The Most Talked About Panel At Megacon – Siike Donnelly

The Most Talked About Panel At Megacon – Siike DonnellySiike Donnely writes for Bleeding Cool;

Since yesterday was all about DC and the chunks of news I was able to pry out of people, today I wanted to talk about a group that also deserves as much attention as the big guys- the incredibly talented and unsung heroes of Artist's Alley. Gene Hoyle and I hosted our first panel ever last night, shining the spotlight on a few of this extremely humble and grateful group.

Now, before I get to the meat of this story, I want to thank everyone that made this day possible. Yesterday, not only did Gene and I, two nerds that 99.9% of the nerd community has never heard of before tonight, make a statement with the Nerd Nation Artist's Alley Spotlight Panel at MegaCon 2012 – but it was truly the beginning of something that will no doubt become a MegaCon annual event.

And naturally, like all great events, we did not do it alone. Big thank you to Susy, Tricia, and Jack of our Nerd Nation Crew, as well as our panelists Martin Pierro & James Michael Whynot (, Juan Navarro (, Kate Carleton (, Derrick Fish (, and Mike Wagganer ( I want to also thank our friends at A Comic Shop, the BEST comic store in the world as far as I'm concerned, besides Tate's respectively (who actually provided us with a TON of cool stuff to hand out in our swag bags for the panel), Bill McCray from the Hero Initiative, and the friends and fans of our silly little podcast that came to support. You guys made this night one of the best in my life, and not to speak for him, but I'm sure Gene as well.

The room for our panel sat about 70 people or so. Not only did those seats fill before the panel started, but we also had about 20 people lining the back wall, standing, just to hear us talk about our books that aren't Superman, Spider-Man, or Walking Dead, but have just as much blood, sweat, and tears poured into each page, if not more.

For those who have never been to a Con before, Artist's Alley is a section of the floor full of immensely gifted artists and writers; many of which are there to promote a book they self published through hard work, perseverance, and a constant depletion of their bank accounts in order to pay for art supplies, materials, and their table at the convention. Far too many times than anyone would want to admit, these creative geniuses will actually be ignored and brushed off at shows, not given the time to tell you about the book they sacrificed so much to make, in hopes of getting it out into the world.

I think Mike Wagganer said it best on our panel. "Most of the time you will get someone who won't even give constructive criticism. They will just hate your book. But every once in a while you get that awesome person who gave you a shot come up and say, hey man, I want to know what's going to happen next with your characters. Where does their story go from here? That makes up for the few bad reviews at once."

I wish I could say I had a hand in coming up with the concept of this panel, but I did not. Gene Hoyle is the mastermind behind this. Focusing on these guys filled him, and myself, with this intense feeling that we were doing the right thing- we were helping bring attention to people that deserve it just as much as the people working for the bigger companies. Sadly though, Gene, myself, Susy, Jack, and Tricia all worried if anyone would actually show.

We must have handed out, and placed on various tables, over a thousand flyers for this, as well as reached out to sites like,, and of course my favorite of them all, Bleeding Cool. The word was out there, and together we hoped for the best, but we were honestly ready to face a nearly empty room. Some things to love about the nerd community are that we will always surprise you and we will exceed expectations at every turn. We unite for good causes like with the Tri-Force Mike shirts and books or the Hero Initiative, and we are there for the our fellow underdogs when they need the support.

Words can't describe what a packed room felt like to me, Gene, and the rest of our crew and panelists. We honestly felt like rock stars. Not only did we have a full room, over 80% of them stayed with us during our entire 2 hour panel. Naturally we thanked them with prizes, shirts, posters, original art, and so much more, but those gifts weren't enough in mine or Gene's mind. The support we were shown blew us away. In fact, many of our attendees stayed another hour after the panel to chat with us and tell us about their work and how they'd like to publish something before MegaCon next year. It got Gene and I thinking, if MegaCon will allow it, this spotlight panel will return. In fact, in may even spread over to other conventions.

If you want to listen to our panel, we recorded it. Jack will be working on it for the next week or so and we'll post it at when it's all ready. I'll see if I can post it up on here when it's done. You can always LIKE our Facebook page so you can get updates there as well.

Our panel was fun, light, intimate and full of an energy that I rarely see at panels. And trust me; I go to a lot of them. Speaking of, Hall 221C, the same room we were in if you joined us today, 3pm on Sunday Feb 19th at MegaCon, go see our friends at A Comic Shop during their panel. I'll be there, supporting my friends that supported Nerd Nation tonight.

Gene, myself, and the group felt like celebrating. The odd thing though, or at least something we weren't ready for, was that at the hotel party we went to after, people were talking about our panel. Strangers and people that attended alike came up to Gene and I, telling us what an incredible job we did. Again, surprised and expectations surpassed. And again, I got the chance to talk to Tony Bedard, who I'm a big admirer of. In fact, when I approached him, he was talking with SuperCon's Mike Broder about the very article I wrote yesterday. Mike even mentioned how much he loved how well we promoted our little panel, stating that everywhere he turned he saw one of our flyers. It put us on cloud nine. I've got to get him and Tony on the podcast one of these days. Swell guys.

Well, as always I get excited about the constant curve balls life refuses to stop throwing at me. I apologize for the long article and thank you if you stuck with it and enjoyed it at all. We at Nerd Nation plan to do some very unexpected and interesting things with our show in the coming months. We will be doing an all Gay episode, with a few surprise homosexual creators in the comic and sci-fi world calling in to give a perspective on these universes that Gene and I may be incapable of. We will also be doing a Free Comic Book Day special where we will be talking to teachers that use comic books to teach. One guest uses them to teach autistic children.

Nerd Nation isn't just your typical show. We want to tackle real topics and shine the spotlight on everyone in the nerd world that deserves it. We have a saying in our circle- "I am Nerd Nation." That doesn't mean just me or Gene, but everyone out there as well. We may not change the world, but maybe we can help change how you see it at times. We're all nerds in some way. So be sure to tune in and nerd out with us.

As always, thank you Rich for posting my nonsense. And thank you guys for reading it.

Siik Donnelly – @Exploding Bullet

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.