Where the gays are hanging out at Comic-Con 2012!

SAN DIEGO – Comic-Con International, the world’s largest comic book and popular arts convention, returns to America’s Finest City this week. Downtown will be crammed with thousands of people wearing costumes and headdress of their favorite characters.

Restaurants and bars are stocked up, prepared for the revelry. Hotels are overbooked, and on the Internet there are visitors begging to rent your spare bedroom because they cannot find an empty room from here to Orange County.

Comic-Con's preview night will be on Wednesday, while the convention will unfold from Thursday through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center, 111 W. Harbor Drive.

The massive convention attracts its fair share of LGBT visitors, and here are some special events designed especially for that audience.

THURSDAY, JULY 12

"Northwest Press — How does a small comic book publisher succeed in today's market?” 5 to 6 pm, Room 32AB

Northwest Press opened their doors in 2010, braving a recession, the rise of digital media, and the disappearance of specialty shops and bookstores to create a publishing company specializing in a niche market: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender comics. Two years later, Northwest is still growing.

Join in a lively discussion about how to operate on a shoestring budget while looking like a pro, how to leverage social media and connections, and how to succeed as a small press.

Moderated by Chance Whitmire (“Fanboys Of The Universe”), and featuring the owner of Northwest Press, Charles "Zan" Christensen (“The Mark Of Aeacus,” “The Power Within”), as well as four of the creators he's published: Dylan Edwards (“Transposes”), Justin Hall (“Glamazonia: The Uncanny Super Tranny,” “No Straight Lines”), Steve MacIsaac (“Shirtlifter”) and Leia Weathington (“The Legend Of Bold Riley”).

"Rewriting the Rules of Queers in Comics,” 6 to 7 pm, Room 32AB

Depictions of LGBT characters in comics are breaking from the purely positive "role model" portrayals that were common over the past decade.

Some creators aren't shying away from sex, stereotypes and bad behavior in their pursuit of intriguing and well-rounded characters. As comics readers clamor for more explicit, more outrageous, and more extreme comics-and hail them as victories over timidity and political correctness-is it time to rewrite the rulebook on queer characters?

Oliver Nome (“Fathom: Kiani”), James Robinson (“Earth 2,” “Justice League”), Nicola Scott (“Earth 2,” “Secret Six”), Gail Simone (“Secret Six,” “Birds Of Prey”), Ivan Velez Jr. (“Tales Of The Closet,” Milestone Comics) and moderator Charles "Zan" Christensen (“The Mark of Aeacus,” “The Power Within”) engage in a lively, irreverent discussion about the wild frontier of queers in comics.

FRIDAY, JULY 13

“No Straight Lines: Four Decades Of Queer Comics,” 2 to 3 pm, Room 25ABC

Queer cartooning has been one of the most vibrant artistic and countercultural movements of the past 40 years, tackling complex issues of identity and changing social mores with intelligence, humor, and an irreverent imagination.

“No Straight Lines,” a massive anthology published by Fantagraphics Books, is the most definitive collection to date of this material, showcasing everything from lesbian underground comix, to gay newspaper strips, bi punk zines and trans webcomics.

The editor of the book, Justin Hall (“Glamazonia The Uncanny Super Tranny,” “Hard To Swallow”) moderates an all-star panel of some of the true greats of LGBTQ comics: Alison Bechdel (“Fun Home,” “Dykes To Watch Out For”), Paige Braddock (“Jane's World”), Ed Luce (“Wuvable Oaf”), Trina Robbins (“Wimmen's Comix”) and Eric Shanower (“Age Of Bronze”).

"Archaia: Transmedia In Graphic Novel Publishing,” 4 to 5 pm, Room 23ABC

In this information-filled panel, fans will be treated to exclusive announcements, images, and videos on three sci-fi properties poised for a transmedia explosion, with Archaia's upcoming graphic novels providing a cornerstone in each campaign.

