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Guest Post: What I Learned as a First-Time Comic-Con Attendee

Guest Post: What I Learned as a First-Time Comic-Con Attendee

San Diego Comic-Con hosts a plethora of fans portraying their
favorite superheroes, villains, TV and film characters, over 200,000 people were projected to attend on Saturday alone. Booths selling merchandise ranging from
classic figurines to new comics lined the large exhibition floor. Particularly
of note was Her Universe, a store selling woman’s fashion for all things “nerd
culture.” There were also the usual autograph signings and celebrity panels that are
clearly geared toward the fans. 

What surprised me as a first-time Comic-Con attendee, however, was
the number of ‘Professional’ Badge-holders like myself at the convention. Though much of the Con is geared towards the fans, I realized that it’s also an excellent place to meet, network with, and learn from people from a
variety of backgrounds. I spoke to a couple of individuals on the exhibit-room
floor, like the Winner Twins — self-proclaimed geeks who attended the convention as fans not long ago but are now best-selling sci-fi authors currently working on a screenplay for Rampage Jackson — all
at the ripe old age of 19. They said that they are where they are today because
of Comic-Con.

Regardless of your area of expertise, there are
workshops, portfolio review sessions, and panels for those wanting to break
into the industry or further their careers. Nearby, at the Marriott, there were
workshops called “Funding and Making
Your Own Indie Movies from YouTube to the Big Screen” and “Comic-Con Film School 104: A Comprehensive
Course on Micro-Budget Movie Making.” And in the convention center, you can find
numerous companies overseeing portfolio reviews for graphic and visual artists. 

Initially, I wasn’t sure what
I would find for women in the industry. Looking
at the schedule, it was abundantly clear there were more female-focused panels
on Thursday and Friday than over the weekend. Still, I had 11
female-heavy panels that I could scope out on Saturday alone, and another three on Sunday. 

Unfortunately, we
only got into one panel a day, but as Trisha Hershberger (SourceFed, The Naked Truth)
told us, “If you get into one panel, you’re lucky. People camp out and wait,
sometimes overnight, to get into panels.” She recommended checking out
smaller panels in the rooms on the second floor and walking the Exhibit Hall. 

A note about Comic-Con: if you want to see a panel,
you’ll have to get there early and wait. “There are
people in the panel room who have been sitting in there since noon to see American
Horror Story: Coven
,” said the security guard in reference to an inquiry
about how many of the people in line would get to enter the 7 PM AHS panel.
It was only 5 PM, and the line wrapped all the way around the room. There seems
to be an intrinsic flaw in the design of panels at SDCC — essentially, once
you’re in, you can stay as long as you want to. If you need a bathroom break or
food, you are free to leave and re-enter with a password. 

Unfortunately
for us, that meant that people who had waited all day long for the Marvel Studios
Presentation sat through the EW: Woman
Who Kick Ass
, not because they were necessarily interested in the panel, but
rather to keep their seats for what would come later in the day. It was definitely
frustrating to get in line at noon for a 4 PM panel and hear the vast majority
of individuals around us discussing Marvel, when all we wanted to do was get
the inside scoop on the panel before Marvel.

But we got lucky, and after a short wait, entered our
first 2014 Panel, Spark Your Creativity:
A Call to Action! Ladies Unite to Create More Female-Driven Content!
 on
Saturday afternoon. Most of the panel was comprised of women who were fed up with the roles that they were receiving, or not
receiving. 

Instead of sitting around doing nothing, they went out and started
to create their own content while portraying roles that they wanted to play and
being a voice for the messages that they wanted to speak out for. America Young
(Geek Therapy, The Chimaera Project)
even said that, after splitting her time, she found that she loved working
behind the camera as much as she did in front of it. One of the key themes that several of the women
expressed was the need to get out and create. If you have an idea, then get out
there, network, collaborate, make it, and make it good. Each emphasized that being
creative is a craft that takes a lot of practice, so keep practicing. 

Heidi Cox
(Stalking Levar, Geek Speak TV) spoke
of the lack of female directors and her inability to ever find enough women,
before telling the audience to contact her if they were female directors
looking to collaborate. The panel was very supportive of one another and spoke
of the female community that is growing within the entertainment industry.


Having learned what to expect from panels, we headed
to the convention center early on Sunday to get in line for Marvel: Women of Marvel. The information in that hour was not only some of the best of the
weekend, but also the main reason why I want to come back next year and sit
through more panels. 

