You may remember from Volume 3, Yaichi receives a call from Kana’s teacher. As we feared, he is calling under the guise of “concern” that there is a gay man in her household. Yaichi’s transformation from a man who does not say what he thinks about saying, to a man who says exactly what he thinks about saying in 4 pages is magnificent. As he leaves the teacher’s office, having made it plain that the teacher’s “concerns” are neither legitimate nor appropriate, the sun breaks past the clouds and shines upon him. I said it didn’t preach – I didn’t say it doesn’t visual allegory all over the place. ^_^
As the last remnants of Yaichi’s bias slips from him, he asks Mike to share some of his life with Ryouji. For the first time, Yaichi faces the brother he knew – and wanted to know – nothing about. When he sees Mike’s parents in Mike and Ryouji’s wedding pictures he feels stupid for not being there. To make up for it, Yaichi takes Mike with himself and Kana to clean his parent’s grave so, he says, he can introduce Mike to them before he leaves. It was a really nice touch.
Kana’s issues with her friends are cleared up, and there is a nice little digression about Romeo and Juliet that makes up one of the nicest moments of the book. There’s also time taken to deal with the local gay kid’s story, and let us know he’s in an okay place emotionally.
Watching Yaichi accept Mike fully was exactly as heartwarming as one might expect. ^_^ And one hopes that this manga was able to shepherd other Japanese men through the process with Yaichi and, maybe, help a few young people to find a way to talk to their families. For that alone, this would be a an important book, but it’s also just a really good read. Tagame-sensei deserves every award this series gets.
Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 10
LGBTQ – 10
Service – 2
Overall – 10
We don’t yet have a date for the final omnibus volume of My Brother’s Husband by Pantheon – as soon as I do, I’ll post it!
Webcomics are one of the most fascinating niches in the comics market and it’s long past time that we talk about them once again..
Webcomics became a “thing” in the late 1990s, and by the early 2000s, it was already possible to find LGBTQ content on any number of platforms. By 2003, I was keeping bookmarks of aggregate lists of lesbian and “Yuri” webcomics from half a dozen sites. Finding webcomics wasn’t hard, but finding really good ones, well that’s always been the challenge. ^_^ As time has passed, webcomics have gone from being a junior league for upcoming artists to being a marketplace in their own right. Webcomics can successfully raise money from backers for print books, publishers are looking at Pixiv and deviantart for talent, and with Patreon and Webtoons, comic artists can get get paid for the work, as well as for the finished project. This particular niche in the comics ecosystem has only just developed those bridges to the larger comics landscape, and I don’t think we’ve more than just barely begun to see their potential.
Which brings me to one of the best webcomics I have read. Ever. Today we’re talking about Always Human, by Ari North. Ari sent me a message in 2016, asking me to mention her comic to you as part of a YNN report and I was glad to. I’ve been reading Always Human on Webtoons ever since. This week I finally had a chance to catch up and complete it and all I can say is that this is one of the best uses of the Internet for comics that I’ve seen.
Ari’s art is colorful watercolor-like washes, with a vertical scroll and a lot of white space. It could, of course, be reformatted for print, as Pulse was, but the larger, more open format of the online page, means that you can enjoy the details that fill up your screen, and not lose any of it. Often chapters comes with an original soundtrack, which you can listen to for free on Soundcloud. This really added to the atmosphere of every chapter.
The story is sweet, honest and realistic. It’s also a lot of fun. Set in a future Earth, where virtual reality allows for body modification, gaming, communication – humans are working in deep seas and space- the people who populate Always Human are indeed quite human. Designer Sunati meets college student Austen, and they fall in love.
While the story is primarily romance, it’s a romance that doesn’t isolate Austen or Sunati. Theirs is a world with colleagues and friends and family, which is so important to me as a reader. Unlike mainstream media, which seems to want to wallow in alternative worst scenarios, without allowing us to work through our uncomfortable realities first, Always Human provides a more progressive world for us to spend time in. Austen has two fathers and Sunati’s parents have a boyfriend, and none of that is a “thing” that must be dealt with, beyond the stress of meeting one’s lover’s parents, which is – as we all know – stressful enough in itself.
Sunati and Austen are adults living adult lives, but they are still young adults, so they are neck deep in the process of creating the lives they hope to live. They aren’t perfect, they make mistakes and deal with the consequences, as we might expect. Even when they annoyed me – and they did – I was rooting for them As Ari says about her comic,”This is a story about nanobots, genetic engineering, and two girls falling in love. No matter how technology changes us, we’ll always be human.” And so they are.
