Panels & Presentations 2023

Every year we feature an extensive slate of talks about geek culture by artists, faculty, and students.

This year we have three amazing artist speakers and several diverse and fascinating panel talks.

The talks, panels, and cosplay contests, are in Shaffer 121.

You can also watch our panel talks on Zoom for free if you can’t make it in person. Use this link:


11:00Panel 1Disabilities in Geek Culture
Rae LintExploring the Intersection of Disability and the Villains of My Hero Academia
Jill OlsenI Can’t See a Thing in This Helmet: How Being Diagnosed as Legally Blind Led Me to Cosplay
José AlanizDisability in “The Compleat Moscow Calling” 
12:00Panel 2Gender and Sexuality in Geek Culture
Ed CattoRambo meets Feminism and Catholic Skepticism: Chuck Dixon’s Evangeline Comics
Elizabeth WilliamsonThe Queer A’s in Soul Eater’s Arachnophobia
Maya Ben DavidMonster Girls
1:00Dani PendergastArtist talk
2:00Tyler BossArtist talk
3:00Panel 3Histories of Video Games
James McKayLet’s Discuss Zelda Tears of the Kingdom 
4:00A. AndrewsArtist talk on their work, finding access in comics and navigating the role of representation.
5:00Wendell Smith, Sr. and WomanOfWondersOnline Cosplay Contest
5:30Kate McKay and VraskaaIn-Person Cosplay Contest


A. Andrews, 4:00pm

A. Andrews,is a thirty-something disabled queer non-fiction writer and cartoonist. Their debut graphic novel A Quick and Easy Guide to Sex & Disability (Oni/Limerence Press) has topped 2020 lists for the NYPL best books for teens, and YALSA’s best books for teens. They were named one of The Advocate’s 2021 People of the Year and are a 2020 Tin House Summer Workshop Scholar. They’ve created comics and essays for Washington Post, Disability Visibility, Autostraddle, TV Guide, Glamour, Women’s Health, Oh Joy Sex Toy, Visual AIDS, The Minnesota Department of Health, Carnegie Mellon University, and other weird corners of the internet. Some sampling/viewing of their work can be found here.

Tyler Boss, 2:00pm

Tyler Boss is an Eisner-nominated cartoonist and designer from Buffalo, NY. His titles include Dead Dog’s Bite and What’s the Furthest Place from Here? His first book, 4 Kids Walk into a Bank is currently being developed into a feature film. 

Dani Pendergast, 1:00pm

Dani Pendergast is a freelance illustrator from Parkland, Florida and currently based in Boston, Massachusetts. She is interested in exploring deeper truths in her work. The narratives that touch on identity and those of magical places that spark a feeling of wonder are among her favorites. In her work, she aims to evoke a poetic, and at times eerie, quality by using surreal solutions, bold colors and thoughtful line-work. Pendergast has illustrated the graphic novel Demon in the Wood and the children’s book The Social Chameleon as well as several comic covers.



Rae Lint

Exploring the Intersection of Disability and the Villains of My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia, an extremely popular manga/anime, is a bright and vibrant world where most everyone is born with a quirk. These quirks affect an individual in various ways. Some grant people super powers, while others can affect an individual’s appearance. Not all quirks are equal. Some give users immense power while other quirks are seemingly useless. As more quirks appeared in the population, the use of these quirks started to impact society as a whole. This fictional world eventually bred heroes and villains. Those who use their quirks for evil are deemed villains and those who dedicate their lives to stopping these individuals are deemed heroes. In this society, heroes are awarded special privileges and popularity among the masses of people. They become icons, influencers, and law enforcement. In contrast, villains are seen as the lowest of the low and judged based on their actions and intentions. Only, this isn’t exactly true. As the series progresses, we learn that our main group of villains are actually victims of society, people who society refused to accept or accommodate for various reasons including the nature of their quirk to their gender expression. We will look at the villains of this series, their motives, their history, and their role in the story along with how the author depicts them. Juxtaposing these villains with real world societies and how inflexible, stringent rules breed unlikely villains.

Bio: I graduated from Stockton University in 2019 with a degree in Disability Studies. I have many jobs including being a braille transcriber and circus performer. I love reading and consuming media of all types and genres. I’m currently existing in this world to feed my cat and meet some interesting people. Feel free to ask me about anime/manga, comics, circus, and young adult fiction.

Jill Olsen

I Can’t See a Thing in This Helmet: How Being Diagnosed as Legally Blind Led Me to Cosplay

From crafting props to making Mandalorian armor, meeting challenges and knowing when to ask for help. Learning to have a sense of humor about my impairment, shedding some tears and sharing lots of smiles.

