For a lot of people, SDCC is an escape from the pandemic and the last thing they want to do is think about it during the con. But for a lot of us, panels focusing on it are exactly what we’re looking for.
If you can’t tell which side of the fence I’m on when it comes to COVID-19 related panels, look no further than my writing history during the past few months. With articles like ‘The Stand’ Remake Is Eerily Timed, But I’m Here For It, Is The World Too Dark For Black Mirror? (Or Any Apocalyptic Narrative?), and Avengers Endgame Hits Different During The Pandemic, it should be clear that I’m totally down to talk about the pandemic in relation to our geek culture hobbies.
If you’re like me, you might find the following panels super interesting. But if you want to steer clear of that topic and focus one something else, don’t worry, we’ve got other recommendations, too. Check out LGBTQ+ Panels part 1 and part 2, and Jamie’s general recommendations list. There are plenty of panels to choose from!
Panels on Wednesday July 22nd
Wednesday has traditionally been for content previews, exhibit hall previews, and educational content. The virtual version of the con seems to be sticking to that theme with highly focused educational panels that should really dive into the topic in an academic way. Only two of the panels overlap, too, so if you wanted, you can have three full hours of academic discussion on COVID-19 and how it relates to various aspects of geek culture. You’d only need to make a tough choice with the 5:00 pm time slot. I’ll personally probably tune into the Conspiracy Theories panel at that time, but the choice is yours.
GeekEd: Watchmen and the Cruelty of Masks 4:00 – 5:00 pm
HBO’s Watchmen put forth the idea that “masks make one cruel”. On college campuses, many people, both students and non-students have taken up virtual masks to make statements and take actions that would not be acceptable if done in public. Zoom bombing, doxing, and anonymous threats have caused much dismay, particularly as campuses move to remote learning due to COVID-19. Come hear what educators have to say about the power of masks and how Watchmen and other comics show us a path towards heroism or villainy. Dr. Kalenda Eaton (University of Oklahoma), Dr. David Surratt (University of Oklahoma), Hailey Lopez (UC Berkeley), Robert Hypes (Phoenix Creative Collective), and Alfred Day (UC Berkeley).
Conspiracy Theories and Propaganda Throughout Pop Culture 5:00 – 6:00 pm
J. D. Lombardi (host/producer, YouTube’s Lombardi Labs and middle-school science teacher, Glendale Unified) along with Justin Montgomery (MentalXhaustion.com), Guadalupe De La O (STEM teacher/science instructional coach, Alliance Schools), and G. L. Lambert (screenwriter, G.L. Lambert Explains It All podcast) will trace conspiracies and propaganda throughout comics, shows, and movies, and how they correlate to the current climate of increased conspiracy theories. Teaching science literacy, in and out of the classroom, is more crucial now than ever in combating misinformation, especially related to our current pandemic.
GeekEd: College and the Nerd Mind 5:00 – 6:00pm
Teachers, education administrators, and student affairs professionals are being called to respond to a wide variety of mental health concerns across the education landscape, with students today managing greater educational debt, digital identities, and high expectations for academic performance. This has become intensified in the era of COVID-19 and the need for educators to manage the needs of students remotely This panel of educators and mental health experts share how they have applied their passion for fandom and the lessons they’ve learned from superheroes to develop new best practices in our service to students. Panelists include Drea Letamendi (UCLA), Jeremy Parker (UCSC), Aaron Jones (UCSC), and Alfred Day (UC Berkeley).
Are you a high school student with dreams of becoming a graphic novelist? Are you a high school teacher with dreams of creating a graphic novel with your class? Spirit Skies is a graphic novel written and illustrated exclusively by high school students! Not only did we dream it, we DID it! The panel will discuss the impact of Covid-19 on cross cultural artistic exchange, how technology has made this project easier and more dynamic! The student panel of writers and illustrators – including a Guna native from Panama who wrote the sequel from the tropical point of view- will be on the panel, featuring never-before-seen art, and a sneak peek at the next volume in the Spirit Skies story! The panel will take you on an exploratory journey – through the eyes of a Hummingbird! Spirit Skies is not just an adventure written by high school students – it is a lesson in environmental stewardship. With the lesson that we are all interconnected, all you have to do is go outside and you will be interacting with wildlife. It could be a hummingbird coming from Panama or Alaska!
Panels on Thursday July 23rd
Building a Geek Brand: Surviving a Pandemic 10:00 – 11:00am
Do you dream of starting your company or brand inspired by your favorite pop culture passions? It’s hard enough to grow a start up but even harder during a pandemic! Join industry professionals in the area of apparel, publication, and cosplay as they share about the challenges of starting a geek business, how to survive a pandemic and how to contribute to Black Lives Matter. Tony B Kim (Hero Within) hosts this spirited and inspirational discussion along with panelists Linda Le (VampyBitMe Cosplay), Rachel Litfin (author), and Victor Dandridge (comic book creator).