Art – 10
Characters – 10
Story – 10
LGBTQ – 10
Service -1 on principle
Overall – 10
If you’re looking for a really good webcomic to read, I recommend Always Human. Luckily for us, Ari’s working on another comic for Webtoons. I’m waiting with bated breath for more from this talented artist.
Last month, I reported on a fascinating series called Shimanami Tasogare. In Volume 1, we met Tasuku, a young man who hadn’t, as of yet, come to terms with his homosexuality. When he meets a bunch of older gay folks working on a cat shelter, he finds a cause to volunteer his time for, and a place to open his heart.
In Shimanami Tasogare, Volume 2, (しまなみ誰そ彼) Tasuku gets to see what self-loathing looks like from the outside. One of the people who visits the consulting room is a young kid still in elementary school. Misora visits to change into female clothes and life. But Misora never seems particularly happy and is clearly struggling with what puberty is doing to her. And, she has an ugly tendency to lash out whenever she feels that Tasuku gets too close.
Tasuku is starting think about his own feelings more honestly, and has now realized that he has a crush on an attractive classmate, Kiku-kun. Misora is not at all kind about the bits of information Tasuku shares. And every time Tasuku feels as if he’s gotten a little closer to Misora, she attacks him with a vitriol with which – we can see – she means to scar herself. The volume ends on a particularly harsh note, with Misora attacking Tasuku in public in front of the guy he likes at a festival.
Tasuku retreats to to the unfinished shelter, to lay the shards of his emotions next to the broken beams of the building. The strong visual imaging this series gives to Tasuku’s emotions are just stellar.
Meanwhile, we are led to believe that Tasuku’s secret is out to a classmate we don’t know whether we can trust or not.
It’s an uncomfortable ending to an uncomfortable volume filled with the damage self-loathing does to one’s self and others, without a moral of the story to pretty it up. I’m compelled to read it nonetheless and am very interested to see where it leads.
Art – 8
Story – 9
LGBTQ – 10
Service – 0
Overall – 9
The mysterious Dareka-san functions as a kind of guardian angel but, as a result, I really don’t want to know anything about her. I feel as if we’re going to learn it anyway. ^_^
In Season 1 of Steven Universe we met and learned about the Crystal Gems, friendly alien invaders from space. In Season 2 we began to really understand their history. Season 3 deepened our understanding of all the series’ characters and Season 4 brought the first major plots to fruition…and expanded our cast. In Season 5, Steven and we begin to understand that Rose Quartz was not necessarily the beacon of Good that she had been held up to be. As we learn about her flaws, Rose becomes exponentially more interesting.
In Season 6, we begin, at last to put all the pieces we’ve been given into some kind of picture. And the picture we’re getting is nothing like the one we expected.
We’re introduced to Blue Diamond in person. With the chance to directly compare her and Yellow Diamond, we start to get a little bit of a picture of an imperious royal class that understands little and cares not at all about the beings it rules. We spend a lot of time in space this season since, realistically, having neutralized The Cluster, any further contact with the Diamonds would have to be in space or on Homeworld, or Earth would be at risk. Space it is, then.
Several really significant things happened this season – Greg was introduced to just how vast the story in which his son is embroiled actually is. Steven is now very visibly showing signs of super strength, and becoming more confident with his powers. We visit Homeworld and learn that in a strictly defined hierarchy, there’s still an outcast underclass. Amethyst meets her family and finds that she’s just one of the gems after all. I learned about Holly Blue Agate , a stone I had never heard of before. (Fairly remarkable, as I’ve been collecting semi-precious stones for decades…) and Lars…well…no,that’s a spoiler, I will not spoil.
We get to see that both Yellow and Blue Diamond have genuine affection for Pink Diamond (and I can’t help but wonder what White Diamond, who has never once been mentioned, but whose symbol we’ve repeatedly seen, is like.) In fact, during “What’s the Use of Feeling Blue,” we get the distinct feeling that Yellow Diamond surprises herself when she speaks of missing Pink Diamond.
But once again, the climax of the series is unexpected in ways that we couldn’t even have predicted. Once again we learn that the truth isn’t what we we were told it is, and it isn’t what others think it is, either. So…what is it? The fan theories are flying, thick and fast. ^_^
The last significant thing that happened is that my wife is hooked. Hah. ^_^ Now I can obsess and she’s totally into it. Gotcha. Hee Hee. Hee.
