Wednesday, July 18
We drove. A lot. G drove most of the trip until we hit LA traffic, and I drove the final few hours. I hate driving, but I’m far less affected by the stress of driving and can manage not to constantly shout at the other drives on the road, so we divide it up that way. He drives the long easy bits, and I drive the annoying short bits. We arrived safe and sound. Yay!
Thursday, July 19
Day 1 of the Con!! We got up pretty early, caught the 7:30am shuttle, had our lanyards and stuff by 8:30, and then were completely baffled as to what to do next. I managed to trade my Krypton backpack with Black Lightning pin for DC Super Girls and Cat Woman, but a friend of a friend has Cat Woman as a super duper fav, so I traded her that pin for her Joker. I am very pleased with my trades. After that we headed to the Marriott so we could buy merchandise. Two tshirts, one hat, and oh lordy that line later, I was on my way to my first panel! I had been warned that pretty much every panel had a huge line, so I wanted to get there early. I found the room a bit after 10 and was ushered straight in to the panel before the one I wanted. It was on statues of people from the DC Universe. Neat stuff, but not a strong interest of mine.
The real goal was the “Diversity and Comics: Why Inclusion and Visibility Matter” panel. The panel had some really great conversations about how comics are starting to more closely represent the fan base in terms of being not just white, straight, able-bodied dudes. All of the panelists were Black, and their expertise varied from being professors (of literature and of anthropology), writers/authors/illustrators, retailers, and other aspects of comics. The first two people in line for questions were the two white dudes in a room full of women and PoC. Of course. The first question asked was about reverse racism. OF COURSE. The collective eye-roll of the entire rest of the room slightly adjusted the rotation of the Earth. Your day is a little longer now. You’re welcome.
The panelists handled it beautifully, though. I don’t recall their exact phrasing, but when Steenz asked him if he felt that he could reliably write from the perspective of a black woman, he was visibly flustered. I hope he started to some small bit of understanding that his experiences aren’t universal and he can’t write every story well. I mean, we all know how well white male authors write white ladies: invariably slim, blonde, pretty but don’t know it or pretty despite being in their 40s, whose breasts are perpetually perky and/or swaying gently against their shirts. White dudes trying to writing Black women cannot, I imagine, but be even worse than that. Anyway, I appreciated their response, even if I cannot do it proper justice over a week after the panel.
Another question was asked by a man who is a learning coordinator for a school in south side Chicago where students don’t value reading stories about suburban or rural white boys and their dogs. He asked for suggestions or comic recommendations or any advice for helping them find value in it. They gave some great answers, and after the panel I caught him to talk about using comics for his students, and specifically having them write THEIR OWN COMICS. He said he’d never considered that before, but was definitely going to try it. Then another couple guys came to talk to us. So there we were, three Black men and me, nerding out about comics and education and playing D&D and being told we’re not “supposed” to be interested in things and generally having a great time connecting over shared loves and experiences of being left/pushed out of the white dude nerd club.
My people. I FOUND THEM.
After a great conversation, we went our separate ways. The night before, as I was driving in to San Diego, my friend Sofia (biology teacher with whom I have done presentations on using comics in the classroom) texted me asking if I wanted to be part of an interview on a podcast. Sure! I had no idea what it was about, but Sure! I was supposed to be at their booth in the Exhibit Hall by 1:30, so now I had about an hour to kill. I wandered around for a while looking at booths and seeing the sights and enjoying the cosplay around me. It got closer to go time, so I headed back to the booth to meet Aaron Nablus of Hall H Show Podcast for I didn’t even really know what, but I was here for it.
We weren’t allowed to record the podcast in the Exhibition Hall, so we found a vaguely acceptable location in a hotel and talked for well over an hour about comics, teaching, using comics to teach, having students create their own comics, our favs (my favorite of the X-men is Beast, because he was allowed to be both strong and intelligent. Most intelligent super heroes are frail or at least small. Most big, strong super heroes are not known for their brilliance. Beast has both, and I LOVE HIM. Closest I get to seeing myself represented in comics to this day is a man with a blue pelt), our backgrounds, etc. I’m not sure when it will be posted, but I’ll be sure to NEVER EVER TELL ANYONE EVER.
After that I followed Sofia to the Marvel Visual Development panel. It was not super interesting to me, but the art was pretty great, so I enjoyed it as best I could. After, I made my way to Artists’ Alley hoping to find some cool stuff to bring home. I was sorely disappointed. The vast majority of the artists were middle-aged white dudes drawing creepy sexy boobie girls. I eventually began using that as my litmus test to whether it was worth looking closer: “are there creepy sexy boobie girls? Yes? Done.” I got through there much faster once I set that boundary. One booth thankfully sans the CSBGs was that of the 13-year-old artist Ethan Castillo. He’s got some really great stuff.
I also found one artist I absolutely adore: Karen Hallion. I WANT ONE OF EACH, PLEASE.
I had plans for two more panels and a movie in the evening, because I am hilariously optimistic. I wildly over-estimated by ability to function and was utterly exhausted by about 6. I met up with G, we caught the bus back to our hotel, and I had dinner with a friend from college who is wonderful and I miss dearly. I was asleep moments after crawling into bed and slept 10 hours.
