Flame Con is now in its second year, and it’s billed as the “comics, arts, and entertainment expo showcasing creators and celebrities from all corners of LGBTQ geek fandom.” And after attending for a few hours on Saturday, and reading the joyous tweets about it, I can safely say that it was probably the nicest, most inclusive comics event I’ve attended in NYC.
It was also one of the best run. I missed last year’s event, which was held at a venue that had a ton of character but now an ounce of air conditioning, a charming but sweaty venue. This time it was held at the New York Marriott in downtown Brooklyn, a setting mostly unknown to me, and to be brutally honest, it might as well have been in a city in some other state as far as my knowledge of the surrounding area went. But this turned out to be a fantastic place for a con: easily accessible from transportation; modern facilities; plenty of food options. Flame Con organizers also knew what to do, there was ample signage everywhere, and every facility you could need, from panel rooms, gender neutral bathrooms; a gaming room and a live stage where bands played and people did readings.
Besides the good logistics, everyone was just so happy to be there. I could only attend for a few hours, but I heard this over and over again. The crowd was young and diverse and clearly there out of love in a way that was inspiring. Comics have always had a significant LGBTQ readership, but this side of fandom is much more visible and organized now.
And they really did come to support the comics and exhibitors they care about: tickets for the weekend sold out in advance, and more than one exhibitor told me they’d made more money at this show than at much larger cons. The books that were hits there have grassroots followings that are going to have a bigger and bigger impact on the industry for an audience that demands work that reflects a world that isn’t binary or categorized.
Fans and readers were passionately engaged with the material, often on a very personal level, and this place where innovation and emotional connection co-exist is one that comics does very well. It’s something that I’ve also felt at the best indie shows like TCAF, SPX and MoCCA, but the Flame Con view of comics was so “newly out,” so to speak, that it felt incredibly fresh and vibrant.
Several people I spoke with also told them it reminded them a lot of SPX. Because it was a Marriott (SPX is also held at a Marriott), the room where it was held was about the same dimensions as SPX (although smaller) and had a lot of the same vibe…call it a variant edition SPX.
But more than anything, what made this a great event was the atmosphere of inclusion, safety and acceptance, something we all need more of these days.
A few tweets that are representative from the @Flamecon twitter.
Hey: @flamecon was maybe the best comic show I've ever been to. For a lot of reasons. If you can go, you should.
— Kate Leth (@kateleth) August 22, 2016
— Kathleen Kralowec (@Conscious_Dust) August 22, 2016
— Stan Stanley (@Snakewife) August 22, 2016
— Nicole Brinkley (@nebrinkley) August 22, 2016
That’s just the tip of the iceberg…this was a seriously wonderful show. The programming was also totally relevant, up to date and, for this jaded con goer, topics I hadn’t seen covered by people who aren’t overexposed. I didn’t not get to actually GO to the programming though, because the panels were packed and the rooms got capped.
I think Matthew Rosenberg said it best:
Only went today, but @flamecon was a really great show. Other cons should take notice of how they do it.
— Matthew Rosenberg (@AshcanPress) August 21, 2016
Indeed, there were flyers for several other shows that are LGBTQ-themed or geek girl themed. I can see this becoming a whole other “circuit” for small press comics.
Flame Con 2017 has already been announced, and I hope it doesn’t grow too big too fast. I talked with one of the organizers –Geeks Out, an NYC based organization for LGBTQ fandom –and it sounds like the have a large steering committee, which is essential for a non-profit event like this; too few and you get fast burnout. But Flame Con seems to be in good hands.
On a personal note, I ran into an artist who told me some advice I gave him at an “industry day” at his art school had inspired him to keep going. I must have had a good eye, because he’s now working steadily for a top five publisher. Knowing that you can make a difference in someone’s life to pursue their dream is the best feeling on earth, and I’m always humbled by this knowledge. And that inspires me to try to keep inspiring other people, in any way I can.
So yeah, warm fuzzies.
AND NOW, the Beat’s own bad photos!
Marguirite van Cook and James Romberger. James is to busy makign great comics to write for The Beat, which is the only excuse I will accept.
Great but hard to photograph cosplay! This new “dark matte” make-up is incredible.
Just a partial view of the floor; you can see the similarities to the other Marriott where SPX is held.
Artist Issac Goodhart of Postal, a rather underrated comics from Top Cow written by Bryan Edward Hill and Matt Hawkins.
Greg Fox of Kyle’s Bed and Breakfast, a long running comic that has a comfy feeling, as shown by the pancakes.
The Beat’s Edie Nugent and artist Simon Fraser went salt and pepper.
Finally! Ghostbusters’ Jillian Holtzmann cospay…teamed with Bucky for the win.
Artist Kevin Wada, who is fantastic if you haven’t noticed.
And Trungles, another fantastic up and comer.
Jennie Wood, writer of Flutter, a highly regarded comics about a 15-year-old girl who can shape shift into a boy to get the girl. If you’ve ever read manga, you can probably guess….hijinx ensue!
People gather at the entertainment stage. There was always an appreciative audience for whatever was going on. Just another sign of what made Flame Con so special.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.