Phoenix Comicon

By Laura Latzko, June 2015 Issue.

For all types of self-proclaimed “nerds,” including LGBT ones, Phoenix Comicon offers a chance to indulge in their love for their favorite comic books, movies, TV shows, anime programs, cosplay communities, online fandom activity, board, video or card games and aspects of steampunk culture.

More than 80,000 guests from around the world are expected to attend this year’s convention, which will take place May 28-31 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

“[Phoenix Comicon] is a place where everyone can go, and they can be nerdy about what they want to be nerdy about, and you’re going to find it there, and you’re going to be able to celebrate it,” said Stephanie Munoz, a longtime Comicon volunteer who was hired as the convention’s marketing manager last October.

Photos by Gregg Edelman

Comicon events, not only in Phoenix, offer fans a place be a part of discussions and panels on their favorite topics, play games with fellow gamers, meet and take photos with some of their favorite comic book artists, authors and actors, participate in competitions, fan boot camps, cosplay or fashion shows, attend theme parties, meet with local groups and browse more than 600 vendors – all under one roof.

This year, the Third Street Pavilion outside of the convention hall will host 14 local bands, including Fairy Bones, Luna Aura and The Darling Sounds, throughout the weekend.

Local cosplay groups, including the Justice League of Arizona, AZ T.A.R.D.I.S. and the Arizona Avengers, will be located in the “Hall of Heroes” on the third floor, which will also be where fans can take part in photo ops with their favorite movie and TV stars.

Gaming events, after-parties and other events will also take place at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel and the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

LGBT-Themed Guests

This year’s convention will feature a number of special guests who are part of the LGBT community, have portrayed LGBT characters or have a large following in the LGBT community.

Out gay actor Jason Isaacs is best known for his depiction of Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series. The actor also played the gay character, Louis Ironson, in the play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes and has appeared in such films as The Patriot, Peter Pan, Armageddon and Black Hawk Down.

Alyson Hannigan is remembered for her role as lesbian character Willow Rosenberg in the TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” She has also appeared in “How I Met Your Mother” and the American Pie movies.

Karl Urban has portrayed a variety of diverse roles on the big screen, in the Star Trek movies, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Bourne Supremacy and Dredd ” as well as the small screen, “Almost Human,” “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.” Urban also played the first openly gay character, Jamie Forrest, on the New Zealand soap opera “Shortland Street.”

LGBT ally Kate Sackhoff is widely recognized as her character Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace from “Battlestar Galactica.” She has also appeared in the TV series’ “Longmire,” “Nip Tuck,” “24” and “Bionic Woman.”

Read Echo's interview with the Tucson-base creators of Tripping Over You, LGBT-themed online comic series, here. Read Echo's interview with Sable Switch, the producer of Talk Nerdy to Me: A Byte of Burlesque, here. Read Echo's interview with Patricia Quinn, Rocky Horror's Magenta, ahead of her Arizona debut, here.

Diversity Lounge

For the second year, LGBT attendees and allies are invited to the Diversity Lounge, located in room 132 of the convention center’s north building. The lounge, which drew 400 people last year, will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day of the convention.

Designed and created by Xander McDonald, the Diversity Lounge serves as a safe zone with resources and entertainment.

McDonald, an autistic transgender gay man, said that, although Comicon is an accepting place for members of the LGBT community, he still sees the importance of having a space that meets the needs of people of diverse backgrounds, especially members of the LGBT community with disabilities.

McDonald hopes to give other LGBT community members the same feeling of acceptance he felt at this first convention.

“I was 19 when I went to my first convention … and it just changed my world, that level of acceptance,” he said. “I can turn around now and bring that for other people, I absolutely love that, and that’s what I want Diversity Lounge to be about.”

The Phoenix Gaymers, Equality Arizona and Purple Light House, a support group for disabled LGBT people, will all have tables inside the Diversity Lounge.

Lesbian and Female Characters

One of the anime panels this year, “Feminism and Representation in ‘Yurikuma Arashi,’” explores the representation of lesbian characters in Kunihiko Ikuhara’s newest series.

Ikuhara is best known for his work on the anime series “Sailor Moon” and “Revolutionary Girl Utena.”

East Blue Cosplay, a cosplay group with members from across the country, and Gay Balls Inc. will lead a discussion on the series, the yuri genre of anime and the male gaze in anime from 10:30-11:30 a.m May 30.

Madison West, aka. Mei, from East Blue Cosplay describes the anime series as being a “love story but also very pointed social commentary” on the yuri genre.

According to West, In many yuri series’ girls or women are portrayed as having strong friendships with no sexual relationship or being predatory lesbians that hit on, but don’t have relationships with, other women.

Many lesbian relationships in anime series are geared toward the male gaze; however, West said “Yurikuma Arashi” portrays characters that are more like real LGBT people.

“The two main characters have a sexual relationship, but it’s not geared toward a male audience,” West said. “They are still very stylized and anime-like, but they are a lot more realistic both in art style and in characterization.”

West also plans to discuss Ikuhara's portrayal of strong female characters, and negative portrayals of lesbians in the yuri genre, during the panel

East Blue Cosplay and Gay Balls Inc. will also host a panel on “Women and Gender in ‘One Piece,’” where West will talk about the representation of biological and transgender female characters in “One Piece,” a manga and anime series written by Eiichiro Oda. The “One Piece” panel starts at 10:30 a.m. May 31.

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