Earlier this year, the Side-by-Side film festival, focusing on LGBTQ movies, was held in St. Petersburg, Russia. Despite a strongly homophobic climate right now, folks braved 5 bomb threats over ten days to enjoy and discuss LGBTQ films from around the world.
To support their work, they created a comic anthology, starring comics creators from Europe, Russia and America. How Much Queer Work is that comic anthology. I was privileged to obtain a copy at the Queer and Comics conference last spring. The anthology is self-described as having 18 well known authors, including Jennifer Camper (USA), Helene Junecic (Croatia), Ariel Schrag (USA), Tiitu Takalo (Finland) and from Russia Viktoria Lomasko and Lena Hek, have their work presented in the volume. Stories of coming out, first-love, discrimination, gender identity and much more drawn in different comic artistic styles.
Many of the USA creators are well-known to us, Jennifer Camper, co-founder of Queer & Comics, Howard Cruse, one of the pioneers of Gay Comix and creator of Wendel, Ariel Schrag, Justin Hall, Roberta Gregory, are all folks I have had the pleasure of meeting. And in many cases, I’ve read and enjoyed their works. So the content that interested me most were from European creators I was less familiar with.
I very much enjoyed Anna Bas Backer’s tale of two friends, one about to embark upon a transition. Viktoria Lomasko’s illustrated essay on the circumstances of the festival, literally surrounded by threat of violence and hatred, and the internal misogyny and distrust was painful to read, but vital.
And Elke R. Steiner’s work of an awkward youthful relationship in a Christian environment was both excellent and stereotypical…making me long for the day when tales like this go unneeded.
Tiitu Takalo’s art deserves a special call out, as it acts as filler pages between the stories and in and of itself, tells many stories. I loved Takalo’s use of body language in many different styles.
The cover by Helene Janecic recalls to mind the American classic figure Rose the Riveter, and the Soviet glorification of the worker in a pose that indicates to us that while a great deal of work has been done, there is so, so much more to do.
During a summer in which those of us in the USA were celebrating the legitimization of our relationships, it was important to remind ourselves that for LGBTQ communities in Russia and elsewhere, the past few years have seen significant changes for the negative. There is still so much queer work yet to be done.
Overall – 9
Some of the best the world has to offer, gathered together. I love anthologies for their constant reminder that our stories, told over and over as they are, are still pertinent to someone, somewhere, who believe that they alone feel this way.