Every year for the past 29 years, the Gays in Comics panel has graced a stage at Comic-Con International, the annual celebration of pop culture held in San Diego. During this time the convention has expanded from a comic books-only focus to include other mediums like TV, film, and games. And the presence of LGBT people, once relegated to that single panel, has exploded to a point where every day offers a variety of queer content and the breadth of topics continues to grow. Here are some of the best things about 2016, Comic-Con’s queerest year yet.
Returning Favorites: Some fan favorite panels return year after year. For example, the LGBTQ Geek Year in Review (Thursday, 6-7 p.m., Room 28DE) is an annual look at key queer moments in comics, TV, movies, animation, and games. Moderated by P. Kristen Enos (Prism Comics, Web of Lives), the panel includes Diane Anderson-Minshall (editor at large for The Advocate, editor in chief of Plus), Nick Adams (director, GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program), Mike Ciriaco (L.A. Weekly, Monday Mouth-Off), Amber Garza (Geeks OUT/Flame Con, Sequential Rights), Chelsea Steiner (AfterEllen, Autostraddle), and Amelia Vaughn (The Huffington Post, Riptide Publishing). And Gays in Comics has returned more times than any other panel, and this year's edition is Gays (and More) in Comics: Year 29 Queerly Inspired LGBTQ (Saturday, 6-8 p.m., Room 29AB). This year’s panel features Ed Luce (see Wuvable Oaf), Shannon Watters (Lumberjanes), Robert Rodi (Merry Men, Loki), Magdalene Visaggio (Kim & Kim, pictured above), Ari Yarwood (Oni Press), and others.
Thursday Is Queersday: Start the day right with Love and Rockets: Past, Present, And Future (11 a.m.-noon, Room 9), then head to the She Changed Comics panel on women who changed the industry (1-2 p.m., Room 30CDE), We Need Diverse Comics (3-4 p.m. Room 9), and The Most Dangerous Women at Comic Con (5:30-6:30 p.m., Room 24ABC) or Queer History in Comics (5-6 p.m., Room 28DE), about LGBT characters and storylines in historical comics featuring moderator Josh Trujillo (Love Machines), and creators Kez Pagtakhan (Until the Last Dog Dies), Trina Robbins (The Complete Wimmen’s Comix), and Emily Willis (Cassius). LGBTQ Geek Year in Review (6-7 p.m., Room 28DE) and It Gets Geekier: Being Gay and Nerdy (7:30-8:30 p.m., Room 24ABC) round out the evening.
4 Days of Ed Luce (Wuvable Oaf): Since Wuvable Oaf debuted in 2008, fans been waiting for creator Ed Luce to get his due. After last year’s Wuvable Oaf graphic novel garnered rave reviews, Luce is one of the MVPs of 2016’s Comic-Con. He’s on panels like Something for Everyone: Indie Comics (Thursday, 1-2 p.m., Room 29AB), Comic Book Secret Origins (Friday, 6-7 p.m., Room 9), and Gays (and More) in Comics: Year 29 Queerly Inspired LGBTQ (Saturday, 6-8 p.m., Room 29AB). He’s also the focus of Spotlight on Ed Luce (Sunday, 12-1 p.m., Room 4) where he’ll chat with Sina Grace (Not My Bag) about kitties, San Francisco’s music scene, and the Wuvable Oaf’s next act.
It Gets Queerer After Dark: Garter Belts & Superhero Underwear: The geeks come out when the sun goes down; donning bustiers and garter belts for The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Thursday 8 p.m., Room 6DHE), sketching sexy models — including Matthew Jensen, Mr. Regiment 2016 — at the Prism Drink and Draw event at Pecs Bar (Thursday, 8 p.m.-midnight, 2046 University Ave), and stripping down to undies for the Superhero Underwear Party, where drag geekstress Kickxy Vixen-Styles oversees a superhero underwear contest. (Rich’s San Diego, 1051 University Ave.)
LGBT Youth Included: The queer content at Comic Con isn’t just for adults. As the Queer Representation in All Ages and Youth Media (Friday, 10-11 a.m., Room 4) description notes, “the popularity of Legend of Korra, Steven Universe, and Lumberjanes shows that LGBTQQIA+ characters and storylines can resonate with young audiences.” Moderator Dylan Edwards (Transposes, Valley of the Silk Sky) leads a discussion with Shannon Watters (Lumberjanes), James Tynion IV (Detective Comics, The Backstagers), Paige Braddock (Stinky Cecil, Peanuts, Jane’s World), Magdalene Visaggio (Kim & Kim), and Josh Trujillo (Adventure Time, Love Machines) about how we can better include healthy representation and make it standard practice. There’s also Expanding Diversity in Kids' Comics (Friday, 4-5 p.m., at the San Diego Central Library) and Camp Out with Lumberjanes (Sunday, 10-11 a.m., Room 25ABC).
