Comic-Con: Gay comic-dom still runs strong
Published Thursday, 24-Jul-2008 in issue 1074
The days of dime store comics at the corner store are certainly gone – but their popularity has only grown since the days of Famous Funnies in the 1930s. Only recently becoming acknowledged as a serious art form in mainstream culture, comic books have served for decades as a powerful tool of humor and satire.
For the GLBT community, the growing representation of artists, creators and characters in the genre and ’zines have served as an instrument to shift attitudes about the queer subculture.
While old favorites such as Superman and Batman still top the charts, there has been a significant rise in the availability of GLBT-themed and authored comics. Numerous queer comic book artists create books, strips, collections and graphic novels available through mainstream and underground channels. Their representation of GLBTQ characters has also promoted awareness and acceptance in the mainstream comic world.
This year’s Comic-Con, celebrated in sunny San Diego, again brings us some of the latest and greatest in the industry. What started nearly 40 years ago as a few hundred comic book fans gathered in a hotel basement has become a must-attend event for almost every facet of the entertainment industry. Fan-boys (and girls!) get the opportunity to experience the latest in the industry and rub elbows with their heroes, whether they be underground comic artists or Warner Brothers’ leading lady in the next sci-fi remake of an old comic book favorite. Yes, there is something for everyone at Comic-Con!
One of the largest promoters of GLBT comics and their creators, Prism Comics, has announced its biggest slate of programming to date at Comic-Con International. Meet and greets are scheduled with Lambda Literary Award-winner for Hero creator Perry Mooe, The L Word’s Ariel Schrag, and Phil Jiminez who brought us The Amazing Spider-Man and Infinite Crisis. Along with four panels, the Gays in Comics Mixer and even a Superhero Dance Party, emerging GLBT comic book artists and creators can get a chance to get their portfolios reviewed by Prism’s staff.
“We’re in our sixth year of exhibiting at Comic-Con, presenting a larger booth and more panels and events than ever before,” said Ted Abenheim, event chair of Prism Comics. “It’s exciting to see how Prism has grown and how diversity is accepted at Comic-Con.”
Other creators to grace Prism’s booth include Charles “Zan” Christensen (Mark of Aeacus), Dave Davenport (Hard to Swallow), Steve MacIsaac (Shirtlifter), Joe Phillips (Joe Boys), Ron McFee (House of Morecck), Tommy Roddy (Pride High), Sean-Z (Myth), Sean Platter (Studio Splatter) and Sam Saturday (oadworld).
Special guests scheduled to appear and/or sign at the Prism booth include Perry Moore, Ariel Schrag, Phil Jimenez, Andy Mangels (best-selling Star Trek novelist, The Wonder Woman Companion), Lynx Delirium (Fairies Tell), Eric Schlegel (Skipping Out), David Sexton (Mystic Arcana) and Tony Lawrence (Western Nightmares). Fans can also pick up a free copy of The Gay Agenda, Prism’s guide to all things GLBT at Comic-Con.
This year, Prism Comics is offering its first Portfolio review exclusively for those interested in applying for the yearly Queer Press Grant – established by Prism to encourage new GLBT talent. One of the industry professionals offering advice and constructive criticism will be Phil Jimenez, known for his work in Otherworld and New X-Men. The portfolio review takes place Thursday, July 24, from 4-6 p.m. at the Prism booth. Matt Haley (Superman Returns) and Terrance Griep (Scooby Doo) host a second session on Friday from 4-6 p.m. A third session follows on Sunday, July 27 from 2-4 p.m. Interested applicants should read through the guidelines available on Prism Comics’ Web site, www.prismcomics.org.
Beginning his third decade moderating this ground-breaking and popular panel, Andy Mangels (best-selling author of Iron Man: Beneath The Armor) presents the Gays in Comics Panel: 21 and Legal! on Saturday, July 26, 5:45-7:15 p.m., in Room 6A, which takes a thrilling look at the diversity in the comics world today with an all-star panel of GLBT creators.
The Gays in Comics Mixer and Silent Auction hosted by Prism takes place directly after the Gays in Comics Panel in Room 6A on Saturday, July 26, from 7:15-8:15 p.m., Mingle with GLBT comics fans and creators plus stay for the special drawing of a comics gift basket and the silent auction of hot comics items including The DC Encyclopedia signed by Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman) and a host of DC creators.
While unable to make a presence at this year’s much-anticipated event, the GLBT community’s own Megan Rose Gedris gave us an insider look at I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outerspace!!! An accomplished artist and imaginative creator, her second installment to the comic world (she is also the creator of YU+ME: Dream) is making waves in the GLBT mainstream and underground circles.
Gay & Lesbian Times: What is the premise behind your new comic?
Megan Rose Gedris: The title I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space!!! pretty much sums it up. An Earth girl, Susie, is whisked away by intergalactic swashbuckling lesbians who claim she is one of them. There are situations involving bank robberies, space races, crash landings on uncharted planets; really, your straightforward sci-fi stuff, but with lesbians.
GLT: What prompted you to create this?
