So when you’re like me and don’t know what to do with yourself other than look at overpriced figures at the Vendor’s Hall, it’s good to have a schedule to provide some structure to your con going experience; hence why I attended so many panels this year. Well, that and I knew I was going to recap them for the website; and that’s a win-win in my book! Today, we’ll be focusing on the fan panels which are hosted by individuals attending the convention rather than the invited guests or representatives of some company looking to market directly to their fans. Do these manage to have an authenticity and love of their respective fandoms that you wouldn’t find in more professional presentations? Let’s find out!!
90s Animation Revisited: Rejoin Your Childhood Friends
Hosted by Peggy Miller
This was the first panel I went to at the convention, and right off the bat it put me in a sour mood. This was nothing more than nostalgia baiting with nothing even resembling insight or depth into what made these cartoons so memorable (or in certain cases, infamous). Rattle off the name of a series, show the opening, ask the audience what year it came out, and repeat nineteen more times. Hell, they couldn’t even stick to the decade as several of these started in the late eighties but remained popular throughout the nineties. Fair enough I guess, but what about showing Power Rangers which was NOT an animated show? I’ll let you all know right now that my biggest problem with most of the fan panels this year is that they’re sometimes a mile wide but always an inch deep. This one did manage to have a breadth of content by name checking twenty different shows in an hour, but so what? No mention of Klasky Csupo shows, no mention of how Mighty Mouse: the New Adventures from 1987 was the jumping off point for many prominent animators in the following decade, no mention of Disney Television Animation who made half the shows name checked here, and most egregiously (at least in my opinion), they couldn’t even be bothered to tell us all that the creator of Doug was born less than a hundred miles away from where we were sitting. That’s a VERY easy factoid to just throw out there to the audience and I’m sure several people would have gotten a real kick out of it. The only thing you’d get out of this is what you already would be bringing into it, and I just don’t think that’s much of a panel.
Building Your Online Community
This was the perfect pick me up after the disappointing 90s Animation panel, and while the information here wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before, I really liked HeroineB0B’s story and hearing about how she’s build her community, dealt with trolls, and how she approaches this hobby. Her advice seems to boil down to preventing unwanted attention from Trolls and the like is that the best offense is a good defense; hence the title of building your online community. So how do you build that community? With CRABS of course which is an acronym stands for Content, Regularity, Authentic advocacy, Building relationships, and Support/share. Make sure you’re making content you like, provide that content regularly, don’t try to sell to your audience in a gouache or desperate way, interact with your fans, and build connections with other content creators that have similarly positive communities. All great advice and I can see why that would help keep the trolls from finding much purchase in a community, but I guess it seems a bit too… simple, maybe? I mean, what if you get a bunch of trolls before you can build a sizable community? What if there are bad actors in your community but your fans like them (or if YOU like them) for what they do when they AREN’T being a jerk? The panel’s only an hour and we only have one person’s point of view so maybe a certain amount of nuance isn’t possible in that kind of format. Either way, I thought it was a great panel, and while I’m not someone who likes streams, I do recommend you check out her work.
A Beginners Guide to Conventions
Hosted by Felicia Bennett
This one was pretty much a train wreck as forgot her laptop which had the PowerPoint presentation on it (meaning she had to wing it), but even with that it seems like she was simply doing it to try and score a free badge to the convention. That’s not to say she didn’t have ANYTHING to contribute here as she eventually just started telling stories and talking about problems she ran into while at conventions. I did ask her a question which was what she thought convention organizers and staff could do to improve con going experiences. Her three suggestions were a better organized system for photo shoots, faster and better trained technical support, and more staff members outside the building itself to better monitor attendee behavior. Solid suggestions that I’m sure can applied to any number of conventions, though I’m still not sure exactly how the photo shoots worked or how the staff could be more helpful with them, but she clearly has experience with this. Even so, she wasn’t prepared and basically gave up on the panel by the forty five minute mark, so it really ended up being a waste of time by the end.
