Welcome to San Diego Comic-Con International 2012! Fanboys of the Universe will be at the show all week, bringing you our unique perspective on all things con-related. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get all the latest news and photos.
Saturday, July 14
Traditionally, Saturday is the biggest, craziest day of the con, though, in recent years, every day has grown to massive proportions. I didn’t have anything pressing for the start of the show, so I decided to stay away until the doors opened. Luckily, I can see the convention center from my hotel room and could keep an eye on the crowds outside, as they slowly filtered in. This was probably the best decision I’ve made so far, since it also gave me a little extra time to work on my questions for the Northstar panel.
Some people are very breezy and laid back about moderating panels, and I envy them. I’ve been to so many disappointing panels over the years that I feel an extra burden to put as much into preparation as possible. I feel like I know what the general questions will be and how easy they will be to answer. Then I like to layer in a few tougher questions that delve a little deeper into the subject matter, or bring up a differing opinion. For Northstar, I’ve been all over the place in preparing. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a complete history of the character or just talk about the wedding. On Friday, I was able to chat with Phil Jimenez a little bit about topics to discuss, as well as some of the creators from Prism. It was immensely helpful getting input beforehand, and I was able to go back to the hotel Friday night and shape the discussion I wanted to have. Namely, I decided what I really wanted to do was dissect the Jean-Paul/Kyle wedding event from various angles: creative, corporate, historical and media. This made sense to me, because we had representatives who could talk about each of those angles. Plus, I don’t have to tell you that gay audiences tend to be just a little more politically savvy (or suspicious) than your average crowd. Come on, we have to be. So, I was also counting on getting some great questions that would further deepen the conversation. More on that in a bit.
When I finally headed over to the con, I dropped the last of the Geek Pride shirts off at the Prism booth and started to review my panel notes. That’s when Viktor (aka @Wondermann5 on Twitter), the fantastic blogger at southern4life.blogspot.com, presented me with the generous opportunity to buy one of his Hollywood Jem exclusives. So, thanks to Viktor, I now have a Hollywood Jem of my very own! This is exactly the sort of kindness and generous spirit I’ve come to expect from fellow fanboys and fangirls of the world. That’s why I found it absolutely shocking when trouble erupted on the FBOTU Facebook page.
I had been posting pics from the convention, with a heavy emphasis on cosplay pics, to our Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook accounts, all the while thinking it was probably overkill, and our followers might get a little sick of it all. What I wasn’t expecting was for the Facebook followers to start making vicious comments about the cosplayers themselves, criticizing their costumes, their weight, their hair. It floored me. When the comments stated rolling in, I had to stop what I was doing, wedge myself between a couple of trash cans, so I’d be out of the flow of traffic and start deleting comments. My first instinct was to start banning people, but then I cooled off a little bit. So, indulge me for a second, as I try to explain the philosophy of FBOTU. Basically, I created this site, because I found the rest of the internet to be unnecessarily cruel. I just wanted a fun, happy, positive space to write and share stuff and meet likeminded friends. That’s it. So, while I encourage people to share their opinions, rule #1 is that you have to do it in a positive, constructive way.
Fanboys of the Universe is a safe space. We don’t bully each other. We don’t have flame wars and we don’t pick on people who don’t look exactly like comic book heroes. Cosplayers have more courage and confidence than anyone who sits at their keyboard and criticizes them. So, I posted a little statement that reminded people of this, and guess what? The negative comments stopped. I truly believe that people have been conditioned to attack anything that’s posted on the web, and if you give them the option of NOT doing that, they’ll take it. So, thanks for following the rules and keeping FBOTU a friendly place to hang out.
Now, for the Northstar panel. We had a lot going on, because I like to put on a show whenever I can. So, I made Paul (aka the Gay Comic Geek) pull on the Northstar tights and the most uncomfortable boots ever made and pass out “Jean-Paul & Kyle: Just Married” buttons to panel attendees. Paul is a trooper, and at least once a year, I ask him to promote the site in some way, and he never says no. He’s the best. We also had prizes donated by Marvel and Scott Lobdell, which included mini-figures, vintage Alpha Flight issues and copies of Astonishing X-Men #51. Everyone was extremely generous, and we were able to give away some cool stuff to celebrate the wedding. So, my thanks to everyone who helped us out with that.