Friday, July 20
I was wrecked after Thursday. I wanted to go to the Adventure Time panel, but getting up and out was not happening. At all. We ended up getting to the Con around noon, had a nice lunch, and then parted ways since G of the Badgeless Rabble had to find outside stuff to do. I went to seven panels in eight hours. It would have been eight panels in eight hours, but lines.
As I was walking to my first panel at 1pm, I was sauntering around the convention center enjoying the experience, and there was this father with two little girls in princess dresses. As I walked past, one of the girls stopped, eyes wide and jaw dropped, and started pulling on her dad’s hand and pointing ahead. “Look! Look, Dada! I saw a super hero! I saw a super hero, Dada! Look!” It was delightful. There were a lot of great moments throughout the entire Con, but that right there was my absolute favorite. The joy and wonder of that little girl encapsulates the entire thing.
I got to the panel early and sat in on the end of the previous one about the horror genre. I was about three episodes from finishing the 1990s Twin Peaks series, so when one of the panelists started saying, “Even Agent Cooper of Twin Peaks. I can’t believe he–” I stuck my fingers in my ears and hummed to myself for about 90 seconds in hopes of avoiding spoilers. Now that I have finished the series, I super duper want to know what he said. Dang it, time, stop only going forward!
The panel I attended was called “The Human Condition: Connecting Humanity with Graphic Novels”. Once all the panelists were up there, it was six white dudes from IDW Publishing. I was skeptical, but wanted to see how this would play out. It ended up being amazing. They showed material from many diverse authors on stories about many different kinds of people in a thoughtful manner. The person in front of me in the question line pointed out they were six white dudes, what gives, and they gave a very self-aware answer that acknowledged the problem and offered their thoughts on solutions in the future. I asked them if there were any specific experiences in their lives that helped them understand the necessity of diverse voices and non-universal experience, and again was very pleased with the response. There was diversity on the panel that was not obvious at first glance, too, which gave me a sharp lesson in my own prejudices and unfair assumptions. I appreciate those and try to take them to heart.
Next panel was “Comic Book Women: Unsung Heroes” that was a group of women working in all aspects of the comic industry sharing their experiences. A common thread was them calling themselves frauds because they came to comics late or weren’t Big Fans before they started. I asked a question at the end about that, and to a woman they all sat up straighter and began explaining that they are professionals, they work in this industry, they are experts, they know what they are doing, and if anyone tries to challenge their belonging they PROVE THEM WRONG by being good at it. That was what I was hoping they would say. The self-deprecation was a bit of a downer, but it ended on a strong note.
My plan next was to go to the panel on law in Star Wars, but to my surprise the line was SUPER long. The panel after that was going to be the Science of Star Wars, and everyone was lining up TWO HOURS EARLY for that. Jerks. Let me go listen to lawyers. Ah, well. I missed that panel entirely, but decided to stick around for the Science of Star Wars (which is thin, at best, and otherwise abject silliness) and the Women of Star Wars after that. Both fun panels. The Women of Star Wars panel had woman authors and illustrators and writers in the Star Wars universe, and they shared stories about how they wrote story lines of growth for women characters and brought more humanity to them.
I jumped straight from the Women of Star Wars into the middle of a panel called “Diversity and Inclusivity from the Perspective of Libraries/Publishing/Authors in the industry” followed by “#METOO and #TIMESUP: An Action Summit for Comics” that were both amazing conversations about representation of women, POC, people with disabilities, the LGBTQIA+ community, and so on. It’s so wonderful to listen to people who care about these things and work very hard to give stories and comics to everyone.
My people. I FOUND THEM.
The last panel of the day was the “Star Wars Mock Trial: The Court-Martial of Poe Dameron” regarding his actions in The Last Jedi [SPOILERS AHEAD!]. It was super good. I was in line next to a girl named Tayler, and we became twitter buds. She’s pretty cool. For the panel, there this whole club of nerdy lawyers who analyze modern law in other universes and do things like this with costumes, people playing the parts of Poe and General Organa, defense and prosecution lawyers, and the audience was the “purely advisory panel of jurists”. He was found guilty of mutiny against Admiral Holdo and disobeying a direct order that lead to the deaths of multiple members of the Resistance as well as the loss of the entire bomber fleet (yes, he took out a First Order ship in the process. NOT THE POINT, POE). He was found innocent of conduct unbecoming of an officer. I’m 93% in love with Poe Dameron, so in my biased-as-all-hell opinion, he’s an idiot, but with a good heart.
After some confusion about where to catch the bus back to our hotel, we ended up being the last two people on the shuttle. I sat next to a guy who had filled the seat next to him with a couple bags. I offered to hold them in my lap if he needed me to so I could have a seat, and then we ended up chatting the whole ride back. He’s an artist who does story boards for movies and has taught art classes. We had a lovely conversation about art, teaching, story-telling, science, how those four things interconnect, and all kinds of other wonderful things.
Once we got back to the hotel, I had another fall into bed for 10 hours of sleep. Super duper beat, but so, so happy.