Hawken is a free-to-play mech first-person-shooter game from developer Adhesive Games' and publisher Meteor Entertainment. Archaia will debut the original hardcover graphic novel that will serve as a prequel to the storyline in the game, and will feature the talents of Khang Le (“Flight”), Jeremy Barlow (“Mass Effect: Homeworlds,” “Star Wars”), Greg Tocchini (“Last Days Of American Crime”), Francisco Ruiz Velasco (conceptual artist on “The Hobbit” and “Pacific Rim”), Nathan Fox (“DMZ,” “The Haunt”), Christopher Moeller (“JLA: League of One”), Moritat (“Elephantmen,” “Transmetropolitan”), Bill Sienkiewicz (“Electra: Assassin”), Michael Gaydos (“Alias,” “True Blood”), Brian Thies (“Winter Soldier,” “Dark Tower”), Bagus Hutomo (“Shrapnel,” “Heavy Metal”), Stefano Gaudiano (“Daredevil”, “Amazing Spider-Man”), Alex Sanchez (“Star Wars: The Old Republic”) and Federico Dallocchio (“Modern Warfare 2: Ghost”). Featuring executive editor Joe LeFavi (“Immortals: Gods And Heroes”).

“Cyborg 009” was created by the legendary Shotaro Ishimori (“Power Rangers,” “Kikaider”) and is considered one of the most influential manga series of all time. Since its debut in 1964, it has remained in print all over the world, including here in the U.S. As part of a new resurgence of original “Cyborg 009” material, including a new animated feature film being released in Japan this fall, Archaia will publish an original hardcover graphic novel that reimagines the classic story from a modern, Western aesthetic, featuring artwork from the incomparable Trevor Hairsine. Preview art and previously unseen materials will be showcased for the first time at the panel. Featuring writers F. J. DeSanto (“Immortals: Gods And Heroes”) and Brad Cramp (“Invertigo”).

“Space: 1999: Aftershock And Awe” is the first of a series of hardcover graphic novels based on the late-1970s science fiction TV series. Author Andrew Gaska (“Conspiracy Of The Planet Of The Apes”) and artists David Hueso (“G.I. Joe: Storm Shadow”), Gary Morrow, and Miki team up to reignite this classic property about the inhabitants stranded on a moonbase after a disaster sends the moon hurtling out of Earth's orbit and into space. The panel will feature never-before-seen artwork and a preview of remastered artwork from legendary creators such as John Byrne that has not been seen in nearly three decades.

SATURDAY, JULY 14

“Northstar: Coming Out To Getting Married!” 1 to 2 pm, Room 25ABC

Northstar, the first openly gay superhero in mainstream comics and a member of both the X-Men and Alpha Flight, came out of the closet 20 years ago -- and this year he ties the knot!

Northstar has led a challenging life, facing villains, personal challenges, family rivalries, disease, death and accusations of being put back in the closet. Now Northstar starts a major new chapter in his life, with a high-profile wedding.
Prism Comics celebrates Northstar and explores how he and the comics community's attitudes toward LGBTQ characters have changed over the years.

Moderator Chance Whitmire (“Fanboys Of The Universe”) delves into the past and the bright future of everyone's favorite gay mutant with guests David Gabriel (VP of sales, Marvel Comics), Phil Jimenez (“New X-Men”), Marjorie Liu (“Astonishing X-Men”), Scott Lobdell (“Uncanny X-Men”) and Jase Peeples (The Advocate magazine).

"Gays In Comics: 25th Year Celebration!” 5:30 to 7 pm Room 6A

The comic world's longest-running panel celebrates its silver anniversary with an incredible all-star lineup and celebration that spotlights creators, comics and fans from 1988 to the present.

It was once unthinkable that mainstream companies such as DC, Marvel and Archie would have bestselling and award-winning titles frontlining gay characters such as Batwoman, Northstar and Kevin Keller. Now, they hire top-level gay or gay-friendly creators, and independent publishers and creators are publishing unequivocal content spotlighting LGBT characters, to the cheers of the thousands of fans who are out of the comic book closet and those who welcome diversity among comic book protagonists.