MRG: I love reading old comics and pulp novels. Three of the big subjects of these were pirates, aliens and lesbians. I had been playing around with character designs for what were going to be a band icon, and I decided they would make much better space lesbians; that and the fact that the world needs more quality GLBT-themed stories. Are mine full of “quality”? That is subjective, but I like to think they’re a piece of great literature.
GLT: Why write comics versus other forms of entertainment, such as novels, etc.?
MRG: I can write. I can draw. These are two of my favorite things. I can’t draw for too long without coming up with a story behind the art, and I can’t write for very long without sketching illustrations in the margins. Neither one is as fun without the other. I also really love reading comics. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
GLT: Have you always been interested in comics?
MRG: I remember being in fifth grade, and I would spend every recess working on my Fly Guy comics. I did a page a day until I had a 60-page story on notebook paper. That pretty much began it. I had never considered doing comics before, but right then I knew I wanted nothing more than to do that when I grew up.
GLT: How would you describe your main character in your comic? Does she have any qualities you can identify in yourself? What was your inspiration for her character?
MRG: As far as Lesbian Pirates goes, there isn’t really a character that I can point at and say “This one is based on me.” I look a bit like Susie’s co-worker Ursula, but none of them act like me; certainly not Susie. She is way too plucky and relaxed in her situation. I am so afraid of air travel; I can’t imagine space travel would be any better on my stress levels. Her character came from me wanting to write her as the most naive thing in the universe, someone who handles everything with an upbeat attitude … There is one thing I can agree with her on. I love shoes. If I had lots of money, I would have hundreds of pairs of shoes. As far as a character I DO identify with, the main character of my other comic, YU+ME, is based a lot around me. She isn’t me, but there are enough similarities that people have cried “Mary Sue” a few times.
GLT: Is your comic aimed specifically toward the GLBT community or would you say it is a comment about our community for everyone?
MRG: It’s for everyone. I purposely didn’t put too many gay inside jokes in it. I wanted anyone to be able to come to it and read it and laugh. They’re pirates first, aliens second and lesbians third. It makes more jokes based on feminism than anything. Women were treated horribly in old comics and I like taking those old stereotypes and turning them on their heads. At times, people have said it is anti-men. It isn’t. It’s just that all six of the main characters are women. Men get included in this comic about as much as women got included in the 1950s.
GLT: How have queer comics grown in recent years?
MRG: They are EXPLODING! All of a sudden, the selection goes from a handful of titles to me being able to go into a comic shop and always find something gay. I’d say there are two really big reasons: the internet, and the boom in translations of Japanese manga. The Japanese love their GLBT comics and the manga boom in the U.S. has led to a lot of them getting translated into English. There are a couple companies that do nothing but translate homoerotic comics and they must be selling big, because they are constantly coming out with new titles.
The internet gave us Web comics. Before, the stories that got published had to go through editors, marketing people, and businessmen who would look at a gay-themed comic and toss it out, convinced it wouldn’t sell. Now with the rise of the internet, anyone could publish their story online. You have no one telling you what kind of story to write. So many new kinds of stories are getting told – not just gay ones – that no one thought would be popular, but are. And now comic companies are looking at the success of Web comics and thinking, “Well, maybe we didn’t have the market pegged quite as well as we thought.” And the smart ones are taking ideas from Web comics.
And LGBT stories are especially great to have on the internet, because it makes it available to the world. It gets into the bedroom of the confused high school kid who doesn’t know any other gay people, and would never dare to bring a paperback copy of Dykes to Watch Out For into the house for fear of it being found by parents.
GLT: How do these comics reflect our own struggles in the community?
MRG: The protagonist of Lesbian Pirates, Male Man, represents society at large. Filled with misconceptions about women, and lesbians in particular, he never succeeds in doing anything right because he’s so convinced that the universe works in this certain way, when it really doesn’t. To him, women are not as smart as men and are not to be listened to unless absolutely necessary. He doesn’t think the protagonists are lesbians because they “don’t look like lesbians,” (since they are pretty, with long-hair, makeup, and nice shoes). People think I don’t like men because of how I write Male Man, but really, he’s such a caricature that he’s almost sweet.
GLT: Has censorship gotten in the way of publishing GLBT-themed comics in your opinion?
MRG: I think it used to a lot more than it does now. Gay people have been allowed to be characters in comics for a while, just not main characters. Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece The Sandman had a lot of gay and lesbian characters, but it was not specifically a gay series. I think seeing comics with LGBT characters being successful – Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home won an Eisner last year, for crying out loud – is making comic companies realize that having a gay character is no longer a kiss of death to sales, and may actually be wildly popular.
GLT: What is your next step?
MRG: I’m going to continue with Lesbian Pirates until I wear out that story, I’m going to finish YU+ME within the next couple years, and then I’m going to keep on with comics. My next project – that I’m slowly working on in my spare time – actually has a straight girl as the main character! I certainly don’t want all my books exiled to the “special interest” section of the bookstore and I don’t want to get typecast as a writer. I am most capable of writing straight characters. And then, when that’s done, I’ll work on a new project, that may or may not have lesbians in it. I love writing lesbian fiction, but I’m not a one-trick pony.