This should be a good one. Tony Kim has a long history of great SDCC content. He started as an SDCC blogger, then moved into being a business owner, retailer, and panelist who now even officially partners with the con for con merch (those badass hoodies? That’s his creation!). If anyone knows about building a geek brand, it’s him. And he’s assembled a team of other experts to lend their experiences on how to build a geek brand in the middle of a pandemic.
Virtual Fandom: Superhero Fandom Adapts to the Pandemic 10:00 – 11:00 pm
Phil LaMarr (actor), Dan Fraga (artist), Sara Katz-Scher (@thatprincessgirl), Rene Amador (ARwall), and Gert Van (Marvel, DC, and Everything Nerdy Facebook group), moderated by Kevin Winston (Digital LA), share how they have adapted to the pandemic and engage with fans virtually to talk everything superhero, Disney, Marvel, DC, animation, and more. Speakers discuss digital tools to connect including: Zoom, YouTube, and other livestream panels; Instagram Live chats, interviews, and drawing livestreams; crowdfunding campaigns; augmented reality, Facebook groups and communities, and virtual autograph signings. Speakers also announce upcoming virtual projects and releases, in this informational and inspiring panel!
This is a highly relevant one, especially here at The Geekiary. We’ve always been remote here, but have found ourselves using our remote tools more heavily as our social circles have also moved online. Which tools do you use? How do you use them?
Web Comics: Saving the Entertainment Industy, Four Panels at a Time 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
With film productions on hiatus, comic book distribution fragmented, and TV shows resorting to watered down “at-home” versions, COVID-19 has broken the entertainment industry. Where is a world, starved for new content, left to turn? Why, to the wonderful world of web comics, of course! Joined by moderator Will Romine (pROMINEnt Media) are Alan Truong (TheMissingDigit.com), JR Gervais (YoungCannibals.net), and Eddie DeAngelini (CollectorComics.com), who will talk about how quarantine, BLM, and the rest of 2020 have affected their work, art, and life. It’s a panel for fans, pros, and everyone in between.
The entertainment industry is definitely shifting and this panel looks like it plans on tackling that topic from the perspective of online comic creators. If you’re into web comics, this should be an interesting angle to come at it from!
Comics During Clampdown: Creativity In The Time of COVID 12:00 – 1:00 pm
How do cartoonists deal with writer’s block in the face of a global pandemic? How do you balance homeschooling with publishing deadlines? Panelists Brian Fies (A Fire Story), Keith Knight (The K Chronicles), MariNaomi (Life on Earth trilogy), Ajuan Mance (1001 Black Men), Thien Pham (Sumo), Jason Shiga (Demon), Gene Luen Yang (Dragon Hoops), and moderator Andrew Farago (Cartoon Art Museum) discuss work-life balance, sanity, and survival in the midst of our brave new world.
Of all the panels, this one feels like it’s calling me out the most. My writer’s block has been hit hard during the pandemic. My fanfic has been pretty much at a complete stand still. Will these panelists have any insights that can break me out of it? Let’s find out!
Insider Art is a comics initiative that begin during the early days of the COVID19 pandemic; a way to bring female and non-binary creators together to raise money for our own: female and non-binary comic book retailers who faced financial hardships under quarantine. 8 editors, 1 retailer liaison, and over 100 creators from around the world united for one grand mission: to bring over 250 pages of comics, crafts and cats to the masses and conquer the tedium of the great indoors.
I love this concept! I didn’t even know this project existed, but now that I do, I’m eager to support it. Not only is it lifting up marginalized voices with the content, but it’s using the funds to support people from that very same marginalized community.
Things are rough right now, but we’re going to pull through together. Tyler Houston (comic and culture expert), Kelley M. Boston (infection prevention epidemiologist), Bobbiejean Garcia (public health epidemiologist), and Monti Pal (trauma therapist) talk about how disaster events and emergency management are often handled in pop-fiction, and in the real world. Art and fiction give us a way to think about our world as it is now and our future. Science fiction and comics are used as a frame to discuss how humans respond to disaster events, and how individuals and communities move from disaster to healing and wholeness.
Of all the panels listed so far, this one is the most relevant to my interests. I’ve been writing about this topic since the outbreak really started to impact my life back in February and trying to analyse how pop culture was responding to it (See: “A Parks and Recreation Special” Nails What Life is Like in Lock Down). Now here’s a group of experts who are ready to talk about that very topic. I may not be able to tune in to every one of the panels listed here, but I’m going to make an extra effort to get to this one.
