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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mxing it up at… "Queers & Comics" 2017 Conference


Hann Lindahl ("Future Husband"), Jaina Bee (me), and Ryan Rose Aceae ("(Non)Binary Star") photo by Yoram

Zines and underground comics have been a lifelong passion for your quirky mxgender priestx reporter (that's me, Baba Bee). Bypassing the gatekeepers of mainstream media, self-published periodicals, cut-n-paste one-offs, and other xerographic tomes have taught me almost everything i know about the lives, loves, dreams, desires and needs of hundreds (possibly thousands!) of people who would otherwise be unheard or unseen in the world. I've been drawing, composing, and collecting comics and zines since i was a kid in the 1980's, and my appreciation for this medium only grows.

At one of the panels i attended at the 2017 Queers & Comics conference (April 14-16 at CCA SF) there was even a discussion about how the medium of comics itself is queer and binary-breaking, because it mixes words AND images in infinitely mutable ways. There was talk of comics as a vital form of queer self-care, as a way to explore alternative identies and expressions before transitioning or coming out, as a record of our ever-evolving LGBTQIA+ history, and as an especially fun way to network and meet new friends and fans.

This last bit cannot be overstated in its importance, especially when many panelists and attendees spoke of experiencing intense fears of leaving the house, of being (or speaking!) in public, and of interacting with strangers. It was a rare experience for most of us, to be in a crowded conference, where EVERYONE was queer—with a few friendly queer allies in the mix. The mention of pronouns did not bring a quizzical expression to anyone's face. (But seriously, where were all the straight comics geeks? Did they think they weren't welcome? Something to work on…)
I could go on and on about how much i enjoyed this conference— how it was the best of all that i have ever attended— however what i REALLY want to do is share with you some of my favorite creations—and creatrxes—of the weekend.

If you haven't yet encountered the graceful and elegant tales of Maia Kobabe, you're in for a treat. Though eir "Genderqueer" comics series was designed to be viewed on a phone (on eir Tumblr, Instagram or Patreon), e discovered that the three-panel sets fit perfectly into a mini 8-fold format! Effin' brilliant. (OK, full disclosure—i am not only a fan of Maia's, i feel a bit like an elder cousin to em as well. So, yes, i am fairly biased.) I dream of handing out to everyone these poignantly insightful glimpses into discovering and expressing one's genderqueerness. In the more Pagan realm, e is a contributor to the upcoming queer tarot-themed anthology, Tabula Idem, where e collaborated with our mutual friend, Alexandra Genetti (creatrix of the "Wheel of Change Tarot"), on a story about an annual Solstice-related ritual we have shared together many times. Genderqueer + paganism + art? Friends, this is my jam.

My most thrilling moment at the conference was when i was standing next to someone at a merchant table and they suddenly looked at my array of badges and bling and said, "Hey! Are you enby?! Here, have one of my comics!" And it was about mxgender witchcraft!!! "(Non)Binary Star" is about Ryan Rose Aceae's experience growing up in a Wiccan family, and the spiraling path they journeyed to find their own place in the binary-oriented worship of the God and the Goddess. Highly recommended for all folks exploring spirituality and religion beyond the binary.

Right as my jaw was hitting the floor, another excited person walked up to us and introduced herself (it really was quite the friendly conference). Hann Lindahl is a queer intersex activist and the creator of a beautiful two-color mini-comic, "Future Husband," about the effects of a doctor's casual presumption about why a teen-age Hann should start taking estrogen. She packs a heavy punch into that little 8-fold! She's one of the organizers for the 4th annual Queer Comix Expo in SF (July 8-9).

Anna Vo spoke in a couple of panels i attended.  I quickly noticed that i was trying to write down EVERYTHING they said, because they are able to articulate brilliant and radical social justice ideas in a righteous and hilarious manner. We traded zines, and i got "The Swan The Vulture" #6, which collects the prolific explosion of Anna's first year of making comics, which was, like, last year. Phenomenal.

Tittybar Tales is a gorgeous, full-color book by Alex L Combs, who is entering the CCA MFA in Comics program this summer. (Congratulations!) I first met him at the SF Zinefest last summer, and was enticed by the little preview of this comic which splays out the ups and downs and around-and-arounds of his experiences as a stripper, when he was still presenting as a woman. It's actually a lighthearted and funny collection, with no dreadful horror stories (other than razor burn and an aching body). Wow.

The most mesmerizing and beautiful comic i came home with was "Burning" by Bex (a surprise gift from a friend of mine who happened to be attending the con as a sign language interpreter for Bex). Dark, glowing, dreamy and visionary, she glides from her travels within the Arctic Circle on a sailboat full of artists and her travels into a richly detailed world within her mind.

Radical Faerie Church Funnies (2017 Special Edition for Q&C Con) is something i picked up in the merch area. I did not meet Vaughn Frick, the talented creator of this comic book satirizing the "Secret Gay Elite" that bunches up fundamentalist panties of all stripes. The disclaimer says it better than i ever could, "This Radical Faerie Comic Church is a fictional phantasm of dirty eunuch clowns, perverted fruit-bat capitalists, gender cyborgs, old gods, power-tripping ghouls, pagan fundamentalists, and whatever creature or thing I feel fit to draw. It's only about you if you so wish it."


And those are but a few of thedelights that came home with me. I hope to continue to compose reviews. And i am planning to have my own mxgender witch zine ready for the QCE this summer!
The rainbow sparkly tip of the queer comics iceburg!