The
Women of Marvel
panel consisted of the moderator, producer and
photographer Judy Stephens, Marvel’s The
Watcher
host Lorraine Clink, Marvel Studios asset manager Alexis Auditore,
artist Katie Cook, Exclusive Marvel Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg,
editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, PR and Social Media representative Adri Cowan, artist
Joanna Estes, writer for the new Revenge comic
book Erica Schultz, and Executive Producer Victoria Alonso, one of the only
women filmmakers at Marvel aside from another female Line Producer. 

Marvel
Editor Jeanine Schaefer made an appearance via video as did Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue, who
said, “I need more women in the industry,” before pointing out that there are
now 10 female leads in the Marvel Universe with the addition of Spider-Woman.

The fan Q&A was extremely illuminating. The vast
majority of questions had to do with the disparity between the male and female
characters and above-the-line comic-book artists and writers at Marvel. Fans
who attended this panel clearly want this discussion to continue, and are eager
for results that more equally represents female characters and creators. Victoria
Alonso spoke to the film side of a guest’s question about whether writers get
consultation writes when characters are taken from comic book to screen, sidelining
momentarily to implore the audience, “I would ask you all to ask for more
female characters in films…. I do need your help in trying to get more female
characters.” She continued, “We are
not blind to your needs. … You matter to us. If the world
doesn’t care about you, out there in the world, the women here and the men
behind us care about what you want, what you love, and what you represent.”

Editor-in-Chief, Alex Alonso answered another guest’s
question about the disparity of women to men in creative roles at Marvel, and
said that he was hopeful for a change. “We may have lost a generation or two of
female readers who found the stories inaccessible,” he said, “[but now] there’s so many more
entry points into our world of comics and the Marvel Universe than there were
before: animation, movies, TV shows…. You’re looking at a cultural change going
on now and I expect you will see more and more female creators.” He added: “Speaking to the
stereotypes, I think you’ll still find them, but I think you’ll find them less
and less. If you look at our last wave of new titles like Black Widow, Electra, She-Hulk,
and Ms. Marvel, you won’t find one
character there who I think is a stereotype, or one character there who is
defined by her looks. These are characters who are defined by what they do.”

When asked if Marvel is bringing in more female
creators, Alonso confirmed that they are working on trying to do so, but that two
of the women who had been approached to helm projects at Marvel had dropped
out for personal or other reasons. The general message to the fans was to keep
demanding female-driven content by buying the books, seeing the films, and
wearing the merchandise. The call to female filmmakers, writers, illustrators,
colorists, and producers was to keep creating and keep trying to get in the
door until you actually do, because Marvel (and the other big comic companies) are
looking to expand the roles of women in their companies and content.

Throughout this weekend, numerous women all stated
that their jobs came about from networking, and so women looking to break into sci-fi, fantasy, and comics, should seize the possibility to network in your
field for four consecutive days. Thus, you really should consider getting badges to the
convention, going onto the expo floor, and interacting with panelists and
fellow attendees. You can look into who’s available to check out your portfolio,
resume, work, and schedule and appointment. Check the Comic-Con IFF line up,
and stick around through the credits, and any Q&A panels. 

Most importantly,
plan for the panels that you want to see. The Comic-Con App is free and a great
tool for getting around and checking out the schedule before you get there. If
you have a panel at 3 PM that you want to see, get there early, check out who’s in
the room before you, do some research on them, and maybe they’ll spark
something in you. At the very least, you’re learning something new, while
guaranteeing yourself a spot in a panel you want to see anyway. 

Also, you might want to think about dressing up — you
don’t have to do a full on cos-play, but if you want to see a movie happen
based on a strong female role, think about advertising that by the way you
dress. The first image of Wonder Woman in the new Batman and Superman movie was
released this weekend at the convention, and if what these panelists are saying
is true, this makes a lot of sense: we saw more Wonder Woman costumes than any
other female character. 

Victoria Alonso concluded
the Women of Marvel panel by saying,
“We take you seriously. You don’t understand the power that you have over what
we do day in and day out. I work twenty hours a day to make sure that the
imagery we bring to film is the best we can bring you. When we do see more
Captain Marvels, more Gamoras, more Black Widows, we see that and it matters.”

Shannan Leigh Reeve is an actress/writer/director/producer.  She is the co-owner Beleeve Entertainment with Chelese Belmont, which they started in 2012 after deciding to combine their collective skill sets and training, and jump behind the camera to create more content they ‘Beleeved’ in; including tackling subject matter like mental illness, addiction, women’s issues, or any other story that needs to be told, or in order to give life to characters whose voices need to be heard.

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