Archive for the Western Comic/Comix Category


LGBTQ Comic: Bingo Love

December 13th, 2017

Sometimes, all you really want to read is an adorable story about a timeless love winning over intolerance and other people’s opinions. On days like that, I heartily recommend Bingo Love, the triumphant graphic novel by Tee Franklin with art by‎ Jenn St. Onge ,‎ Joy San and‎ Genevieve FT. 

Hazel and Mari met at a bingo night back when they were young. Although they fell in love, they were separated by family and society not ready to accept them for who they were. Decades passed and they each went on to marry, have children and support their families, but when they are reunited, their love rekindles. Whether society – and more importantly – their families, can accept them as they are, is the body of this story.

There are many things to like about Bingo Love. Available in print and as a digital comic, this story about two black American women, living lives with roots in church and family, finding true love despite everything, is something that the world of graphic novels was ready and waiting for. That Bingo Love is also a real-life success story of a team of women of Color, who built the book through crowdfunding, eventually licesing it to a large national publisher, is worth celebrating. (It’s worth noting too, that Spike Trotman’s Iron Circus Comics has raised over 1 million dollars in crowdfunding for graphic novels for and by people of color.) This is the money that mainstream comics companies are passing over in favor of retread Batman and Avengers narratives. It’s worth saying this and, if we care about comics, it’s worth listening to. These stories, these creators, deserve the limelight and deserve our support.

Even more importantly for us here at Okazu, Bingo Love gives us something we rarely get a chance to enjoy – the after “happily ever after.” It’s a rare look at adult women in love, dealing with real-world issues that queer women actually have to deal with. For that, this would be a must-read, but Bingo Love is so much more.

Ratings:

Art – 7 Utterly squee
Story – 9
Characters – 8 Even the ones that make you angry, you can’t really hate.
Service – Not really
LGBTQ – 10

Overall – 9

In this holiday season, there’s no better idea for us to highlight and support women of color creators telling the stories they want to tell. And in return you’ll get a sweet love story that spans American history and looks forward to a better future for all the Hazels and Maris out there.

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LGBTQ Comic Essay: The Big Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors

December 11th, 2017

Elizabeth Beier’s The Big Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors strikes that rare balance between self-reflection and redemption that we so desperately need in 2017. Equally importantly, this tale of bisexual life is honest, and eschews the kind of apology or explanation that make other books about bisexuality tiresome.

By eschewing explanation or teaching, Beier allows readers to immerse themselves wholly in her experiences, and learn who Elizabeth Beier is through her own eyes. (I want to make that plain, because the Elizabeth Beier I know is, unsurprisingly, more attractive and vivacious than the one she sees.) And, to some extent this book is less about dating than it is Beier opening up the choose-your-own-adventure that is her life to us for our entertainment.

Beier’s art highlights the beauty and nobility of the people she draws except, almost predictably herself. Her best moments are reserved for others…until that linchpin moment on stage, when she discovers her own radiance. (a moment made even more triumphant by the loathing with which she had previouslyregarded herself. ) It’s uncomfortable to see that deeply and intimately into a person’s head  – moreso when one knows and likes that person. For that reason, I found the book uncomfortable from time to time, but no more than any other equally navel-starring, autobiographical comic essays. 

Ultimately, Beier’s tale of self-acceptance and the beautiful renderings of the people around her make this book an absolute joy  to read.

Ratings:

Overall – 8

When Beier flies, she soars. A fantastic first book and here’s hoping that she’ll soar even farther now that she appreciates her own wings.

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LGBTQ: The Further Fattening Adventures of Pudge, Girl Blimp

November 24th, 2017

Ah, the 1970s. I hated them. Born too late for the drugs and sex, I only got to enjoy the velour and the bodysuits. In fact, on December 31st, 1979 at 11:59 PM I said, “Well thank god that’s over.”

I find stories about the 1970s even more excruciating than the 1970s themselves, I’m not a very nostalgic person. Reading about idealistic young baby-boomers going to the city, living in squats and doing lots of drugs makes my skin crawl. I mean, sure, if it worked for you, great. But all I see is Hepatitis C. I know, I’m a square. ^_^; Nonetheless, I recommend reading The Further Fattening Adventures of Pudge, Girl Blimp.

In the 1970s, Howard Cruze famously curated Gay Comix, among which was the work of pioneering lesbian comics creator Lee Marrs, with her touching story of a small-town girl coming to the big city of San Francisco in hopes of finding something like love (or, sex, that would be fine too.) Pudge is, as her name indicated, overweight, and while that isn’t really relevant to her story, it’s easy to see that it would resonate with an entire generation of young women struggling to be more than the guy-next-door’s wife whose husband bought her a new girdle every birthday. And being a relic of that earlier time, this book is not at all what we might expect in terms of body size acceptance. “Not politically correct” seems vastly understated.

The art is very “American Comix,” style crowded; messy and hard to follow, often intentionally, with very loose panel structure.

Pudge does things that seem rather cliché now – she attends women’s sexuality workshops in which they look at their own vulva, smokes pot, lives in a commune in which no one is really competent to keep it running, works on a co-op newsletter always on the edge of bankruptcy, participates in street marches, etc. (It’s a little like the 1970s are a comic book that didn’t becomes rare, everyone has a copy and we’ve all read it.)

Pudge spends a lot of time pursuing sex and when she finally has it…is unimpressed. It’s not until she has sex with a member of her women’s group that it all makes sense to her. And her life making sense to her is the actual story here.

But more than just being yet another relic of an age, The Further Fattening Adventures of Pudge, Girl Blimp is a story of the beginning of a movement.  In the 1970s, young women were rejecting the plans that were laid out for them by their parents and picking up the bricks and nailbats we carried through the AIDS crisis and which we’re still carrying today to fight our way against an establishment who wants (needs) us compliant and silent. And the beginning of America gay comics, a story we are still very much in the middle of.

