Tangled Web Lady Finds New Career as Panel Moderator

From Left:Museum's Education Director Lydia Vogt; and Cartoonists Greg Evans, Jim Whiting, Steve Breen, Jeff Keane and Sony video game animator, Brad Constantine. These guys were hilarious and made my job a breeze!

Posing with me, from Left: Museum’s Education Director Lydia Vogt; and Cartoonists Greg Evans, Jim Whiting, Steve Breen, Jeff Keane and Sony video game animator, Brad Constantine.

When it comes to moderating a panel on comic art, let it be known that the woman behind Monica’s Tangled Web, does her homework.

In other words, thanks to much preparation, I nailed it.


Brad Constantine (far right) keeps the artwork coming.

I stepped up to the challenge of moderating a panel on account that the idea exhilarated me. And, once I made the decision to do it, I took the bull by the horns.

Which means, that for the week leading up to it, I visited the exhibit on comic art, I researched each cartoonist on the panel, I googled cartoon art in general, and read everything I came across, so that I could come up with thought-provoking questions, rather than the usual, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Then, I pulled out the stacks and stacks of Archie Comics I keep under my bed and read every last one of them (not that this helped, but it sure was fun doing—and as good an excuse as any to re-read).

I also renewed my subscription to Mad Magazine so I could refresh my memory on the antics of Spy vs. Spy and the movie and TV show parodies, which I’ve always loved.

I then came across an article written for the Harvard Business Review on how to moderate a panel, and memorized it. Of course, I didn’t follow all of the tips. For example, it said to sit with your panelists, and not stand at a podium. Oops.

All told, I studied and prepared day and night for two straight days, drinking gallons of coffee with an extra jolt of caffeine to keep me going.


Jim Whiting (center) enlists the help of Greg Evans (left) and Jeff Keane to demonstrate a magic trick.

And, when I felt informed enough on the subject matter, I decided to do one more thing:

I decided to be myself.

Which turns out, is about as easy as emptying a pool using a thimble. If you ask me, it’s practically akin to going on stage naked!

But once I psyched myself into relaxing and enjoying the evening, I was able to think of the event, not as a panel before a live audience, but as a scintillating party, where everyone was listening and participating in on a conversation that we happened to be having with five funny guys.

And boy, these fellas were so hilarious, they made my job a breeze!

No doubt, it helped that the topic was comic art, and not planning trusts, or tax codes, or some other boring stuff. After all, comic art by its nature tends to be, well, humorous. And, clearly these cartoonists love what they do and are passionate about it. Ooh la la!

It also made a difference that everyone in the audience was genuinely interested in the topic. So there was laughter amuck and plenty of questions for the panel.

Finally, here’s what we didn’t have: No booing or no heckling.

Thank goodness!

And, here’s what I learned from the evening:

Jim Whiting’s hobby is magic. Halfway through the evening he stood up and got the audience in a frenzy when he did a magic trick, enlisting the help of Jeff Keane (Family Circus) and Greg Evans (Luann).

In conjunction with the comic art exhibit, the museum ran a comic art contest for high school students. Here, one winner gets advice from the panel.

A student who participated and won the contest gets advice from the panel.

Greg Evans’ Luann comic strip is about a teenager, and is based on the antics of Evan’s daughter. When he started the strip, Luann was 13 and is now 16. Meanwhile, Evan’s daughter is now 38. Time moves slowly, if at all, in comic-strip land.

Jeff Keane is the youngest son of Bill Keane, the man who created Family Circus. The character of Jeffy is based on Jeff’s childhood. Jeff has pretty much taken the strip over from his father and writes and draws it, using his own children for ideas.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Breen doesn’t mind when his editor suggests a topic for one of his editorial cartoons, but doesn’t like it one bit, when they suggest how to present it.

Brad Constantine, the only animator on the panel, says it takes about 100 people two years to create a video game. Wow.

As a moderator, I managed to keep the evening on schedule and end with enough time for those in attendance to explore the exhibit. So now it’s over and I’m still riding high from all the good vibes from the evening.

Best part was meeting the panelists and having Steve Breen say to me, before the program even started, that he really liked the questions I had developed.

This soon to be high school junior poses in front of her work, which received top honors in the student contest.

This soon to be high school junior poses in front of her work, which received top honors in the student contest.

Best best part:  Having someone from the audience walk up to me afterwards and tell me I ought to have my own talk show. Plus, one of the A/V guys told me he was convinced I’d been moderating for years. I had to hug him for saying that. (And, not because he was cute!)

Best best best part: When Brad Constantine, who was doodling pictures of famous cartoon characters all night, signed and gave one to me. Aww.

