Convention Report: BENTcon 2011

I was only able to attend BENTcon 2 at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA on Sunday December 4th. It was, I’m told in full swing from Friday night, and I’m sure I missed some good events and panels but what can one do? I am rather kicking myself that I misread the time of the Women in Gay Comics panel and missed it. Oh well, I got to talk to lots of cool artists and exhibitors on my one afternoon at BENTcon 2.

So here’s who I talked to that day:

THE HORNSMYTHE
www.thehornsmythe.com

Cal Cotton of the Hornsmyth. Specialize in drinking horn, blowing horns. He and his wife have been making horns for 23 years and his wife was making horns for five years before they met. They are based in Westminster, CA. They do events like BENTcon, the Ren Faire in Irwindale, and various Sci-Fi and Fantasy conventions. He said his wife makes 75% of the things in their booth and he’s her helper.

Also in the picture is Jeannette Smith wearing a costume from Pendragon costumes, which was so busy I never got a chance to talk to anyone there.

ELVIS SCHOENBERG’S ORCHESTRA SURREAL
www.eschoenberg.com (please click for the swingin’ music on the cool cartoon intro)

I spoke with The Fabulous Miss Thing (and is she evah). The orchestra has been around since 1996, they put out their first CD in 1997, and now they have three CDs out. It’s a very cool and twisted hybrid of classical music and orchestrated rock songs turned on their sides. The song playing on the monitor was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in a jump swing arrangement which I thought was Night in Tunisia at first. The Orchestra has been trying to do more conventions and because they have a burlesque comic book feel they’re doing more comic book conventions. The Orchestra, well, part of it, offered to do some live performances at their booth, but the convention nixed it. I think this is a terrible shame because Miss Thing can really belt ‘em out.

The Orchestra has a performance coming up on December 26 at the Typhoon Restaurant in Santa Monica.

RICK WORLEY
www.rickworley.com

Rick was fighting a cold so he was on Dayquil but still lucid. Full disclosure: I have a copy of Rick’s wonderful comics collection, “A Waste of Time,” sitting on my desk waiting for a review, so I spent a little time apologizing for that. He said the book is doing pretty well, that it’s a gradual thing getting people to know it exists (like, y’know, through reviews and stuff like that). He’s had a good convention even though he’s been sick all weekend. (Everybody get a flu shot!) Rick’s been drawing “A Waste of Time” for the past four years, but he’s been drawing comics since he was a little kid. He used to make his own comics in fourth grade, usually Spiderman mash-ups, but he’s only into Grant Morrison’s work now. He worked at Borders until he got laid off, he said they were a horrible company to work for: arrogant, abusive, and stupid. This is sad because it should be fun to work in a bookstore. He’s mostly self-taught, but has taken drawing classes here and there. Rick grew up in southern California, but has lived in San Francisco for the three years now. There’s another book with the same characters in the works.

ZAN CHRISTANSEN, NORTHWEST PRESS
www.northwestpress.com

I spoke to Zan Christianen of Northwest Press, the publisher of “A Waste of Time.” Zan actually sent me the review copy sitting on my desk, waiting to be reviewed (so, as you can imagine, there was more groveling about it). Northwest Press has been all over the country, but BENTcon is the biggest and gayest convention of the year, so they got the biggest and gayest booth at the convention. He was even opening a bottle of champagne, that’s how cool this booth was. He had several big comics, one of them was “The Power Within,” a very timely comic to help kids deal with bullying. Last years, Zan and the artist on the book, Mark Brill, were trying to figure out what to do for 24-hour comics day and this is what came out of that. 24-hour comics day is in October, and the previous September there had been several gay teen suicides in the news. In doing research for the book, Zan discovered that there were eleven suicides in September 2010. So, he and Brill did the 24-page comic for 24 Hour Comics Day and afterwards they polished the work up and released it as a self-published comic in the Spring of 2011. Then Zan recruited some guest artists—Phil Jimenez, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, to name a few—to contribute more pages. They did a fundraising event so they could do a big print run and started sending them out for free to schools, gay alliances, and other resources for gay teens. The book is designed as a life-line to isolated, alienated kids. Zan says it tells kids that they might not have a supportive family, or teachers or they might not have friends they can reach out to, but even if they don’t have any support, each kid has the strength to get over the hardest parts of their life with the power within. They can make it through and get to the better part of their life. So Zan and his people sent the book out over the summer of 2011 and Zan and Brill got an email from OUT magazine letting them know that OUT would be honoring them as two of their OUT 100 for 2011. Zan encourages anyone with any kind of skills to try to help kids who are being bullied because it’s been going on for far too long and it’s time to stop pussy-footing around it. It’s time for parents to realize they’re better off with a live gay teen than a dead one and stop freaking out about it. I asked Zan why it was getting worse, why there were more gay teen suicides now, and he said it’s actually getting better because it’s getting more attention. It’s not being swept under the rug and he thinks that people are more willing to call it what it is. When a child kills him or herself because they’re queer or harassed for being seen as such, it’s not just swept under the rug and ignored by mainstream society. Surviving your teens is tough enough without bullying, but it’s worse if there isn’t even a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not a freight train, it’s Zan and people like Zan throwing you a rope. Sorry for the mixed metaphor. It really does get better.

Speaking of Dan Savage, Dan wrote the introduction for another Northwest press book by David Kelly (of Boy Trouble fame) called “Rainy Day Recess.” This books is about a tween boy growing up in the 70s, liking Wonder Woman and Charlies Angels, and being a very sensitive boy. “Rainy Day Recess” is a window into the life of a kid before he starts having to conform or being bullied.