Panels on Friday July 24th
“Crazy” Talk: Mental Health, Pop Culture, and the Pandemic 10:00 – 11:00 am
Can pop culture help promote mental wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic, or is that just “crazy” talk? Heather Antos (senior editor, Valiant and Image), Bryan Edward Hill (DC Comics’ Batman and The Outsiders, Netflix/DC Universe’s Titans), Joseph Illidge (executive editor, Heavy Metal, Humanoids’ MPLS Sound), and Patrick Tatopoulos (production designer, Batman v Superman, Zack Snyder’s Justice League) join forensic psychiatrists Vasilis K. Pozios, M.D., and Praveen Kambam, M.D., (Broadcast Thought, freelance contributors to The New York Times, Wired, The Hollywood Reporter) to discuss how pop culture fandom communities can help stave off social isolation and despair during this unprecedented public health crisis. The “‘Crazy’ Talk” crew will also discuss the state of mental health media representation and how a mental health/pop culture partnership can be a “win-win” for both the entertainment industry and people with mental illnesses. Moderated by attorney Jeff Trexler (The Comics Journal, The Beat).
This one is also recommended on Jamie’s list! So we clearly have a strong interest in this topic here at The Geekiary. As someone who manages my own mental health struggles and have been resorting to entertainment to process the pandemic, this is a highly relevant topic for me.
Zombies and Coronavirus: Planning for the Next Big Outbreak 12:00 – 1:00 pm
Ever wonder how we can translate what we’ve learned from our recent pandemic challenges into dealing with the next unknown, even the zombie apocalypse? Join author Max Brooks (World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide, Devolution), biodefense experts Dr. Greg Koblentz (George Mason University), Dr. Gigi Gronvall (Johns Hopkins University), Dr. Shanna Ratnesar-Shumate (University of Nebraska Medical Center) and Dr. Jarod Hanson (USAMRIID and University of Maryland Medical Center) and moderator Justin Hurt (Comic-Con Today assistant editor) for an engaging and entertaining discussion of how we could prepare for what comes next in the realm of infectious disease.
Zombie jokes have been pretty prevalent in geek circles since the outbreak began. So yeah, this panel concept intrigues me immensely.
Meet the pioneering team from Halon Entertainment (The Mandalorian, The Batman, Logan, Ford v Ferrari, Borderlands 3, God of War, and the soon to be released, Free Guy) as their executive and creatives discuss virtual production, the impact of COVID-19, and the challenges of transitioning to a completely remote workforce, as well as how Hollywood can proceed with production during the pandemic utilizing real-time workflows.
I’ve been deeply curious about how Hollywood is moving forward with production, and this panel looks like it plans on answering that very question.
The Nacelle Company: Pop-Culture Under Quarantine 4:00 – 5:00 pm
Brian Volk-Weiss (Nacelle Co. CEO), Richard Mayerik (Nacelle Co. producer), Victoria Bennett aka Bevin (vlogger), and David Vonner (toy designer) join Robin Henry (writer) for a lively and engaging discussion on creating new content during the Covid-19 pandemic. Hear the all latest about the new series A Toy Store Near You (Amazon Prime) and more!
I’m not familiar with the main property this panel is centered around, but it sounds like it may touch on the topic of creating content more broadly while under quarantine as well.
Panels on Saturday July 25th
Finance For Creatives 11:00 am – 12: 00 pm
The Coronavirus outbreak has affected so many individuals and businesses financially in the creative industry. This panel will be discussing some of the financial, tax, and credit issues that creatives are experiencing, including resources of where to turn to for help and support. Panel guests include Sean Nisil (certified financial planner), Neil Narvaez (owner, Professional Tax Services, LLC), Eric Atilano (loan officer, C2 Financial), industry professionals Chris Neuhahn (5 time Emmy-award winning producer & animator), and Alonso Nunez (founder and art director, Little Fish Comic Book Studio). Moderated by Karen Martin (The Princess Project).
Content creators have been hit hard by the pandemic, and this panel seems to be geared towards helping those folk keep going in this dark time. It seems to be geared more towards those with a tangible product as opposed to bloggers like myself, but I’m interested in tuning in to hear what the financial specialists have to say anyway. We could all use a little help right now to stay afloat.
The continued need for social distancing has brought about a creative renaissance in the digital space. Join the conversation with Joe Barrette (Creators, Assemble!), Phil Jimenez (Creators4Comics), Alonso Nunez (Little Fish Comic Book Studio), and Kit Steinaway (Book Industry Charitable Fund) to hear how nonprofit organizations are working with comics creators to support each other and their communities during these challenging times. You will hear about new learning opportunities, collaborations, how to forge new creative friendships in a time of global disconnect, and what it means to find your tribe through fandom and shared passion. Moderated by Dan Wood (comics librarian, Escondido Public Library).
