Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 41 / 12 October 2017
 

Underworld

Calendare

Gay comic artists are drawn out


Costumed hunks at last year's Wonder-Con
photo: Ted Abenheim

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Were you drawn out as a kid? Did cartoon images of muscular superheroes in tights give you a funny feeling? You're not alone. You can meet some of the most accomplished comic artists and writers this weekend at the 23rd annual WonderCon, San Francisco's comic book, science fiction and film convention, held Feb 27 – March 1 at the Moscone Center South.

Along with the opportunity to buy lots of comic books, T-shirts, games, action figures and other stuff you don't need but may want, three of the many panels at the Wondercon are all about LGBT comic artists.

"We love coming to WonderCon in San Francisco because the energy and response has been terrific," said Ted Abenheim, Event Chair for Prism Comics. "The folks who put on WonderCon have been very welcoming and open to diversity, and there's a great feeling of community among comics creators and fans here - both LGBT and LGBT-friendly. We're proud to have a presence in the city where a lot of LGBT history has taken place."

Prism members will host three panel presentations reaching back to some of the roots of gay comic books, "right here in the Bay Area," added Abenheim, "to the present with queer women in comics and to the future."  Sunday's panel will include the announcement of the recipient of the 2009 Prism Queer Press Grant to an up-and-coming comic creator.

Hard to Swallow comics

Justin Hall, whose Glamazonia comic and contributions to the extra-sexy Hard to Swallow series (All Thumbs Press; now in its fourth edition) have made him a name in the indie comic world, is equally comfortable in a tight superhero outfit as he is drawing them.

"One thing that fascinates me is this idea that queer comics have existed as an alternate universe, even in the indie comic book world," said Hall. "Traditionally, comic book stores didn't carry queer material, and newspapers wouldn't, except gay media. Then you have someone like Alison Bechtel, who's been doing Dykes to Watch out For for 25 years. She's one of the most accomplished comic artists, but this is the first time she'd ever done a convention."

Hall notes that while conventions are welcoming to gay comics, he also sees how distinct these worlds are since Andy Mangel hosted the first LGBT artist panel at the San Diego Comic-con 20 years ago.

"Over the last five years, the bridge has been crossed," said Hall. "You see increasingly queer comics panels at conventions; queer-oriented comics showing up in stores, indie anthologies with queer co-creators. Until recently, they were separate worlds."

"It's created a distinct voice for queer cartoonists in their own work, their sub-universe," which Hall says is true for independent books and distribution channels as well.  "Bookstores are open to a comic book-style, but most still don't accept comic books," said Hall. "You have to jump to a big size to produce a graphic novel," which he said had a recent boom. "But now, no one knows what will happen next. The whole publishing world was already in crisis. And with the economy now? In some ways, comics have an advantage for new medium, either electronically or independently. A lot of publishers were looking for graphic novels to sign."

The obvious success of The Dark Knight, Sin City and 300, to name a few, did cause a bump in graphic novel sales, and movie industry interest.

Whether that success may trickle down to independent comics about transgender superheroes and extra-hung elves may be next to impossible. But that won't stop the creativity and productivity of gay comic artists.

Sean Z's Myth characters

Sean Z, who recently created the hyper-muscular sexed up otherworldly creatures of Myth, said that while it's his first time at Wonder-Con, he's no stranger to comic conventions, having experienced the San Diego Comic-Con, Gaylaxicon and several other smaller conventions both locally and abroad. www.myth.rated-z.com

"My experiences have been overwhelmingly positive actually, especially considering some of the more non-mainstream aspects of my work. I think it's primarily due to my own comfort and enthusiasm when sharing my work with others."

"Comic-fans have been incredibly receptive, supportive and intrigued by my work. In fact, it's why I'm attending the Wonder-Con. The Comic-Cons are great because it really allows me, the creator, to interact with fans of the medium to see what they like or don't like, as it relates to what I do specifically. Myth is not a 'mainstream' genre as far as comics go, due to my including both sex and sexuality as common themes (in addition to the Sci-fi and Fantasy aspects) within the story. I wanted express a story in a graphic-medium without an edit button. Myth is the story that I give myself permission to freely do so."

Sean Z's "Fairy"

"In the last several years, I've noticed a shift in the comic medium for more queer characters to come out into mainstream stories. I think it's partly due to queer creators actually working for the bigger companies like DC and Marvel, and that queer fans have been making their presence known attending these conventions."

"Prism Comics has been around since at least the early 2000s, and have been really great at expanding and showcasing queer creators (both indie and mainstream) into the consciousness of everyone who happens to be a comics fan. Also, I attribute it to the timing and current environment around queer culture...everything is moving forward."

"Queer is simply becoming more a matter of fact, and less and less a taboo, these days to the people that matter. So I think it only makes sense that this evolution makes its way into a comic-book medium, like it is in other forms of entertainment."

