Every year we feature an extensive slate of talks about geek culture by artists, faculty, and students.
This year’s three featured speakers (all via Zoom) are Alexandre Tefenkgi (The Good Asian, Outpost Zero), Jeff Trexler (the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund), and Spike Trotman (Iron Circus Comics)! They will be bookending the CON with our first, and last two, speaking slots.
This year’s schedule is:
|10:00am-11:00am||Alexandre Tefenkgi||Artist of The Good Asian and Outpost Zero|
|11:00am-12:00pm||Ed Catto, Roy Schwartz, Rachael Zubal-Ruggieri||Superheroes: Representing Difference, Making a Difference|
|12:00pm-1:00pm||Rebecca Permar, Elizabeth Williamson||Body/Mind/Machine in Comics and the MCU|
|1:00pm-2:00pm||Rae Lint, Kathleen Palmer, Carina Stopenski||Othered Bodies in Speculative Fiction Television|
|2:00pm-3:00pm||Katharine Kittredge (and students), Corrie Shoemaker||Staying Relevant: Pop Culture Fandoms as Community Outreach|
|3:00pm-4:00pm||Jeff Trexler||Comic Book Legal Defense Fund|
|4:00pm-5:00pm||C. Spike Trotman||Founder of Iron Circus Comics|
|5:00pm-5:30pm||Judges Jay (Jazmine Cosplays) and Wendell Smith, Sr. (Scorpking Costuming)||Online Cosplay Contest|
|5:30pm-6:00pm||Judges James P. McCampbell and Kate McKay (Andromeda’s Alchemy)||In-Person Cosplay Contest|
Alexandre Tefenkgi is a French comic book artist of Vietnamese-Djiboutian descent. He started his career in the European market working with some of France’s top publishers. His first international book is the critically acclaimed sci-fi series Outpost Zero for Skybound Entertainment.
You can currently see his work in Image Comics’ critically-acclaimed The Good Asian, written by Pornsak Pinchetshote.
Panel: Superheroes: Representing Difference, Making a Difference
“Marvel Misstep–Fantastic Four, Feminism & Thundra”
Sometimes even the best intentions go wrong…and this effort may not have even been “the best intentions”! Marvel Comics was going in so many directions in the early 70s, and when they tried to shine the spotlight on the then-current Feminist Movement, it landed with a resounding THUD! In this panel, comics historian and retropreneur Ed Catto explores Marvel’s misguided conception of the man-hating women’s libber: THUNDRA.
Bio: Although he’s outgrown his terry-cloth bat-cape, Ed Catto continues to read, collect, teach, and write about Batman, comics, and pop-culture for Pop Culture Squad (in his long-running With Further Ado column), Back issue Magazine, The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and Comic Mix. As an artist, his work reflects the influence of and appreciation for the great comic and pulp illustrators. Employing traditional techniques, he was twice voted “Best Interior Artist” for the annual Pulp Factory Awards. Having recently returned to the Finger Lakes area, Ed has joined the faculty of Ithaca College’s School of Business and founded Agendae, a strategic marketing firm. Between teaching, consulting, drawing, and writing, Ed tirelessly continues to whittle down the teetering tower of books on his nightstand.
“Superman vs. the SS: When the Man of Steel’s Jewish Creators Got into a Real-Life Feud with the Nazis”
Superman, the first superhero and an icon of Americana, was created in the 1930s by Jewish teens Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in response to rising Nazism. While the character’s role as a propaganda figure has been noted, little has been made of just how effective he was in raising the Nazis’ ire, and how personal the feud became. Based on his new book Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero, author Roy Schwartz explores this fascinating chapter in the Man of Steel’s history.
Bio: Roy is the author of Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero and The Darkness in Lee’s Closet and the Others Waiting There. Is Superman Circumcised? won the 2021 international Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.
Roy has written for a wide range of publications, including New York Daily News, Jerusalem Post and Philosophy Now. He currently writes about pop culture for The Forward and CNN.com. His professional writing is similarly diverse, including educational organizations, law firms, tech companies, toy companies and production studios.