Here’s another panel focusing on how entertainment is adapting to our new reality. This one seems more broad in scope, so if you have any passing interest in the subject you should tune in.
UltraLawyer Kaiju Patrol 1:00 – 2:00 pm
It’s all out lawyers attack! What can Kaiju movies teach us about shelter in place orders? Are parents financially responsible for kids who create a giant napping monster with cosmic rays? What are the First Amendment lessons from Mothra? Are common carriers such as trains, planes, and ships responsible for protecting passengers from Kaiju attacks? Join attorneys Bethany Bengfort (Durie Tangri), Nari Ely (US. Courts), Thomas Harper (Army JAG), and Joshua Gilliland (The Legal Geeks), as they battle legal issues from Ultraman, Gamera, Godzilla, Mothra, and more! Follow us at https://linktr.ee/thelegalgeeks
Hahaha what?! I’m sorry, but nothing is going to stop me from tuning into this panel. This is by far the most creative angle on this topic I’ve seen so far and I can’t stop laughing. Bravo, panel makers. Bravo.
Comic Shops : Perservering Through Crisis – 5:00 – 6:00 pm
This COVID-19 lockdown has impacted many industries, and it has been especially devastating for the front line of geek culture; the nation’s comic shops. Learn how leading retailers developed entrepreneurial strategies and plans to get through these difficult times. Join Joe Field (Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff, Concord, CA), Marc Hammond (Aw Yeah Comics, Harrison, NY), Jeff Beck (East Side Mags Montclair, NJ), and Dr. Christina Blanche (Aw Yeah Comics, Muncie, IN) for a surprisingly engaging discussion on retailing endurance. Moderated by entrepreneur Ed Catto (Ithaca College, Agendae).
As mentioned repeatedly, creative industries are under an extreme amount of stress during the pandemic. Comic shops are no exceptions. With many regions locking down any non-essential services, or putting limits on how many people can shop at any one time, the retail industry is also feeling the pinch. For anyone who is interested in how the comic shop industry is surviving the pandemic, this panel is for you.
How to (Still) Be a Nerd For A Living 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Have you built a business or career in the “nerdy” industry you love – but now that a global crisis has blindsided the world, you’re not sure what to do? You’re not alone! This evolution of our annual How To Be a Nerd For A Living panel will share advice (and plenty of real talk) from a variety of pop culture industry professionals about the changes they’re making for our current times. Panelists including Robyn Warren (founder of Geek Girl Strong), Valentine Barker (freelance illustrator and comic artist), Chris Sanchez (editor-in-chief of Mad Cave Studios), Jazzlyn Stone (freelance comics marketer and host), and Wendy Buske (co-founder of Nerd For A Living, Fictitious podcast) will discuss how they’re industries are evolving (sometimes day-to-day), where they are struggling, and what they’re doing to stay productive and plan as much as possible for future.
My dreams of turning my geekdom into a full time job took a big hit thanks to the pandemic. I still have my day job and any hope of ditching the day job and doing all this stuff full time seems like its been pushed back indefinitely. But this panel is aimed at folks like me who still want to pursue their passion in this changing world.
Panels on Sunday July 26th
The Grind NEVER stops, not even during a quarantine 4:00 – 5:00 pm
This is a panel video to get you energized and ready to rise and grind. There is no better time than now to get yourself in the best position to produce creative work. The pandemic is no excuse, it is actually the catalyst to work even harder. Bryan “Kaiser” Tillman, a long time panelist at San Diego Comic-Con, best known for his Proper Pitching and Promoting Yourself panel, is giving you tips on how to crush your time during this pandemic. Now’s the time to get to the grind and with these tips and tricks you will be well on your way to developing a fantastic project to show at Comic-Con 2021.
Ha, well, I should be doing this. But I relate more to the “Creativity in the Time of COVID” panel where I’m just stuck in a writer’s block and need help getting out. But perhaps this panel will lend some much needed motivation to get my but in gear and work on some projects!
My Personal Favorites
That’s a lot of panels! I’ll personally be making an effort to tune in to Conspiracy Theories and Propaganda Throughout Pop Culture, This is Not the Apocalypse You’re Looking For: Real Life Disasters, Fictional Recovery, “Crazy” Talk: Mental Health, Pop Culture, and the Pandemic, UltraLawyer Kaiju Patrol, and Finance For Creatives. Which panels will you be tuning in for? Let me know in the comments!
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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