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The Convention Report – ComiqueCon 2015

This year’s comic con-season has seen a rise in what I’m calling ‘boutique’ cons: conventions that are geared towards and focused on a specific subset of the comic reading population. This year has seen the arrival of conventions such as Flamecon in New York City and MECCAcon, which is also in Detroit. These developments can only be lauded for encouraging folks who may otherwise not be interested in comic-culture to engage in it while making industry folks and creators think about how to serve these under-represented groups in geek culture. One of these new cons, Comique Con, hit Dearborn MI last weekend. I can only say that it was an unqualified success, with over 350 attendees and an impressive roster of guests and presenters for its initial one-day run.

The convention took place in the Arab-American National Museum in Dearborn, which previously also hosted appearances by comic luminaries such as Brian K Vaughan and Geoff Johns. I’m not sure exactly, but it really does seem like someone on the trustee board really loves comics. The space was a great fit, with the annex area containing a small, but very well-curated artist alley, two conference rooms running several concurrent panels and an open lobby area that served as both a gaming area and a place where attendees can relax in between panel sessions. The organizers did a really great job of finding creators that exemplified the convention’s ethos and mission statement. All of the artist alley booths featured female creators or female-lead creative teams. There was a nice mix of pros and up and coming local and indie artists. Notable creators such as Marguerite Sauvage, Nancy Collins, Mikky Kendall, and Mairghread Scott shared the floor with local creators like and wife and husband art team Comfort and Alderink and indie creators such as Nicole Georges, creator of the autobiographical graphic memoir Calling Dr. Laura.

The panels I attended were engaging and fun. Nancy Collins, Mairghread Scott and Mikky Kendall discussed their work on the Dynamite Comics event Swords of Sorrow, which brought together many of comic-doms pulp heroines like Vampirella, Dejah Thoris and Lady Rawhide. The hour started with Scott and Kendall playfully bantering with the audience about that age-old geek question of ‘who would win, the Empire from Star Wars or the Feds from Star Trek’? before seguing into a discussion about how each snagged the noteworthy gig of writing tie-in issues for the Gail Simone-lead event story. Mikky Kendall discussed how this first foray into comic writing (she is well/better known as a sci-fi prose writer) came about after she baked Gail Simone a batch of gluten-free cupcakes at C2E2 while Scott and Collins both praised Dynamite and Simone for putting together an extremely organized and well-run event story. All three creators discussed the joy of writing pulp characters like the ones featured in the Swords of Sorrow event and how there doesn’t need to be anything specifically gendered about these types of stories. All three creators agreed that what’s make pulp distinct is its’ over the top/way out of the norm form of storytelling, and not, as some may believe, it’s prevalent genderedness. Other panels featured topics such as Intersectionality in comics and how men can support women in comics, both as creators and as fans. Overall I thought these panels were well-organized; all the moderators had interesting questions to ask and explore with the guest speakers and panel attendees. It was as if the lone and token ‘Women in Comics’ panel in the more ‘traditional’ cons somehow managed to escape the confines of its single time slot and short duration to take over the entirety of a comic book convention for one day. In an industry where there is still much work to be done to balance the scales of representation, both behind the scenes and in the comics themselves, for women in comics, this convention can only be seen as a fantastic step forward.

And lest you be worried, all the usual trappings of your more traditional con’ was on hand, with a ‘ComiqueCon’ twist. Artist alley was vibrant, with an all-female (or female lead) roster of artists selling their wares, consisting of the usual mix of geek paraphernalia, prints, comics (of course) and a few artists offering original sketches. I managed to snag a piece from DC Bombshells and Angela artist Marguerite Sauvage:

patricklaguacomique1

Also on offer was the convention’s very own ‘con variant’ of Swords of Sorrow # 1, with a unique variant cover by local artist Dave Acosta:

patricklaguacomique2
For next year, I think it might behoove the convention organizers to invite a more diverse pool of female talent to play in the sandbox they’ve created. While the similarity of viewpoints and political leanings certainly made for panels that went far above and beyond the usual re-hashing of internet scuttlebutt (as if we needed more of that) or ‘coming attractions!’ one may find in the more ‘traditional’ comic conventions, the uncontested viewpoints presented on the topic at hand (variations on the theme of Women in Comics) created a space where any supportive and constructive dissent seemed impossible, if not in bad form. One panel presenter in particular, lauding the quality and sales numbers of female-led comics created by women, kept bringing up Jane Foster’s assumption of Thor’s mantle as a pertinent example of her point. I wanted to ask how the fact that the title is being written and drawn by men supports her argument (which I am in agreement with), but such a question just felt so counterproductive and somehow in bad form. As with any social and political movement in its infancy, the assumption of a party line is of course necessary. I just hope the organizers would be able to grow out of this phase at some point so the important work that this convention is doing doesn’t become as fetishized and toxic as it has in some corners of fandom and the internet.

This is of course a minor complaint, from an attendee whose criticism shouldn’t be given that much weight, and rightly so. I’m looking forward to attending and seeing what this year’s organizers have in store for next year’s ComiqueCon: long may she reign.

November 14, 2015
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