Comic Cons, Diversity, and Fandom’s Inclusion Problem


People who read my (now sporadic) missives in the Contrarian Fanboy column will undoubtedly notice that I cover a pretty narrow range of topics. In fact, I only really cover three things.

1) “This thing that people hate is actually amazing”. I call this “The Happy Contrarian” post. Sometimes I think that the bar is too shifty when it comes to nerdfare and, in demanding the unattainable, we’re not allowing ourselves to let our collective hair down. To that end I have made some sincere recommendations. I sincerely think that Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher film was dope and that, really, the Fantastic Four films are good for the soul.

2) “This thing that everyone loves is actually really shitty.” I call this the “Comic Book Guy” post. Look, our canon is ridicustupid. If, on the one hand we need to simply enjoy some stuff that is actually meant to be mindless fun, we also need to be more critical when it comes to the stuff that we’re meant to take seriously. Dark Knight Returns, a fascist shitshow if I ever saw one, is somehow a masterpiece of the genre? I think not. The nonsensical Blade Runner has somehow attained the status of “smart film”? Someone find me a new planet, this one is obviously drunk.

3) “Fandom has an inclusion problem.” This is the one that is closest to my heart. And, as lonely as it can feel talking about it (and getting shit on in the threads for it), I’m not going to stop calling out racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or any other bullshit. I might be tuned to a different sense of fairness, but I think that nerdfare should resemble their readers. We should look at our heroes and see something of ourselves in them.

This brings me to NYCC. It is tempting to go to con and focus on the stuff. The things. Shirts and comics and bootleg DVDs and new trailers and behind the scenes footage and famous people and posters and whatever other phantasmagoria they’ve got going on. I get it. All of that stuff is hard to NOT see. It’s overpowering. And, yes, I did my fair share of shopping.  I’m not perfect. 

But that wasn’t what I was looking for at NYCC. And, once I stopped looking at all of it, once I squinted past the glittering lights and over-priced tchochkys, I was able to see what I came there to see.

wonder woman cosplay


I have always believed that the best thing about nerdfare was that the fact that the people who like nerdfare are like me, even though they are nothing like me. I never bought into the idea that only boys read comics, or only white people read comics, or only straight people read comics. From the very beginning—like, shitty pulp books in rundown street-corner newsstand beginning –all kinds of people bought nerdfare. Girls and boys, black and white and brown, young and old, gay and straight. Everyone bought them.

And everyone still buys them.

Maybe it’s something about living in New York, but what I saw at con wasn’t a sea of white, hetero boys. It was a sea of difference. People of every race and gender (there are more than two, people!) every orientation, every age, every body type.

The first person I spoke to was a woman about my age running a game store. She broke the news gently that they were out of the expansions to Pandemic, and then suggested some other options. Fake geek girl? I think not.

I saw a big woman absolutely KILLING IT in a Zatanna costume. When I asked if she’d gotten any shit, she threatened to cast a spell on me.

I saw a black Captain America, a black Wonder Woman, a Middle-Eastern Indian Jones, a child Gandalf, and not one but two amazing, lesbian, Drs. Who (I had to ask).

In my brief time at NYCC (homework called!) I saw so much amazing diversity that, it was genuinely upsetting to check my twitter feed to see that some jagoffs were harassing women in cosplay, interviewing them on camera to make them look like stupid fake geek girls (luckily, my hero, the always amazing Jill Pantozzi was on the case!).

star wars women cosplay

This is why I write so much about exclusion. People should look at nerdfare and see characters that reflect their own lives. People should be able to find characters that they can identify with. Not token characters, but real characters that reflect the diversity I saw at NYCC.

And, these fans shouldn’t be shunned or mocked, or constantly having their geek cred tested. That’s how assholes operate. That’s how the kind of people who made merciless fun of your nerdy ass in high school operate.

That’s not how we should operate. We’re better than that. Our heroes, Captain Picard and Gandalf and Spider-Man and Hermione and Scully and Wonder Woman and Agent 355 and Captain Mal and Buffy and The Doctor and Neil deGrasse Tyson and Marie Curie and everyone else have taught us better.

There is only one way to judge a nerd. A nerd should only be judged by how they love the things they love.

That’s what I learned at NYCC.

(I also learned that Jolly Jason Deitcher will ditch your ass in a second if he decides he’s got to shop. Screw that guy.)