Florida Supercon: George Takei, David Yost and More to Appear
Florida Supercon has often featured comic book/ sci-fi/ anime guests and events that appeal to not only mainstream fans, but also to an LGBT audience. This year, Florida Supercon 2013 promises to exceed expectations.
The Eighth annual comic con event returns to the Miami Airport Convention Center on July 4-7, with George Takei, as one of the headliners.
Science fiction fans know Takei as Mr. Sulu from the original "Star Trek" television series, which aired from 1966- 1969. In recent years, Takei has become a social media favorite, particularly on Facebook, and he has written about this experience in "Oh Myyy! (There Goes the Internet)." However, some of his fans may not know that as a child during World War II, Takei was incarcerated in Japanese-American internment camps in the U.S. He has also starred in a musical, "Allegiance," which explores this often untold part of American history. A Broadway debut is anticipated for 2014.
In 2005, Takei publicly came out. Since then, he’s become an LGBT activist, one who often uses humor to communicate his message - see Takei’s recent Buzzfeed response to same-sex marriage protestors.
In a phone interview with SFGN, Takei reflected, "When I was a teenager, marriage equality was an unthinkable thing. Now it is inevitable. I’m very optimistic about the [upcoming] Supreme Court ruling."
When Takei spoke to SFGN, he had just finished filming as a guest star on SyFy’s "Lost Girl," a supernatural television series that features characters with a fluid sense of sexual orientation.
He described his character as "elegantly evil, very boppish in dress, with awe-inspiring powers."
"I enjoyed chewing the scenery, and left my teeth marks all over the set."
Takei has traveled quite a path from "Star Trek" to "Lost Girl."
"Rejection is the thing you get the most as a young aspiring actor," he recounted. "Being gay [added] another reason to get rejected. So you stay closeted."
There were supportive heterosexual work colleagues such as Walter Koenig who played Pavel Chekov on "Star Trek." Takei recalled that one morning on the set, his co-star subtly gestured towards "a good-looking young male extra in a tight Star Trek costume." Koenig then smiled at Takei.
"It was a quiet way of letting you know, that they know," he shared.
Although Takei was not officially out to the public, he stayed connected to the gay community. He went to bars, and had gay friends. Twenty-five years ago, he met his husband, Brad Altman (who is now Brad Takei), in a gay running club.
"I was quietly out for a long time."
Yet in 2005, the California legislature passed a same sex marriage bill that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger later vetoed.
As Takei watched the eleven o’clock news, he saw "the young people on Santa Monica Boulevard who were angry and yelling."
"I thought ’I need to be engaged in that’...I need to be advocating for equality."
This motivated Takei to publicly come out.
Subsequent years have seen Takei’s LGBT activism reach out to a wide range of audiences.
In a December 2012 issue of Archie Comics, Takei was written into a story involving Riverdale’s first gay character, Kevin Keller.
"When I was a kid, I used to read Archie Comics," Takei said. "There was America to me. They were all white, certainly they were all straight. I wasn’t even on the periphery of that. Now I’m on the cover...me as a gay Asian man on the cover. It is an undreamed of advance in American pop culture."
More surprisingly, "straight, white, male" fans have found a connection with Takei by following him on social media and listening to him when he appears on Howard Stern. "They tell me ’I like what you’re saying, I like what you stand for, and if there’s a pro-LGBT issue in my community, I will support it.’"
"That’s how we bring about change-by getting them to understand the normality of our lives."
Hanging Tough and Coming Out
Florida Supercon also presents David Yost, who played Billy Cranston/ The Blue Ranger in "Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers," "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie" and "Power Rangers Zeo" during the 1990s.
However, Yost abruptly left "Power Rangers Zeo" before the end of its season. In 2010, he revealed to No Pink Spandex that his departure was due to a homophobic work environment.
As he stated in that interview, "I was continually being told I’m not worthy of where I am because I’m a gay person... And you can’t be a superhero."
Yost spoke to SFGN over the phone and further elaborated on his ordeal.
"In the 90s, being gay was still not widely accepted," Yost said. "[The homophobia] did come from people at high levels. It was difficult for me because I didn’t feel like I had any protection or anyone to go to. We didn’t have a Human Resources person to get issues resolved... I was either going to take my life or [I needed to] get out of the environment I was in. I chose to leave."
However, Yost continued to struggle with his sexual orientation as he underwent "the pray the gay away thing," and later suffered a nervous breakdown.
Eventually, he came to the realization: "There’s nothing wrong with who I am."
"I’m very much a happy gay person now but it wasn’t overnight. It was a long process of learning to accept myself, and therapy. There’s no magical remedy."
At comic cons, Yost meets many people who thank him for coming out.
"I am honored to have an impact on their lives...I hear at least twenty different stories per con from gay people. Each one is meaningful."
When asked about the increased presence of LGBT characters and story lines throughout the comic con world, Yost responded: "It needs to make sense to the storyline... [but] it’s helpful to see us represented as... superheroes, to make sure people see... we can be just as powerful as anyone else."
LGBT comic book writers and/or artists who are just starting out may be interested in attending Florida Supercon panels about independent comics and self-publishing. There will also be discussions about diversity in comics such as "Planet Black: Ethnic Portrayals In Science Fiction" and "Who Runs The World? Women and Minorities in Comics."
Writer Laura Diaz de Arce leads "Who Runs The World?" Along with illustrator Mary O’Neill, Diaz de Arce has co-created "Splitting Seams," a fairy tale of twin sisters who are sewn together. Her panel will mainly consider the image of women and minorities, but she will also discuss LGBT representation.
SFGN contacted Diaz de Arce on Facebook for her views about how comic books deal with LGBT characters and story lines.
"The comic industry has been more friendly to the LGBT community as far as characters," Diaz de Arce responded in a statement. "Kevin Keller and Clay [in Archie Comics]...drew lots of attention for their wedding... one of the better executions of a gay character, portraying them less as a stereotype and more as a human being."
Diaz de Arce also lauded the Marvel characters in "Runaways" - Karolina Dean, a "well-rounded and complex" lesbian character, and Dean’s love, Xavin, "an interesting transgender [female] character."
However, Diaz de Arce is wary of how "mainstream comics have tried to exploit a gay audience...[with] shotgun gay weddings as an inauthentic money-grab."
She concluded that "it is best when a character’s sexual orientation is authentic, fully conceived... and not some stunt."
Other LGBT events of interest include an expanded selection of cosplay activities, and the comedy theatre troupe Pineapple-Shaped Lamps is back with shadow casts of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Burlesque shows, stunt fighting, costume contests, raves/ dances - whatever you need to get your LGBT geek on, you should be able to find it here.