Queers & Comics 2017 Event Report

April 23rd, 2017

Queers & Comics 2017 in San Francisco was as fascinating and delightful as the inaugural event in New York City in 2015. This time around it was organized by Jennifer Camper (Rude Girls and Dangerous Women) and Justin Hall (QU33R). Once again, the level of engagement and energy was high and the conversations on and off panels were exceptionally interesting. 

The event was held at the California College of the Arts. The keynote speakers were Mariko Tamaki (SkimThis One Summer) and Gengoroh Tagame (Otouto no Otto /My Brother’s Husband). 

For this event, my travel companion was Bruce, and our first night in town we wandered over to the Center for Sex and Culture, a fun little reading/art/ event space to see Tyler Cohen’s Primahood art show. It was great to see Tyler and appreciate the art in person.  On the way out I was able to chat briefly with Mari Naomi about her amazing book, I Thought You Hated Me, which I rave-reviewed last summer.

Bruce and I wandered over to the Asian Art Museum, which was lovely, until I felt weak from hunger and we had to go find food.

My event began with a panel of Underground Comics pioneers, including Gay Comix editor Howard Cruse, Lee Marrs, Roberta Gregory, Diana Green, Trina Robbins, Burton Clarke, Robert Triptow, Mary Wings and Vaughn Frick. It’s always fascinating to look back at the days when LGBTQ comics were not yet a thing and hear from the people who made it a thing. 

One of the questions was about where the passion is these days and, of course the answer is, “Where are you looking?” Roberta Gregory suggested one look at Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites…and I’m going to double down on that. Not in the comic shops. It never was there, really. American comics are primarily a production line job as Howard Cruse pointed out. Underground stuff wasn’t even sold in comic stores…it was sold in head shops and then queer bookstores. The energy and passion now is online. On Pixiv, Deviantart, Kickstarter, Patreon (and KS is particularly pro-LGBTQ projects, I have to say.) Look online. 

After lunch, it was my pleasure to be part of the Queer Manga – History and Cultural Context panel where Graham Kolbien showed a short clip of the documentary he’s been working on, Queer Japan. I am a backer of that work and cannot *wait* to see it. During a short interview with a BL manga artist, I was openly grinning at the views of Otome Road and the stores along it. It was definitely a warm/fuzzy moment for me. Leyla Aker from Viz did a publisher-eye’s view presentation on BL and Yuri. (Although, when she commented that Citrus isn’t exploitative, I said, “Oh, yes it is!”) I followed this up with a discussion of the place women’s groups newsletters and doujinshi had in the history of Yuri manga, following early “Woman-Only Communications” newsletters through doujinshi into Lesbian magazines and Yuri manga. I’ve written this all up for Okazu, How Lesbian Social and Political Activism Helped Give Birth to Yuri Manga.



Bruce had never been to San Francisco before, so we wandered over to Japantown where the Kinokuniya had a little “Yaoi” section, that included some Yuri manga. 

It also had this bilingual guide based on Rose of Versailles, so as you can imagine the English phrases were super-relevant to modern life. ^_^


The second day began with a panel on being the editor for anthologies called “Herding Cats.” It was fantastic, and I was able to fully fangirl at Taneka Stotts, who had edited Elements: Fire, which I had read on the plane ride over.  This was one of my highlights, as I am a huge fan of Taneka’s work and her energy. Review to come, but Tl;dr – it was great.

Another highlight of my event was being able to meet Joamette Gil, one  of the minds behind Power & Magic, which I enthusiastically reviewed recently. Joamette said something really profound to me, about white women supporting work by women of color. She pointed out that if women support work by WoC, they are still getting work by women, so it’s win-win. This was eye-opening to me, because I’m just honestly 100% behind diversity of all kinds, but I guess there are folks who would need it to be relevant to their experience. Frankly, I like reading about stuff I *haven’t* already lived, and am always thrilled to support works by women of color. And no I am not saying “I’m color blind,” I’m saying I consciously seek out work by women of color to support. Because this is what we must do to get the diversity we want in the world.

I caught up with an old friend, Julie Davis, former editor of Animerica magazine, and probably the first person to ever pay me for a piece of writing. She joined me, Anne Ishii and Tagame-sensei for Queer Craft: Art & Writing. Anne did a fabulous presentation on the evolution of Gay Manga and a discussion of translating sound effects, I quickly presented process discussions about two guests who hadn’t been able to join us, Nakamura Kiyo and Rica Takashima, then Tagame-sensei spoke about a trans manga he felt was very important in terms of what it was not, as much as what it was. We took questions and had a fabulous time. 

We then sat in a lovely panel about LGBTQ comics about superheroes that subvert paradigms and rewrite the old scripts with Joan Hilty, Brian Andersen, Tommy Roddy, Kat Leyh and Andy Mangels.

As Bruce was leaving early, we and Julie went out to a crazy dinner in a place where you could book a room with the pope’s head in a Lucite case on the table. It was super creepy. (Sorry, random strangers in my photo, I didn’t get the picture when the room was empty.)

After saying farewell to Bruce, I was able to catch up with Julie and her husband Mark, a brilliant artist and illustrator and a man who is to Gundam what I am to Yuri. Had a lovely time just chatting about art and writing and life. Thanks Julie and Mark! Let’s not go 13 years until we see each other again. ^_^

Of course I bought books while I was at Queers & Comics….reviews to come in days ahead. ^_^ I was able to get a Lee Marrs collection, The Further Fattening Adventures of Pudgy Pudge, Girl Blimp and  Burn Bitchy Burn by  Roberta Gregory, as well as Princess Princess Ever After and the Queer Creatures tote bag, which was just too great to not get and for which profits go to support the event itself.

One of the most amazing things about the event was this – just as the young artists were in the panels learning from the older folks, the older artists were present in panels by younger folks, learning from them. It was…GREAT. These folks are crowdfunding old collections and new works. They get it, and so should we. It might feel righteous to be old-school, but you’re hampering yourself if you don’t use the tools that exist. In fact, I’ve set myself a goal of self-publishing at least one book this summer because there is literally no reason not to. ^_^ At this point, if your work isn’t out there, it’s because you’re not trying to get it out there. There are no barriers left except the one’s you make for yourself.  And that, frankly, is my big takeaway from this event. Just…make your art. 

Overall, it was an amazing event, with friends new and old, and I cannot wait for the next one! Thanks to everyone on staff and all the presenters and guests for making it a reality. ^_^

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