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Geeks and Queers at Emerald City Comic Con 2024: Queer spaces, and more

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Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, and John Rhys-Davies on the main stage — Courtesy of ReedPop
Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, and John Rhys-Davies on the main stage — Courtesy of ReedPop

Between the Arch and Summit buildings of the Seattle Convention Center, Emerald City Comic Con boasted an estimated 90,000 attendees this year. Just about every feature that was present in 2023 was expanded, from the Artist Alley to celebrity guests — and, most importantly, the Gay stuff.

Once again, North Admiral—based nonprofit Free2Luv hosted the Pride Lounge, a dedicated space for Queer con-goers and allies to hang out, meet each other, and take a break from all the action. Round tables were set up in one portion of the room, with a few collaborative posters laid out, and bean bag chairs were scattered more or less around a pair of TV screens used for gaming.

The lounge also hosted workshops for making and exchanging friendship bracelets, and demand for its Drag Queen Bingo event was high enough that the line to get in wrapped around one corner.

Local YouTuber Matt Baume with fellow panelists in "Reclaiming Queer History Through Comics" — Photo by Daniel Lindsley  

Other explicitly Queer panels and events had a strong fan turnout as well (save for the one during the Critical Role panel), but Queer and other minority perspectives really did seem to be woven through every feature of the convention.

Meeting LGBTQ creators in the Artists' Alley was an endeavor, partly because of the crowds, but also because of the sheer number of people there who tripped my "gaydar." In previous years, I'd get a "ping" here and there. This year, it was like I was Ellen Ripley in Aliens, with my motion tracker's screen turning rainbow.

Middle Earth
The Lord of the Rings cast reunion brought Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, and John Rhys-Davies onto the main stage to talk about their careers and experiences with the films — the usual stuff — but not before giving Sam and Frodo shippers in the crowd a characteristic nod of approval.

"Elijah and I get to see each other all the time," Astin said. "We eat together, we do crossword puzzles together — all the fan fiction is true."

Both the films and the books in Tolkien's massively influential Middle Earth series are criticized for their lack of women characters, but that absence does leave a lot of room for the men to love each other. In that area, the Rings series shines.

It was inevitable, then, that the three cast members passed around a lot of love. Astin referred to Rhys-Davies as a "dwarven god" and praised Wood for being a trooper throughout the filming process.

Exhibitors and socializing
Some of the bigger indie exhibitors made a point of featuring work by and about Queer people and other minorities. Oni Press brought in Queer creators like Jarrett Melendez, best known for his Gay culinary romance comic Chef's Kiss.

Stranger Comics was promoting its Afro-fantasy series Niobe: She Is Life, which was the first nationally distributed comic book with a Black woman as its author, its protagonist, and one of its artists. Founder Sebastian Jones said that the publisher is working with HBO on a TV series set in the broader Afro-fantasy setting of Asunda.

The convention team also rolled out a new "Tavern" feature this year, though I didn't spend a great deal of time in the Dabbling Dragon, which hosted interactive panels and workshops; or in the Pickled Pixie, which had a few meetups but seemed fairly relaxed besides.

For me, the real party was in Kraken's Keep, which distinguished itself from the convention's 21+ "beer gardens" with live music, plentiful seating, soft lighting, and nautical decor. The price of the alcohol was outrageous, but convention food is always pricey, and I suspect that it helped patrons drink in moderation.

Prices notwithstanding, the people I spoke with in Kraken's Keep all seemed glad to have that space and generally agreed that it was a fantastic idea. The vibes were good enough that, on Sunday night, the bards (a lutist and a singer) proposed to each other to the tune of a cheering crowd.

Conventions like Emerald City Comic Con are far from the only place one can meet like-minded geeks, but few bring so many different "wings" of geekdom into one place. Whether it's live-action role-playing like Amtgard or the Renaissance Faire, tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, or the Artist's Alley, each feature seems to grow and evolve every year. The direction of this evolution seems to be pro-social, and for a long-time con-goer, it's a beautiful thing to see.