Phillips, one of the few openly gay creators in comics, is an Atlanta native who got his start at the Northside School of Performing Arts in Gwinnett County. Since moving to San Diego he’s drawn for every comic book company. He is currently penciling the pages of a Star Trek series for IDW, and has gained some mainstream notoriety as an openly gay artist who draws beefcake prints of male superheroes.
“I do Comic-Con every year, and every artist has their work out there but there is never really any guy stuff out there, so I started coming out with a few prints and it went really well,” Phillips says.
Sci-fi conventions are known to be pretty liberal places, but Phillip’s artwork has gotten some interesting reactions.
“I’ve been to Dragon*Con and there were people who were aghast and all it was, was guys with their shirts off,” Phillips says. “I wish it was something like really naughty, like grabbing their crotch, or having their ass out but it’s not, and they’re intimidated by it.”
Phillips will host an artists workshop on May 4 and host a Q&A session and a panel discussing the latest in gay comics on May 5. Panel discussions on various topics and workshops take up much of convention, and Outlantacon guest coordinator Edward DeGruy says they wanted to offer as much diversity as possible.
“Some of our guests wanted to do panels on how to break into acting, or writing and so we have panels on that, but we also have panels about gay characters in TV shows and books… we also have panels about GLBT political advocacy,” he says.
While coming up on its fifth anniversary builds credibility for Outlantacon, it doesn’t exactly make it easier to book guests.
“It is easier, and it isn’t. We have a name established now, which is good, because it’s easier to talk to people now. It is harder to get people unless they are gay or bi-sexual or supportive,” DeGruy says. “A lot of the gay actors and actresses aren’t out… they’re out to their family and friends but they’re not out for their career.”
Game shows and gaming
Guests are only part of any convention experience and Outlanta offers a full slate of programming from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Public Relations Director Kris Harter has been involved in Outlantacon since the beginning, and some of her favorite events don’t rely on celebrity participation.
Some of the more popular events include a rendition of the 1970s panel show “The Match Game,” Nea’s Geek Race where contestants dress in drag as sci-fi characters, and the prom-inspired Zombie Ball.
“I’m looking forward to the gaming events that we have that are take offs of games like the Match Game, or Project Cosplay which is a take off of Project Runway… I’m looking forward to those because they’re crowd involved, it’s not just a discussion, anyone can participate,” Harter says.
Outlantacon started as a one-day gaming convention, and gaming in its many forms — cards, boards, dice, console and live action — continues to be at the core of the weekend.
“We have a room that is devoted to gaming I believe 24-7, it’s the biggest room we have and we’ll have several tournaments and contests throughout the weekend,” Harter says.
The convention will also have a serious side, as Outlantacon’s charity of the year is Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT political advocacy group.
“We will be collecting donations and selling things to raise money for Georgia Equality throughout the weekend,” DeGruy says. “They will also have people on hand to talk about the current issues in LGBT advocacy.”
Organizers expect between 150 to 200 attendees this year. Full weekend passes are available at the convention’s website and will be sold at the door.
Top photo: Gay comic book artist Joe Phillips headlines Outlantacon. (by Joe Phillips via Facebook)