Tales Of The Four-Colour Closet: San Diego Comic Con And Representation

By Joe Glass

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One thing that maybe isn't reported as much about San Diego Comic-Con is its incredible range of diverse representation.

Panels on Women in Comics are becoming a growing norm of comic cons around the world, with most that I have personally attended having at least one such panel and I've heard of such panels at most comic cons now. Panels on LGBT in comics though don't seem to be all that common.

San Diego Comic-Con changed that for me this year. Not only did they have one LGBT panel, run by Prism Comics, that has been going for 27 years, but there were in total about five-six panels at the con focusing on LGBT in some way, including one panel which must be the first of its kind that I can think of to be sure, a panel dedicated to looking at Trans in the medium.

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In fact, there were so many, I couldn't possibly make all of them, especially once you included related events outside of the con, which spread out all over San Diego.

Being based in the UK and a comic creator myself, I have done a great many UK cons, and I cannot think of a single one that has a panel on LGBT in the medium. Sure, they have great representation in terms of comics and creators there, but no official panels, mixers or parties focusing on the LGBT fans of comics and related media.

San Diego went the complete other way, and had quite possibly the best representation and support for queer fans that I have ever seen, and was honestly a big factor me in making what was already a dream trip all the better.

There are many though who argue still about the need for representation at all in comics, some of whom can be incredibly vocal.

One of the biggest and widest used arguments is also the most ridiculous. Some will try to argue that as the percentage of the global population that is LGBT is small, then representation should be equally small. This is of course an absurd argument for two reasons:

  1. If we're talking using global percentages of population to populate our media, then we are drastically failing. Generally, the planet is populated by more women than men; likewise, the largest ethnic group on the planet, broadly speaking, is Asian. Funny, there's an awful lot of heterosexual white male superheroes…clearly this is wrong and we must reboot all comics immediately to make them reflect the TRUE percentages of the population…so sorry, white dudes, there'll actually only be a couple of you in the books now.
  2. The most popular figure that people using this kind of argument like to use for the percentage of LGBT in the world is 10%. Now this should not be taken as concrete as it relies too much on people being open and honest about their sexuality, and likewise this figure was more of a measure of men who related as gay…women, trans or bi, or any of the other vast array of sexuality and gender identity that really does fill the world is not so easily covered. But moreover, what makes the percentage representation all the more ridiculous is this: the current estimate of the global population is 7.046 billion people; 10% of that is 700,000,000 (700 million) people: how can one or even a handful of characters hope to represent that amount of people?

We continue to fight for representation in comics and other media not because we are not happy or grateful for those characters that have been brought to represent us, but because they don't represent us all.

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There will never be a point in time when every single person, every single path in life is represented, and that's a good thing: it provides scope for new stories and characters, and this should be the goal of writers and creators, rather than coming up with the trillionth character who matches similar stories and backgrounds of thousands of others.

But what we can aim for is diversity of representation. Not all LGBT people are the same, just as not all heterosexual people are the same, and we should endeavour to continue to represent as many people as we can and tell as many new and different stories as we can, and as a fan community welcome and support our fellow fans from all corners of the spectrum of life and love.

San Diego Comic-Con has done a wonderful job of this, as have groups such as Prism Comics. I hope that other comic cons the world over can learn from this example.

Joe Glass is a Bleeding Cool contributor, and creator/writer of LGBTQ superhero team comic The Pride, which is available on Comixology and at The Pride Store. He is also a co-writer on Welsh horror-comedy series, Stiffs, which can be bought at the Stiffs Store and is now also available on Comixology. You can follow him on twitter and tumblr.

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About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
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