Florida Supercon 2012 Finds LGBT Audience

Florida Supercon

If you went to Florida Supercon 2012, June 29 – July 2, then you walked into a world where you could run into Spike from Buffy or Green Lantern or Spider-Girl.

It didn’t matter if you got lost in the hallways, if the escalator or AC was broken—okay, that did matter.  Yet it was a testament to the power of geek unity that people wearing vinyl bodysuits or furry costumes took it in stride.  There aren’t too many events in South Florida where individuality, eccentricity and weirdness are not only embraced but encouraged.  That’s why convention goers keep coming back year after year.  They love steampunk and anime, comic books and gaming.  But they are also looking for community and acceptance.

For LGBT fans of comic cons, it’s even more important to find that connection.

At Florida Supercon, the LGBT community could connect with Dan Parent, an Archie Comics writer/artist for twenty-five years and creator of Kevin Keller, the first gay character at Riverdale High.  Parent declared that the reaction to Kevin has been “fantastic.”  He also noted that the character was not introduced to support any agenda, but was meant to bring Archie Comics into the 21st century.  Parent recalled the most memorable reaction:  “It was a phone call from a fourteen-year-old kid, also named Kevin, he was very nervous. He said ‘I want to thank you [for this character] it means a lot to me,’ and then hung up. It must have taken a lot of courage [to call]. I was very moved.”

He also added:  “Parents of gay kids are appreciative of the comic book. It’s a good entry level point of discussion about gay people.”  In an upcoming issue, Kevin Keller #6, Kevin meets George Takei from Star Trek, mixing comic books and sci-fi.

Florida Supercon’s headlining guests came from two shows with a significant LGBT fanbase:  Nicki Clyne and Michael Hogan from Battlestar Galactica, and Alex Kingston from Dr. Who.

At the Battlestar Galactica Q&A session, Nicki Clyne (Cally Henderson Tyrol) recounted the experience of “boot camp,” in which prior to the first season, most of the cast members learned about military protocol and watched episodes of the original series. When Michael Hogan (Colonel Saul Tigh) was asked about his favorite scenes, he singled out “the flashback [in Season Two] when [Adama and Tigh] first meet.”

Alex Kingston had never appeared at a U.S. comic books convention.  During her Q&A session on Saturday, she was asked about her reaction to cosplay, i.e., when attendees dress up as sci-fi or anime characters:  “People [in America] certainly go to town. You can see how much energy and thought they’ve taken into creating what they’re wearing. I’m really impressed.”

Kingston’s character on Dr. Who, River Song, happens to be bisexual.  The character has also become a model of female empowerment, reminiscent of past icons:  “When the Alien movies came out, I imagined how fabulous it would be to play Ripley,” said Kingston.  “I feel like I’ve been given that opportunity.”  She added:  “…out of all of the Doctor’s associates, [River Song] is his equal. She knows how to fly the Tardis.”

A roller derby girl from Miami’s Vice City Rollers asked Kingston whether she believed in gay marriage, then concluded:  “If so, would you marry me?” The audience broke into applause. Kingston affirmed her support of gay marriage, but as far as the proposal, she was already spoken for.

Miami’s Vice City Rollers hosted several panels of their own, and an exhibitor’s booth.  Jessica Diaz (Tallygator) founded the team with her girlfriend Kristen De La Rua (De La Ruthless), and their friend William Herrera (Will Da Thrill).

For Diaz, the appeal of roller derby is “the camaraderie—you get to skate and be with interesting people.”

“You don’t have to come from an athletic background,” added De La Rua.  “Petite girls, Amazonians, everyone has their place.”

Although the team has only been around for a year, four hundred spectators attended their last bout.  Crowds are expected at their next game at Suniland Hockey Rink in Kendall-Perrine on August 18.

The Pineapple Shaped Lamps, a theater and comedy troupe from Wilmington, North Carolina, embodied camaraderie during two shadowcasts of work by LGBT favorite Joss Whedon (pre-Avengers days)— Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog. At Buffy, the room was claustrophobically small, the AC wasn’t working, and there weren’t enough seats.  People were turned away at the door.  Towards the end, the DVD malfunctioned, leaving the actors without music or video.  But the performers vibrantly improvised, and it only made everyone enjoy the show more.  Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog also had several moments of elation—most notably during “Everyone’s A Hero” when the audience raised their lit cell phones to the music.  Several people called for an encore at the end of the show—but how can you encore that?

At the Goddess Gaming exhibitor’s booth, founder Julie Furman surmised that “convention culture is not about buying, it’s about bonding.”  Furman started her organization to reach out to all gamers, particularly women.  It evolved into a podcast, and will debut a full fashion line, including T-shirts, jewelry, and other items.

“Geek chic. It’s a lifestyle,” said Furman.  Her business partners, Jessica Fernandez and Vicky Tabora, also concurred that geek is “very in, sexy…open to everyone.”

Yet, one hopes that a true geek never becomes too “in.”  Geek is counterculture—just as the LGBT community is often counterculture.  Of course, the trajectory has been altered with multi-million dollar superhero movies.

However, a visit to the Star Trek Discussion Room at Florida Supercon can restore faith in the existence of the unadulterated geek.  Intelligent, passionate, adamant, and insightful individuals argued about which Star Trek series was the best.  They also discussed the changes in comic cons.  Doug, 50, was dressed as one of the Men in Black.  “Over the last twenty-five years, sci-fi has gotten smaller,” he reflected.  “There’s more gaming…cosplay, anime.” Dressed in the Star Trek New Generation uniform, Jennifer Nanek admitted:  “I like the big tent aspect…more people come for different reasons.”  Doug reassured: “Sci-fi will always be here… there will always be a choice.”

Florida Supercon 2012 offered many choices for its audience, particularly the LGBT community, and we can only encourage them to continue this tradition.

Florida Supercon

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