Above: Karen, Sydney, and Greg Hartstein do Beetlejuice at Comic- Con Thursday in San Diego. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
The costumes, the merchandise, the films and TV previews, the LGBTQ characters and comic books, the queer creatives, actors, filmmakers, artists, and authors — there’s so much to love about the San Diego International Comic-Con where all things pop culture are celebrated.
Just like Stonewall, Comic-Con is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and fittingly, queer inclusion has reached a new level — reflecting our broader representation in pop culture at large. There are tons of LGBTQ people to see and queer things to do (or is it the other way around?) at Comic-Con this year. The show opened Thursday at the San Diego Convention Center and continues through Sunday.
Here are some of the highlights.
As the original Sulu from Star Trek, beloved gay Japanese-American actor, author, and activist George Takei is a frequent Comic-Con guest, but this year he’s out of his Starfleet uniform. He’s here to promote two new ventures, both of which revolve around life in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II. The second season of The Terror: Infamy, developed by Alexander Woo and Max Borenstein, features Takei, Derek Mio, Kiki Sukezane, and Cristina Rodlo and is set in a Japanese internment camp. (Check out the panel moderated by Indiewire senior editor Hanh Nguyen Friday from 4:45 to 5:35 p.m. in Room 6A.) Takei is also unveiling his new graphic memoir, They Called Us Enemy, which revisits his childhood as one of 120,000 Japanese-Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Takei will share that experience and talk about this dark chapter of our nation's history — and its disturbing relevance today (Saturday, 1-2 p.m., Room 25ABC). He’ll also be signing copies of his memoir Friday from noon to 1:30 p.m. and Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the IDW booth (#2729).
The gay Persian-American comic artist (Not My Bag, Iceman, Ghosted in L.A.) made waves last month after posting on social media his impression that homophobia may have been behind Marvel’s failure to give Iceman the support it needed to thrive. Grace started off the Con Thursday at a roundtable discussion about LGBTQ representation in pop culture today, also featuring Lilah Sturges (The Magicians: Alice's Story), actor-comedian Zachary Barack (Spider-Man: Far From Home), Noah Hayes (The Avant-Guards), and Megan Townsend (GLAAD’s director of entertainment research and analysis). He’ll appear on two other panels: BOOM! Studios: Discover Yours (Friday, 3-4 p.m., Room 32AB), and Reboot: Reinvigorating a Tired Franchise, or Worst Idea Ever? (Saturday, noon-1 p.m., Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, Grand 12 & 13). Expect him to address the Marvel issue again during the Reboot discussion.
In the Comic-Con Comics Arts Conference programming, scholars present academic papers on various aspects of comics. This year’s entries include the following.
At Thursday’s What Women Want panel, the University of North Texas’s Sam Langsdale argued that Marvel's America queers normative depictions of mainstream superheroes to reevaluate what qualities make a superhero admirable in nonnormative and more inclusive ways.
The Queer Latin Christian Comic Arts Society Mixer American Identity panel explores the "formally queer" nature of comics and how queer kinship functions across Latin America and beyond. Sam Cannon (Louisiana State University Shreveport) and Camila Gutiérrez (Pennsylvania State University) present brief academic analyses of and locate comics as a site of belonging for individuals who otherwise transgress borders, languages, nationalities, sexualities, and genders. MJ Barros (Corazón do Obsidiana), Barbara Perez Marquez (The Cardboard Kingdom), and Vicente Casanova (Noiso.Me) discuss their experience as queer Latin-American comics creators (Friday, 2:30-3:30 p.m., Room 26AB).
Meet a new generation of LGBTQAIU comics creators who are making a splash in the world of queer indie comics exploring their lives and diverse experiences. You’ll meet young queer artists in the Artists Alley and at the Prism Comics booth. But you’ll also find them on a Thursday night panel (6-7 p.m., Room 28DE) featuring emerging talent from the Stacked Deck Press's newly released anthology Crush: First Love, New Talent. What challenges do genderqueer and gender-nonconforming people face in finding love? How do asexual people approach romance? What complications can polyamory bring to young love? Join moderator Tara Madison Avery (We're Still Here, Stacked Deck Press, Prism Comics board member), Viktor Kerney (StrangeLore, Crush coeditor, Prism Comics board member), and Crush contributors Mike Ciriaco (WeHo TV News), Hayden Harwood, EJ Oakley, Rachel Gorman, and Max Spragovsky (Woof Galaxy).
Black and Queer and Read All Over
Black LGBTQ folks get some love in a couple of panels this year, including Expanding the Black Comics Canon, moderated by Calvin Reid, senior news editor at Publishers Weekly, exploring how Black creators are expanding the canon with Afro-futurist socio-horror comedies, literary fiction through the lens of hair, Wakandan adventures, sci-fi fables about the Harlem Renaissance, and queer supernatural stories (Saturday, 11 a.m.-noon, Room 9).
Meanwhile Viktor Kerney StrangeLore, cohost of the MEGASheen podcast) moderates the Black and Queer in Popular Media panel with Alexis Obasuyi (Entertainment Weekly), Eric Cooper (Knight Seeker, CEO of Black Label ComiCon), Eliot Sutler (BiNet, Bisexual Women of Color Collaborative), and William O. Tyler (Theater of Terror: Revenge of the Queers, Cinephilia). They’ll discuss Black queer contributions and portrayals in sci-fi, fantasy, and comics genres (Saturday, 6-7 p.m., Room 29AB).
