Voices of Diversity: A Reflection on WonderCon 2022’s Panel on Inclusive Storytelling

From Left to Right: Lorran Garrison (school psychologist); Natasha Lee (artist); Chance Calloway (director); Robert Rice (actor); Tara Madison Avery (comic book creator); Mark Nazal (comic book creator); and Ariel Landrum (therapist)

Author: Ariel Landrum

On Friday, April 1, 2022, a panel of eccentric writers, artists, and mental health therapists gathered at the Anaheim Convention Center to discuss why diverse stories and your story matters. The panel, titled “Why Diverse Stories Matter: Voices from the BIPOC/LGBTQ+/Neurodiverse Community,” was part of the WonderCon 2022 event. The panelists included Lorran Garrison, Ariel Landrum, Mark Nazal, Robert Rice, Tara Madison Avery, Chance Calloway, and Natasha Lee.

Lorran Garrison, a school psychologist and founder of Little Brainstorm, and Ariel Landrum, a therapist at Happiest Pod on Earth, led the discussion on how pop culture can and should support mental health and wellness. The panelists shared their experiences and insights on how they weave their lived experiences into their stories and how mental health therapists support geeky fans in their therapeutic practices.

Panel Discussion

The panel discussion began with Natasha Lee, a gamer and video game artist. She shared how playing videos grew; she realized no characters represented her as a Black woman and knew she needed to change that. Though she did not choose a field that her parents wanted her to, becoming an artist has helped her fulfill the missing pieces around representation in video game media. Her most recent work can be found in the video game Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

Chance Calloway, creator of the show Pretty Dudes on Amazon Prime, shared his journey of creating a sitcom based on his life as a gay man surrounded by straight people. He emphasized the importance of telling authentic stories and how his show has resonated with a diverse audience. He beamed proudly at how this was his first time attending San Diego Comic-Con and how pleasantly surprised he was to be invited to a panel about representation. He noted that he wasn’t “the only one” of his various identities on the panel.

Robert Rice, creator of Demonhuntr on Amazon Prime, shared his experience creating a queer-inclusive genre show. He highlighted the importance of specificity in attracting an audience and how the queer and horror communities supported their crowdfunding efforts.

Tara Madison Avery, a cartoonist, and publisher at Stacked Deck Press, shared her journey as a trans activist in the comic book industry. She emphasized the importance of representation and how she found inspiration in comic book characters during her transition.

Mark Nazal, the co-founder of Diwata Komiks, shared his experience working in the film and television industry in the visual effects field. He emphasized the importance of visibility and representation in storytelling, which led him to co-found the first Filipino American comics company.

The panelists’ stories highlighted the importance of diverse representation in storytelling and how their personal experiences have shaped their work. They emphasized the importance of authenticity in storytelling and how it allows audiences to see themselves reflected in the stories they consume. Their stories also served as a reminder that diverse stories can resonate with a wide audience.

The panel discussion ended with a strong message: the world is not cookie-cutter, and no single story exists for any race or group. The importance of visibility and representation in storytelling was emphasized, and the panelists encouraged everyone to share their unique stories.

The panel “Why Diverse Stories Matter: Voices from the BIPOC/LGBTQ+/Neurodiverse Community” was a significant event at WonderCon 2022, shedding light on the importance of diverse stories in our society. The panelists’ insights and experiences were a powerful reminder of the impact of representation in storytelling.

Check out the full panel below!:

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