Archive for the Western Comic/Comix Category


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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LGBTQ Comic: Sugar Town

October 18th, 2017

Hazel Newlevant is an award-winning queer artist whose work has been mentioned here before. Some years ago I picked up If This Be Sin by her and I knew she was a talent I wanted to keep track of. Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to her newest work, Sugar Town

Before we get in to particulars, there’s a really important thing I need to be clear about: Sugar Town is…nice.I wanted to tell you that upfront so when I describe it, you’re not stressed out, looking for the conflict. There isn’t any. You can just relax and enjoy the comic and not be waiting for the boot to drop. 

Sugar Town follows the meeting of Hazel and Argent, two poly women, at a club in Portland and their subsequent relationship. Argent is a sex worker and has other female lovers and Hazel’s got a great guy, Gregor, waiting in New York for her. And none of this is a plot complication. 

In fact, there is no plot complication. Hazel and Argent meet, dance, celebrate Hazel’s birthday together, and fall for one another, to a backdrop of all the other pieces of their lives being pieces of their lives. It’s all very nice. Really. ^_^ 

Newlevant’s art has a soft, warm, squishy feeling. You can imagine what embracing Argent or playing with Hazel’s hair feels like. No hard lines here, it’s all cake and tears of joy. Sugar Town is a great comic – exactly what I expect from Hazel Newlevant.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Characters – 8
Story – 8 It’s “girl meets girl” without artificial drama
Lesbian – 10
Service – 2 on the principle that some people think like that

Overall – 8

It’s worth reading Sugar Town, then handing it around to all your friends and saying, “Look, we can just have this. It’s perfectly okay.”

You know what I’m doing this week? Working though a HUGE pile of manga and comics with great LGBTQ content. Isn’t that amazing?! I’m so happy….

Thanks very much to Hazel Newlevant for the review copy!

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LGBTQ: Dates Anthology, Volume 2

October 17th, 2017

In Summer 2016, I had the pleasure of reviewing the historical fiction anthology, Dates. Well, it was such a hit that editors Zora Gilbert and Cat Parra started working on a second collection. Today, we’re looking at Dates Anthology, Volume 2.

The sequel was even better than the original. The mix of prose and text appealed to me. You may know that I have, for many years collected doujinshi put together by groups of people in Japan. One of the features of these privately published journals (or “coterie literary magazines,” as the online translators like to say) is the mix of text and comics. Like ‘zines, doujinshi give creators a way to express their work in any media that suits them. Switching back and forth from text stories to comics gave me a chance to change the pace and tone, so that I didn’t just read this through without stopping to enjoy a bite here or there.

In general, I found most of the stories to be good and a surprising number were excellent, with a pleasant diversity of time, place, ethnicity, perspective and voice.  The stories were strong – many of them focusing on gender presentation, gender roles and gender identity, as well as sexuality. I quite liked Gwen C. Katz’s “The Ibex Tattoo” and “Flowers in the Wind” by A. D’Amico hit me just right.

The art was tighter than in the first volume, too. A number of the stories did wonderful things with the art. Marie-Ann Dt’s “Inkblot” and Nicole Figer’s “A Bard’s Tale” really piqued my interest with their art styles and Effie Lee’s “Kantha was just lovely from beginning to end.

Putting together an anthology is always hard. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little on the one side or the other to get the thing to print. Dates 2 doesn’t seem to have had to make any such sacrifices. It’s a really good read from front to back. I can’t think of a story I didn’t enjoy – that’s pretty amazing. ^_^ Like it’s predecessor, Dates 2 was crowdfunded (a campaign to which I contributed right away) and is available in print and digital formats. As a backer, I also received bonus comics and wallpapers all of which will find a place in my image collection.

All in all a very satisfying anthology.

Ratings:

Overall – 9 

I’m absolutely thrilled to see more great work from the folks at Margins Publishing!

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Image Comics to publish BINGO LOVE!

October 10th, 2017

Some big news out of NYCC this weekend! Image Comics is going to be publishing Bingo Love.  the book that I’m calling THE comic of 2018. 

Created and written by Tee Franklin, with art by Jenn St-Onge, and colors by Joy San.  Bingo Love is a historical tale of a black lesbian couple from when they meet, how they are separated and how they are able to be together after a lifetime apart. Here’s the official synopsis:

Bingo Love is a LGBTQ romance story that spans over 60 years. A chance meeting at church bingo in 1963 brings Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray together. Through their formative years, these two women develop feelings for each other and finally profess their love for one another.

Unfortunately, these young lovebirds end up separated, as they are caught kissing by Mari’s grandmother. Being forbidden from seeing each other isn’t punishment enough as both Mari and Hazel are forced into marriages with men whom they do not love.

But fate had another plan. Decades later, now in their mid 60’s, Hazel and Mari are reunited, again at a bingo hall, and their love for each other is still alive. Together again, the sexagenarians decide to divorce their husbands and live the rest of their lives together as wife and wife…despite the objections of their children and grandchildren.
Good luck!

It is every kind of wonderful all rolled up in a book of adorable and awesome and I cannot WAIT to read it. I was a backer of the Kickstarter and I’m planning on buying a physical copy or two as well.

So congrats to the Bingo Love team and yay us, for being able to get this book even more widely distributed.  I’m telling you, this will be the book of 2018. It will be available on Valentines’ Day 2018, don’t forget to pre-order with your local comic store!