Art – 8
Characters – 10
Service – 1 on principle
Queerness – 7 Fluorite is a lovely nod to polyamory.
In the ancient days of anime fandom, it was a given that your very first time at a con was the best. It was all exciting and new, and being unable to differentiate between our own enthusiasm and others’, we remember it as being the most amazeballs thing. After that, we find ourselves going back, not liking the new anime, not caring about the cosplay as much, nothing in the DR is new, blah blah blah….
In direct reversal of that trend, I can’t help but notice that the cons I’ve been to this year are actually getting better. Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF) has a reputation for “this year is the best year ever” and I’m pleased to say that Flamecon seems to be headed in that direction, as well. Under the guidance of Geeks Out, this third year of Flamecon was the smoothest, most pleasant and fun so far. The volunteers were all wearing fetching little capes, which I though just perfect!
As I entered, I was given a special variant cover issue of Your Pal Archie #1, drawn by Dan Parent and written by Ty Templeton, that included Flamie, the Flamecon mascot on the cover. It’s all still very Archie inside, so sadly, not Betty and Veronica realizing they would make a great couple – which is literally the only thing that would get me interested in an Archie comic. ^_^
The dealer’s room is well laid out, with enough room for people to comfortably get to both sides of the aisle.
I began my day talking to Cat and Erica from Margins Publishing, who were promoting Dates 2: Anthology of Queer Historical Fiction which I and many others supported on Kickstarter. I asked them if any of the stories were continuations from the first Dates Anthology, Cat said that a few of the illustration pieces were following on from stories in the first collection, but that what they really tried to do was give people a little more space to develop characters and stories in this volume.
I was able to meet Yamino, an artist I was introduced to by Ted the Awesome some years ago on Twitter. I had a lovely conversation with June Kim, who is an incredibly talented artist and creator of Tokyopop’s manga 12 Days. She’s working on food comics these day that look super fun and tasty. Take a look on her site for some examples.
Northwest Press was repped by owner Zan Christensen, who always has a bunch of exciting new projects on the stove. I enjoyed working with him for Absolute Power!: Tales of Queer Villainy and hope to work with him again. He and I agreed that for a hotel full of queer folks, the drama level at Flamecon was very chill. I ran into a pile of fanart by Janet Sung for Yu Yu Hakusho, with much love for Kuwabara, which made me happy.
The highlight of my foray through the DR was getting to shake the hand of Tee Franklin, the powerhouse behind the upcoming Bingo Love. I am not joking when I tell you that this is going to be THE book of 2018. It’s already gotten a ton of press and ran an incredibly successful kickstarter…because the world needs and wants this book. I strongly recommend you pre-order it. Tee is a talented woman and I’m pleased to have shaken her hand.
I presented one panel at Flamecon this year, Discovering New Yuri, which included so many of the amazing books and anime and cartoons and comics we have available. The room was full and the crowd was fantastic. Those of you who know my panels know that I strongly suggest people not ask me an opinion on a specific series, and I give prizes for good questions. It always works to get thoughtful, interesting and fun questions. Included in the presentation are several video clips, including the full Kase-san animation clip, Kimi ni Hikari. Listening to the reactions of the queer and queer-friendly audiences at Yurithon and Flamecn while watching this was fun for me. It has some amusing moments, but I know that people are laughing at themselves and that moment when they felt that, as much as they are that it’s just goofy. ^_^
For Flamecon I added in Do It for Her/Him from Steven Universe and it became a full-on sing-along, which thrilled me to no end. All in all a very satisfying panel, made even more so by being approached by some folks from Yen Press who were happy to see that the recommendations included their work.
I was able to connect with two dear friends, Kerry and Jude, who had come down for the con, and we had a lovely time at lunch chatting about our various bits of research and writing and conning. It was a lovely way to wrap up another lovely Flamecon!
If you are in, near or willing to travel to Brooklyn, New York next year, I wholeheartedly recommend Flamecon as a uniquely queer comic con, with lots of fantastic, queer-friendly cosplay.
As I was wrapping this all up I had the most extraordinary thought. Every single con I have attended in 2017 to date has been overtly queer-friendly or queer-focused. Queers & Comics, TCAF, Yurithon and Flamecon. What an extraordinary year 2017 has been for LGBTQ comic creators, publishers and readers. A blessing on all our heads, may we continue to flourish.
Erica Friedman is the Founder of Yuricon, ALC Publishing and Yurikon LLC, Social Media Without Delusion. LGBTQ and Geek Marketing Consultant. Proud to be a MLS.
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