Flame Con 2023 Tackles Tragedy and Controversy

Saturday’s cosplay contest. | Photo by Charli Battersby

BY CHARLI BATTERSBY | New York City’s LGBT Nerd convention, Flame Con, had its seventh live incarnation August 12 and 13, marking the second in-person version since COVID caused the live con scene to collapse in 2020. Cosplayers, gamers, and comic book enthusiasts gathered at the Sheraton Times Square for two days of fabulous fandom.

While much of the weekend was fun and games, there were serious talks at some of the panels. Sunday afternoon featured a retrospective on the career of writer Rachel Pollack, who comics fans might best know from her groundbreaking run on Doom Patrol (which introduced Coagula, the first transgender superhero written by a transgender writer). She was also deeply respected in the tarot card community. Panelists also discussed the DC Comics Vertigo Tarot that Pollack wrote, which is now a highly prized collectible for both comic fans and tarot readers.

The con also tackled the trend of LGBT comic books in school libraries. The artist/author of the graphic novel Gender Queer: A Memoir, Maia Kobabe was present for a rare East Coast appearance, and spoke on two panels.

A “Little Shop” cosplayer and pal. | Photo by Charli Battersby

On the more whimsical side, both days had costume contests. In the tradition of Flame Con, these are low-stress, inclusive events that emphasize the “play” in cosplay. Not just for pro cosplayers in giant outfits; everyone who wanted to compete got their moment to strut on stage. A popular outfit this year was the vampire familiar Gizmo from What We Do in the Shadows.

Masks were required in all parts of the venue during the con, a rarity in 2023. This was politely, but thoroughly enforced, and rainbow flag masks were provided for everyone, along with testing kits. Con attendees should take heed of this as a portent of the future when Comic Con and Anime NYC come round.

LGBT geeks who missed out this time have less than year to wait. Flame Con will be back on August 17 and 18, 2024.

The 2023 Flame Con had a larger show floor than recent years. | Photo by Charli Battersby
Everyone wore masks—even vendors and cosplayers. | Photo courtesy of Charli Battersby
A cosplayer prepares for Saturday’s contest. | Photo by Charli Battersby
Our mid-mannered reporter . | Photo courtesy of Charli Battersby
Campy cosplay was everywhere. | Photo by Charli Battersby


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