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Flame Con attendees on a Suicune raid outside 1700 Broadway

§ I wanted to give a few quick thoughts about last weekend’s Flame Con, which was indeed bigger and better than ever. It was a wonderful event – the whole tone was captured for me immediately after I arrived as I looked at a map of the show. Two men, strangers to each other, were also looking at it and one blurted out “This place is wonderful!” and the other said “It is, isn’t it?” Queer people of all kinds and genders feel loved and supported at Flame Con, part of a community that is giving and accepting, and that is the most important thing, the crucial thing.

As an ally, it’s not my place to speak to those elements of Flame Con. However, as the comic con veteran that I am, I did observe a few evolutions in the show. There was a big outcry earlier this year when tables were assigned as part of a lottery – the worry was that this would leave out a lot of already marginalized queer and POC creators. The show did seem incredibly diverse to my eyes, but what had really changed due to the lottery was the amount of comics at the show.

All indie comics festivals have increasingly become shows where you can buy pins, prints, buttons and other paraphernalia, but whereas in the past I’d say Flame Con was 50/50, this year it was maybe 25% comics and 75% cool stuff. All the guests were prominent cartoonists – and the lineup of creators was stellar – but many, many tables were all pins, t-shirts and mugs.  I didn’t find any buried treasures of comics as I do at many shows – but that could also have been me. It was VERY crowded at the show and I kept running into pals and stopping to chatter.

Anyway, this is in no way a criticism. If Flame Con is turning into a “makers fair” for queer kids, with cosplay, panels and workshops, that’s wonderful! The vibrant and supportive community at Flame Con is what matters. The cosplay was spectacular, the panels I went to were great, and everyone was having a grand time. As an expression of the overall culture of fandom, the event was right on point.

For instance, take the above photo. The big Suicune raid in Pokemon Go took place on Saturday afternoon and just about everyone ran out to catch one or two – there were about six gyms within a block of the Sheraton! If the visual of a bunch of Flame Con cosplayers playing Pokemon Go outside the former home of DC Comics doesn’t sum up the state of the world, I don’t know what does.

After last year’s move to a Manhattan location, Flame Con could make a strong claim to being the second biggest comics show in NYC, and a far friendlier one than NYCC. I think it’s not quite going in that direction, and, once again, that’s fine. We have MoCCA, another exemplary show, and Big Apple if you want a throwback event. We have plenty of comics events in NYC, but there is only one Flame Con, and it’s wonderful.

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We’re Here, but Not Just Queer: Navigating Multiple Identities in Comics Authorship and Criticism – panel of awesome: Tana Ford, Christine “Steenz” Stewart, Matt Santori, Valerie Complex, Steve Orlando and Vita Ayala. 

§ Whoa what a day yesterday! This headline from the Daily Variety news wrap up that arrives in my inbox every night says it all:

‘Matrix 4’ in Development; Why Spider-Man May Leave the MCU; James Bond 25 Title Revealed

The Beat news room was in a TIZZY.

§ Found while googling: Why we’ll never get to see a Matrix 4

Oops.

§ This headline from the Wall Street Journal – Graphic Novels Take Off With Young Readers – was shared quite a bit but required breaking into the firewall to read. I was able to get in, and it’s a fairly standard “Pow! Sock! Comics are for kids!” story, bolstered by the WSJ‘s fact checking and numbers. Baldly stated:

Graphic novels aimed at younger readers are skipping the superheroes and taking on serious subjects like mental health and body image, setting off a boom that is bolstering the children’s publishing industry.

§ Speaking of fandom, an excellent piece by Kelly Richards at WWAC contrasting  AO3’s Hugo win with Kevin Smith taking on He-Man:

Transformative fandom is usually viewed as the lesser kind of fandom. It is not dependant on how much you spend or how much knowledge you can amass, but rather on your personal relationship with a property. It’s a practical, hands on sort of fandom that flourishes in spaces where conversation and creativity are valued. It is welcoming, subversive and far reaching and more often than not, it is the sort of fandom practiced by women and members of marginalised communities, genders, and sexualities and last night, it won an award. Shortly after this I saw Netflix’s announcement for a new animated He-Man series. Cool right? After the success of the rebooted She-Ra they would be stupid not to cash in on that. We’ve all seen the toys and costumes and a whole new generation of kids absolutely living for the princess alliance. Why not spread a little of that love across to Eternia?

Kevin Smith and AO3 would indeed seem to be the alpha and omega of fandom, but I dream of a world where we can all live in peace.

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§ George Gustines at the NYT susses out  8 New Comic Book Series for the End of Summer. There’s life in that there pamphlet after all!

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Photo: Google Maps

§ For as long as there has been a Beat, I have been following the story of the statue of Rocky and Bullwinkle that one stood outside the Jay Ward offices on Sunset Boulevard. A quirky reminder of LA’s googy past, it was also a tribute to one of the all time great cartoons. Created by Ward and voiced by the immortal June Foray and Bill Scott, the moose and squirrel were subversive, satirical and charming – and still hold up to this day.

But changing real estate deals meant the statue had to be moved, and though it was restored for an art exhibit for the last few years, it’s been hidden away at the Paley Center. But now, huzzah! The West Hollywood City Council has decided the statue will return in a permanent home at the traffic island where Holloway meets Sunset, as an icon of the neighborhood.

As with all things in WeHo, there were concerns over traffic and pedestrian safety. However, the statue had a fan club:

However, fans of Rocky and Bullwinkle turned out waving a sign before the City Council to urge it to approve the installation. Among them was Brad Norman, the voice of Bullwinkle in the new Amazon Prime series “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” with Tara Strong, the voice of Rocky, who made a comedic pitch to the Council. Amber Ward, vice president of Ward Productions and the granddaughter of Jay Ward, creator of the iconic TV show, also appeared before the City Council to support the installation on the Holloway traffic island.

“It would be fantastic to see the statue in its permanent home by the 60th anniversary … of the first airing of the Bullwinkle Show,” Ward said.

And so the statue will be restored!

It should be noted that this traffic island is at the top of Palm Avenue, where I lived in LA, and opposite the former site of Tower Records and catty corner to Book Soup. How many times I would race up that hill trying to catch the bus to my job at The Hollywood Reporter! A lotta history as only LA can make it in that spot – on my last visit after SDCC, much had changed, though. AAHS closed and the block one street down – including the Viper Room – is slated to be torn down in favor of a high rise.

Rocky and Bullwinkle will be a lovely tribute to a different era, though. I hope it’s up by the next time I visit in the spring.

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