Roy has taught English and writing at the City University of New York and is a former writer-in-residence fellow at the New York Public Library. He graduated magna cum laude from the New School University with a BA in English, majoring in creative writing with a minor in journalism, and cum laude from NYU with an interdisciplinary MA in English and social thought, focusing on 19th century British and 20th century American literature. He interned for Marvel Comics.
Originally from Tel Aviv, Israel, Roy grew up a voracious reader of everything from Israeli novels to British plays to American comic books. He taught himself English from comics and cartoons, which is why he’s comfortable saying things like “swell.” Roy lives in Long Island, NY with his wife Kim, a bestselling author and editor, and their two children. He has a penchant for caffeine, candy and a quality-over-quantity wardrobe.
“Breaking the Fourth Wall: Deadpool, the Mad Queer Crip Antihero”
Deadpool, AKA Wade Wilson, is a popular character in Marvel comic books, who is stigmatized due to his mental instability, physical disfigurement, and his questionable hypersexuality, all of which break traditional superhero tropes. Wilson has endured numerous traumatic events throughout his life: he was abused as a child, institutionalized more than once, is brain damaged, has been raped, endures Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suffers from chronic pain caused by the conditions of his mutation. Created as a parody character, he is often not taken seriously; he is repeatedly (clinically) diagnosed as mentally ill and labeled as a “sociopath” and institutionalized; and his visibly disfigured body, along with his unusual mental state and constant verbal banter, often mark him as Other and Disabled, as perhaps a stereotypical representation of villainy and deviant sexuality. While in costume, he is the epitome of hypermasculinity and heteronormativity, but beneath the mask, beyond the humor, and above the violence, he is a complex anti-hero. Through an examination of Deadpool’s mental illness, disability, and sexuality, I will start a discussion about how I interpret how he disrupts such a negative conflation, as he is at once Mad and proud, pansexual, and multilingual, and operates within his own particular moral code: he is a Mad Queer Crip.
Bio: Rachael is a long-time employee at Syracuse University. She is also co-creator (with Diane R. Wiener) of “Cripping” the Comic Con, the first of its kind interdisciplinary and international symposium on disability and popular culture, previously held at SU. At conferences and as a guest lecturer, she has for many years presented on the X-Men comic books and movie franchise, popular culture, and disability rights and identities.
Panel: Body/Mind/Machine in Comics and the MCU
“Marvelous Futures: Ethical Challenges of Cyborg Bodies”
Popular culture provides unique opportunities to explore the ethical, legal, social, and philosophical implications of emerging technologies. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), in particular, offers many examples of technologies and their potential consequences, making them perfect case studies. The long history of MCU content with its large fanbase also makes it good source material for gauging social anxieties and hopes about future technologies. From assistive technologies, such as Tony Stark’s arc reactor, battle suits, and prosthetics to the possibility of genetically modified super soldiers and sentient artificial intelligence (AI), the MCU has it all. In this presentation, I want to focus on the cyborg body with its philosophical, legal, and social challenges. Not only do novel prosthetics promise immense therapeutic benefits, they also raise important questions about embodiment and current legal frameworks surrounding cyborg bodies. With growing attention to bodyhacking, medical prosthetics, and experimental enhancement, it is important to normalize cyborg bodies and to provide legal protections against potential discrimination in education, workplaces, and other public spaces.
Bio: Rebecca Permar is a PhD candidate in the Medical Humanities at UTMB Galveston. This presentation is based on her dissertation work, which involves the examination of emerging technologies through popular culture.
“Concepts of Consciousness in Demon Brains and Soul Eater”
How is consciousness-based identity depicted in manga/comic culture? In my WEBTOON webcomic Demon Brains, my concept of a disembodied consciousness is still connected to a physical human image and inspired by the Penrose-Hameroff theory of consciousness. The manga/anime Soul Eater also emphasizes physical form in the surreal but concentrates on the philosophy of a consciousness-soul duality, rather than a consciousness-quantum biology one. In this presentation, I will define consciousness and compare the approaches to defining it, drawing upon both sources and an essay I have written on this topic.
