Why am I in love with BENT-CON?

Bent-Con Logo 2014=3Hey, you.

I wanted to take a minute or two to let you know about a project that’s near and dear to my heart: the annual Bent-Con convention that’s coming up in November.

If you’re a nerd in good standing, then you’re likely familiar with Comic-Con, the big comics, toys, art, movies, TV (and everything else… I think they’re spotlighting mime this year) show that happens every year in San Diego. This, as overkill as it might have been, was my very first experience with comic book conventions, back in 2000, and I’ve made it a mission to return every year since.

At first, it was because I loved meeting all the artists, seeing the stars there to promote their movies, and shopping for neat stuff. As the years went on, though, it became more of a social affair for me, as I became more and more a part of the LGBT comics community.

Comic-Con 2002

“I think it needs more rainbows.” Pre-Prism Comics, with GayLeague.com and Out in Comics.

Every year, Comic-Con felt like a big, queer time, since I was knee-deep in LGBT panel discussions, signings, and eventually the big queer comics Mecca on the main floor that the Prism Comics booth has become.

In 2010, though, a tiny little show called Bent-Con popped up in Los Angeles, held in an abandoned “Mr. S. Leathers”, of all places, looking very much like the show the ambitious, upstart kids might have put on at the end of an inspiring 80s movie.

The following year, Bent-Con moved to being a hotel show, with panel programming and costume contests and special guests. It became a “real” comic-con, and the strangest thing happened.

Even though I had already spent over a decade helping to build a strong LGBT presence at Comic-Con, even though there was now programming aimed at me as a gay guy, and even though there were plenty of social events and stuff that welcomed me, I discovered that I’d never really fully unclenched, exhaled, and felt completely at home.

Dylan Edwards (Transposes), Justin Hall (No Straight Lines), and Phil Jimenez (everything) at Bent-Con in 2012

Dylan Edwards (Transposes), Justin Hall (No Straight Lines), and Phil Jimenez (everything) at Bent-Con in 2012

It’s really hard to describe the feeling of having that layer of self-consciousness—that I didn’t even know still existed!—peeled away from the comic convention experience. But Bent-Con did that for me, even when it was just a tiny show, and that feeling of freedom is the reason I’ve been such a passionate supporter of the show since then.

Partly, I support Bent-Con so that it can get better, bigger, and more diverse, and deliver that feeling of home to even more people.

This is not to slam Comic-Con, or Emerald City, or APE (coming this weekend!) or any other general-interest comics and pop-culture show. I love conventions, and I probably attend way more of them every year than one person should. Yeah, it’s for work, since these books only sell themselves once I get people to open them, but I also go to conventions because I love them. And comics shows of today are much more diverse and welcoming than those of yesteryear.

Bent-Con, however, is not just diverse and welcoming, but celebratory of who we are, as queer pop-culture fanatics, and that is really, really important. It’s a show built from the ground up, not for profit but for people, by queer nerds like you and me. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in geekery for a weekend and be your ever-lovin’ self without censor, where people will get where you’re coming from whether you’re griping about the absence of Donna Troy from the current DC Universe—Right? I mean, WTF!?—or the importance of Alison Bechdel in the queer comics canon, or the new wave of trans comics creators.

Oh, that “not for profit” part I mentioned earlier? That’s literal; Bent-Con is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, completely run by volunteers, and that leads into why I’m writing this love letter to them in the first place.

Bent-Con launched a Kickstarter project last month to help fund this year’s show, and hopefully to put a little something in the fund for next year, so the show can be self-sustaining. There’s lots of unique, top-dollar rewards in the mix—script review from the creator of Final Destination, front-row seats to see Anne Rice at the Dinner Party Show, comics, original art and other goodies—but there’s also a pretty straightforward economy option; you can pledge a pretty low dollar amount and get a weekend convention pass for less than you’d pay otherwise.

It seems like a no-brainer to me, but hey, I’m in love.

Here’s what I say to you: if the Internet can raise over fifty-thousand dollars for a bowl of potato salad, then we can pull together and support a grassroots queer pop culture show and ensure that it sticks around, so we can all have our own version of that warm, comfy feeling.

Splurge on a big-ticket item, pitch in for a weekend pass, just throw a dollar in the jar, or even simply share the link to the Kickstarter on Facebook, Twitter, Ello, or whatever social network you happen to have joined this week. Pick one of the above, but do something to tell the folks at Bent-Con that you appreciate what they’re doing and you want the show to stay on our convention calendars for years to come.


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