that was written and illustrated exclusively by high school students, and many of the students involved will be on the panel, along with educators, editors and more. Topics of discussion include cross cultural artistic exchange and the challenges that must be overcome due to Covid-19 as well as some of the novel’s topics, like environmental stewardship, and should be eye-opening and fun.
That’s a wrap for day one of #Comic-Con@Home.
As you can see, today’s Comic-Con@Home kickoff is a great mix of educational, fun panels meant to challenge your mind, inspire you and perhaps give you new insights. These are just a few picks we curated for you, but you can check out the full panel schedule on the Comic-Con@Home website. Comic-Con@Home is free to attend and all you need to do is tune in to the various panels on YouTube. As with any con, panel schedules are subject to change so you’ll want to make sure you’re following Comic-Con@Home on Twitter and Facebook. Stay tuned to Third Coast tomorrow for another Choose Your Own Adventure guide to Comic-Con at Home! We can’t wait to go on the adventure with you, right here from our couches.