Autostraddle was at Comic Con in force this year—Heather, Valerie Anne and I all spent the last four days wandering around this wonderful fairyland. And you know we spread out and saw all of it, because I didn’t see either one of them! That’s how big it is! It was my first ever Comic Con, New York or otherwise! Needless to say, I spent the first day super overwhelmed. But I got into it by the second. As with any event that takes up the entire Javits Center, we didn’t like all of it. It’s impossible to feel wildly passionate or even meh about all of it! But what we did like, we LOVED. Nerddom is passion. Here are the 12 things Heather, Valerie and I were most passionate about this year.
The Sheer Amount of Steven Universe Enthusiasm
The real crown jewel reason I went to NYCC was to bask in the glory that was the Steven Universe panel. I wanted to hear Rebecca Sugar sing, and she did not disappoint. The panel was almost entirely made up of women, which was refreshing because a lot of the other panels I was interested in were made up entirely of white dudes. Sugar sung twice—”Here Comes a Thought,” from the episode “Mindful Education” and one song that we haven’t heard yet, called “I Could Never Be Ready” from an upcoming episode entitled “Three Gems and a Baby.” The latter, Sugar and Tom Scharpling (voice of Greg) sung together. We also got a sneak peak of Gem Harvest, another upcoming episode. It was HELLA powerful to watch it with an audience, all reacting at once (groans and laughter, mostly). Now I want screenings of Steven Universe arcs in movie theatres.
But the enthusiasm didn’t end with the people on the panel. Sure, I was delighted to find out Sugar’s fave song that she’s written was Everything Stays (mine too, girl) and squealed a little when Shelby Rabara, voice of Peridot, called us clods. But I was just as delighted when a teen couldn’t get her question out because she was crying so hard—the show had come to her at a difficult time, and she feels much more okay because of it. Tears. Tears streaming down my face. And the cosplayers, y’all! I saw SO MANY excellent Stevens and Gems.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one super unfortunate moment in the panel. AJ Michalka, voice of Stevonnie, tried to express her deep love for the character. Then the words “powerful she-man” crossed her lips, and fell into an audience wincing in perfect unison. Her intentions were good, but I think someone’s about to do a deeper dive into gender.
All The New Comics I Got Into
I had a wicked cold during Comic Con this year, which was bad at the actual con. But it was GREAT when I got home each day with my stack o’ books. I had the perfect excuse to lay in bed and read: I couldn’t actually get up again! As such, over the course of the weekend, I bought eleven trade papers and read ten of them (and the one I didn’t read, I’d read from the library already). Most of my list was made up of comics Mey has written about it that have made me scream WANT at my computer. I also had a little help from my friends in, er, deciding that I was just gonna spend a bunch of money on comics this weekend. From Mey’s list, I got into The Wicked and the Divine, Rat Queens and Bitch Planet. But then I wandered around asking vendors what the gayest, most feminist thing on their table was. Boom Studios said they had a delightful feminist romp in which the premise is “earth sucks, steal a spaceship.” It’s called Joyride.
Do this comic. It’s not explicitly gay, but two of the three main characters are girls and they are BADASS. At least one sequence gave me goosebumps (I won’t say which, spoilers). I met the authors, Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly, and they bragged on their colorist, Irma Kniivila, real hard. She’s a painter, and the way that she brings space to life isn’t solid black. It’s lively. Playful. Beautiful. They showed me a before and after Irma shot and I literally gasped. Ugh. So good you guys. SO GOOD. Plus a charming robot.
The Small But Mighty Critter Meetup
— CrittersRPG (@CrittersRPG) October 8, 2016
I’m a huge fan of Geek and Sundry’s Critical Role, a livestream on Twitch where voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons. Neither Geek and Sundry nor Critical Role had a large presence at NYCC, but that didn’t deter the Critters. The Critters are the loveliest fandom—I found one based on his Gilmore’s Glorious Goods shirt and he let me know there was going to be a meetup. What I love about this community, other than the fact that they’re just nice people, is they let you be EXACTLY the kind of nerd you are. So when I politely explain that getting an MFA has ruined consuming media solely for pleasure and that I have theories about why tabletop RPG is the perfect medium with which to resist the bury your gays trope, they do not yell at me like some other groups of nerds would. They pat me on the shoulder, say it sounds interesting and nod politely. And then we trade DMing tips.