Bio: Elizabeth Williamson is a visual artist, writer, and medical student who uses a creative platform to explore the essence of humanity, in terms of identity and ethics. Her focus lies in answering the question of what consciousness is and how consciousness-uploading technology would work and affect human society. Among other activities, she was part of the Science of Consciousness Conference hosted by the University of Arizona (2020), was one of 25 selected to present a science-inspired art presentation at the TEDxASU: Boundless Research/Creative Symposium (2018), and created a thesis review paper and artwork expanding upon the Penrose-Hameroff theory of consciousness.
Instagram: @charismaticcolors DeviantArt:https://www.deviantart.com/charismaclock/gallery/72255920/consciousness
Panel: Othered Bodies in Speculative Fiction Television
“Disability in Power Rangers: from MMPR to PRDC”
We will look at how the social model of disability along with conventional aspects of disability are present in Power Rangers spanning over 23 years, 22 seasons, 18 series and one movie. Power Rangers shows heroes from various situations and backgrounds as they navigate through fictional worlds fighting evil and saving the earth. In this specific talk, we will analyze specific rangers who are transplanted from different planets, displaced in time, cyborgs, and otherwise socially different from their peers. Let’s see how disability permeates this popular TV show.
Bio: XinRui, Rae for short, got her BA in Disability Studies from Stockton University in 2019 and is a nerd and otaku. She loves consuming media, playing with skill toys, and eating new food. Rae is currently living in Chicago. Rae loves anime/manga, comics, and dystopian novels.
“An Optimistic Truth: Queer Futures in Supernatural Fanfiction.”
When the character Jack Kline was born on the CW tv show Supernatural two immediate distinctions were made. First, this powerful son of Satan was born as a fully grown adult, since the world was not safe enough for him to be a child. Second, that he rejected his biological father Lucifer and chose the rebellious angel Castiel instead as his father. Two seasons later, the show ended its fifteen year run with Castiel confessing his love for the monster hunter Dean Winchester and immediately being killed for it, Jack being forced to assume the powers of God and abandon his family, and Dean dying violently on a hunt. In response to these tragic endings, Supernatural fans turned to social media platforms to share art and fiction, healing emotional wounds through optimistic reimaginings.
In particular, “Destiel” fans imagine a queer future wherein Dean and Castiel build a life, a relationship, and a home together. “Baby Jack Truthers” look to a world where Jack is safe to live as a toddler with his gay dads. This presentation considers selections of this reparative writing to consider the ways in which fanfiction writers co-opt the narrative and envision queer optimism through queer futures for Dean and Castiel as romantic partners and Jack as their child. It considers the shift from early 2000s anti-social queer theory exemplified by Supernatural’s isolating themes to contemporary posthumanist queer optimism represented in Baby Jack Truthing’s reclamation of the domestic ideal. The presentation argues that Baby Jack Truthers embrace the symbolic Child by de-aging Jack in order to heal from the tragic queer existence represented in canon. Instead, these fanworks imagine a futurism that demands a place in reproductive society even as it maintains its queerness.
Bio: Kathleen Palmer is an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She is in her senior year and is studying Anthropology and Religion. Her studies seek to engage fandom as a community and culture, and to explore the way religious and secular cultures interact in popular media and fandom.
“’A Tear in the Mind’: Reading Corrupted Gems in Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe as Disabled Bodies”
Rebecca Sugar’s Cartoon Network series Steven Universe highlights a relatively diverse cast, primarily composed of “Gems,” an alien race that are noted as being “manifestations of light” in their projection of their bodies. While the Gems that appear in the show most often are competent, capable beings, functioning just as humans would, the show occasionally highlights corrupted Gems. These corrupted gems are also referred to as Gem Monsters, creatures that have endured so much mental trauma that their bodies have reverted to a monstrous entity with the inability to speak. Characters are also corrupted via fusion with other corrupted Gems, demonstrating the poisonous transmission of trauma in the show. This paper presentation will discuss the ways that the portrayal of the corrupted Gems can be construed as a disability narrative as well as an approach to the dehumanization of disabled bodies in the show. One of the main plot points in Steven Universe is finding a cure for corruption, so this begs the question of what this process means for those who suffer from trauma, mutism, or other forms of disability that make them unable to communicate. This paper will highlight what the show gets right and wrong about disabled bodies and suggest potential solutions for how future animated series can represent disabled bodies through nonhuman entities.
