October, 2013 / Author:

Contrary to common belief, Winnipeg’s premier comic book-lovers’ gathering is really about pop culture. “Comic Con is just the name that everyone refers to us as,” said Michael Paille, organizer the Central Canada Comic Con (C4).

Ron Perlman

Paille had a dream. He started the convention with smaller versions 20 years ago, and kept building it to a level that is now on par with conventions held in larger cities. He felt that Winnipeg could support events like this and he wanted to be the one to bring them here. He has since brought home stars such as Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Adam West and many more. This year’s event features 15 celebrity guests, including headliner Ron Perlman (“Sons of Anarchy”), James Marsters (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and more.

James Marsters

At C4, there really is something for everyone: kids, adults, seniors and of course the GLBTQ* community. There’s something about superheroes and gay celebrities that draw us in. As icons of being different, finding the strength to fight against the odds and be true to oneself, they are like no other and speak like no other to people that need a little something else in their lives, gay or straight.

Tayler Morden, a trans-woman, has collected comics since she was eight. Until recently, she had all but 29 issues of Spiderman. She was sadly forced to sell off much of her collection to cover some of her trans-related expenses. She maintains a strong bond with her son who is an avid costume lover. They bond while preparing costumes and find much in common at Comic Con, where gender is not a factor.

In fact, that’s something that really doesn’t surprise Paille. He has never been concerned about the acceptance of GLBTQ* folks at the convention. “The world is changing. I don’t think that it makes much of a difference in today’s day and age,” said Paille.

I agree wholeheartedly, having volunteered running the photo booth and regularly attended the convention. Never once was being trans an issue. I interacted with other volunteers, the public and guests.  Everyone was welcome to C4. 

According to Paille, some comic conventions across the world have panels specifically for gay topics, as they are a growing part of the culture. It’s something that has the potential to happen in Winnipeg. Queer nerds are learning they are not alone. We’re all fans, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or alien. If you’re part of the fandom, you’re part of the family.

There has been a rise in gay comic superheroes over the past decade. Las Vegas will even have a GLBTQ* science fiction and comic con starting next year. San Diego Comic Con, the largest in the world, boasts Prism Comics, which showcases gay characters and talent with 14 titles of gay comics, all of which are getting good responses with fans. It was initially thought they would be forced to sell the publications only in adult shops, but they are going like hot cakes in mainstream comic stores.

Most guests at C4 appreciate being talked to like people. Paille recalls Harrison Ford recognizing him after a discussion they had at a previous convention. He was remembered because he wasn’t the typical “fanboy.” I personally enjoyed meeting Julie Newmar.  She was gracious, witty and caring. Even though she had difficulty walking due to degeneration from all her years of dancing, I remember seeing her get down from her table to chat with people in wheelchairs. Charlie Adler, a voice actor and director, was hilarious. We took him to Gio’s where he had a blast.

Costuming is a big part of the weekend. Paille called it “a walk from reality.” People from all walks of life dress up and enjoy themselves. For Morden, Comic Con was her first chance to dress as female in a large public venue. Once she decided to live as female full-time, it was a very important step. She was happy to have fans and celebrities alike praise her bravery. Morden credits George Takei’s (Star Trek) influence on her coming out. If he hadn’t, she’s not sure she would have either. Comic Con is non-profit and run entirely by volunteers, over one hundred of whom are needed to make it happen. Any proceeds are donated to various charities.

This year’s Comic Con runs Nov. 1 to 3. Tickets are $17 per day or $40 for the weekend. For more info and a complete list of guests, visit c4con.com and “like” it on Facebook.


– Shandi Strong is happily working at the job she loves in Winnipeg.

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