This year, founding moderator and best-selling author Andy Mangels chairs a new form of panel, a live documentary that will unfold for the audience, featuring a mixture of commentary, images, music and other surprises! Showcased with live appearances and video messages will be an army of awesome creators who have appeared on the previous 24 panels, including:

* Howard Cruse, creator of “Stuck Rubber Baby” and “Barefootz,” founder of Gay Comix, and godfather of the gay comic movement

* Roberta Gregory, creator of “Naughty Bits” and “Bitchy Bitch” and the godmother of the gay comic movement

* Phil Jimenez, artist of “Fairest,” “Astonishing X-Men” and “Wonder Woman”

* Alison Bechdel, creator of the award-winning “Fun Home, Dykes To Watch Out For,” and the new book “Are You My Mother?”

* Charles "Zan" Christensen, founding member of Prism Comics and publisher of gay-themed Northwest Press

* Gail Simone, the writer of “Batgirl,” “Wonder Woman” and the sexually diverse Secret Six

*Eric Shanower, artist, writer and publisher of “Age of Bronze” and “Oz” books

* Joan Hilty, creator of the weekly comic strip “Bitter Girl” and past DC editor

* Ivan Velez Jr., writer of “Tales Of The Closet” and “Ghost Rider”

* Paige Braddock, creator of the comic book and newspaper strip “Jane's World”

* Joe Phillips, artist and publisher of “Joe Boys,” “Star Trek” and “The Heretic”

* Trina Robbins, writer and artist whose work on behalf of women in comics has helped redefine the industry

* Dan Parent, writer and artist for “Archie” and “Betty & Veronica” and creator of Archie's new gay character, Kevin Keller

* Wendy Pini, the creator of “ElfQuest” and “Masque Of The Red Death”

* Chip Kidd, award-winning author, editor and designer of books such as “Batman: Death by Design,” “Bat-Manga” and “Rough Justice”

* Patty Jeres, past DC Comics director of marketing communications, and past Prism Comics co-president

* Joe Palmer, webmaster of Gay League.com

* Ed Luce, writer/artist of the Bear-centric “Wuvable Oaf” and small press retailer

* Jeff Krell, creator and publisher of the long-running “Jayson” series

* Robert Triptow, legendary cartoonist and past editor of Gay Comix

* Justin Hall, author of “No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics,” creator of “Glamazonia” and Prism Comics talent chair

* Marc Andreyko, author of the fan-favorite “Manhunter” series and “Captain America And Bucky”

* Sean-Z, erotic artist of Rated-Z Studios' “Myth series”

* Steve Englehart, industry legend and creator of comics' first out gay superhero Extrano in 1987's “Millennium”

* Jon Macy, award-winning writer and artist of “Teleny and Camille” and “Fearful Hunter:

* Ted Abenheim, the new president of Prism Comics and heroic and tireless fundraiser for GLBT organizations

* Roger Klorese, a past president of Prism Comics and longtime comic and Internet trailblazer.

This panel will be chock-full from beginning to end, so be on time or you'll miss some awesome surprises that we aren't announcing yet! Afterward, stick around for the celebratory gay comics fan mixer/social, hosted by Prism Comics, with prizes and surprise special guests.

“Gays In Comics Fan Mixer,” 7 to 8 pm, Room 6A

Hosted by and benefiting Prism Comics, the nonprofit organization that supports LGBT comics, creators and readers. Mingle with comics fans and creators and stay for the special drawing of a "Comics Gift Basket" and the silent auction of incredible comics items, including original art and more.

The details

Comic-Con 2012 runs Wednesday through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center, 111 W. Harbor Drive.

Wednesday is Preview Night, open 6 to 9 pm.

Exhibit Hall hours are from 9:30 am to 7 pm Thursday through Saturday and from 9:30 am to 5 pm Sunday.

If you do not have your Comic-Con 2012 badge, you are out of luck because the event has long been sold out. Badges for Comic-Con 2013 will be on sale online in August 2012.

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