Ratings:

Story – 7
Art – 6
Characters – 7 Earnest, rather than likable
LGBTQ – 5 Lesbian sex is the mindblower
Service – Sort of. There is nakedness and stuff, but it’s not really salacious…..

Overall – 7

It’s not a lesbian story per se, but it also is.

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Western Comic: Strong Female Protagonist, Volume 2 (English)

November 13th, 2017

In 2015, Molly Ostertag and Brennan Lee Mulligan successfully crowdfunded the first volume of their webcomic, Strong Female Protagonist. I positively gushed about it in my review, because it provided me with all the nuance and adult thought I had ever craved in a comic. And this year, Molly and Brennan concluded a second successful Kickstarter for Volume 2. 

Strong Female Protagonist, Volume 2 is an amazing, thoughtful, densely-written, nuanced superhero comic.

Volume 1 was pretty intense, so, one has to ask, where does the series go in Volume 2? I’m not going to lie to you, it goes in a very dark direction…but one that makes perfect sense and is wholly consistent with the idea of “super-powered people in the real world.”

While Allison is attempting to have what approaches a normal life at school, she is 1) developing new powers and 2) still struggling with the collateral damage caused by her work as a “hero.” She’s trying to date, and finding herself encountering serious social problems, including an increasing need for inclusiveness and understanding and a rejection of privilege…all to a backdrop of a government which wants to register all biodynamics.  And, on top of all of this, Alison thinks that one of her former teammates may be behind a rash of murders. It’s a lot to handle for Alison…and the reader.

There are a few bright spots, even in the middle of this. Significantly, Feral’s story is given an almost miraculous handwave, which allows her to use her biodynamic body to help people and live a more normal life. And so, we are treated to Feral and Alison going out to a lesbian bar and Feral naturally picking up a few women. Who wouldn’t love her? 

Ratings:

Art – 8 Clear, strong art
Story – 10 All the nuance. ALL OF IT.
Characters – 9
LGBTQ – 3 Feral, ftw!

Overall – 9

Strong Female Protagonist, Volume 2 is not yet available in retail, but if you have ever asked yourself, “No, seriously, what would it be like to have superheroes in the real world?” this should go on your holiday wish-list when it becomes available. In the meantime, feel free to hop over to the Strong Female Protagonist website for the heads up when it goes on sale.

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LGBTQ Comic: Red as Blue

October 24th, 2017

Red as Blue, by filmmaker and poet Ji Strangeway with art by Juan Fleites, is a story of June Lusparian, an outcast in high school in a 1980’s Colorado town. With a non-Anglo background and two moms, neither of whom seem to be particularly supportive, June is unmoored, adrift and lost. Co-captain of the cheerleading squad, Beverly, falls for June. Despite sabotage and backstabbing from her co-captain and “good Christian” Kimberly, Beverley is able to awaken and support June’s talents in music and songwriting. But all is not well in Paradise. As the books reminds us, “And forgiveness never falls from heaven of its own accord.”

June’s been left to fend for herself for so long, she’s almost feral when we first meet her. She’s 15 going on infant, as she watches the other students in the school only half understanding what the things they are doing even mean. She’s got no particular place or group in the school and everyone, it seems, wants to hurt her, encouraging her to disappear. Until Beverly.

Image result for romance comics pagesThe story is presented as a screenplay, rather than a narrative. Chapters are punctuated with illustrated pages of chapter highlights, like…what am I thinking of….you know, arty knockoffs of those 60s romance comics covers with broken-up narratives. The choppiness of the format fits neatly with June’s own broken life.

I had a lot of feelings as I read Red as Blue, not all of them pleasant. To be brutally honest, I had a hard time liking June….and the problem was entirely with me, not with her. I wore my own intellectual elitism throughout my school years like armor. I knew that if anyone was attempting to harass me, the problem was with them. It bothered me on so many levels that June just assumed that she was the problem. Additionally, June is neither well-educated nor particularly clever on an instinctual level. Her survival skills are minimal. And I found I despised her for it. Which put me in the shoes not of the protagonist nor her love interest…but of her tormentors. So wow, that’s a thing I hadn’t ever felt before. It was not a good moment for me.

In those moments of hating just how toxic Kimberly is and hating June for not fighting back against Kimberly, and not understanding her own betrayal of Beverly, and just sort of letting life be shitty and not understanding herself at all, I found the illustrated pages to be a respite. Like, seriously I needed a respite from being a shitty person. Gawd.

But what starts rough and ugly, somewhere about the thirtieth horrible thing that happens to June suddenly, almost imperceptibly, gets less ugly. Even as the crises are building towards an explosion, and Paradise High cruises towards a tragedy, suddenly you realize that June is more eloquent than she’s previously been, that her understanding is less confused. Like she had been living in a wilderness and had been rescued. 

By the end of the book, when June is able to express herself with profound beauty, your cannot help but realize that Beverly was the Fairy Godmother and the Prince. And yet, as I read the final pages, I’m still the Evil Stepmother, because I fuckin’ abandoned June. Like her mothers. I just let her ride her waves of self-loathing, because she wasn’t fighting back. But she was and it was Beverly who saw it for what it was, not this reader.

Ratings:

Story – 9
Characters – 8
Art – 7
Lesbian – 9

Overall – 9

Red as Blue 1, Erica 0. I concede. Book wins.

I have to very seriously thank Dany for introducing me to Ji and thank Ji for the advance copy. It slayed me and I think I am about half angry and half happy about it, but am not sure. I want people to read it and be put through the same meat grinder and see what comes out the other side.

Red as Blue will be out in 2018. Sign up here to be notified when it’s released

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