Comic Conventions (or ComicCons) are a Mecca for comic enthusiasts, but in the last 10 years or so, they have transformed beyond the world of just comics. Today, ComicCons encompass traditional comics, manga and anime (Japanese comics and animations), movies, books, art, card/board/video games, and almost every other branch of science fiction. This includes the science behind what inspires science fiction movies/books/comics.
This year was the second year that the Museums of Western Colorado was invited to participate in a Q/A panel at Denver’s ComicCon. These panels include 4-5 experts, a moderator, and a room of enthusiasts firing away questions related to an established topic. This year, the topic of our panel was “What Scientists have Learned since Jurassic Park.” When it comes to paleontology in the movies, Jurassic Park is probably one of the most influential pieces of paleo science fiction ever to grace the silver screen. Dinosaurs have fascinated the public imagination since their first discoveries almost 200 years ago. Since then, public interest in dinosaurs and their ancient world has only increased as science has progressed. This has created a golden opportunity for scientific outreach and promotion of paleontological programs, like ours at the Museums of Western Colorado.
It has been 23 years since Jurassic Park was first released in theaters, and the public enthusiasm has yet to wane. Sequels like last year’s release of Jurassic World continue to be blockbusters and the exhibit halls at Dinosaur Journey continue to be filled by dinosaur lovers of all ages. This was particularly evident at the 2016 Denver ComicCon. Our panel room seated 300 in the audience, and this was filled quickly. The line to get into the panel stretched down the hallway before the doors even opened. After the 300 seats were filled, convention workers had still to turn away 50-100 more people. The fact that our panel was late in the day on Saturday, June 18th (5:15-6:05 pm), when many convention-goers were already headed out for dinner or home for the evening, made this showing even more impressive. The love of dinosaurs is real.
Panelists included our curator of paleontology, Julia McHugh, as well as preparator Jacob Jet and curator Anthony Maltese from the Dinosaur Resource Center, and Matthew Mossbrucker, Director & Chief Curator of the Morrison Museum. Our moderator and panel organizer was Kyle Sanders, comic artist and producer of Peer Revue. Together we fielded questions that ranged from anatomical details of dinosaurs that were incorrect in the Jurassic Park movies to more advanced questions on how we know what we know, different types of technology used in paleontology, and feathers on dinosaurs. We were all very impressed with the level of questions from our crowd. The one type of question we were expecting, but did not surface, were the “who would win in a fight” type of questions. We usually get one or two of those, partly due to the recent television show: Jurassic Fight Club, but not this year. We certainly didn’t mind getting a little “down and nerdy” with the group! The panel was a great success and we are already brainstorming for next year. With such a hungry and captive audience, how can we pass up the opportunity to share some knowledge and promote our programs? See you next year, Denver ComicCon!