The 10 Most Off-Beat Panels at New York Comic-Con 2011

Sure, you’ll have your comic book announcements, your Avengers hullabaloo, and various TV and Movie panels that aren’t The Avengers – but the real fun is always to be found on the sidelines of a bigger con like NYCC. They’re the weird, off-beat panels that make going to conventions fun, and provide a break from the announcement-a-palooza we normally have to sit through. Here are ten of the most off-beat panels at the Con that caught our eye:

Unusual Manga Genres

Date: Friday, October 14

11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Location: Anime Stage

Speakers: Erin Finnegan, Noah Fulmor

Description:

This panel is a testament to the diversity and specialization of the manga market in Japan. Thanks to the popularity of manga in the United States, many of the titles I cover are now available in English. As someone who dislikes superhero comics, I'm amazed at the scope and the breadth of manga titles available. My PowerPoint presentation is broken down into broad categories - "Regular Sports" (manga about track and field) "Unusual Sports" (Hikaru No Go, golf titles), "Quasi-Sports"(fishing manga, yo-yo manga), "Manga for Girls" (ballet manga, pet manga), "Manly Manga" (Pachinko Manga, Mah-Jong Manga), "Food Manga" (Yakitate Japan, Bambino) and the "Uncategorizeable" (manga about tasting junk food, manga about Jesus and Buddha living as roommates).

This should be called the “I Just Started Reading Manga, You Guys,” panel. People interested in this might want to check out tomorrow’s panel on, “Did You Know There Were Comic Books That Aren’t About Superheroes?”, or the one on Sunday titled, "Turns Out, There Are Three Star Wars Movies That Were Made, Like, Twenty Years Ago."

Is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo a Superhero?

Date: Friday, October 14

12:15 pm - 1:15 pm

Location: 1B03

Speakers: Danny Fingeroth, Denny O'Neil, Robin Rosenberg, Tom DeFalco

Description:

The heroine of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy has “powers” that seem at times superhuman: she may not fly, but she’s an awesome cyberhacker, she’s got a photographic memory, and she’s tough mentally and physically. Should she be considered a superhero? Join long-time comic book writers and editors Tom DeFalco (Marvel), Danny Fingeroth (Marvel, Superman on the Couch), Paul Levitz (DC) , and Denny O’Neil (DC, Marvel), and psychologist Robin Rosenberg (Psychology of Superheroes, Psychology of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) as they discuss what makes a superhero and whether Lisbeth Salander should be considered one. Get a jump on these issues before the American film is released in December.

Um, what? The line-up is cool, and the subject is a fun one: what makes a superhero a superhero. But the razor thin focus is what makes me tip my head askew here. I’ll save you an hour: the answer is, “No.” Though to be fair, I’ve only read the first book, so maybe she gets bitten by a radioactive newspaper journalist in the second or third volume?

Wand Dueling

Date: Friday, October 14

12:45 pm - 1:15 pm

Location: Hasbro Stage

Speakers: Cassandra Johnstone, Christine Evans, Clay Dockery, Jonathon Rosenthal

Description:

The art of wand dueling is a centuries old practice that has unfortunately fallen on the wayside in today’s modern wizarding curriculum. Join The Group That Shall Not Be Named, Harry Potter NYC as their top wand dueling instructor demonstrates several of the offensive and defensive positions most frequently employed in duels. Many of these can be seen being used in the now famous Harry Potter Documentary films. Translation for Muggles: Dueling in the Harry Potter films was a carefully choreographed form of theatrical combat. HP-NYC will demonstrate and instruct participants in several of the dueling moves that the actors used. Bring your own wand if you prefer, if not, training wands will be provided.

Like lightsaber dueling, but without the cool sword fighting moves, and a lot more shouting nonsense. But just as dorky.

Celebrity Ghost Stories: Fact, Fiction and Previously Untold Tales in Paranormal Pop Culture

Date: Friday, October 14

4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Location: 1A15

Speaker: Aaron Sagers

Description:

The tabloids frequently publish stories of celebrities encountering ghosts in haunted houses or on the set of movies, but rarely do the celebrities themselves speak out. Based on his extensive experience interviewing them, national pop culture expert Aaron Sagers reveals their haunted stories - as told by the celebrities! There's no "as told by a friend" here. Instead, in this multimedia presentation, listen to revealing tales from: Nicolas Cage, Dan Aykroyd, Dave Grohl, Ke$ha, Ace Frehley, Mike Mignola and many more!

I think we all need to go to this, and make the entire panel a discussion about whether Nicolas Cage is a vampire or not.

