Pride in Panels: queer comic books to be celebrated at SF's main library

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday February 6, 2024
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'Pride in Panels' participating artists include Laura Gao, Ajuan Mance and Ed Luce.
'Pride in Panels' participating artists include Laura Gao, Ajuan Mance and Ed Luce.

On Sunday February 18 San Francisco's main library will celebrate queer comic books with an exhibition to remember. Titled "Pride in Panels: SF Queer Comics Fest," the afternoon will bring together scores of queer comic book creators who will display their work and meet with fans. The event is free to all.

Over the past few years, DC Comics, home to Batman, Superman, and many other super heroes, attracted a good deal of attention when they began introducing LGBT characters into their stories.

One of the most notable examples of this phenomenon happened in 2021 when Tim Drake, the third Robin, came to realize that he's bisexual on the pages of "Batman: Urban Legends #6." But there are also other queer superheroes, some of whom graced the pages of independently produced books written and drawn by queer comic book artists and writers.

Comic artist Justin Hall  

One of those creators is Justin Hall, a gay man who has an impressive list of credits. He has, among many other accomplishments, curated the first museum show of LGBTQ comics at the SF Cartoon Art Museum. He now sits on the Board of Directors of Pride in Panels.

Hall told the Bay Area Reporter that there's a robust community of LGBTQ comics creators in the Bay Area and that there has long been a need for more comics conventions so that creators can sign and sell their work, connect with fans, build community with each other and get their stories out into the world.

"Queer comics have provided a unique window into the hopes, fears and fantasies of queer people for decades," Hall said. "The queer comics scene has never been as dynamic and diverse as it is right now. 'Pride in Panels' wants to celebrate and showcase all of this."

Graphic memoirist Maia Kobbae's 'Gender Queer'  

In addition to the convention, there will be a screening of the feature-length documentary "No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics." The screening will take place on Saturday February 17 at 2pm at the Hormel LGBTQIA Center Reading Room at the SF Library's main branch. Completed in 2021, the film made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival and was the closing night screening at Frameline.

"The film follows the careers and life stories of five pioneers of queer comics," Hall said. "Alison Bechdel, Howard Cruse, Mary Wings, Rupert Kinnard and Jen Camper. It's pretty damn awesome if I do say so myself."

There will be a moderated panel discussion after the screening. Topics of discussion will be the making of the film, what it was like to be an LGBTQ cartoonist and how things have changed, and what's in store for the future. In addition to Hall, panelists include Ajuan Mance, who's in the film, and Lee Marrs, who has art in the film and who's a contemporary of the five pioneers.

"It's a great panel of speakers and should be a really interesting conversation," said Hall. "And once again, it's free and open to the public, thanks to the SF public library."

In addition, there will be a queer comics reading hosted by Laura Gao at the Silver Sprockets store at 1018 Valencia Street. The reading takes place on February 16 at 7pm.

But it's "Pride in Panels" that will be the main event and the event that Hall is most looking forward to.

"It's been absolutely wonderful working with the library folks," said Hall. "The festival lines up with their own mission to promote reading and learning in our communities. We love our libraries."

Trinidad Escobar's 'Summon & Stir'  

Nearly 100 queer comics creators will be selling and signing their work in the library's main exhibition hall. There will also be panels on diverse topics, such as one on all-ages queer comics and another on queer horror comics.

Queer characters from Marvel, DC and Archie Comics will not be on display at "Pride in Panels." Only independent artists and publishers will be exhibited.

"Representation in mainstream publications is incredibly important," Hall said. "It provides people, especially young people, an opportunity to see themselves represented in pop culture and mass media. That can literally save lives. But our focus is on work that can go a step beyond that, commenting upon, analyzing, poking fun at, challenging and celebrating queer lives and experiences from an insider's perspective that would be inappropriate in a mainstream, company owned title."

Hall urges the public to attend the events. "Support your local queer artists and have a blast doing it."

'Pride in Panels: SF Queer Comics Fest,' Feb. 18, SF Main Library, 100 Larkin St., 12pm-5pm.
Queer Comics reading, Feb. 16, Silver Sprockets, 1018 Valencia St., 7pm-9pm.
Film screening: 'No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics,' Feb. 17, Hormel LGBTQIA Center Reading Room, SF Main Library, 100 Larkin St., Feb. 17, 2pm-4:30 pm. All events are free.

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