A brief entry on the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which happened this past weekend and was much larger than I was expecting. (This thing grew exponentially between the 2003 and 2005 editions - I don't know that it grew that much between 2005 and 2007, but I wouldn't be surprised if it grew significantly in terms of attendance and the number of artists.)
The 'Comics in the Academy: How to Study Comics and Why' panel seemed to be well-received. Though it got to be nail-biting and I was reduced to begging for at least one panelist to attend, our panel went ahead with Rohanna Green (University of Toronto, English), Alan Rhodes (York University, Communication and Culture), Anne Rubenstein (York University, History) and Jeet Heer (York University, History - though quite well-known, it seems, for his comics journalism). I would've loved to include someone who studies the actual drawings, but the panel was about as inter/multidisciplinary as I could have hoped for - and certainly better than the many worst-case scenarios that were running through my head.
More interesting than the disciplinary lines, though, were the strange ways in which the speakers handled their 15 minute speaking bits in wholly different ways - ranging from the conversational and off-the-cuff to powerpoint presentations. So we didn't simply have content for many different folks, but presentations of very different kinds. (Not surprisingly, then, a number of friends in attendance would later tell me that they really liked 2 or 3 of them disliked one person or another - whether it was their delivery or their content that was a turn-off also varied. But this is what happens when everyone brings something different to the table.)
Another interesting tidbit: despite our being the first panel of the day, the attendance at the start was actually rather good. I think I counted 35 people when I scanned the room right before we started, and it was probably closer to 45 at the time we finished. Granted, I haven't attended many panels at festivals or academic conferences (this falls somewhere between the two), but this seemed rather unusual. Here's hoping that I get the chance to organize this panel (or panels?) next time around. And maybe the content will be less general - can it get any more general than 'how to study comics and why?' - and we can speak to more specific issues.