July 26, 2018 at 11:49 am PDT | by Susan Hornik
San Diego’s Comic-Con brought out the queer stars and superheroes

Nafessa Williams, who stars in ‘Black Lightning’ is the first African American superShero. (Photo by Jeff Hitchcock via Wikimedia Commons)

The 49th annual Comic-Con, the world’s biggest comic book and geek culture convention, showcased LGBTQ panels focusing on inclusion in Hollywood, and offered sneak peaks at upcoming gay storylines and inclusive casting news.

“Summer is usually one of San Diego’s busiest times, with the Pride Festival and Comic Con happening nearly back-to-back and bringing thousands of visitors to the area. No two events bring as much energy, excitement and fun to our city,” Hard Rock Hotel’s Rana Kay told Los Angeles Blade. “Our location across from the Convention Center put us right in the thick of Comic Con. It’s four straight days of parties, celebrities and fans!”

These days, there was more gender-fluid cosplay than ever before, with men dressed up as Wonder Woman and women attending Comic Con as Iron Man and Batman.

Best of all, no attendee seemed to care that the cosplay doesn’t adhere to traditional male/female roles.

“The public awareness of gender versus biological sex, respecting people’s pronouns has impacted our culture in a good way,” said Xander Jeanneret, who was wearing a sticker from Skybound Entertainment, which illustrated the pronouns he wanted to be addressed as.

“For the most part, nerds are very accepting people.”

There were a number of  LGBTQ-related panels, like “Transformation Magic: Transgender Life in Comics from Street Level to the Stratosphere,” which addressed how trans comic creators are creating original content and their financial and creative challenges.

Also, there was a panel discussion about the portrayal of queer characters in LGBTQ graphic novels for kids: ie developing authentic stories to comics as a safe space for all identities. 
“With all these panels, it really seemed like Comic Con welcomes the LGBTQ community with open arms,” said Jeanneret.

One of the biggest LGBT casting announcements came from the producers of The CW/Warner Bros. Television’s hit drama, “Supergirl.” The DC Super Hero series will debut TV’s first transgender superShero. Transgender activist Nicole Maines (“Royal Pains,” “The Trans List,” “Becoming Nicole” book) will join the show in the series regular role of Nia Nal, aka Dreamer. 

In a statement to the press, Nia is described as the newest addition to the CatCo reporting team, “a soulful young transgender woman with a fierce drive to protect others, Nia’s journey this season means fulfilling her destiny as the superhero Dreamer.”

At night there were numerous parties, including Entertainment Weekly’s annual closing night party at FLOAT at the Hard Rock Hotel.  The most anticipated party of Comic-Con, this year’s bash featured activations from presenting sponsor HBO, a photo booth from participating sponsor Instagram and tunes from DJ Michelle Pesce.

“I love Comic-Con for so many reasons; probably the most because it’s an amazing mix of people, with tons of fantastic cosplay and LGBT fans really pushing the envelope on gender-bending fun, both at the show and the events all around the Gaslamp area,” said Rick Rhoades.

During the EW party, Nafessa Williams, who stars in “Black Lightning” is the first African American superShero, talked with Los Angeles Blade about her role.

“Representation is important. What I find most rewarding about this role is when young gay black women tell me that after seeing my character onscreen, they feel normal and safe to be out as a lesbian,” Williams said.

She added: “That’s my only job as an actor,: to take on jobs that are going to inspire. We gotta be who we are unapologetically.”

“Black Lightning” season 2 will premiere on The CW on Oct. 9.

Williams is a superShero in real life too.

“I have always wanted to fly. I have lived in the West Coast for years, to be able to get there quickly would be great. I think I could help save the world if I could fly. We don’t have a lot of time, and if we can get to people who are in need quicker, then maybe we can solve some issues,” Williams said.

During the panel for Netflix’s “Voltron: Legendary Defender” the showrunner, Lauren Montgomery, announced that the lead character will be getting a partner this season.

“It’s something that’s been part of his character from the get-go,” added executive producer, Joaquim Dos Santos, who said  that the news was delayed due to their strategy of shifting around the character backstories, along with the decision to not kill off Shiro.
When a fan asked if Shiro and Adam was gay or bisexual, Dos Santos said: “They’re in a relationship.”

The superhero series returns on August 10th.

Malcolm Venable, gay senior editor at TV Guide, attended his very first Comic-Con.

“It was eye-opening, to say the least. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was changed,” he enthused.

“Historically, when it comes to huge events, I have covered — let’s just call it what it is — snootier and more exclusive fare like New York Fashion Week, the Grammys and other award shows where the crowd is peacocking and low-key competing with one another for best outfit, best connection to get backstage and so on. And I saw that at Comic-Con, for sure, but I was most struck by the openness, the welcoming atmosphere and the sense of inclusion that felt natural, not forced,” he acknowledged.

Venable loved the inclusive vibe.

“Everyone was super friendly and respectful; it felt like the black and brown people, women, people with physical disabilities and the LGBTQ people were welcomed with respect, open arms and smiles. I was expecting to spend my days colliding into sweaty nerds but ended up finding a little slice of nirvana where everyone could be themselves,” he noted.

“I can’t recall seeing much specifically LGBTQ cosplay, but there was some representation in panels: from ‘Black Lightning’s’ black lesbian character to the news that there might be a queer love triangle on ‘Riverdale.’”

“There could be more — I was actually hoping to see more queer cosplay — but when I saw a gang of Asian girls dressed as backup dancers from Beyonce’s legendary Coachella performance, I squealed with delight,” he quipped. “It clicked for me: Comic Con is, for fans, a place to celebrate identity, revel in feeling like an outsider  and reject conforming, which is the queerest thing ever. I can’t wait to go back!”

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