Queer comic fans can geek out at expo

  • by Sean Piverger
  • Wednesday June 8, 2016
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It started as an idea without a name.

In 2014, Queer Culture Center Co-Founder Rudy Lemcke and artistic director Pam Peniston were at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco and spoke to former museum bookstore manager Heather Plunkett about how great it would be for the museum to have a queer comic convention. Once the idea was mentioned to Plunkett, she, along with then-volunteer Nina Taylor Kester, who heard what was going on, dedicated themselves to the idea, which transformed into the annual Queer Comics Expo.

This year's third annual event takes place June 18-19 at the SOMArts Cultural Center.

The Queer Comics Expo brings together artists, comic fans, social activists, and creative thought leaders from different walks of life "to celebrate queer culture and promote diverse queer representation in comics, animation, and other great ways to tell stories," according to its website.

It's also a fundraiser for the Cartoon Art Museum and money raised will support educational programs, community events, daily operations, and partner exhibitions. (The Cartoon Art Museum temporarily closed its doors on September 12, 2015 due to a rent increase from the property owner. Work is still underway to find a new location. In the meantime, its programs continue.)

This year the expo will not only have new exhibits but will also reside at the SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco's Design district. The center was chosen by the QCC to provide more space for the expo's exhibits and programs.

"The Cartoon Art Museum is appreciative of these three years of collaboration and partnership with the Queer Cultural Center to bring the Queer Comics Expo to life, including QCC's significant role of securing this year's location at the SOMArts Cultural Center," Taylor Kester, now the museum's program coordinator, said on the expo's Facebook page.

The expo is part of the National Queer Arts Festival, which is organized by the QCC. Lemcke is also one of the founders of NQAF. Every June during Pride Month, the arts festival provides support for events for up-and-coming queer arts groups. This month is the NQAF's 19th year.

"We started having it during Pride Month because that's when everyone's attention is on queer-based events," Taylor Kester, a lesbian, said in an e-mail. "I almost think [that] it makes the event more open to people of all identities, queer or otherwise, because it's ordinary at that time for someone not in the queer community or someone who is questioning to seek out a queer event as a cultural activity."

Although the QCC isn't financially supporting the expo, Lemcke said that it provides the "publicity and marketing support" for the event.

"We [the QCC and the NQAF] are always looking for new, innovative queer art," said Lemcke. He also said that comics are "a big part of queer culture" which should be "represented" in the festival.

The comic festival has been popular. About 200 people attended the first event in 2014. Last year, it brought in 275 people. This year the expo is looking at least 500 people attending the event.

Lemcke said that he received positive reactions from the expo and that seeing the expo come to life was a "dream come true."

This year's scheduled guests include creators Ajuan Mance (Gender Studies, 1001 Black Men , and The Little Book of Big Black Bears ), Alex Woolfson (Artifice and The Young Protectors ), April Pierce (The Prince and the Swan ), and Josh Trujillo (Love Machines , Death Saves, Adventure Time from Boom Studios). There will also be a special pop-up exhibit of video game and media production MidBoss' Read Only Memories, Stacked Deck Press' ALPHABET by CAM, and the Kumalicious exhibit that's curated by E. Salvador Hernandez and presented by QCC.

Cartoon Art Museum curator Andrew Farago said in an email that what makes the expo different from other comic book conventions �" such as WonderCon and Comic Con �" is that while the bigger conventions focus on comics, anime, and television, the expo's mission statement is "more straightforward, and it's a more focused, curated event."

"The great thing about smaller shows like QCE is that attendees are encouraged to spend more time getting to check out all of the exhibiting artists, and the artists have more opportunities to check out each other's work," said Farago.

Farago also said that queer representation in mainstream media "is undeniably important."

"Getting to know people, even fictional people, outside of your own culture and upbringing is an incredibly powerful tool in promoting tolerance and understanding," he said.

For Taylor Kester the appeal of the expo "brings attention to an audience that doesn't get the majority of attention at these other events."

"It would be nice to feel like there didn't have to be a 'Women in Comics' panel at a [comic] convention or a 'People of Color' panel at a comics convention or a 'Queer Cartoonist' panel at a comic convention. So at Queer Comics Expo instead of doing that kind of introductory level interactions with fans, you can delve deeper," such as body diversity panels at Emerald City Comic Con, said Taylor Kester.

For Lemcke, the expo "builds community" and he hopes that this expo will gain an "international" crowd.

"It is bringing people who are interested in queer comics and queer graphic novels and queer games and video production. It creates a space at a community where people can come together and identify with a group of people," he said.

While Taylor Kester hopes that the expo will continue to be annual, Farago hopes that it will be a place for inspiration.

"It's our sincere hope that some of this year's attendees will be next year's exhibiting artists," said Farago. "If QCE encourages creative people to make their own comics, that's a wonderful thing."

This year's expo budget is $3,000 for the weekend show and $5,000 for the gallery exhibit. Sponsors include Northwest Press, Oni Press, BOOM Studios, California College of the Arts, MidBoss, CAM, Patreon, Stacked Deck Press, and Prism Comics.

 

Queer Comics Expo will take place Saturday, June 18 and Sunday, June 19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan Street. Online tickets (until June 15): Adults $8/day, $16/weekend; youth $4/day, $8/weekend. Tickets at the door: Adults $10/day, $20/weekend; youth $5/day, $10/weekend. For more information, visit http://qcexpo.tumblr.com, http://qcc2.org/queer-comics-expo, or check the "Queer Comics Expo" Facebook page.

 

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