Scream Queens & Queer Monsters
The horror genre has always had a place for queers, even if it was as the monsters — it was one of the first places we were allowed to be represented on-screen. The Queer Fear panel asks if a specific queer horror genre exists and examines how the current cultural climate alters the lens through which we celebrate and connect to the macabre. Prism Comics and the moderator, filmmaker Michael Varrati (Tales of Poe), are joined by panelists Jane Clark (Crazy Bitches), B.J. Colangelo (Powerbomb, journalist at Bloody Disgusting, Day of the Woman), Sam Wineman (The Quiet Room), Fernando Rivera (writer-director of Where Monster Hides), Amanda Deibert (Wonder Woman ’77), and William O. Tyler (Theater of Terror: Revenge of the Queers). (Friday, 7-8 p.m., Room 28DE)
The Longest-Running Panel in Comic-Con History
Now in its 32nd consecutive year, the panel Out in Comics is once again hosted by Prism and features panel founder Andy Mangels (Wonder Woman ’77) as moderator. Featured creators include Gregory Sanchez (Rainbow Arc of Fire), Steve MacIsaac (Unpacking, Shiftlifter), Yves Navant (premiering his new graphic novel, 13: Astonishing Lives of the Neuromantics), Jake O’Kelly (The Smell of Good Decisions), Kyle Styron (Disintegral), and Vincent Roth (Surge of Power Enterprises). (Saturday, 7-9 p.m., Room 29AB)
Don’t miss this interactive (sing-along) screening of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode “Once More With Feeling!” (Sunday, 3-4:15 p.m., Room 6DE)
Young Adult Novels
One of the best LGBTQ graphic novels released this year is Mariko Tamaki’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me. Although Tamaki won’t be joining the panel on graphic novels for queer young adults, her artist Rosemary Valero-Connell will be. She’s joined by Sarah Graley (Kim Reaper), Claudia Aguirre (Morning in America), and Lilah Sturges (Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass) to discuss LGBTQ characters in YA graphic novels, from developing authentic visual stories to comics as a safe space for all identities. Moderated by Amanda Melilli (ALA Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table). (Friday, 1-2 p.m. at San Diego Central Library in the Shiley Special Events Suite)
The organization that promotes LGBTQ creators, stories, characters, and readers in the comics industry sponsors panels and hosts a booth (#2144) where you can meet queer creators or find folks to review your portfolio. It also presented the Prism Awards: Diversity and Recognition in Comics on Thursday.
Lesbian fans of the hit Syfy series (a 2018 People’s Choice Award Winner for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show) have a lot to celebrate with a panel (Saturday, 5-5:50 p.m., Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Indigo Ballroom) that looks back at the show’s most hell-raising moments, including the season finale end to the Earp curse, and teases what’s to come in season 4. Cast members Melanie Scrofano, Katherine Barrell, Chantel Riley, Greg Lawson, and Michael Eklund, alongside executive producer Emily Andras and comic book creator Beau Smith, will also be signing autographs at the IDW booth (#2729) 5-6:30 p.m. Friday and 10-10:30 a.m. Saturday.
The Star Trek Universe
Over 50 years ago, the world was first introduced to the sci-fi phenomenon Star Trek, and even though actor George Takei, from the original series, didn’t come out until decades later, the franchise has broken barriers around queer representation and has been queer-inclusive nearly from the beginning. Star Trek: Discovery has become the first in the TV series to have a main character who is not only gay but happily married. This year, with the launch of two new shows, LGBTQ fans will have even more to cheer about. The highly anticipated Star Trek: Picard sees the return of Sir Patrick Stewart, a great ally, while Star Trek: Lower Decks offers a more lighthearted, animated spin-off. Find out more on the Star Trek Universe panel (Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Hall H).
Out actors Zachary Quinto (Spock in the relaunched Star Trek films) and Nico Santos (Crazy Rich Asians) will both be at the San Diego Comic-Con — but unfortunately their panels are at conflicting times, so you’ll have to pick your favorite. Quinto will be on the NOS4A2 panel about the new Nosferatu series in which Quinto stars as the villain. The panel (Saturday, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Room 6A) will also feature costar Ashleigh Cummings, showrunner Jami O’Brien, and author Joe Hill. The panel will be moderated by Entertainment Weekly senior writer Clark Collis. Santos will be featured on the Superstore panel (Saturday, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Indigo Ballroom) with fellow cast members America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Mark McKinney, Lauren Ash, Colton Dunn, Nichole Bloom, and Kaliko Kauahi.
How Comics Can Save LGBTQ Lives
Moderated by school psychologist Lorran Garrison, the panel LGBTQ, Mental Health, and Comics will talk about how comics, cosplay, video gaming, and other forms of pop culture foster mental wellness in teens and young adults. Bullying and suicide ideation are two of the many issues facing the LGBTQIA community, and panelists will offer resources and advice for coping with unsupportive families, finding and creating community, and ways family members can show up for their queer loved one. Panelists include Anthony E. Zuiker, creator of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and cofounder and publisher of Zuiker Press; Tara Madison Avery, a trans cartoonist and publisher of Stacked Deck Press; Janina Scarlet, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder-developer of Superhero Therapy; Justine Mastin, a licensed marriage and family therapist, founder of Blue Box Counseling, and cohost of Starship Therapies podcast; and Lara Taylor Kester, a licensed marriage and family therapist, cocreator of the Geek Therapy Library, and podcast cohost for Geek Therapy Radio (Sunday, 12:30-1:30 p.m., Room 2).
Find the full Comic-Con schedule here.