FlameCon is known as the world’s largest–and still growing–queer comic convention. After having it recommended it to me so many times in the past year, I knew I had to check it out for its 2019 cycle. And I’m glad I did!
First of all, FlameCon is the biggest convention I’ve ever attended, period. Seeing the line around the outside of the Sheraton Hotel while I made my way to the building was nothing short of intimidating–imagine my surprise when I got in! It was crowded pretty much all day on Saturday and as the day went on on Sunday, but because the Sheraton often hosts large groups, the building itself could easily accommodate the large crowd in just about any area–the panel rooms, hallways, areas to take a break in, the showroom floor, and so on. It also meant the hotel was on the same page as convention volunteers and could assist as well as volunteers, and that there weren’t any accessibility issues (that I saw, at least, though there was a round table for additional concerns and improvements).
The attendees seemed to have it together too, which I am tempted to attribute the fact that there were mostly older attendees, who were probably seasoned congoers. Given that quite a few were probably New York natives, they handled navigating crowds better than in other cons as well. There wasn’t a lot of rudeness despite the close quarters, although it was hard not to get knocked around at least a little bit. It comes with the territory (and my huge backpack).
There was a good mix of vendors and guests as well. Again, there was a warmth and friendliness that made the con a fun experience whether you were in the showroom trying to get a word in edgewise, or just at a panel listening to people talk. It seemed as though all if not most of the guests/vendors were big names or at the very least established in the convention community (such as Gay Breakfast), so it was heartening to be around that openness. With many it seemed like not only were they willing to talk, people were willing to wait and let others talk to the guests or vendors.
The panels were great as well, some of the most interesting I’ve ever sat in on. I don’t know how FlameCon’s selection process works, but the conversations were deep and thoughtful, with room for discussion and some fun. Most of the panels I attended focused on comics, but there was a varied selection to account for other interests and there were the normal con features, like lip sync contests and cosplay contests. The cosplay was killer, by the way–the judges needed some time to deliberate! Even in Times Square it is something of a treat to see Fire Emblem characters trekking to a hotel or restaurant. Props to the cosplayers who weren’t staying at the Sheraton that had to make that walk.
Organization also gets props–like I mentioned earlier, the Sheraton staff definitely has a system down for events like this. But even little things were in order: volunteers were placed in certain areas to help direct attendees, for example. They were all wearing a FlameCon shirt and a bright, labelled cape (some wore their cape even when cosplaying, so even when they were off duty they could still lend a hand). Even the showroom had been done with care: rows were labelled with letter signs like a parking garage, so it was easy to find where you wanted to go or direct people somewhere.
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Another cool thing about #flamecon2019 ? @ethanmaldridge was there! I have a few librarian friends who asked for copies of Estranged (mine was at home on my bookshelf 😭). The coolest part? Ethan did original drawings in each book! Absolutely stoked. What a cool (and dapper) guy! His husband was really nice too. And… if memory serves…. the sequel to Estranged comes out October 1! The cover looks amazing. (I didn't know if I could ask to flip through it, so I didn't. But I'm dying to see what happens next!) #estranged #ethanmaldridge #books #nutmegnominees #flamecon
I didn’t really notice anything lacking at this con. As I mentioned earlier, there was a round table event to discuss and potentially improve accessibility and accommodations, so it seems like the showrunners actively try to catch and fix challenges. They already even had things I wouldn’t have thought of: the panel “A World That Hates and Fears Them: On Comics and Hope” even had a voice-to-text setup. My only comment–which is 100% just me kvetching–is that it’s in Times Square, which of course makes sense because it’s an area that’s easy to get to and it’s in a huge hotel, so attendees and volunteers have somewhere to stay, and it’s close to the touristy stuff if you want to do other New York things. I just don’t like navigating Times Square! Fortunately, the hotel is right next to a subway station, so I only had to do it once, before I realized the stop was literally right there.
All in all, this was a great con. The overall mood was very welcoming and open, and the sense of camaraderie was palpable. It was just a lot of fun! I didn’t even want to go when I knew I should start packing up, and I kept on doing “just one more” loop on Sunday–and then I started doing the math about the train ride back home and begrudgingly dragged myself back to Grand Central. I would definitely recommend it for those looking for a new and more varied con, especially those who identify as LGBT+. It’s worth the trip, though of course if you’re unsure about a larger crowd I’d recommend trying it out as a day trip and seeing how the setup works for you. It’s not as big as New York Comic-Con, but a “medium-sized” NYC con is definitely much bigger than “medium-sized” elsewhere.
FlameCon 2019 ran from August 17 to August 19 at the Sheraton Hotel of Times Square, in New York City. There has been no word on information for FlameCon 2020, but you can learn more about the convention by checking out our panel coverage under the related articles tab below!