In conjunction with the comic art exhibit, the museum ran a contest for high school students. I loved meeting some of the award-winning students  and seeing their amazing art. You can tell, the passion for comic art already runs deep within them.

After all is said and done, would I do it again?

You bet!

Now tell me, how have you risen to the occasion when given a task that is clearly outside your range?

This lucky boy got to go home with one of Brad's drawings.

This lucky boy got to go home with one of Brad’s drawings.

38 thoughts on “Tangled Web Lady Finds New Career as Panel Moderator

  1. –I love that you relaxed and enjoyed the moment.
    If you have your own talk show, I’ll def watch!
    Hope you have the opportunity to do this again, Monica. Xxx

  2. Getting out of our comfort zones is always a good thing. Whenever I do a program or workshop, I’m always looking for new information, etc. And I love that. This had to be lots of fun for you.

    • Yes, Deborah, I quickly found my groove. The guys on the panel made me feel very relaxed and “in the zone.” They delivered, I delivered right back at them, and it proved to be a fantastic evening.

  3. This sounded like such a great time, though it doesn’t surprise me you did your homework. Kudos to you on making sure it was entertaining and interesting for audience and participants alike.

  4. I just KNEW you’d nail this, Monica — congratulations!! Your prep work made all the difference. That, and just being yourself. We gain a lot of self-confidence by stepping out of our comfort zone and doing something that frightens us — not necessarily something dangerous, you know; just something we wouldn’t ordinarily do. Good for you, Good for your audience. Good for the panelists, who could shed their own case of nerves and relax with the flow!

  5. How fun is that! I can see you hosting a show. You should pitch the local stations. Similar concept maybe to the San Diego blog where you talk to the locals. It sounds like an amazing evening. I loved reading comics when I was a kid.

  6. I knew you’d be brilliant. Glad to hear that you enjoyed yourself, too. I love the idea of a Tangled Web talk show. Maybe you should add some vlogs to your blog! 🙂

  7. Monica, I never doubted you would nail it, not even for a minute. One of the things I love about you, is your ability to step out of your comfort zone, take something on and make it seem effortless even if it means many late nights and coffee 🙂 Remember I watched you handle the Race blogger project brilliantly. You were impartial when it counted and your suggestions were always spot on.
    I would love to see you moderate a political panel… I think you would have some marvelous questions for them.
    I love how much fun this was. I enjoyed seeing it through your eyes and as always your lovely smile.

    • MM, thank you so much! Now I want to hug you! Basically, I tried to turn something that was potentially scary into something fun. It was a team effort to be sure, me and the panelists, and miraculously it was a hit with those in attendance!

  8. That looked like fun, Monica! Your research and information-gathering was well worth the time, it seems.

    How I rise to the task that is clearly outside my range? I do what you did – research, anticipate the questions, prepare some of my own, talk to folk in that field if possible – then show up, with a kick of my own flavor. Voila!

  9. So thrilled to hear it went so well Monica, but excuse me for saying, but DUH! You are amazing and I knew you’d nail it. Good job!

  10. I love Family Circus and Luann. I used to clip Luann comics out of the paper and tape them to the office door going out for teachers to read going to class.
    Did these artists fly in for the event, or do they all live in CA?
    Monica…this may be just a matter of time, before you get another assignment. Word will get around. Hugs (love that you’re a hugger)!

    • Family Circus is adorable and it’s fun to see how its “grown up” over time, keeping up with technological changes, etc. I think Luann is hysterical. Wasn’t really familiar with it beforehand, but got to read quite a bit of it, and liked it very much.

      If I do this again, the topic has to be right. Don’t want to do one on wills and trusts, or something that might be boring. Yuck.

  11. My son would have LOVED to be there. Does it happen often? How does one go to that? I am so glad for your good feedback, and that your diligence was appreciated. You deserve it! ❤

    • Jodi, I think it was the first time at this museum. They have an exhibit that runs until the end of this month on comic art. It’s quite fascinating, showing you comic strips in various phases of completion. The Sony guy was quite interesting to talk to. He offered to give me and my grown son a tour of their facility to learn more about the process of making video games. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Now if you’re son really is interested you should come to San Diego around Comic con weekend. Even if you can’t get into the Convention Center where Comic con is held, there is so much going on in town. Here’s the link so you can see for yourself: http://www.comic-con.org/

  12. Sounds as though you had a great time, super pictures and description of the event, I could almost have been sitting there. It’s always nice to spend time with people who are experts in their craft and not only learn from them but also enjoy their company.

    A task outside my range…. I would guess being given a week to put together a computer appreciation course for the board of directors of a national electrical & photographic company I worked for at the time. I did it but Phew!!!! It was hard work.

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