Bio: Jill Olsen is a former Foreign Language teacher from Buffalo, NY. She is an active Star Wars cosplayer with The North Ridge, Rebel Legion Echo Base and is the Commanding Officer of The 501st Legion’s Garrison Excelsior.

José Alaniz

Disability in “The Compleat Moscow Calling” 

This talk centers on Moscow Calling, a daily comic strip I produced while living in Russia between 1993 and 1994, which ran in the English-language daily The Moscow Tribune.  

In addition to the epileptic and diabetic hero Pepe Pérez, the storylines feature several disabled characters, including a war veteran amputee, a homeless neurodivergent person and a paraplegic. One of the major storylines deals with a public health issue, the prevalence of smoking in 1990s Moscow. You may see some examples of Moscow Calling at the end of this document. 

The strip is being collected and reissued with supplementary material by Amatl Comix; the book should see release by the time of the con.

Bio: José Alaniz, professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Department of Cinema and Media Studies (adjunct) at the University of Washington, Seattle, has published three monographs, Komiks: Comic Art in Russia (University Press of Mississippi, 2010); Death, Disability and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond (UPM, 2014); and Resurrection: Comics in Post-Soviet Russia (OSU Press, 2022). He has also co-edited two essay collections, Comics of the New Europe: Reflections and Intersections (with Martha Kuhlman, Leuven University Press, 2020) and Uncanny Bodies: Disability and Superhero Comics (with Scott T. Smith, Penn State University Press, 2019). He formerly chaired the Executive Committee of the International Comic Arts Forum (ICAF) and was a founding board member of the Comics Studies Society. In 2020 he published his first comics/prose collection, The Phantom Zone and Other Stories (Amatl Comix). His second comics/prose collection, The Compleat Moscow Calling, is forthcoming from Amatl, and his third, Puro Pinche True Fictions, is forthcoming from FlowerSong Press. His current scholarly book projects include Comics of the Anthropocene: Graphic Narrative at the End of Nature


Maya Ben David

Monster Girls

This talk will discuss the politics surrounding the genre of monster girls as well as my personal experience being a “monster girl”.

I tell stories about and perform as monster girls made out of toxic materials. Monster Girls are a genre and trope that depicts a fictional woman who has monstrous or inhuman physical or psychic attributes. She may be born with these features, have them thrust upon her, or be able to shapeshift into monstrous forms. Let’s conjure some images of monstrous girls: A woman who is part-spider, she’s tiny but has the best secrets. A succubus math teacher who avoids crowded places because she can’t control her love spell. A snake girl who needs an extra long bed to accommodate her tail.

Monsters can, of course, be any gender or nonbinary. 

Monster girls as a trope pay extra emphasis to the femininity of a monster which often results in the monster being depicted sexually or romantically. I have been researching monster girls and magical anthropomorphic creatures for a decade. I’m interested in monsters that are coded as feminine, particularly when the grotesque and monstrous meet aesthetics of sensuality and cuteness.

A monster is the manifestation of our fear of disease, mutation, and or the unknown. Many origins of modern-day monster folklore come from either spottings of undiscovered animals or people with specific medical conditions. A monster girl is a fantasy of mastering the diseased, animal/machine/or alien. She is mutant, but her womanly form is preserved. They are adorable versions of the things we fear, sterilized of omnipresent danger, a single figure containing our fears, and she’s smiling.

Bio: Maya Ben David (MBD) is a Toronto-based artist. Working in video, installation, and performance, she creates worlds and characters that aid her ongoing exploration of anthropomorphism, cosplay, and performative personas. Maya is currently trying to become famous on Youtube by combining the “normie” appeal of video essays with surrealist performance art.

Ed Catto

Rambo meets Feminism and Catholic Skepticism: Chuck Dixon’s Evangeline Comics

One of the enduring indy comics of the 80s boom was Chuck Dixon’s Evangeline. This series explored the adventures of a warrior nun in the not too distant future. From today’s viewpoint, there’s much to examine and learn from this series including toxic masculinity, the hope or despair of the future, and trust/distrust in organized religion.

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. 

Elizabeth Williamson

The Queer A’s in Soul Eater’s Arachnophobia

In previous years at Geek/Art CONfluence, I discussed concepts of consciousness and identity in my webcomic Demon Brains and in the well-known Soul Eater manga/anime series. This time, through another academic-style slide presentation, I would like to specifically look at how aromanticism, asexuality, and agender identities can be interpreted in some of Soul Eater’s Arachnophobian villains, and I will highlight how the series shows creative representation that is not tied to whether a character is labeled “good,” “evil,” or “morally gray” by the author and the audience.