Bio: Carina Stopenski is a student in the MA of Literary and Cultural Studies program at Carnegie Mellon University. They obtained their BFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University and their MSLS of Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Their paper “‘You and Me Versus the Rest of the Queer Community’: Transfeminism in Imogen Binnie’s Nevada” received first prize in American Literary Criticism at the 2019 Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society Convention. Their research centers around body studies, queerness, horror, ludology, and animation.
Panel: Staying Relevant: Pop Culture Fandoms as Community Outreach
Katharine Kittredge plus Angelina “Nina” Randazzo, Jalen Lisbon, Andy Yzaguirre, and Kaitlyn Dennehy
“GNAB: College Students Promoting Comics in Rural Communities”
In 2016, I became a member of the Lisle Free Library Board of Trustees, a tiny library serving rural Broome County, NY. There I learned that the librarians in small towns are not required to have college degrees and many of them do not have a background in literature. This helped to explain why small libraries tended to be less eager to include graphic novels in their collections, in spite of the fact that we know that graphic novels can play an important role in helping young readers fall in love with books and in encouraging reluctant readers. Meanwhile, as a Professor at Ithaca College, I had many students who had a deep background in children’s and YA graphic novels, and who were passionate about promoting their use to a new generation of readers. The Graphic Novel Advisory Board was created in spring of 2018 first as a group of volunteers and then as a 1.5 credit course. We began by creating a database of children’s and YA graphic novels containing 150+ titles. We used that database for reference when we did site visits to local libraries. During these visits we would assess the current graphic novel collection, talk with the librarians about their clients and their budgets, and then draw up a list of recommended titles. With the covid lockdown, our attention shifted to putting out a newsletter containing links to new titles and book reviews specifically tailored to the needs of rural librarians. Additionally, GNAB has sponsored reading promotion events in local comic book stores, at ITHACON, and in libraries. We have also done workshops on writing for comics, and given professional-level presentations on a variety of themes. GNAB offers a new model for comics-based community service.
For more information see: https://www.ithaca.edu/graphic-novel-advisory-board
Bios: Katharine Kittredge is Professor of English at Ithaca College, and the author of scholarly articles on texts ranging from Kick-Ass to the I Hate to Cook Book. She had the privilege to be one of the coordinators of the ITHACON comic book convention for five years and currently coordinates a Feminist Pop Culture Conference called Pippi to Ripley.
Angelina “Nina” Randazzo is a grad student at Ithaca College studying secondary English education. She is a founding member of GNAB and plans on using lots of graphic novels in the classroom.
Jalen Lisbon is a senior at Ithaca College, and he loves working with the Graphic Novel Advisory Board because of its commitment to furthering literacy in creative, fun ways. Currently, he’s reading bell hooks. Andy Yzaguirre is a library science student at Simmons University, she is focusing on Cultural archives and how to engage underrepresented communities into the preservation of their histories.
Kaitlyn Dennehy is a senior English and Writing student at Ithaca College. She is currently president of the Graphic Novel Advisory Board. Her favorite graphic novelists are Tillie Walden and Trung Lee Nguyen.
“Nancy Drew: 92 Years of Mystery, Literature and Gaming”
Published in 1930, the Nancy Drew series created by Edward Stratemeyer has inspired reader loyalty and interest for over ninety years. Thriving among a changing literary landscape, Nancy Drew has continued to evolve with her audience, adapting to new formats including TV, film, graphic novels, and computer games. HER Interactive, a female lead videogame company that launched in 1995, initiated the Nancy Drew series in a gender vacuum. At the time, publishers claimed girls didn’t play video games (Gaiser). The games attracted immediately interest and cultivated a loyal fan base. As game walkthroughs and live gaming increased in popularity in the 2000s, YouTube unearthed a strong male fanbase for the spunky teenage sleuth (Nancy Drew Walkthroughs, Arglefumph, Nancy Drew Times). When COVID19 hit in 2020, online interest grew for the 33 games. Youtubers recorded playthroughs, commentary videos and audio recordings of the books, while other Nancy fans dipped into cosplay (HER Interactive; Comicon 2021). My paper will examine the consistent popularity of Nancy with a specific interest in her portrayal from the page to the screen via videogames and through fans’ responses via YouTube and cosplay. How has Nancy Drew managed to remain popular and relevant since the 1930? What is it about Nancy that attracts both readers and players? By examining the character of Nancy through her novels, games, and fan perspectives, we hope to solve the mystery of Nancy’s longevity.
