Joe Corallo: Flame Con Burns Bright
This past weekend I tabled Flame Con 2 at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott Hotel with my friend and collaborator Robby Barrett. We premiered our new comic, Saturn’s Call. It’s about a group of witchy queer kids who are trying to come together to protect each other, so obviously Flame Con was the perfect venue to debut this comic.
For those of you unfamiliar, Flame Con is New York City’s first LGBTQ comic convention organized by Geeks OUT. The show premiered back in spring of 2015 at the Grand Prospect Hall for one day only after a successful Kickstarter campaign helped spread the word and launch the show. Flame Con was such an immediate hit that not only was quickly confirmed that they would be back in 2016, but that the show would go from one day to two and move to a larger venue. That’s a very impressive feat.
Although an integral part of Flame Con’s success comes from Geeks OUT’s own planning and organizing, there is no doubt in mind that the LGBTQ community is an underserved community and often neglected part of mainstream comics and pop culture.
For people outside the queer community, it may seem like the queer community is being properly catered to in comics. I bet some people may even feel like the community is over represented with the press hits some queer-led comics get. I’m here to tell you that is absolutely not the case. We may be getting the press coverage when it comes to some mainstream comics and a few indies, but a disproportionate amount of the majority of comics are still very straight, very cis, very male, and very white.
Flame Con is very much a different experience. Gone are the very straight, very cis, and very male aspects of many comic conventions. And while the show and its guests are certainly pretty white, there were also efforts put in place to be inclusive in every way and there was racial and ethnic diversity both in the people exhibiting and the attendees on the floor. They even had an AFK lounge at the hotel as a quiet space for people to unwind and collect themselves if they felt overwhelmed.
Robby and I spent the vast majority of the convention behind our table, outside of a few quick bathroom breaks. Those bathrooms were designated as all-gender, something everyone seemed very pleased with. I overheard one person who seemed a little confused at first when the convention was just opening, but after that I didn’t hear any confusion at all. It’s pretty simple. It’s arguably simpler than the standard gender designated bathrooms we see in public that are becoming less standard. And, oddly enough, we were not swallowed up into the bowels of hell, much to some people’s disappointment I’m sure.
Flame Con also provided preferred pronoun stickers for people to wear, and many people took advantage of that. Male, female, gender neutral, and “ask me” stickers adorned many fans and exhibitors. This is the only comic convention I’ve seen do something like this despite people of all gender identities attending all different comic conventions all over.
From my view at my table I saw all sorts of people in all sorts of cosplay. Cosplaying was encouraged throughout the con and people got really creative. People of all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, abilities, and gender identities dressed up as whoever they wanted and everyone I saw seemed supportive of everyone’s decisions and openly complimented each other appropriately.
Everyone myself and Robby interacted with were friendly and supportive. We even sold dozens of comics, and Robby sold a ton of prints. It was honestly the best experience either of us had tabling a convention. I had my friend Nate get me a signed comic, Emma got me coffee, and fellow ComicMix contributor Molly Jackson got me a Princess Leia sketch from the incredibly talented Sophie Campbell while I was stuck at my table. Thanks, friends!
Many other vendors I know had similar experiences. Mags Visaggio, writer of Kim and Kim for Black Mask Studios, told me that she not only had a great time but she exceeded her expected sales. Magdalena Fox, the owner of the booty shorts shop Booty and the Geek, gushed about how Flame Con was such a positive experience that she wishes there were more queer centric conventions to vend at. Fyodor Pavlov premiered a printed copy of his webcomic, Bash Back, that he’s collaborated on with Lawrence Gullo and Kelsey Hercs, and he offered new prints as well. This was his second year tabling Flame Con. To quote Fyodor, “Long live Flame Con.”
I cannot recommend Flame Con enough. It’s a wonderful, inclusive time with a welcoming group of staff and volunteers and a great mix of both mainstream and indie comic offerings. It was already announced that Flame Con 3 is definitely happening in the summer of 2017. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces in comics, a lot of people you didn’t know you love yet, and you’ll feel safe and included.
I even got to end the show by running into Steve Orlando and jokingly complaining about how Streaky and Comet were not featured in Supergirl #1. I can’t think of a better way to leave any comic convention than to complain about why elements of the Silver Age of comics aren’t in the comics the kids are reading these days.
Really, though. What about Streaky and Comet?