Multiple times throughout the calendar year, Indianapolis, Indiana experiences an influx of gamers, nerds, geeks, fanboys/fangirls, artists and celebrities for three conventions, each focusing on different aspects of gaming, fandoms, fantasy, and media. August 30 through September 1 brought together everyone from all different pop culture fandoms for the Indiana Comic Convention. As the weekend started, it was difficult to not feel an air of joy and euphoria reminiscent from childhood and that feeling stayed present throughout the weekend.
Growing up as a homoromantic asexual male in rural, small town Indiana, there were many challenges that I faced, and to survive I had to find ways to cope with the constant fear, unease, and struggle to accept myself, as many in the LGBTQ+ community can relate. For me, anime and cartoons and comic books were the biggest sources of safety, acceptance, and joy. They offered escape from the mundane, provided space for self-acceptance, and normalized parts of my being that I was told by others weren’t acceptable. In spaces such as the Indiana Comic Convention, one couldn’t help but be drawn into this realm of harmony and fandom, regardless of being in or out of costume.
Throughout the weekend, it was easy to picture how others felt and understand the commonality between us all. Everywhere I looked, I saw varying levels of representation of shared fandoms. Many were not in costume but those that were showed their unconditional embrace of what the characters they were dressed as meant to them. Families, friends, and individuals alike embraced these characters regardless of gender, sexuality, and character backstory and owned the power that doing so gave them. This was also evident as fans attended sessions, met, and took photographs with the celebrities that attended. Friday night and Sunday, I dedicated myself to multiple panels over different topics, shopping, and plenty of people watching. Panel topics offered throughout the weekend were as various as the outfits worn by convention attendees, such as gaming used in mental health treatment, psychology and theology found in comic book story arcs, tips and tricks for cosplay, and various comic book/superhero comedy shows. Even with the preparation and planning of figuring out panel and special event schedules I did, it all that fell away for me on Saturday with the guest celebrities that were signing autographs and photo opportunities, which included but not limited to John Barrowman and David Yost.
These two both stood out to me for the similar reasoning. My favorite original Power Ranger was Billy Cranston was played by David Yost. My draw to the Blue Ranger had nothing to do with the fact that David is a gay male, which at the time that the Power Rangers aired was not a widely known fact. It was more that Billy was the archetypal nerdy smart kid of the friend group, and it was comforting to see someone that represent how I saw myself. In a similar fashion, John Barrowman also represented someone similar with how I identified, and I came to know of him during a crucial and pivotal moment in my young adult life. His character Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood was one of the first, if not the first, omnisexual character in television (essentially Captain Jack is attracted to every living being of a high consciousness and can communicate consent for him to take them to bed). I became an instant fan of his once I began to understand how he lived his life, with passion for inclusivity, accurate representation, and unapologetically being himself regardless of situations he finds himself.
The biggest take from the weekend for was one I find in Pride celebrations and in many events in the LGBTQ+ community here in Indianapolis. It was one of visibility, acceptance, and the celebration of life. Many of the exhibitors, panelists, and celebrities shared this message as often as they could, as did those in cosplay outfits. While comic conventions do not always have explicit gay and queer focus to them, the setting, love, acceptance, and freedom of visibility is parallel to the message and mission of many movements for equal rights. Perhaps it is a shared history like mine or perhaps it is a microcosm of what the world could be for everyone. Whatever the reason and cause, Indiana Comic Con 2019 was a long overdue experience and will not be the last venture into the convention world. Maybe next time, you will find me representing a beloved character from my many, many fandoms.