Introduction to Horror Manga
Hosted by Skylar Broom
While I wouldn’t call this a perfect panel as there was a bit of disorganization and the content could have trimmed some of the fat, this is almost exactly what I was hoping for from the 90s Animation panel. There was some basic stuff early on about the basics of writing horror and an overview of Japanese folklore, but the brunt of the panel was listing off famous authors, a bit of history on their work, and even a few videos for the adaptations made on their work. Was it a bit dry? Sure, but it was informative, and now I have list of authors to look up and see if I can check out some of their manga. That list by the way is Junji Ito, Kazuo Umezu, Shintaro Kago, Hideshi Hino, Usamaru Furuya, and Suehiro Maruo. They also made a point of saying that not all the manga they will be outlining will be overly gory which I’m not sure how true it is considering that some of the pictures shown were PRETTY fucked up, but if it’s true than that makes me that much more interested in checking out their stories as I find a lot of the modern gore heavy manga and anime to be witless and fetishistic rather than affecting and horrifying. Even stuff I like such as Battle Royale has fallen into that trap, and it’d be nice to read something that’s genuinely creepy without blood splatter as a crutch. I can definitely see points where it could have been improved (better integration of video clips for starters) but it’s head and shoulders above most of the other fan panels I attended and I ended up getting something out of it, even if it was just a few kick ass recommendations.
Memoirs from a Former Brony
Now unfortunately I don’t have the name of the person who ran this panel (it’s not listed on the website for some reason) but I’m sure if you’re a fan of My Little Pony that you’ve someone like this before. From the guy said and how he talks about the show, this isn’t someone who came to any real crisis point with the series; rather he dropped after season three when many other fans jumped ship because of Princess Twilight. That’s not to invalidate this guy’s status as a Former Brony or to delegitimize his reason for creating this panel, but the dude just did not have much to say other than saying the show isn’t THAT good and shit talking the more social awkward fans out there. To make sure all my cards are on the table, I don’t consider myself a Brony at this point; mostly because I REALLY hate that word or pretty much any word used to ascribe an identity through a corporate brand, but also because I’ve learned that it’s not necessary for me to be part of some group just because I like a TV show. I love 3rd Rock from the Sun, but you don’t see me calling myself a Solo-bro. I can enjoy My Little Pony and even many aspects of the fandom without metaphorically signing up for a newsletter or raising arms against our attackers. There was a point where I was trying to evangelize the show to anyone who would listen, but I’ve gotten past that and frankly so has pretty much everyone else. Do we still have hardcore fans out there? Sure, but their influence has been greatly diminished and frankly there are other fandoms who have taken over the mantel of WORST FANDOM EVER since then; not to excuse bad behavior within one community be saying another community does it to, but rather to point out how this panel kind of missed the boat if its looking to have any impact on its audience. Then again, maybe the host didn’t even care about doing that. I asked him during the panel if he thought the MLP fandom was uniquely toxic or if he thought that the problems that sprung up in this community were simply growing pains for any widespread fandom in the twenty-first century, and his response was “sure”. Wow. Thanks for the startling insight bro. At the very least, the audience was very active here, so whenever it wasn’t the MC and his co-panelist (who was originally in the audience but then asked to join him on stage) talking about how the show teaches really simple morals (no duh; it’s a kids show), it was pretty entertaining to sit through. The highlight for me was when someone brought up how stupid My Little Dashie is which I’ve ALWAYS wanted to hear someone other than myself (and FimFlamFilosopher) say out loud. It was nice to be in the room with other fans of My Little Pony, but I don’t think the panel had any substance whatsoever.
Alright, well that’ll do it for the Fan Panels at NekoCon this year. My advice for the future? Set the bar a bit higher for what qualifies as a panel. Either the ones who were genuine but inexperienced will have a better idea of what is expected, or the ones who aren’t all that serious won’t be wasting people’s time. Next up, I’ll be talking about the Guest Panels and the Aniplex industry panel (or at least what I saw of it), so tune in next time to hear about all that!