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LGBTQ Comic: Legend of Korra: Turf Wars, Part One

August 11th, 2017

 Legend of Korra: Turf Wars is a continuation of the Legend of Korra animated series, co-created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, illustrated by Irene Koh, published by Dark Horse Comics. Picking up immediately after the end of the cartoon, the story begins with Korra and Asami in the spirit world. Their vacation comes to an abrupt end when they encounter a hostile spirit, but, it turns out that their presence is needed in the human world. 

In their absence, there have been several major issues that have developed in and around Republic City. Refugees from the wars at the end of the cartoon remain unhoused and the mayor is uninterested in helping them beyond the minimum amount of support. he can provide while he focuses on reelection. Unsurprisingly, morale is low and tensions are high. A real estate developer with ties to organized crime is attempting to exploit the land around the new spirit portal, with plans to turn the spirit realm into a destination vacation. The spirits are not at all pleased with the idea. Every single sentence in this paragraph should make you roll your eyes and sigh with frustration at the timeliness of the narrative, (excepting, perhaps, the bit about the spirits and I’m not sure that isn’t true either.) As I pointed out today on Twitter, have we learned nothing from decades of Scooby-Doo reruns? Real estate developers are always the bad guys. Meanwhile Bolin and Mako have become police officers and work with Bei Fong to maintain the always-tenuous peace in Republic City as organized crime is once again growing in power.

The set-up here is multilayered and complicated, as it always was in the cartoon. Neither Avatar: The Last Airbender nor Legend Of Korra were simple tales of good and evil. Every plot and subplot had nuance. People had complicated reasons for their actions, their motivations were human and obtuse at times and the only truly “evil” characters are ideologues who benefited from the discord sowed by their rhetoric and the people that were controlled by it. (Another sigh seems appropriate at this point.)

And above and beyond all this completely realistic human conflict of resources, energy, ideology, needs and desires, Korra and Asami are working on fitting the unit that is “them,” as a couple, into everything. 

Their first task is coming out to Korra’s family, which goes well, but when her father suggests they be cautious about letting people know about their relationship, Korra predictably takes that very personally. Tension rises between Korra and her parents and Korra and Asami. Resolution cannot come in this first volume, but I expect it will be forthcoming.

It is Kya who provides context for us all, explaining that the Water Tribe tends to keep personal business very private, while the Fire Tribe had been open to same-sex couples until Sozin had outlawed it. The Earth Tribe, we learn, moves slowly and has not yet come around to accepting same-sex relationships. The Air Tribe alone has no issues at all with human sexuality is its many forms. Kya also speaks of a girlfriend, something that is nice to have surfaced. It provides Korra and Asami a person to speak candidly with…something that will no doubt be critical in the narrative. I hope so, at any rate.

The conversation with Kya is also key because it sets the table for what will have to be any number of outings in the course of the story, both private and public  – as it is in real life. Those of us who come out don’t just do it once.  The presumption of heterosexuality is pervasive and so we’re often required to out ourselves to complete strangers just to make a simple point. It’s not hard to see how Asami will be targeted to get to the Avatar, how the Avatar’s relationship will be used against her and how all the characters we know and some we do not yet know, will be reacting to this in some way.

Korra and Aasmi’s relationship is front and center by the end of the volume, when Korra, worried that Asami is hurt, kisses her in front of a crowd of people, including Bolin and Mako. Mako’s reaction is realistically complex for completely understandable reasons.

Characters are written consistently with the way they were presented with the cartoon- – not surprising as one of the co-creators is doing the writing. If anything, because of the limited page count, they are very much the essence of themselves. Pacing is quick. This volume feels like a very brisk 2 episodes of the cartoon, with slower moments implied, rather than lingered upon. Upon a second read, I’m impressed with how much ground they covered in 80 pages. There were a lot of conversations that had to be distilled down and still be handled with layers of meaning intact.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Service – 0
Yuri – 10

Overall – A very solid 9

My wife asked me if this book was everything I’ve ever wanted. After some thought I said, no, it isn’t, but it is everything that this book needs to be which, in a lot of ways is much better. There’s no age or grade rating on the book cover, but it displays the Nickelodeon logo prominently and is listed as Age Range 9-12, Grade Level 4-7 on Amazon. Which makes Turf Wars the tween LGBTQ book we all needed when we were kids. A nice older gay couple and a trans character or 3, maybe a non-binary character and it’ll start approaching perfect. ^_^ 

The creative team is very aware of their role in offering up solid queer representation for young people, as they say in this Entertainment Weekly interview with Koh and DiMartino. Koh describes herself as a “bisexual Asian martial artist” and she’s bringing both ethnic and sexual/gender diversity to the characters, as she told Comic Book Resources in May. Based on my first readthroughs, I trust them to do a good job. 

I think this comic will be good for comics in general, as it is #1 in all its Amazon categories at the moment. Like Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, (still #1 in gay manga!) sales are going to walk the walk and talk the talk that diversity is not something to be scared of in the comics world, no matter how loud the naysayers are. (And really, they aren’t loud, they are just used to having the mic.)

My very very sincere thanks to Okazu Superhero Eric P for sponsoring today’s review! This was awesome for me to come home to after Yurithon, and has already become part of my “don’t miss” Yuri presentation for 2017!

I’ve already given this book a second read and probably will pick it up for a third when Book 2 is released in the beginning of 2018!

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