Food and Comics Panel with Wylie Dufresne

Date: Friday, October 14

2:45 pm - 3:45 pm

Location: 1A15

Speakers: Brian Azzarello, CB Cebulski, Wylie Dufresne

Description:

C.B. Cebulski, Marvel’s SVP of Creator and Content Development (and writer of the food blog Eataku.com), and Wylie Dufresne, molecular gastronomic chef and owner of restaurant wd~50, and more special guests share the stage for an hour talking about the new horizons in foodie culture and comics culture and where they often (and appetizingly) interconnect.

Just to show you I’m not going to abjectly make fun of every panel listed here, I’m actually totally psyched for this. Wylie Dufresne is one of the most inventive chefs currently alive, and a funny guy. Plus, I caught the latter half of the version of this panel at FanExpo Canada, and it was a blast. Do not miss, particularly as its conveniently scheduled after lunch.

She's So Unsual: Lolita Fashion in the Media

Date: Friday, October 14

6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Location: Anime Stage

Speaker: Dalin Rowell

Description:

Lolita Fashion might seem new to you, but is it really? For many years, the breadcrumbs of this subculture have been spreading all over the media, not just in the Fashion universe. Come and explore the many interesting ways in which Lolita Fashion has taken on a life of its own! Through Anime, Movies, Music, Television, Books and more - you might be surprised of what things you see! Presented by Dalin of La Vida Frills - this interactive panel is full of games, laughs, prizes and Rori approved fun all around!

Weirdly, NYCC scheduled a conflicting panel in the same room, at the same time, but in the audience instead of on stage that’s all about chronic masturbation.

American Museum of Natural History

Date: Saturday, October 15

12:15 pm - 1:15 pm

Location: 1A02

Speaker: Michael Shara

Description:

What will space travel be like in 50, 100 and 200 years? Using physics and mathematics to make our very best guesses, let’s see if WE can predict what our descendents will be doing away from Planet Earth in the coming centuries.

Yes, that’s a strange name for the panel (sadly, they weren’t able to fit the entire AMNH inside The Javits Center), but this is an awesome sounding science lecture. There’s certainly nothing else like it at the Con, so that should be worth a look.

Always Bet On Black

Date: Saturday, October 15

7:45 pm - 8:45 pm

Location: 1A02

Speakers: Dyami Pipkin, Hakeem Pipkin, Jason Gomes

Description:

A multimedia exploration on the history of Black ( African American) heroes Ebony White to The Black Panther from Lando to Spawn. Focusing on their cultural impact, unifying/underlying traits & what the future holds based on what the past his shown us.

Sadly, this is not a tribute to classic Wesley Snipes movie Passenger 57, but this is the cool sort of razor sharp focus panels that make attending a big convention fun.

SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark

Date: Sunday, October 16

10:15 am - 11:00 am

Location: 1A24

Speakers: Agent M, Glen Berger, Roberto Aguire-Sacasa

Description:

Drawing on nearly 50 years of Marvel comic books for inspiration, SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark spins a new take on the web-slinger's classic origin story. Daring, ground-breaking and spectacular, SPIDER-MAN is Broadway’s most popular new show with jaw dropping thrills, music by Bono and The Edge of U2, remarkable sets, costumes and effects. All combining to bring to life the adventures of Peter Parker, Mary Jane and the Green Goblin. Writers Roberto Aguire-Sacasa (Marvel Comics' Sensational Spider-Man, Fox's Glee) and 2-time Emmy Award winner Glen Berger discuss the excitement and challenges of putting the show together. Joining them will be the production’s set designers who will provide insight into their innovative designs, technology and special effects--many of which have never before been seen on a stage. Moderated by Marvel’s Agent M, aka Marvel.com Editorial Director Ryan Penagos.

Hey, why not hear a discussion of what is universally called the most intresting part of this Broadway musical – and all without having to pay the exorbitant ticket fees!

Geek Parenting: Raising Kids in Our Own Geeky Image

Date: Sunday, October 16

11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Location: 1B03

Speakers: Amy Kraft , Andrea Schwalm , Corrina Lawson, Dave Giancaspro, Jason Jones , John Booth , Kathy Ceceri, Ken Denmead, Matt Blum , Nicole Wakelin

Description:

Panel will be a general discussion and Q&A with writers for GeekDad.com and GeekMom.com focusing on issues that geek parents face raising their kid.

As the father of a 21-month old who can identify Batman from just a logo, and starts singing the Adam West Batman theme song without prompting, I don’t think I need to attend this panel. Granted, I didn’t get to name her Kitty Pryde Zalben like I wanted to, but we can’t win ‘em all.

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NYCC 2011: Exclusive Toy Round-Up

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