Ever since my first convention in 1999, I've been an avid fan of going to panels. Meeting the creative minds behind some of my favorite comics, getting the opportunity to ask them questions that have been plaguing my mind since finishing the final pages of their books, has always felt like a true honor to me. Not only do I learn a lot from a panel as a fan, but also as a writer who works very hard to one day be in those creators' shoes. I learn about how they get into the minds of the characters they write, how they find their motivations, and how they choose where to take them physically and emotionally in order to tell new, compelling stories. Each panel is like "How to Write/Draw Comic Books 101" – free knowledge being distributed for anyone who wants to absorb it as such.
Do these comic book creators save lives and change the world? Potentially, yes, they can. In fact, some do. And trust me; they're just as stunned to hear that as anyone else in the room.
For every story that a reader feels is awful enough to drop the book and spit venom and hate about all parties involved in making it, there are people like me that either find the good and focus on that, or remember that these are all stories we can actually take something from. I remember in 2010 where a kid mentioned that Blackest Night caused him to keep fighting after being diagnosed with HIV. I remember an amazing woman, and fellow writer, Jill Pantozzi, just last year writing a heartwarming article on what Barbara Gordon means to her as a person, and how great characters like that inspire her on a daily basis. This may just be comics to most people that read them, but there are a small percentage of us that rely on it for strength and the belief that light exists at the end of the tunnel on those really tough days.
Last year, something as simple as a panel was a defining moment in my life. I won't bore you with the details, since some of you have already read the story – which introduced me to a ton of new friends online, as well as some very creative people at DC Entertainment. The point is you never know what you will learn about your favorite characters at a panel. More importantly, you'll also learn about the people around you and what your favorite character might mean to them.
It's a very fun and unique experience. I encourage anyone who has never been to a panel at a Con to attend. In fact, MegaCon in Orlando, FL is this weekend (Feb 17-19) and I know just the panel that would make a great first: the Nerd Nation panel. Gene Hoyle is a fellow nerd who after reading my article about meeting Geoff Johns, has become a great friend. Not only has he made me a part of his podcast and the growing fan-base that it's receiving, but he has also made a dream come true by putting me on a panel.
Though I've published two novels (RHINO & HEAVEN'S ECHO, with an upcoming Graphic Novel), I'm nowhere near the talents of ANY creator I've ever visited on a panel, nor do I even have a fraction of their charm or charisma. What's great about this panel though is that it focuses on the rising stars of the comic industry. Again, not sure I fit that category, but the other people on the panel certainly do.
James Michael Whynot and Martin Pierro (www.CosmicTimes.net), Mike Wagganer (www.mikewagganer.com) Kate Carleton (Womanthology and www.naughtybicycle.com), and Derrick Fish (www.thewellkeeper.com) are all immensely talented people who will no doubt work their way to bigger leagues in the coming years, which is why I shamelessly plugged all their websites for you to check out. They will be at our panel discussing their work, answering questions, and taking part in a trivia contest with the audience, giving those who attend the chance to win prizes. The room seats a hundred people, and the first fifty will get a bag of goodies. I personally will be handing out 25 copies of the first two chapters to my new zombie novel, Raptus and a few signed copies of Rhino. There will be shirts, graphic novels, posters, and all sorts of things we are giving away. Gene and I promise an interactive panel like you've never seen before.
Also, the Hero Initiative will be there with a table in the back of the room for those who want to sign up. It's for a really great cause and you get a lot of perks to some of the art they sell when becoming a member. The Hero Initiative exists so that guys like Gary Friedrich are taken care of when they get counter-sued for just trying to make a living off something they created. By the way Gary, I donated $15 to you yesterday morning – the amount I planned to spend on Marvel books this month.
The Nerd Nation Panel:
Hall 221C on Sat. Feb 18th,
If you want to get into this business- if you already are and are looking for amazing new talent to collaborate with- or if you're just a fan like the rest of us and like free stuff, come check out the Nerd Nation Podcast Presents The MegaCon Artist's Alley Panel. As for our podcast, it can be listened to every Thursday night (9:30pm EST/6:30pm PST) at www.blogtalkradio.com/nerdnation. It's also a free download on iTunes or at the site if you miss us live. Last week we talked to upcoming DCnU's Savage Hawkman co-writer, Mark Poulton and the week before we spoke to Beth Widera, who runs MegaCon. Feel free to give us a "like" on our official Facebook page.
Soon we will be moving to our new home at www.investcomics.com/nerd-nation, run by Jay Katz, who along with Gene will be interviewing Stan "The Man" Lee at MegaCon for the site and our podcast. Talk about another dream coming true; Stan Lee is a legend and we're honored to have him. I've also been roped into Sci-Fi Speed Dating on Friday night as a segment for the Nerd Nation show. We will be putting together a group of nerds to go see a screening of Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance. I'm going to be hooking up with my friends at A Comic Shop to have a drink for our friend Tri-Force Mike, as well as buy one of their cool Tri-Force Mike shirts. There will be a lot that I'll be reporting back to Rich Johnston throughout my stay in Orlando, making sure you guys see just how much fun MegaCon is each and every year.
I for one am grateful and fortunate to find myself where I am these days. Between Rich Johnston, Gene Hoyle, Jay Katz, and so many other people that have helped share my story and encouraged me to keep going… it's just more than I could have hoped for. I'm glad my second chance hasn't been wasted and I hope those attending MegaCon will at least come up and say hi to me. I'm easy to find. I'll be the nerdy kid in a DC related shirt.
Siike (seek) Donnelly