San Diego Comic-Con is best known for flashy celebrity panels and big reveals, but it’s also a place for aspiring creators to get advice from top industry talent. With all programming moving online this year, those who haven’t been able to get a ticket can finally tap into that resource.
The great thing about creative panels at SDCC is that you can usually get in without a long wait. So many guests are in line for Hall H or Ballroom 20 while experts are handing out advice to aspiring creators a few rooms away.
I’m not knocking either of those hallowed halls – I spend time there every year – but I am partial to creative panels. They give everyday fans a chance to pick the brains of professionals. Better still, they give professionals a little room to actually talk about their craft.
There is an overwhelming number of creative panels this year. I took a look through and picked out a few that should be most useful, and here they are:
Thursday, July 23rd, 10-11am
Getting press coverage can be a game-changer for small press and indie creators. The problem is, many creators don’t know how to do that effectively. We get floods of comic review requests just sent as feedback on our site because creators aren’t sure how else to get the word out. This panel of actual comics journalists might have some insight on how to turn your scattershot marketing into professional, effective press releases.
Thursday, July 23rd, 3-4pm
Have you been spending quarantine making a game? Interested in maybe seeing it on your local game store shelves? I can tell you from personal experience that it’s a much more complicated process than you might think. There are a lot of companies who are happy to take your money and leave you with a low-quality prototype that won’t sell your game. Get industry and craft advice from working game designers to help you find the right partners for your game. (If you’re still in very early stages of development, you might enjoy Get It On The Table: Designing Your Tabletop Game on Friday from 3-4pm.)
Thursday, July 23, 3-4pm
Full disclosure: I would watch literally any panel with Afua Richardson or Steenz on it. That said, these are some top-notch panelists when it comes to creating a girl squad that doesn’t feel like a bunch of Mary Sues or reskinned versions of famous male characters. Given that there are artists on this panel, I think we can be pretty sure that there’s going to be advice on differentiating the team through character design as well.
Thursday, July 23, 6-7pm
Writing for manga is just enough different than writing for comics that it can trip you up if you’re overconfident. (Did I learn this casually jumping into a manga challenge on Reddit and scrambling up an unexpected learning curve? Maaaaybe.) Join eigoMANGA publisher Austin Oesueke and a slate of writers to learn about outlining, scripting, and the general storytelling process.
Friday, July 24, 1-2pm
What does an agent even do? How is that different from a manager? Do you need these people for your book, and if so where do you find them without getting ripped off? If you want answers, you’ll find them at this panel full of- well, agents and managers and even editors. The pitch is that you’re going to learn how to take your project from blank page to being sold, but given the panelists, I wouldn’t expect tons of writer’s craft advice. This is a professional panel about how to find the right team to get your book published.
Friday, July 24, 4-5pm
This is a one-person panel. Brian Haberlin (who you might recognize from Spawn and Witchblade) will be using his own work with Image Comics to walk you through the process of putting a comic together. From the panel description, it seems like this is straight craft – more “how do you actually get panels on the page” than “what’s the publishing process like,” but he might give a wider overview at some point.
Saturday, July 25, 10-11am
You have to get up earlyish on a Saturday for this one. But it’s not like you have to get dressed, and you’ll have a chance to get insight from people who worked on games like Horizon Zero Dawn (Anne Toole) and Betrayal at Krondor (Neal Hallford). If you’re making a game, crafting a solid appealing narrative is the kind of thing that and help you get more downloads or run a successful Kickstarter.
Saturday, July 25, 11am-12pm
I know, I know, you expected this to be a big list of awesome art tutorials and craft advice. Listening to finance talk on a Saturday isn’t most people’s idea of fun. BUT having been to similar panels at con in the past, I can tell you that it’s a lot more engaging than you might expect. Aspiring creators can get some great advice on financial planning, getting funding for projects, and how not to wind up owing a ton of taxes in April. Angel mentioned this panel in her COVID-19-related roundup, too – which just goes to show you, there are lots of reasons you might want to have some finance talk with your lunch next weekend.
Saturday, July 25, 11am-12pm
Not everyone dreams of writing for one of the big comics houses. Even most of those who do also have other stories they want to tell. For indie creators, this is going to be an awesome panel full of insight from creators who have written the stories they wanted to write and found a way to make it pay off.
Saturday, July 25, 3-4pm
Do you know how much work goes into coloring comics? It seems like the easiest part of the comics process- until you actually take a look at what’s involved in making comics look sharp and professional. This panel promises a step-by-step guide from black and white to a full-color page ready to letter. Anyone involved in making comics might want to check this out, if only so they appreciate the work their colorists do.
Sunday, July 26, 1-2pm
This is one of those panels that can only really be found at a comic con. Where else are you going to get showrunners from major shows (Arrow, Elementary, Eureka) and NBCUniversal executives to lay out what exactly it takes to get into the writer’s room? Obviously having connections is the fastest route, but for aspiring creators without that cheaty little ladder, this panel explains how to bypass rookie mistakes and impress someone into opening up a spot at the table.
Sunday, July 26, 4-5pm
Whatever form of creative work you’re doing, there’s a good chance that it has to be your side-gig for a while. Very few people are lucky enough to strike gold immediately. This panel, which has been running at SDCC for over a decade, will help creators of all kinds find a way to build their dreams in between practical necessities.
That is a whole slew of technical and industry panels, and I haven’t even listed half of them. There’s a massive amount of information heading our way next week.
Sometimes, though, aspiring creators need a little inspiration on top of advice. Try popping into Masters of Storytelling on 1pm on Saturday to hear how Image’s big players (Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, Alex DiCampi, Chuck Brown, and Emma Kubert) craft their award-winning stories.
See you- well, okay, none of us are going to see each other, but have fun at SDCC@Home anyway!
Think we missed something aspiring creators should see? Annoyed to see one of these on our list? Let us know in the comments!
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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