Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bent-con Round Up -- LA's Gay Comic Convention

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Bent-con, like Yaoicon, was an event I really wanted to attend last year but could not because of chemotherapy. I've been posting my nerdier blogs on for a few years, and the founder of that site, Jody Wheeler, has been a buddy online all that time. There is something very exciting about young conventions [this was Bent-con's second year]. Connections with fans and with dealers and even with guest speakers can happen when the attendance is smaller than the huge conventions where there are throngs of people all divided up into their own cliques of interest. There were a couple of thousand people spread over the convention area at the Westin Bonaventure, the iconic Downtown LA hotel. In that regard, I was not disappointed. I talked to many of the dealers and signed up for a few mailing lists and one fan club. I discovered during one of the smallest panels I've ever spoken on that I have fans that still await my fanfiction and met another fan that was so thrilled to meet me that I was humbled beyond words – a rare feat for this big mouth.

Just a little Fan Girly!
But it was the lengthy encounters with three of the guest for which I will be grateful that Bent-con invited me to be a panel moderator. Everyone who reads my blogs knows how much I adore Jane Espenson's work. She blazed a trail on Buffy the Vampire Slayer that dragged me from being only mildly interested in the series to a rabid fan. And I'm still not sure how she did it, but she brought a new depth, sexiness and humor to Battlestar Galactica without taking away from the hard space opera edge. I loved her blogs on the trails and the foods she encountered while writing a TV series. And I now follow her witty observations on Twitter. I've also benefited from her Twitter writing sprints where she encourages followers to take some time and work creatively for 30 minutes to an hour.

Brady(left) and Cheeks (right)
Jane was there to talk about the incredibly funny and touching web series, Husbands. It's premise is that on the day after gay marriage becomes legal in the US, a famous actor (Cheeks) and a Major League Baseball player (Brady) wake up from a drunken celebration to find themselves married. Unwilling to undermine the cause by divorcing, they decide to stick it out for the cause and each other. Comedy and drama ensue. It is amazing how much complexity is packed into those brief episodes. It has one of the best lines about the nature of marriage I have ever heard. It was fascinating for an independent filmmaker who has worn many hats (most often that of a plumber on set) to hear about such similar struggles to mine in producing Husbands. Somehow, I thought that if you've had studio resources for the day job, they would be available for a producer when they did something independent. I'm a silly billy. I could certainly relate to the fatigue I saw in some of the behind the scenes photos. It all looked very familiar. As expected, Jane was a fascinating speaker. It was a thrill to have that kind of insight into the nuts and bolts of the business from her. And luckily, none of what went on in her personal panel or the Husbands panel would be repeated territory in my panel. Please, click on the Husbands LINK and watch the episodes. They are brilliant!

The second of the three people I really wanted to meet that day was Cheeks. He is not just a character. He's also a person who acts, writes and sings. I discovered his youtube videos via a tweet from Jane. They were about his life, the news and pop culture. I saw the first one when I was between major surgeries and had a zipper of staples up my abdomen. It hurt to laugh, but laugh I did until endorphins kicked in my brain. It was an uplifting experience that I repeated every time he posted. Those videos have been pulled in favor of Husbands. I hope he puts some of them up again for all to enjoy. He was an important part of my recovery from the first surgery and I was pleased to tell him that – and give him cookies.

The third person I wanted very much to meet was Wendy Pini. She was already a legend in fandom for Elfquest  which she created with her husband, Richard. I had long admired their work. But it was for her Wendy Pini's Masque of the Red Death that I wanted very much to speak with her. Masque had everything that pushes my buttons – beautiful but flawed and potentially tragic male characters who are drawn toward each other and inevitably bound. Death threatens their love and their lives at almost every turn of the page. I love writing about those kinds of characters. I will digress here – because it's my blog – to expound just a bit. In A Soldier's Choice and A Soldier's Fate there are only two options for Rik and Vincent – love or death as they literally cannot live without each other. But it's Ensnared that shares a worship of hedonism with Masque. The relationship between Darius and Andreas threatens to upend the social order and endangers them both. [experts for all titles mentioned can be found on the left under Hot Links]. There is tragedy in Ensnared, and I punish Andreas for his beauty and his flaws, but I could not dare what Wendy dared in Masque. And there in lies her brilliance to me. 
I am not a fan of tragedy. I know it is said that to read tragedy is cathartic and therapeutic for the reader or the viewer. This gal is not one of those people. I found Wendy's artwork compelling, so I thought I could skim Masque and enjoy that without getting involved too deeply. That was impossible after the first pages. I was hooked. Despite knowing where the Poe story led and where this was clearly leading early on, I was so enthralled by Anton and Steffan that I had to take that ride to the end. I wanted to tell Wendy that she was brilliant in how she wrote Masque, but it came out as a highly exasperated question about the proposed libretto for Broadway based on the webcomic. Thankfully, my reaction was the very one she had hope to evoke in her readers. Masque is just the kind of well written, accessible story that could introduce yaoi themed content to a wider audience. I'm hoping there is a way to make that happen. That intimate panel was a wonderful opportunity to connect with another talented writer I admired.

Sunday's panel on Women Make Queer Genre was a lot like a literary salon of old. The panel included Jane, Wendy and Shelley Doty, the writer/filmmaker/musician behind the intriguing  Strange Frame, sci-fi, Lesbian anime. The discussion covered why each panelists was drawn to Queer genre, the reaction of long time fans both gay and straight to their works and where they saw Queer Genre developing in the future. The panel managed to be both highly fannish and scholarly. I could see a paper being written about it. It was an amazing experience enjoyed by the audience and panelists alike. A big shout out to Mars Homeworld. You are welcome in any panel I moderate!

I am certain that Bent-con will become a large convention someday. It absolutely deserves to be. I hope to continue to be a part of it as it grows. But the fangirl in me will always cherish the unique opportunity I enjoyed while the convention was young.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad that you got to share time with Jane Espenson, and meet Cheeks. Husbands as been a bright blessing in my own life, especially given how shadowed my year has progressed. It's great to know others are enjoying the show as I have. Thank you for sharing re: Bent-Con. Hugs x