“Hi there. So my name is Scott Snyder, and I write Batman for DC...”
The jaws of six panelists dropped, and the heads of over a hundred audience members whipped around to face a man standing in the back of the room.
Yea, that happened. But let’s back up a minute.
If you follow this blog, you’ll know that I waited for months in anticipation of C2E2. I was so eager to go to my second con, and to be on my first panel. I hounded the website. I posted articles. I refined arguments. I did promotions. I might as well have counted down the days (ReedPOP did that for me). I arrived early, left late, and bought shinies. I premiered two cosplays. I was on a panel.
And you’ll also notice that I posted nothing on Chicago Comic-Con. In fact, I almost forgot about it. That amnesia was partly accidental--it’s the summer and I was busy--and partly intentional. I’d heard nothing good about Wizard World. All corners of the geek community had negative things to say about the event. It was too big, too commercial. It was too celebrity-focused. It was too bureaucratic. It was too expensive. It was hostile to female geeks and feminism.
So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to reprise our panel there.
And to my delight, I was proved wrong. As both an attendee and a panelist, I had a fantastic time. First, the attendee portion.
Let’s face it, McCormick is just a nicer place to have a convention. It’s airy, pretty, and shiny when compared to Rosemont. Whether because of the Rosemont facilities or scheduling, Wizard World was relegated to two show floors. I know this is a big con, but the arrangement kinda sucked. I’m not sure what impact it had on the sales of various dealers or artists, but it left me feeling extremely dissatisfied. The spaces felt scuzzy and cramped. I tried to cover both floors, but I constantly felt like I was missing something. And the single escalator was a disaster zone.
Layout aside, the artists and dealers that were there provided a great time. And in spite of the dissatisfactions, I enjoyed wandering both floors, both for the stuff being hawked and the people-watching. And at no point did I feel unsafe or preyed upon, which I was concerned about beforehand.
Wizard World’s approach seems to be to get big-name celebrities. And they do a good job with that. I only waited for two panels, and skipped the autographs and such. The Firefly crew--Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, and Summer Glau--were entertaining, but actually seemed kind of awkward without a stronger personality to pull them together. John Barrowman, on the other hand, did not disappoint. He told stories of creeping out Eve Myles, pulling pranks on David Tennant, and his mother making farting noises in an elevator with an enthusiastic fan. He also sang an old Scottish song he sung as a boy, accepted a flower wreath, brought his parents up on stage to tell embarrassing stories, and together with his husband, pulled down his pants (to reveal Captain America and Spiderman boxers). He was so funny and so happy, but also so wonderful and kind and genuine. It’s been awhile since I’ve laughed that hard.
As for our panel... well. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I was afraid we’d out-talked the subject, and would merely just hash over the same exact points. I was afraid we’d be met with incredible sexism or hostility. And when we arrived at the room 15 minutes ahead of time, and there was barely anyone waiting to get in, I thought we’d be speaking to an audience of about ten.
Of course, none of those things happened.
Instead, we found ourselves with a spacious room, a stage, enough chairs, enough mics, and a good enough distance from the first row that it didn’t feel like we could pick each other’s noses. There was no long line, but rather a room that gradually filled with an attentive, interested audience of around 130. And that environment, I think, helped set the tone.
Our presentation was better. We were all more practiced, and more relaxed. We breezed through the first few questions, easily covering the problems of exclusion to focus on the challenges of inclusion. We had distance from our last conversation, and new perspectives from Kate Lansky. Though we’re six opinionated women who still jostle for the mic, it felt more like a conversation, and less like a lecture. The questions we took were impressive, covering personal stories of discrimination, intersectionality, and how to keep fighting. We were about to wrap it up, when a staff member handed our moderator Carlye the following note:
And as the entire room craned their necks, Scott Snyder, one of the biggest names in the comic industry, talked about the reactions he received when he brought on a graduate student of his to help him in his work, a common occurrence. The difference, of course, was that this time, the student was a woman. And he received a hateful barrage of emails accusing him of tokenism and political correctness--revealing, to him, a problem he’d been unaware of before. He wanted to know what he could do about it.
That’s right. One of the industry’s most successful writers asked us what he could do to combat misogyny. He believed that we--six geek women with no “cred” to our names, can help him be a better ally.
Our voices are important. But Scott Snyder’s voice carries very far. And so does the voices of our audience, and the voices of our readers. Think about this stuff. Talk about it. If you like to write, write about it. Bring the subject up when you’re with a bunch of nerds. Call out your acquaintances on casual sexism, even in non-geek circles. It’s hard, because some days it feels like it’s all around, and it will never end, no matter what you do. But last weekend was proof that we can start a road to a better place--regardless of our lack of cred. So keep it going. Fight the fight. I’ll be there with you.