Gays in Comics – It's a Queer, Queer World At San Diego Comic Con

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By Joe Glass

Saturday at Comic-Con saw the 27th annual Gays in Comics panel, organised by the awesome Prism Comics, an advocacy and support group for LGBT in the medium.

First things first, it is WONDERFUL that there is a 27th one…that it's run so long and become such a fixture of the con programming is so amazing and wonderfully supportive to queer creators and fans alike at one of the biggest shows in the comics calendar.

The panel was led by Prism board member Roger Klorese and Boom Studios' Shannon Waters, the panel included James Tynion IV (Batman Eternal, The Woods and the soon to come Memetic), Lumberjanes' Noelle Stevenson, Graham Kolbein, editor for the upcoming MASSIVE: Gay Erotic Manga & the Men Who Make It, Sean Z Maker (president and founder of Bent-Con) and Emily Carroll, creator of Through the Woods.

All started off by telling us a little about their work, including Maker mentioning he has a new Kickstart launching next week.

On the topic of whether with he increased representation in comics and the media that the LGBT have been getting of late, Maker says it's still necessary to improve queer representation. Tynion agreed as he didn't see his 'journey' in the media he was taking in as a teen so he always made a promise to himself that as a writer he'd include more contemporary representation of being queer. He wants to build worlds but also reflect the world we are actually living in.

The panel also agreed that it's important for kids who need to feel reflected in media, as media directed at young people is sorely lacking in this representation, but also more important for those who don't have LGBT in their lives so they can learn about that part of our world.

On how queer and trans characters come to be in comics, Tynion noted that sometimes it is very deliberate, sometimes the core of the characters and who they are appears complete.

Carroll said it kind of depends on what the story is, and laughingly noted that in most of her happy, romance stories the characters are all queer, but in her horror stories they are nearly always heterosexual.

Maker agreed that absolutely, his queerness informs his process as a creator too, which led Tynion to ponder his concerns when coming onto the very heterosexual Batman titles.

He initially wondered if he needed to repress himself to write this hyper-masculine example of the male in the character of Batman, and he wondered how much of himself he should put into a liscensed character such as Batman; but ultimately he came to cease worrying about it and realised that the work needs a piece of you in it to be of any quality.

Kolbeins, up til now being a little left out being more of an editor and compiler of art books and projects and not a creator himself, did point out that he does insert his queer self into anything he does, as it's part of his passion in life and his work.

Klorese then asked Maker to share some more info about the upcoming Bent-Con, now in it's fifth year, and how it was different to a con like SDCC.

"It's the one show you can come to and not have to guess if that person is queer or not" he pointed out, as well as how nice it was to see fans wandering the halls hand in hand when they may feel they can't in a more mixed convention like SDCC; it allows you to be yourself and not worry.

Their costume masquerade is a catwalk, and they are adding a fashion show this year too, and they are always pool parties, girl mixers, dance parties and more!

"It's meant to be a destination" he says, meaning it's a chance to celebrate queerness and geekdom together in Burbank from dusk til dawn, or near enough. There are also lots of workshops for aspiring creators, and anyone can attend the con from November 7th-9th.

Stevenson also pointed out that there is a definite need for representation of queerness that wasn't sexual, and her own book Lumberjanes is a great example of that, but also for representing asexual people too.

Tynion then went into his coming out from the start of the year. He'd always really been open about it, his family and close friends always knowing, but that hadn't extended to the comics industry at large when his career started at DC, as everyone assumed he was straight and due to his own personal insecurities, he didn't correct them about it. However, that lying through ommission almost began to weigh on him and he felt he had a responsibilty to be open as well as the desire to.

The hardest part for him was coming out to his friend Scott Snyder. Snyder was oddly the only one of his writing teachers from years before who didn't know he was bi, having not had any auto-biographical queer writing at the time. Being so close yet holding his sexuality back from him for so long, it weighed on Tynion and made it all the more difficult; but once that was done, and it was naturally all fine, it felt natural to be out in the industry at large, and it has never been an issue.

"When the prejudice you feel is there totally isn't, that's such an empowering feeling," said Tynion, to applause.

Klarese pointed out that when he worked in Marvel editorial years ago, there were actually several gay editors all working in the same office, but it was NEVER talked about at all, as if to highlight the change in attitudes with time.

The panel were then asked that if they could become part of a major franchise and add some queerness to it, what would they choose and what would they choose to do.

Carroll noted a very left-field choice, saying Shakespeare, and she would love to do an all queer Macbeth.

Stevenson said that Star Wars having no queer characters always felt insane to her.

Tynion, after being concerned about whether he should say it or not, did admit that he'd have loved to explore the relationship between Superboy/Kon-El and Robin/Red Robin/Tim Drake, in particular noting events post Infinite Crisis. He wishes there was a queer Robin in the Batman mythos, though that being said he always saw Tim Drake as asexual (sidenote: weirdly enough, this is all exactly how I felt at the time, even coming up with plans that if I wrote Teen Titans we'd explore Tim's asexuality and relationship with Connor, though I'm not sure I'd have had the feelings reciprocated). Tynion also noted that hisupcoming Boom series, Memetic, has  gay lead protagonist.

Maker thinks there need to be a lot more bi characters, and especially in Wonder Woman, and feels that Wonder Woman herself should be bisexual, which led to much applause from the audience. He stated how it feels insane to have that character be completely heterosexual. He also pointed out that he'd love to have Kitty Pryde come out as bi.

The panel then moved into a lively Q & A session, as the fans were asked to also answer the last question posed to the panel, many of whom agreed with the panelists thoughts, or included other titles and franchises from the breadth of pop culture. The panel was followed by a raffle and auction to support Prism Comics, featuring mazing prizes from many donatees, including DC Comics and many more.

Thus endddded he queer programming of San Diego Comic Con 2014, which had an amazing amount of discussion and representation on he subject, and I hope there'll be many more to come to carry on this strong tradition of Comic-Con.

Joe Glass is the creator and writer of LGBT superhero team series, The Pride, available on Comixology and The Pride Store. He also co-write Welsh horror comedy series, Stiffs, available now on Comixology and the Stiffs Store.

 

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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