“LGBTQ characters are also appearing in mainstream comics, and the code of silence that [Mary] Wings fought against has been broken. But there still remains a profound need for distinctly queer comics.” – Justin Hall, from the Foreword of QU33R.
Where No Straight Lines, Hall’s historical retrospective of western LGBTQ comix and comics, told us where we came from and how we got here, Rob Kirby’s new anthology, QU33R: New Comics from 33 Creators, tells us where “here” is.
I’m frequently asked whether western comics have an equivalent of Yuri or BL and I always reply, “Of course! There have always been LGBTQ comics artists and therefore there have always been LGBTQ comics.” But the question is not – and really has never been – “do they exist?” but “Where can I find them?” There are fewer and fewer weekly gay papers and more and more webcomics, which makes it both much easier and much, much harder to find anything to read. I used to read “This Modern World” by Tom Tomorrow in the Village Voice, now I follow him on Twitter.
A search engine search on “gay comic” or “lesbian comic” actually turns up some excellent stuff…it also doesn’t turn up really excellent stuff that gosh, it would be great to know about, but if Google doesn’t show it above the cut on Page 1, it’ll never get seen. And you may not know about Diane DiMassa, because you weren’t a lesbian in the 90s. Heck, you may not have been born in the 90s. It’s perfectly okay to not know a 30-year old series, but how much cooler is it to read Jennifer Camper, or Kris Dresen or Ivan Velez, Jr. or Carlo Quispe and then meet them at a comics event and think, “Holy crap! I just met a legend!”
This book is full of today’s comics, some talking about yesterday, others about tomorrow and a few delving into an alternate today. With my deep and abiding love of ridiculous lesbian tropes, my favorite story was Jennifer Camper’s hard-boiled assassin story, “Another Night in Carbon City”. I was also deeply moved by Steve MacIssac‘s, “Vacant Lots,” a story of coming back to his hometown, a completely different guy than he left, and seeing how life had changed those who motivated him to become who he is. (Oddly, enough, my mother just brought up one of the two people who function the same way in my life. It’s always bizarre when Mom mentions her, because she remembers I didn’t like her, but not that she emotionally tortured me for years, or that I have long, long ago let it go. All that is left is Mom’s memory that I didn’t like her that she always has to remind me about.)
The book cover reminds me of comics collections of my youth; colorful, densely packed with art and giant words over the art. The interior pages have a feature that all anthologies everywhere ought to include – a visible reminder of the artist’s name prominently displayed on every page. I really liked not having to flip back and forth to remind myself who I was reading. I also liked (and always like) when the contributors get a bit of space to talk about themselves in the back.
If you have ever asked yourself something along the lines of “what do LGBTQ comics in America look like?” you’ll definitely want to pick up QU33R, available in 3 digital formats, hardcover and paperback from the terrific folks at Northwest Press (for whom I have to thank for this review copy. Thanks Zan!) Northwest consistently puts out terrific LBGTQ comics and I hope that, if you’re interested in LGBTQ comics as well as Yuri manga, you’ll give QU33R a chance.
Overall – 8