The panel consisted of David Gabriel (VP of Sales at Marvel), Phil Jimenez, Marjorie Liu, Scott Lobdell and Jase Peeples (The Advocate). My nerves this time weren’t so much about the content of my questions, but about the external factors: giveaways (which we were informed by the room moderator weren’t allowed!), time constraints, my sweaty brow, etc. But as soon as we started, I felt much better. The panelists were pure gold, all of them so eloquent and passionate about their work and about our community. David and Marjorie dispelled the myth that the wedding was just thrown together at the last minute to capitalize on a newsworthy trend. It’s actually been in the works for over a year, and they really wanted to tease it at Comic-Con last year. Scott, the man who wrote Northstar’s coming out issue back in 1992, shared his experiences of that major event, as well as how it differed from Bunker’s experience in his Teen Titans series. Jase proved to be an extremely valuable addition to the panel, offering the media perspective not only on comic book events, but LGBTQ coverage in both gay and mainstream media. For some reason, I always put Phil Jimenez on the spot in panels. I don’t mean to, really, it’s just that he’s so passionate and well-spoken, that it’s easy to bring up more complex issues with him and share those with the audience. This time, we talked about the concept of heteronormative expectations for gay characters. Will all gay characters be expected to get married now? Is it possible to have a gay billionaire playboy who sleeps around? It’s a fascinating topic, and Phil really rose to the occasion. If you were there and have comments about the panel, please feel free to share them with me. I’d like to hear the feedback.
After my panel, I got to have lunch with Brian Andersen, a frequent site contributor and author of So Super Duper, and his always-charming (and patient) partner Preston. Years ago, Brian and I bonded while sharing about a foot of table space at Wondercon. Funny things never stop coming out of his mouth, and I always gravitate towards people who can make me laugh and can push me to be faster, funnier and sharper in my own humor. So, lunch with Brian and Preston was the perfect way to unwind after the panel.
The Gays in Comics panel is always the big highlight of Saturdays at the con. This year is the 25th anniversary of the panel, so moderator Andy Mengels invited panel guests from the past 25 years to attend and say a few words about the significance and impact of the panel over the years. It was an emotional, informative and inspirational look back at what a difference visibility and discussion can make in the world. It was an uplifting way to finish the day.
Sunday is pretty much a free day for me. I’m going to explore Artist Alley and do some last-minute shopping. I usually try to attend the Buffy musical screening at the end of the show, whenever I can, so that’s a possibility. I haven’t seen it in a few years. I still have three or four Geek Pride shirts left, so I’ll be giving those away at the Prism Comics booth.
If I haven’t seen you or met you yet, stop by and say hi! More later…
Friday, July 13
My goal for the con this year was to avoid getting stressed out. So far, I’ve done a pretty good job. I find it frustrating that if I want to go to a panel in one of the major halls at, say, 5:00PM, I have to be in line around 5:00AM and then stay inside the room all day. There has to be a better solution than that. Besides, instead of being in line for a panel, I was trying to stand in line to get a Hasbro ticket. When I got to the distribution area around 8:00AM, the line for tickets had already been capped for the day. And yet, I decided not to let either of these setbacks upset me. Besides, there were plenty of cute guys in revealing costumes to distract me.
I didn’t have a long list of exclusives on my wish list this year, but I did promise my Sexy Comics Monger that I’d try to get him a few things, including the Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope Heroclix figures. I had actually tried to get these Wednesday night, but didn’t realize they were only accepting cash until I got to the booth, and the nearest ATM might as well have been miles away. So, with cash in hand, I was able to walk right up on Friday and get the goods. The second exclusives miracle happened at the Image Comics booth. They had been sending out press releases leading up to the show, detailing the procedure for buying the hardback Walking Dead Compendium. Lottery tickets and limited copies all made for a rather daunting task ahead. So, imagine my surprise when I approached the booth and a helpful young lady informed me that they’d changed the policy to first come/first served. Apparently, they distributed lottery tickets on Thursday, and no one came back at their allotted times to get their books!