Bio: Corrie Shoemaker, Ph.D. (University of Waterloo), specialized in Shakespeare in her M.A. and Ph.D. She is currently an Assistant Teaching Professor for the Department of English Language and Literature and the Department of Communication, Journalism, and New Media at Thompson Rivers University. She is working on a book project entitled “Speaking of Shakespeare: Conversations with Canadian Artists” and revising her dissertation for publication. She frequently contributes to the Stratford Festival Reviews website, has a brief article on the Bard of the Beach forthcoming and has published on Nancy Drew in Marjorie Magazine.
Jeff Trexler, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
“Comics and the Future of Free Expression”
Bio: Jeff Trexler is Interim Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the legal rights of the comic arts community. A lifelong comics reader, he also provides analysis on legal matters impacting the comics business for multiple industry outlets.
Prior to joining CBLDF, Trexler was the Associate Director of the Fashion Law Institute, a chaired professor of social entrepreneurship, and a member of the board of directors of the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in American Religious History from Duke University, and he is admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and New York bars.
C. Spike Trotman, Iron Circus Comics
C. Spike Trotman was born in Washington, D.C., raised in Maryland, and lives in Illinois. An artist and writer, she founded Iron Circus Comics in 2007, which has since grown to become the region’s largest comics publisher. Her best-known work includes the webcomic Templar, Arizona, the Smut Peddler series of erotic comic anthologies, and Poorcraft, a graphic novel guide to frugal living.
Iron Circus Comics is dedicated to publishing strange and amazing comics, amplifying unheard and unique voices, and giving creators a fair deal. ICC pioneered the widely used bonus model that’s since reshaped the compensation system of the small press, jump-starting the current renaissance of alt-comics anthologies. ICC is the first comics publisher of note to fully incorporate crowdfunding into its business model, netting over $2,500,000 on Kickstarter to date for its slate of new work from emerging talent in the comics field.
Iron Circus was founded in 2007 to publish the print edition of Spike’s webcomic, Templar, Arizona. Its first anthology erotica project, Smut Peddler, was a leap of faith; launched on Kickstarter with only a few hundred dollars left in ICC’s bank account, it earned over $80,000. Consent-driven, sex positive smut for everyone is still the core of its current line, serving a market often ignored by other publishers. After this early success, ICC has revitalized the small press world with boundary-pushing anthologies like the ongoing Smut Pedder erotica series, the speculative fiction collection FTL Y’all, and a death positivity primer called You Died, as well as creator-owned works like Melanie Gillman’s As the Crow Flies, the critically acclaimed graphic memoir Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, and Ryan Estrada, and Abby Howard’s literary horror collection The Crossroads at Midnight.
Online Cosplay Contest
The Online Cosplay Contest includes both the Online Photo and Online Video categories. We will show a presentation of all the photos and videos that we received (which can also be seen here), then the judges will announce the winners. See here for the rules. Entries for the online contest are due by March 19.
Judged by Wendell Smith, Jr. (Scorpking Costuming) and Jay (Jazmine Cosplays). See their bios here.
In-Person Cosplay Contest
The In-Person Cosplay Contest will be held at the location of the CON, in the Shaffer Art Building at Syracuse University. The judges will collect the cosplayers’ information, and inspect the costumes up close, at the site ahead of time. At 5:30 the contestants will begin to show off their work to the audience, live, after which the judges will announce the winners. See here for the rules.
Judged by illustrator James P. McCampbell and Kate McKay (Andromeda’s Alchemy). See their bios here.