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Queer Comics Festival, Gyna Hymowech, 904
Fri Jul 29, 2016 09:07
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By Gyna Hymowech

"Gay cartooning denotes pornography to some minds," Robert Triptow wrote in his 1989 anthology Gay Comics. "So for artists with marketable styles to work for a homosexual audience is a risky business."

Almost three years later, there was considerably more hope for gay artists and their fans with the coming out of Northstar, Marvel's first gay superhero. In 2010, the iconic Archie Comics introduced its first gay character, Kevin Keller, and last year marked the Broadway debut of Fun Home, the musical based on cartoonist Alison Bechdel's best-selling lesbian graphic memoir.

Today, comics "[p]ublishers both big and small are recognizing the more diverse audience reading their stories, and responding more and more with characters that represent the world we live in," says Todd Sokolove, a board member of Geeks OUT, an organization that "rallies, empowers and promotes queer geeks," as their site puts it.
Jeff Krell, the writer and illustrator of Jayson, says that "for the longest time after Jayson became popular, I thought that I had closed [the Archie] door forever. But then, with the introduction of Kevin Keller, suddenly the fact that I had been doing a teen humor strip with gay protagonists, for as long as I had, became a selling point." (He discussed the possibility of working on the Keller comic for them, but then it got cancelled; Keller recently returned in a digital-first series titled Life with Kevin.)

Krell also says that being at a mainstream comic convention has become an entirely different experience for him. In the past, he says, "I've seen people not knowing what [the non-profit] Prism was, and just exploring the convention, would come up and just poke around, and then realize that it was focused on LGBTs and then they would sort of go, 'Ew,' and run away." Straight males, he says, "would joke with each other and say, 'That's for you, ha ha,' and it was a little disheartening. In the last five or six years, I've seen the opposite. I've seen people coming to the booth and discovering that these are LGBT comics and creators, and being happy to discover something new, and thinking it's cool, especially teenage girls, and maybe that's the manga influence, I'm guessing. There's no ick factor left, at least not at the conventions I've been to."

Still, there's something about a queer comics convention, according to Krell, who was a founding member of the now-defunct, gay-themed Bent-Con. There, he found, "a more receptive audience -- people who knew exactly what they were there for, and coming for something that they would have difficulty finding somewhere else. That hurdle is cleared: You don't have to deal with a lot of people who don't know that there are gay comics or don't know what they're looking at when they walk up to the person's booth, and just that whole sometimes uncomfortable conversation of explaining what it is that you do and why they should buy it anyway."

Cristy C. Road, who wrote and illustrated the novel Bad Habits, has attended mainstream conventions, but says she's never tabled at them "because I felt intimidated by the dominant presence of stuff that I've seen around, just very straight boy-focused images and art, like a lot of superheroes, or the portrayal of women as, like, sexy all the time."

New York comic fans who are sick of the overwhelming straightness of the mainstream convention scene should thrill to the return of Flame Con, the queer comic con first presented by Geeks OUT in June of 2015. That event, which took place at Brooklyn's Grand Prospect Hall, had more than 2,200 visitors. "Our purpose with last year's Flame Con debut was to attract a diverse lineup of exhibitors and special guests, and that, in turn, fulfilled the ultimate goal—bringing together fans and followers of their work," says Sokolove.

This year, there will be panels, including one Krell is moderating titled Funny That Way: Humor in LGBT Comics; a free youth day; a kick-off party; exhibitors and special guests, including Road. The convention is now longer, happening two days (August 20th and 21st) instead of one, and has moved to a larger location, the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott. In light of the Pulse tragedy, there will be increased security and a no toy guns policy.

Road, an attendee of Flame Con last year as well, believes an advantage of the event is its potential to influence artists after it's over. "I feel like the queer narrative in comics is still this other thing, and if we create a space for us where we can be loud and we can present our work in a very serious platform, it's ... inspiring [us] to move forward and not be intimidated by the industries that shut down our narrative."

Road is also looking forward to presenting for the first time; the possibility of meeting new friends and folks to tour with; and just having some good, geeky, queer fun. She describes CUNY's Queers & Comics, a conference she was a presenter at in 2015, as having been "very academic. It was a lot of panels and talks, and it wasn't a party. It was very, like, 'Let's go here and critically analyze the work that we do.' " And that's how I went in. But that's how I go into an academic space. I go to Flame Con and I'm like, 'YEAH! COSTUMES!' "

    • Queer Comics, 861 - jt.indypendent, Thu Aug 4 10:17
      By Gyna Hymowech "Gay cartooning denotes pornography to some minds," Robert Triptow wrote in his 1989 anthology, Gay Comics. "So for artists with marketable styles to work for a homosexual audience... more
      • Queer Comics, 858 - jt.indypendent, Thu Aug 4 20:10
        By Gena Hymowech "Gay cartooning denotes pornography to some minds," Robert Triptow wrote in his 1989 anthology, Gay Comics. "So for artists with marketable styles to work for a homosexual audience... more
        • Queer Comics, 861 - jt.indypendent, Sun Aug 7 21:00
          By Gena Hymowech "Gay cartooning denotes pornography to some minds," Robert Triptow wrote in his 1989 anthology, Gay Comics. "So for artists with marketable styles to work for a homosexual audience... more
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