Trans, Bi, and Beyond: As the diversity of Comic-Con deepens, attendees can delve deeper into the B&T of LGBT pop cultural representation. Transgender in Popular Media: From Funny Pages to Silver Screen (Friday, 2-3 p.m., Room 28DE) looks at how trans characters affect narratives in popular genres and how trans creators, artists, and actors best make their mark. Moderated by Tara Madison Avery (Gooch, Stacked Deck Press) the panel features Julie Rei Goldstein (Time Traveling Bong), Mikki del Monico (Alto), Shadi Petosky (Danger & Eggs), Bishakh Som (The Other Side: A Queer Paranormal Romance Anthology), Kylie Wu (Trans Girl Next Door), and Billy White Acre (composer-musician). Meanwhile, Bisexuality and Beyond: New Frontiers in Popular Culture (Sunday, 3-4 p.m., Room 28DE) reveals the experiences of bisexual creators and examines the burgeoning representation of bi, pan, fluid, queer, and bi+ people in pop culture mediums panelists include R. J. Aguiar (YouTube’s TheNotAdam of NotAdamAndSteve), Tara Madison Avery (Gooch, Anything That Loves), Marissa Lee (Racebending), Steve Orlando (Midnighter, Batman & Robin Eternal), Bob Schreck (Legendary Comics), and Sarah Stumpf (Bisexual Books). Student presentations in Comics Arts Conference #10: Queering Comics (Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Room 26AB) examine Bitch Planet’s “noncompliance” as an act of cultural resistance and its interrogation of how gender affects bodies at the intersection of race and class.
The Gay Agenda in Horror: Terrifying Subtext: The horror genre exploits “otherness” to terrify, often utilizing queerness and gender transgressions as inspiration to do so. This has given the LGBT community a different perspective on the genre. This panel asks if mainstream acceptance of lesbians and gays influences the genre and whether an LGBT horror genre exists. Moderator/screenwriter Michael Varrati (Tales of Poe, Flesh for the Inferno) discusses with Jaclyn Chessen (Shock Attack), Alan Rowe Kelly (Tales of Poe, The Blood Shed), Chris Landon (Disturbia, Paranormal Activity franchise), Aja Romano (web culture reporter, Vox/fandom expert), and Darren Stein (Jawbreaker, G.B.F.) (Friday, 7-8 p.m., Room 28DE)
Prism’s Presence: Much of the credit for our growing presence at Comic-Con goes to Prism Comics, the LGBT organization for creators and fans, which produces an annual guide, sponsors some of the best panels (including favorites Gays in Comics and the LGBTQ Geek Year in Review (see above for details) and events (like the Drink and Draw at Pecs) as well as hosting creators at the Prism Booth (# 2114).
Pick Up New Tricks: Comic-Con is a fabulous place to pick up new skills, products, comic books (like Mama Tits Saves the World, about a drag queen fighting hate by Northwest Press’s Charles “Zan” Christensen), anthologies (from the explicit Hard to Swallow to Dame Darcy’s The Meat Cake Bible), and graphic novels (like Garden of the Flesh, a sexually explicit retelling of Adam and Eve featuring Love and Rockets characters), and make new friends (meet creators like Flutter’s Jennie Wood in the exhibit hall’s Artist Alley).
Meet Gaymers & LGBT Cosplayers: Queer gamers and LGBT cosplayers get some love at this year’s con, with Gaymer Base’s Gaymer Night at Flicks (Thursday, 9 p.m., 1017 University Ave.) featuring a Dead or Alive and Mortal Kombat tournament. There are also two LGTQ Cosplay Group Photoshoots (Saturday, 3 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m., stairs in front of convention center between Halls C & D) where participants may be interviewed for the documentary On Gaymers.
HIV Prevention With Comics: There have been a number of efforts to improve HIV/STI prevention through educational comic books (like AIDS in the End Zone) but this may be the first year for Comic Con to offer panels on the subject Using Motion Comics for HIV/STI Prevention (Friday, 4-5 p.m., 32AB) reveals how scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention teamed up with artists Joe Phillips and Lexington Wolfcraft to create a motion comic to increase HIV awareness and prevention while fighting stigma. Comics Art Conference #9: Comics and Health: Saving Lives and Preventing Disease (Saturday, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Room 26AB) convenes health professionals and comics artists creating comics to educate patients and the public about public health issues, including HIV.
You Don’t Even Have to Be in the Convention Center: One of the best things about this year's Comic-Con? You don't need a ticket to take advantage of some events and panels. Organizers have long recognized that the demand for Comic-Con tickets far exceeds availability (as does demand for space for exhibits and presenters). Over the years there’s been a growing number of events outside of the convention hall — including in local bars and even the public library (see above for examples). This year Comic-Con has launched this access into hyperspace by introducing a new premium digital network, ComicConHQ. In association with Lionsgate, the service will live-stream select Comic-Con panels and make others available later; it will also offer classic sci-fi and fantasy titles, and it reportedly has original programming in the works, including scripted series and news shows.