The French Comics Association
Speaking of being exactly the kind of nerd I am, you’ll notice there’s not a tremendous amount of big two or large commercial stuff on my list. That’s not the kind of nerd I am. But the French Comics Association, that’s me. They took NYCC as an opportunity to extend a hand across the Atlantic and put up an exhibit at Cooper Union about how Franco-Belgian comic creators influence and have been influenced by comic creators in the US. I originally decided to go because Julie Maroh’s Blue Is The Warmest Color was part of that exhibit. But I stayed for the discussion that really breaks down composition and writing and color in a really smart way. I came away with three…I’m not sure I’d call them comics? Graphic novels is more like, they’re much longer form. An adaption of Albert Camus’s The Stranger by Jacques Ferrandez, Pablo by Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie (about the life of Pablo Picasso) and Who Killed Kurt Cobain? by Nicolas Otero. And I HIGHLY recommend checking out French Comics Framed at The Cooper Union. It’s up until November 5th.
Actually Playing With Things I’d Heard About Online
Getting to touch and use things I’d only ever read or heard about was a huge highlight for me. I got to actually roll dice in a Wyrmwood Gaming dice tray, for instance, and discovered I liked the sound of the cherry wood best. I like the smell of the hickory best. My friend Brian even got me a hickory dice vault as a wedding prezzie. I’ve been smelling it the entire time I’ve been writing my portion of this list. I’m not weird at all.
Oooooh, and we spent a ton of time smelling Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs’ scents. Did you know they make an RPG series where you can layer your moral and ethical alignments, your race and class to create a specific character scent? Yeah, I didn’t know that either, but I can tell you that Chaotic Good Gnome Rogue smells really good. And that Druid smells like literal earth.
I also tried two very different art supplies that I’d heard about online—Winsor & Newton pigment markers (and their fabulous paper to go with) and Wacom’s new MobileStudio Pro. Y’all, the pigment markers blend even more seamlessly than Copics and with some CRAZY bright colors. They didn’t bleed through the paper at all, which is nuts because I laid it down pretty thick. And that MobileStudio Pro had me drooling all over it. I must have spent at least an hour drawing on it—and I’d never tried Autodesk Sketchbook before that either! To me, the biggest advantage to hitting up NYCC was proximity to stuff. I can talk to people, try things, that I wouldn’t be able to do while I’m nerding out behind my computer screen.
Also Wonder Woman
I am not a superhero person, but even I can’t deny the sheer amount of Wonder Woman at NYCC. Yes, it’s her 75th Anniversary. But she also has just been confirmed as queer. Y’all, a queer lady superhero was ALL OVER this hella mainstream event. It was so satisfying! She’s on the cover of the program! She had an art exhibit just to herself!
Over the course of the four days, artist Kirsten Cumings did a portrait of Wonder Woman out of jelly beans at the Jelly Belly booth. She said she’s always wanted to do a lady superhero, and this was the year she got to! (She also varnishes her jelly bean art after the fact, and uses epoxy to stick everything, so no, this art isn’t good enough to eat. It’s good enough to art.)
Hell, I even found Wonder Woman glasses frames at Sire’s Crown.
Maybe I’ll have to suspend my meh-ness about superheroes to absorb everything Wonder Woman. What do you think? Should I do that?
This was one of the best years I’ve ever seen for queer TV characters at cons. I expected to see a lot of Wonder Women (and I did), and I was happy to see the usual handful of Cosima Niehauses (from Orphan Black), but this year I also saw some killer Nicole Haughts and one Waverly Earp (both from Wynonna Earp), millions of Harley Quinns (some with Poison Ivy by their side), Lumberjanes, two or three ladies in full Lexa war paint, at least one Clarke Griffin, and some epic Xenas and Batwomen. And so many of them deviated from the classic look to make these characters truly their own in fun and exciting ways.
