One of the things I love about going to conventions is the feeling of belonging I experience strolling through the exhibit hall. Or, as Long-Suffering Boyfriend likes to say whenever we pass Jedis dueling or Wonder Twins activating, “These are your people.” Imagine, then, cranking that feeling of camaraderie and acceptance up to about 100, and you’ll have some notion of how it felt to be at Bent-Con last weekend.
A labor of love brought to glorious life by a group of dedicated, passionate and tireless friends, Bent-Con exceeded expectations and proved to be a great way to end the convention circuit of 2011. Sean Holman, Jody Wheeler, Viktor Kerney, Dave Davenport, Pk Eiselt and many, many others poured their hearts and souls and creativity into this convention, and it showed.
Convention appearances have become a vital part of what we do here at Fanboys of the Universe. Putting ourselves in the middle of the pop culture conversation helps us remain relevant in an ever-changing media landscape. More importantly, though, conventions allow us to connect with site members, get feedback and network with creators. For all those reasons, Bent-Con was the perfect venue for us to spend the weekend, unpack our wares and really get to know our audience. I personally got to speak to many of our site members, old and new. I also got the chance to introduce the site to both attendees and exhibitors. The organizers of Bent-Con created a welcoming and accepting space for gay fans to celebrate and share their interests. I’ve done a lot of conventions, and I’ve never encountered such a large number of warm, friendly and, well, happy attendees anywhere else.
Joining me was FBOTU‘s movie and music guru Johnny M. In addition to helping me at the booth, Johnny also moderated or participated in several panels at the show. I spent most of my time at the booth, but did manage to get away on Saturday to participate in a panel discussion on blogging with Viktor Kerney (southern4life.blogspot.com) and Garon Cockrell (popculturebeast.com). It was both fun and informative and made me want to sit down and chat with other bloggers more often. I highly recommend you check out their blogs. You’ll find some quality writing from two dedicated and creative professionals. I felt something like Jerri Blank on the panel, lunging at the microphone and screaming, “I’ve got something to say!” At least I didn’t trip and fall off the stage…for once.
Back at the Fanboys of the Universe booth and lounge, former Fanboys of the Month Rafael and Jake were posing for pictures and entertaining the crowds. Rafael managed to lose pieces of his costume every time I turned around, and you’ll see pics of him scattered all over Facebook in just the red unitard piece from the Robin costume. That’s definitely something he wouldn’t have been able to do at Comic-Con, I’m sure. Both Rafael and Jake did a great job helping me spread the FBOTU gospel, and I’ve got to say that I truly appreciate their enthusiasm and good humor. I had emailed them out of the blue and said, “Come wear tights and flirt with boys.” And they did. They never let me down, and I’m grateful.
I had tapped site contributor and comics creator Brian Andersen to host the Costume Catwalk, the contest FBOTU sponsored on Saturday evening. I’ve spent many an hour sharing booth space with Mr. Andersen and knew how fast, funny and razor-sharp he can be. He did not disappoint and had the audience rolling throughout the contest. We had some great contestants and costumes, ranging from the simple to the complex. I have to say, though, that even the simpler entries were extremely clever. Our winner turned out to be a fierce cyber goth beauty who played to the judges, Brian and the audience and owned the runway. I got to have a long conversation with her later, and she told me all about the Mad Max LARP groups that go on weekend trips to the desert, divide up into camps and wage war on each other. I had no idea. I wouldn’t last an hour and not because of the post-apocalyptic nature of the getaway. I don’t camp. In costume or otherwise. The contest was a lot of fun and a great way to end the day. My thanks to our awesome judges Zan Christensen, Johnny M, Ted Abbenheim and Patrick Fillion. They did not have an easy job.
On Sunday, I got to spend a little more time networking with other exhibitors and tracking down old friends I only get to see at conventions. I also got to meet Travis Richey from Robot, Ninja & Gay Guy and comics pro Mark Andreyko. Somehow I managed to speak coherently to both and didn’t knock over a single chair, table, display or person with disabilities in the process. Perhaps I’m finally growing out of my socially awkward phase…after 30+ years.
It was sad to see the weekend end and to say goodbye to old and new friends, but with the success of the show, I know we’ll all see each other again next year. San Diego Comic-Con may hold onto its current title as geek mecca, but Bent-Con offers something much more personal: solidarity, community and pride. It was a pleasure making our second appearance at Bent-Con, and I’m already looking forward to next year. The dates are December 7, 8 and 9 (yes, three days!), so please start planning your trip to Los Angeles now. You won’t regret it!
See you at Bent-Con 2012!
Photos on this page courtesy of bent-con.org, Fanboys of the Universe and LA Weekly.