Corrie Shoemaker

How Sherlock Holmes and the First Victorian Female Detective Laid the Foundation for Nancy Drew Video Games

My presentation will examine how elements of the gothic and the Victorian, coupled with the birth of the fandom, originating with Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Stories, paved the way for future teen detective Nancy Drew and her niche but popular video game series. In reviewing the history of the detective novel, one sees that the gothic novel laid the foundation for the popular detective genre. Interweaving the aesthetics, environment, and dangers associated with Victorian life, the mystery genre soon become synonymous with foggy London streets, candle lit rooms, haunted estates, seances and gruesome murders. The logical analysis that was displayed through early detectives like Poe’s Dupin, and grew to fruition in Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, was not a male trait. Instead, it was easily adopted by female Victorian authors like Catherine Louisa Pirkis and her lady detective Miss Loveday. Through these early detective stories, the female voice was not only heard but respected as an authority. It is in these tales of deception and death that intellect trumps gender, and the female voice is welcome to the table. While a female detective turned readers towards the female voice, Sherlock’s rabid fanbase birthed a demand for the detective novel, and more specifically a cry for a particular detective. It was Doyle’s writing, and subsequent murder of his titular character, that heaved the Victorian populace into a frenzy demanding the return of their hero. Henceforth, fiction and fanfiction would never be the same. Following in Pirkis’ footsteps a multitude of authors, including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L.Sayers, PD James,  Baroness Orczy, and Laurie R King, blessed readers with an in influx of female detectives. However, it was the Stratemeyer Syndicate with Nancy Drew, that cracked the case on children’s mysteries and a lifelong fanbase. By continually re-inventing Nancy the series was able to stay relevant, and by tapping into the fanbase and a Victorian detective aesthetic, the video games have succeeded in connecting history with the future.

Bio: Corrie Shoemaker, Ph.D. (University of Waterloo), specialised in Shakespeare in her M.A. and Ph.D. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Thompson Rivers University. She was thrilled to work with the Stratford Festival of Canada and Bard on the Beach when researching Canadian identity on the Shakespeare stage for her PhD. Other areas of research include Victorian literature and the original Nancy Drew series. She recently completed the manuscript “Speaking of Shakespeare: Conversations with Canadian Artists”. Shoemaker has written for the Stratford Festival Reviews, Marjorie Magazine, and Palgrave’s Global Shakespeare. She’s currently teaching Victorian detective fiction and preparing a chapter on Victorian detectives in videogames.

James McKay

Let’s Discuss Zelda Tears of the Kingdom 

Join James McKay, resident Zelda collector and expert, as he discusses the upcoming release of a new Zelda game for the Nintendo Switch.  He will give reviews and ask questions of the audience to make this an engaging and interactive panel you can see live at the convention.  He might even bring a few rare items from his collection to show off and talk about as well!  All Zelda fanatics and newcomers to the game series are welcome to attend!

Bio: James has been a part of the Central New York convention scene for well over a decade now.  He got his start as a member of the board for Retrogamecon, and over the years, has worked with several conventions.   His career spans from being the announcer for large scale events, social media marketing, talent acquisition, and also panel presentator.  James is most well known for his knowledge of the Zelda franchise, and currently has the 3rd largest Legend of Zelda collection that is documented in North America!  Currently, James is the Co-Director of the Nococon convention in Watertown, celebrating its second year.  He believes that conventions are made to make everyone feel welcome and included, and his mission with every convention that he is a part of is to encourage that.  

Cosplay Contests, 5:00 and 5:30

The Online Cosplay Contest will run from 5:00-5:30 and will be entirely on Zoom. The In-Person Cosplay Contest will take place in Shaffer 121 from 5:30-6:00.

The Online Contest is now closed and will be judged by Wendell Smith, Sr. and WomanOfWonders. They will show all the online participants’ work and then announce the winners. Please note that an additional audience participation contest is currently going on for the online participants, on our Facebook page, @geekartconfluence.

You can enter the In-Person Contest at any time during the day of the CON. The judges, Kate McKay and Vraskaa, 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.

See all the Judges’ bios under Cosplay Call.

American Sign Language Interpreters will be available on the Zoom from 1:00-5:00.

Gael Sweeney, “The Unlikely Rise of Fan Fiction” in 2019
Capital G and A in blue three-dimensional letters and an orange lightning bolt between

See the 2022 and 2021 Panels & Presentations here.

Past speakers have included Alexandre Tefenkgi (The Good Asian), C. Spike Trotman (Iron Circus Comics), Jeff Trexler (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund), Ben Marra (Jesusfreak), Natalie Riess (Power Within), and Maya McKibbin (The Song That Called Them Home).

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