Attending CAPE! last spring, I was fortunate to attend a panel of such luminary talents as Gail Simone and Mark Waid, among others. What was terrific about this panel in particular was that it was moderated. Once common at conventions, it seems to me that moderated panels are now a curiosity of a bygone age.
Perhaps I should define the term as I see it?
Moderated panel discussions are those in which talent from various publishers and titles are gathered together to speak on a particular subject. Sure, the Marvel guys sit down with the other Marvel guys for discussions, but what about a panel comprised of talent from all the publishers in attendance? For instance at CAPE!, the panel was on the topic of writing. Writers were on hand from DC, Marvel and BOOM!, all talking about the craft. That in itself was something.
The panel was moderated by author David Hopkins. Hopkins was the great thing about this panel, not because he revealed a great deal about his own experience. Rather, because as a writer, he was able to keep the discussion moving and refocus it when it stalled by calling on his own background. Hopkins ensured that every moment of that discussion was worthwhile.
From my perspective, panels are probably the cheapest things cons coordinate. Yet, they are becoming more and more scarce. Panels have largely devolved into press conferences. Sure, those are fun, but those are generally forums where you’re being spoken at. You’re receiving a presentation. A moderated panel is more of a discussion. Moderated panels build community by engaging the fans as something more than consumers.
Back in the day, you’d have a whole table full of comic writers chatting on such subjects as time travel in the medium, the future of comics and secret identities. One of my favorite moderators, Robert Aspirin, used to moderate some wild panels. Miss that guy.
And I miss moderated panels.