With a record attendance of 180,000, New York Comic Con, October 6-9, 2016, packed several informative panels for librarians and educators into its first full day of programming. Here are some highlights we discovered.
Body of Evidence: How We See Ourselves in Comics
Attendance: Room For More
A host of panelists, including family physician Birgit Pols and children’s librarian Jessica Chautin, explored the history of body image as it relates to comics. Pols described the evolution of the “ideal body image” throughout 20th century American history, as it transitioned from the Gibson Girl in the 1910s to the Star-Spangled Girl and Hourglass Girl in the mid-1900s to the supermodel in the 1980s and today’s unrealistic body portrayals in pop culture. Graphic designer and comic illustrator Annie Stoll agreed, “Life happens outside of the ideal.”
There was also discussion of how women are hypersexualized in comics, often with gravity-defying breasts, while men are frequently portrayed with six-pack abs. Pols continued, “Everyone has some type of body ideal internalized; we are always striving toward an ideal that isn’t our own.” Panels also shared their thoughts on the dangers of representing disabilities in comics as traits that are either gifts or curses, or sometimes an evil that needs to be cured.
WNDB Presents: Women and Gender Nonconforming Writers of Color in Digital Media
Moderated by WNDB’s Jennifer Baker, who also hosts the Minorities in Publishing podcast, this panel featured Bustle editor Cristina Arreola, freelance writers Christina Tesoro and Bani Amor, and Black Girl Nerds founder Jamie Broadnax. The conversation ranged from their experiences as women of color in digital platforms to responding to criticism. “Digital media is a big part of how we’re able to carve out our own spaces,” said Broadnax, whose site has seen tremendous growth in the past few years. Travel writer Amor spoke about travel magazines being reluctant to reach out to writers of color; and how it sometimes feels like tokenism when they do.
Addressing current and aspiring writers in the audience, Amor reminded listeners to many people of color can’t afford to write for free while Tesoro candidly talked about how part-time jobs supplement her freelance income. The traditional low salaries of careers in publishing, both digital or print, was another talking point, with all agreeing that writers need to get paid enough to live comfortably and Arreola suggesting more internships should have the opportunity to be remote instead of New York-centric. Responding to audience questions about whether people of color have a place in pop culture, Broadnax said, “Pop culture is meant for a wide audience, which includes all of us.”
Bringing Stories To Life: Holding a Comic Con at Your Library
Attendance: Room For More
In this educational panel hosted by librarians from both the Avon Free Public Library (CT) and Ridgefield Library (CT), panelists shared their successes and mishaps from hosting annual cons at their library. Here are some takeaways:
- Financial Support: Friends of the Library, Board of Trustees, sponsors, vendors, or events such as book sales. Get staff involved and keep administration up-to-date.
- Publicize: newspapers, schools, social media, library website, comic sites, local stores, Girl or Boy Scouts, or YouTube videos reminding people libraries are pop culture havens.
- Program Ideas: face painting, photos with cosplayers, scavenger hunts, coloring pages, creating a cape, brackets to vote for favorite superhero, raffles, mystery box of supplies to transform patrons into a character, and panels on history of comics, etc.
- Attendance: The ideal patron base is an entire family so be prepared to host everyone. Focus on all fandoms (i.e. Sherlock, Harry Potter), not just superheroes.
Most important was a reminder to be flexible because things don’t always go according to plan, and to have staff on site throughout the day to assist when needed.
Body Confidence and Positivity in Cosplay
Robert Franzese, who cosplays as Family Guy‘s Peter Griffin, offered advice to those worried about embodying a character who looks different than they do, or a character or a different gender: Go for it; the cosplay community is extremely supportive. Other panelists included Bernadette Bentley as Xena: Warrior Princess, Ivy Doomkitty as Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, and David Baxter as Sandor Clegane/The Hound from Game of Thrones.
Body of Evidence: Cosplay Armor & Props 101
Attendance: Standing-Room Only
I caught the tail-end of this crowded panel to hear people offering each other advice on everything from make-up application to how to make a foam sword. The takeaway: a little creativity goes a long way.