Northwest Press has recently released “A Waste of Time” by Rich Worley (grovel grovel grovel), which Zan describes as Calvin and Hobbs meets lots of butt sex with adults. In 2012 Zan plans to release their first “L” book (as in G”L”BT), their first lesbian book by Lea Weathington’s “Bold Reilly.” An action adventure heroine who always gets the girl. Zan describes Bold as kind of like Conan the Barbarian except she’s a better conversationalist and has smaller breasts.

So far of Northwest’s GLBT alphabet soup, they’ve done “Glamazonia, the uncanny tranny” (T), “A Waste of Time,” “Rainy Day Recess” (G) “Teleny and Camille” (G, B), and “Bold Reilly” (L). Hopefully the Northwest press will be around for a long time and do many other wonderful titles like these and “The Power Within.”

Northwest books are available in print, but also in the iPad e-book store.

DAVID KELLY
Prism profile

Is the co-editor of Boy Trouble and more recently, the author of Rainy Day Recess. Rainy Day Recess is about a boy growing up in the 1970s in a family dealing with separation and divorce and him dealing with all the struggles with that. He finds joy in having a crush on a boy in his class and drawing this own comic, Star Woman, in which he is her sidekick, Star Boy. Lots of 1970s pop culture references. The strip ran in gay and lesbian newspapers in the 1990s, and it’s only recently that Zan Christenson and Northwest Press have collected them into the edition I saw at BENTcon.

David would like to do more young adult graphic novels with older teen characters. So there is something to look forward to.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of David. This is too bad because he’s very handsome. I also could not find a link to a David Kelly webpage, so I linked to his profile on the Prism website.

ALEX WOOLFSON, YAOI 911
www.artificecomic.com

He started the Yaoi 911 project in 2006 when he wanted to write guy and guy romance comics that were in a particular action genre and involved a rescue theme. He wanted to write for a broad audience that included women, especially since he wrote his work for one woman whom is a good friend of his, he was looking to write for a predominately female audience. At this point in 2011 his audience is 60% women and 40% men. His men look like men, which takes it out of most of the yaoi genre. For Alex, plot and character come first and the erotic element comes naturally into the story, contributing to the story, not overwhelming it. Alex is striking a middle ground between yaoi comics and traditionally gay erotic comics by creating the comics he’s always wanted to read himself, and he’s very gratified that there’s an audience out there for it.

Yaoi 911 used to be a review site, but has morphed into an original comic website. He does all the writing and works with a variety of artists. So far he’s been working on a gay sci-fi comic and next year will be doing a gay superhero comic. The two artists whose work was at Alex’s booth were Winona Nelson and Adam Dekraker.

Alex’s next book will be Artifice, currently being serialized on the web (it was at page 56 when we spoke), it’s science fiction and will be collected and published as a book in 2012. His superhero comic will also be a webcomic and then a book and should be on the web sometime in 2012.

STEVE MACISAAC
www.stevemacisaac.com

I hadn’t seen Steve in a year and in this past June, he published Shirtlifter 4, two and a half years after his “Unpacking” story cliff-hanger (for me) in Shirtlifter 3. He said it will probably be two and a half more years before Shirtlifter 5 due to having a life and a day job. There’s 60 pages of “Unpacking” in Shirtlifter 3 and also 4 and he goes through a little post-partum depression after each book comes out. He said he hasn’t really written anything since Shirtlifter 4 came out, but he does have the final part of “Unpacking” planned out in his head, and he’s started working on Shirtlifter 5, so there is something to look forward to.

I bought a copy of Shirtlifter 4 because I’m totally hooked on Steve’s story, “Unpacking,” and it was totally worth the wait. “Unpacking” began in Shirtlifter 3 and was serialized on the web, which is where I fell in love with it. It’s got a good story, good characters, and bears! I don’t usually like bears, but I like these bears because they’re Steve MacIsaac’s bears. “Unpacking” can be read as a complete story, with a beginning-middle-end, in each volume, but the story wraps up in Shirtlifter 5. Well, wraps up as much as Steve wraps things up; he always leaves something open ended in all his work.

BRADLEY RADER
www.raderofthelostart.com

Brad has just had a wonderful book called “The Art of Brad Rader” published by his comic book store in Burbank, The House of Secrets, which has a publishing arm called The Art of Fiction. In December of 2009, they asked Brad to be part of their line of small art books by local animation artists. Brad provided them with 300 image files Art of Fiction culled into a gorgeous 60 page, 5.25×8″ semi-paperback book. There’s more information about how to get your hands on a copy at Brad’s website. Right now, Brad’s comics projects are in stalled-out mode while he works full time storyboarding “Bob’s Burgers.” But he said that in early 2012 when he’s on hiatus from animation, he’ll be back on top of the comics projects.

Brad said BENTcon 2 has been a fantastic event. He’s staying at the convention hotel, the Boneventure Hotel (awesome con rate of $109!!!) and it’s been a blast. The food and parking are expensive, but there’s a Subway across the street. Brad went to the film festival the previous evening and one of the standout short films for him was Michael Derry’s “Troy” 2-D, possibly flash animated, cartoon. He also said he really enjoyed Wendy Pini’s “Mask of Red Death” cartoon.

IN SUMMARY…

I am told by reliable sources that BENTcon 2 was a success! The exhibitor area completely sold out, the room block sold out, attendance was high, and there was interest from abroad in attending this one and the next one. So look forward to BENTcon 3 in 2012.

Here’s the J LHLS coverage of BENTcon 2010.

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