Feeling rather lucky at this point, I decided to go to the Hasbro booth and charm my way into getting a Hollywood Jem doll. That’s when my good fortune came to an end. A sign announced that Hollywood Jem was sold out, and not just for the day. For the entire show! So, either Hasbro didn’t have enough stock or they completely underestimated the demand, or both. Despite my disappointment, though, I’m excited about the obvious popularity the property still enjoys. Hopefully, this will mean more Jem stuff in the near future.
At 2:00PM, I attended the panel for No Straight Lines, featuring Alison Bechdel, Paige Braddock, Ed Luce, Trina Robbins, Eric Shanower and Justin Hall. This panel could easily have gone for a couple of hours, because it’s so fascinating to me to have a group of people who are all trailblazers in their own right, chat and answer questions about the evolving identity of queer comics. One of my favorite moments was when Alison talked about being her own trailblazer, since the comics she began producing in the 80s created a path for her to do the comics she’s producing now. It was definitely an “aha” moment, and a valuable lesson for anyone who doesn’t see a clear path to their own goals. Make your own path. Lay the groundwork for your own future endeavors. Like any sort of history lesson, we can only benefit from learning about it. I highly recommend you check out No Straight Lines and delve into the rich history of LGBTQ comics and creators.
Even without a Hollywood Jem doll, my day got much brighter towards the end, because I got to hang out with Jon Macy (Teleny and Camille, Fearful Hunter). Jon is a scoundrel and a philosopher and conversations with him are golden. Truly, if you get a chance to meet him and chat with him, you won’t regret it. We talked about gays in pop culture, the fleeting nature of fame and our growing impatience with traditional heterosexual storytelling in mainstream media. It’s the kind of talk I usually only ever have with Jon and only at Comic-Con, which makes the trip worth it every year.
I finished up the day by attending the release party for No Straight Lines, which featured live models posing for artists and lots of vodka on an empty stomach. I somehow made it through the day eating only a handful of breath mints. I managed to log 16,346 steps on my pedometer with absolutely no fuel. I don’t recommend it. I broke my own rule about staying fed and hydrated at Comic-Con. I will do better on Saturday.
I’m moderating the Northstar: From Coming out to Getting Married panel at 1:00PM in Room 25ABC on Saturday. I’m nervous, but also very excited. I’ve been working on my questions, and I think it’s going to be a great panel. We’re going to have some swag for attendees, and I talked Paul (aka the Gay Comic Geek) into donning Northstar’s tights for an appearance. It’ll be fun, so if you can make it, please do. I appreciate your moral support.
Thursday, July 12
The thing about Comic-Con is you’ve got to be flexible. If you’re too rigid in your scheduling, you’re just going to be disappointed. So, sure, I had a whole list of panels I planned to attend and report on, but I only actually made it to three. And one of those I was moderating. I’m going to try to do a little better on Friday, but I just have to face the fact that I’m too old and gay to stand in line for three hours, no matter how cute the Teen Wolf boys are.
As a child of the 80s, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see Lou Scheimer in person at the Filmation and Lou Scheimer: Celebrating a Generation of Animation and TV Heroes panel. What kind of person would I be today if I hadn’t gotten my daily dose of moral fiber from He-Man and She-Ra, courtesy of Filmation? The crowd clearly loved Mr. Scheimer and his work, so when moderator Andy Mangels revealed that Lou is currently battling Parkinson’s disease, and Lou quipped, “Battling? I’m losing!” you could feel the heartbreak in the audience. At that point, I think everyone just wanted to tell him how much his work has meant to all of us over the years. There’s never enough time in this things to really get the kind of details you want, but the panel of Filmation collaborators shared several stories about the creative, but budget-impaired years at Filmation. As one panelist said, “Lou stretched every penny, just to keep animation jobs in the US.” The panel ran a little long, so there wasn’t time for audience questions, which I think may have been a good thing. I don’t think I could have handled the emotions. Andy Mangels has a book coming out in September, Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation, that should answer all the questions I’ve ever had about Filmation, so I’m looking forward to that.