Rene Capone

You may not find artist Rene Capone at the bustle of a huge comics convention, but you'll find him at his own book-signing for his graphic novel The Legend Of Hedgehog Boy, Tues. March 3, 6pm-9pm at the SF Public Library, in the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, third floor. 100 Larkin St. www.sfpl.org www.renecapone.com

Visual Aid produced the exhibit (through March 5) showing enlarged panels from Capone's intimate tale of a boy who shuns the world and takes on an unusual animal identity. Previously known for his watercolors and paintings, Hedgehog Boy is Capone's freshman effort in comic art.

"This is my first one of any kind," said Capone. "It started as a private idea. I was reading all these Manga novel and wanted to make one and make a particular story. Visually, I knew I could make one, and from drawing, the story developed."

Asked how he thought up a spiky-coated hedgehog as an animal icon, Capone said, "I like what it looks like, but it has a lot of symbolic meaning. He's a creature who can't be touched but wants to be touched."

Although self-published in its first edition, Capone, 30, is still sending it out to larger companies in the hopes of a larger print run produced by a publisher.

He thanked Visual AID and Julie Blankenship, who put the show together, "which is great," he said. "People are really liking it. They think it's very authentically me, the tone of it. Yet, this is a whole new road, creatively."

Rene Capone's Hedgehog Boy

While like most kids, Capone enjoyed comics as a child. "They seemed terribly important." He mentions Batman as a favorite, and also appreciates other out gay artists further along the production line in the growing independent gay comic publishing underworld, including the folks at Prism comics.

An all-volunteer, non-profit organization supporting LGBT comics creators and fans, Prism will be hosting booth appearances and talent signings at WonderCon, announcing the winner of the 2009 Queer Press Grant, and holding three panel discussions featuring the most prominent and talented LGBT creators in comics today and in San Francisco's rich history of underground, gay comics.

"San Francisco is the perfect place for Prism to promote LGBT talent, characters, themes, and titles in the comics field," said Prism Co-President and Publicist, David Stanley.

Prism's booth, #715 is your must-visit stop along the crowded rows of the convention. The gay comic consortium will host an extensive schedule of signings by LGBT and LGBT-friendly comics talent, including Jeff Krell (Jayson), Trina Robbins (It Ain't Me Babe, Wimmen's Comix), Brian Andersen (So Super Duper), Justin Hall (Glamazonia the Uncanny Super Tranny), Tommy Roddy (Pride High), Sean Seamus McWhinney (Catering Whore), Mark Padilla & Johnny Nolan (Gravity Faggot), and Charles Zan Christensen (Mark of Aeacus), among many others, plus an appearance by the superhero group, Lucky Legendary.

"The Birth of 'Gay Comix" is the first of Prism's three panels, taking place on Friday, February 27, 5:30-6:30pm, in Room 236-238. The panel celebrates the 1980 publication of San Francisco's groundbreaking comic book, Gay Comix, edited by Howard Cruse and San Francisco artist Robert Triptow, and published by Kitchen Sink Press.

Zan Christensen's Mark of Aeacus

Meet Robert Triptow and other seminal LGBT cartoonists including Burton Clarke (Gay Comix), Vaughn Frick (Gay Comix), Jeff Krell (Jayson), Lee Marrs (The Further Fattening Adventures of Pudge, Girl Blimp), Trina Robbins (It Ain't Me Babe, Wimmen's Comix) and Mary Wings (Come Out Comix) in a fascinating trip back to the beginnings of the queer comics movement, moderated by Justin Hall (Hard to Swallow).

The second panel, an homage to Alison Bechdel's legendary comic strip, is More Dykes To Watch Out For: Queer Women In Comics, and takes place on Saturday, February 28, 1:30-2:30pm, in Room 232-234.  Meet the most talented and creative LGBT women working in comics today. Moderated by Patty Jeres, Prism Comics Co-President, the panel features Paige Braddock (Jane's World), Greta Christina (Best Erotic Comics), Joey Alison Sayers (Thingpart), and Leia Weathington (Bold Riley).

A Colossus hunk
at last year's WonderCon
photo: Ted Abenheim

Have an LGBT comic book idea and want to publish it yourself? Then the third panel is for you. "Self-Publishing Queer Comics" is Sunday, March 1, 2:00-3:00pm, in Room 220-224. Panelists Brian Andersen (So Super Duper), Paige Braddock (Jane's World), Justin Hall (True Travel Tales), Andy Hartzell (Fox Bunny Funny, Monday), Johnny Nolen (Gravity Faggot) and Sean Z (Myth) will lend their experience and expertise as they discuss the nuts and bolts of creating a comic, promoting it, and getting it into stores. Moderated by Zan Christensen (Mark of Aeacus).

During the Sunday panel, Prism will announce the winner of their 2009 Queer Press Grant, given annually to an industrious independent comic artist.

Don't forget Saturday night (8:30pm), when the Masquerade party and costume contest brings out the inner superhero in hundreds of gals, geeks and tights-clad studs. You might even see your favorite superhero get a little bent.

WonderCon, San Francisco's annual comic book, science fiction and motion picture convention in its 23rd year, is being held Feb 27 – March 1 at the Moscone Center South, 747 Howard St. www.comic-con.org/wc/

For all the latest on Prism Comics and LGBT artists, visit www.prismcomics.org







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