Finding Queer Needles in a Nerdy Haystack
I love being surrounded by my fellow nerds at comic cons. We all have this passion in common, even if that passion is for different things, and we connect because we’ve probably we’ve all felt like outsiders in many mainstream crowds in our lifetime. But we all belong at comic con. There’s something extra special when you find your people, like when I was gal-pal snickering in the back corner of a Harley Quinn panel with a stranger dressed as Officer Nicole Haught from Wynonna Earp because someone described Poison Ivy as Harley’s “really good friend,”, or when I lost my mind over the Ruby/Sapphire/Garnet print I bought and the artist knew exactly why.
The Panels (Especially the TV Ones)
The three TV panels I went to were three of the best panels I’ve ever been to at any con ever. The Carmilla ladies were all so funny and smart, and there was a tangible joy from Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis when they played the Carmilla Movie trailer for the first time. And Natasha’s eyebrow waggling stole the show. The Lost Girl panel had me laughing so hard my face hurt, because Zoie Palmer is a riot and Anna Silk rolls with it so well. And at the Wynonna Earp panel, showrunner Emily Andras, actors Melanie Scrofano, and Tim Rozon, and comic book writer Beau Smith were delightful. They all talked passionately about their weird little show and genuinely seem to like each other. Plus Emily legitimately understands how important Officer Haught’s bulletproof vest was, even though that finale scene was written/shot before The Events of 2016, and she repeatedly confirmed that she understands how much representation matters and that they should always be striving to Do Better. (Guess what all three of these beloved queer TV shows have in common? Did you guess Canada? Because the answer is Canada.)
One of my favorite non-TV panel moments was during Queer Culture: LGBT Presence in Pop Culture. The panel was five gay men, most of them white, and Heather Hogan was the first one at the mic when they opened it up for questions and pointed it out. They squirmed and squirmed and Heather graciously offered to introduce them to some queer women of color she works with who would be great for this particular panel. (Also she got a bigger applause when she introduced herself as a senior editor for Autostraddle than even the Blue Power Ranger himself.)
The Growing Conversation About #Diversity
Last year’s NYCC was one of the most disheartening experiences of my career, in large part because I came face-to-face with the reality that my beloved Pretty Little Liars had fully and wholly sold out its loyal queer fanbase to placate the crowd of young women screaming Ezra Fitz’s name (a frankly heartbreaking thing to experience in its own right). It would be arrogant in the extreme to assume my lone voice has the ability to change the hearts and minds of the people who make the stories that mean so much to us, but after witnessing the crash-and-burn of PLL after last year’s NYCC, I was determined to make the most of my time at various Q&A microphones this year.
Every time I spoke up for queer and trans women at a panel, the organizer of the panel came to me afterward to get my card and have a conversation with me about the future of LGBTQ people on screen and on the page, and representation on the panels that discuss those things. Autostraddle has been fighting for so long to get our name out there, and the overwhelming response from NYCC this year isn’t just that we’re known; it’s that we’re respected and beloved. I expect many of the conversations I had to manifest themselves in better experiences for queer and trans women at cons and in pop culture in the coming year.
The After-Convention Meetups
Talking to celebrities is always weird; talking to fans is always the absolute best. Valerie organized a Wynonna Earp meet-up after NYCC on Friday night and we filled up an entire bar with queer women. I met more than one queer woman who was at the bar with a friend but abandoned them to hang out with us! Queer nerds taking up space, especially in a bro-y pub is always going to feel correct to me.
LGBT Fans Deserve Better
— Stephanie (@swdcfan) October 7, 2016
One of the best things to come out of this troubling year of LGBTQ representation on TV was the LGBT Fans Deserve Better movement. In the wake of Lexa’s death on The 100, they raised awareness about the damaging Bury Your Gays trope and an astronomical amount of money for The Trevor Project. One of the ways they did that was by selling these t-shirts. I saw at least a dozen people wandering the NYCC floor wearing these shirts, and that matters in a big way. Not only because being visibly gay matters in a space like this where stories get made, but also because people kept coming up to us and asking what our shirts meant, which gave us a chance to explain the agony and activism queer fandom has endured and participated in this year.