All right. Let’s talk about the Northwest Press panel I moderated. You all know me relatively well by now, I think, so you know that while I talk a big game online, in person, I can be awkward to an almost clinical degree. But I’m a Leo, and I was also a drama major, so PAY ATTENTION TO ME. In other words, I like being on stage. But when I get on stage…(see clinical awkwardness above). So, the panel started a little rough, I admit. I wasn’t really sure what the audience wanted, and they were all scattered and sitting way back in the room, until more people filed in a little later. Plus, I went over by 20 minutes at the panel I moderated last year, so I was very conscious of the time…and my tendency to take long, dramatic pauses for absolutely no reason. So, I jumped right in, introduced Charles “Zan” Christensen, the owner of Northwest Press, as well as Dylan Edwards, Justin Hall, Leia Weathington and Steve MacIsaac, all people I adore. Guess who I didn’t introduce? Guess what website I never mentioned to an audience hungry for LGBTQ content? So, I let a room full of potential site members come and go without a mention of who I am or what I do. They just know me as the dorky, sweaty guy with no name. Luckily, and thanks to the panelists, it was a really informative session. I think publishing is such a mystery to some creators, so getting a chance to talk to a publisher and getting the story from all sides, including published creators, is incredibly valuable. So, it was a good panel. But I will get my act together before Saturday’s Northstar panel, I promise.
The final panel I attended was Rewriting the Rules of Queers in Comics, featuring Oliver Nome (Fathom: Kiani), James Robinson (Earth 2, Justice League), Nicola Scott (Earth 2, Secret Six), Gail Simone (Secret Six, Birds of Prey) and Ivan Velez Jr. (Tales of the Closet, Milestone Comics). It’s a really fascinating topic. With the increase in the number of LGBTQ characters in comics, how do you make them complex, flawed and (hopefully) long-lived characters, but also work within the confines of their unique positions as role models and heroes to gay (and straight) readers. At what point can you have a gay supervillain? James Robinson was very honest about the fact that gay characters have limitations in their representations at the moment. You’re not going to see every aspect of gay culture shown in mainstream comics yet. Gail probably summed it up best, though, by pointing out that even though gay characters have been around for a couple of decades now, we’re still in “one step at a time” mode. Nicola Scott pretty much stole the show, though, by describing how she approached creating the character art for Alan Scott and his partner, Sam. As she put it, she didn’t want there to be any doubt that Alan Scott is a top. It’s really refreshing to hear creators speak so honestly and candidly about LGBTQ characters, and the very realistic limitations that are currently in place, even though we’ve come so far.
Check out the gallery of pics below. I will hopefully get more cosplay pics on Friday.
Preview Night, July 11
San Diego Comic-Con 2012 has semi-officially begun, with the successful launch of Preview Night. Whatever alchemy they used to keep the number of attendees at a reasonable level seems to have worked. While it was still congested in some areas, it wasn’t the shoulder-to-shoulder madhouse it’s been in years past. So, kudos! Of course, I spent most of the initial rush safely behind the Prism Comics booth, so my view may be askew on this. When I did venture out and walk around, though, I didn’t have any trouble getting where I was going.
Of course, by the time I started walking around, all the lines for exclusives had already been capped. For some reason, I’m not stressed out about this. I have a few things I’d like to get for friends, and I really want that Hollywood Jem doll, but I don’t think I’ll have any problems getting everything on my list. (We’ll see how calm I am on Sunday, when everything’s sold out, and I still have nothing.)
If you’re at the show (or if you go to other shows), you should do yourself a favor and hang out at the Prism booth sometime. It’s really a fun little gathering spot for the LGBTQ con community. There are people I only ever see at SDCC, and Prism is the usual meeting place to reconnect and catch up with con friends. I got to schmooze with Ted Abenheim, the new President of Prism, and I got to chat with favorite comics creators, like Zan Christensen, Ed Luce, Jeff Krell, Justin Hall and Desmond Miller. Justin Hall has a new book out, and it’s amazing. Everyone should buy a copy of No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics (Fantagraphics). Whether you’re a creator or a fan, LGBTQ comics have a rich history, and you should know about it.
Just a reminder, the FBOTU Geek Pride t-shirts are in short supply. If you want one, stop by the Prism booth and ask for one, or send me a Tweet (@fbotu), and I’ll get you one. They’re free, so don’t miss out!
Now, here are a few pics from Preview Night. Enjoy! More coverage coming soon..