Review: Letters for Lucardo

Iron Circus Comics has been steadily publishing a slew of critically-acclaimed anthologies and graphic novels primarily created by women that focus on queer themes. Among their titles are the collected print edition of the acclaimed webcomic The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal and the sex-positive “by women for everyone” erotica collection Smut Peddler. Their latest, Letters For Lucardo by writer and artist Noora Heikkila, was [successfully Kickstarted last fall and began shipping this spring. It tells the story of an interracial, inter-generational queer Vampire/Human couple, and does so with the tenderness its subjects deserve.

I’ll be the first to admit that vampires are not what drew me to backing this Kickstarter. While it isn’t a subgenre I read regularly, it didn’t deter me either. I didn’t realize there were vampires in it at all until after the book arrived. Though the vampire mythos is impossible to miss once you start reading, the word vampire (to my knowledge) is never spoken. Instead, what we get is a fully realized world in its own right, distinct from the well-known genre tropes. The religion centered around the Silent Lord and ruled by the Night Court is as creepy as it is fascinating. What really drives the plot, however, are the two central characters Ed and Lucardo.

Ed is a 61-year-old scribe working for the Night Court, of which Lucardo is a member. Lucardo hails from a powerful family of ageless aristocrats, and develops strong feelings for Ed in spite of his family’s misgivings. While this is erotica, and the sexual tension is present right from the first scene, the story takes its time to build up to the sex scenes. Each one is approached with a mix of tenderness and raw primal force that is often brought out by love and mutual attraction. It’s through these scenes that we see both characters at their most vulnerable. They help set the tone for dramatic turns outside of the bedroom, making them all the more resonant and powerful.

At its core, this is a story about loving someone in spite of societal boundaries. While the world that Ed and Lucardo live in is not a direct parallel to ours, they experience many struggles resembling those interracial queer couples face. Lucardo’s place on the Night Court grants him a life of privilege unlike anything that Ed has ever known. He starts out largely oblivious to Ed’s struggles, only to realize through the cruel pranks of his siblings and disrespect paid by his father, just how powerful those societal pressures can be. Without dropping any spoilers, it is these very pressures that come to a head and leave the reader eagerly anticipating Book 2.

The physical copy of the book is available now for pre-order, and digital copy can be purchased now from the Iron Circus Store. You can also check out a 10-page preview on the Iron Circus Tumblr.”

Kickstarter We’re Into: Bingo Love

There is so much about Bingo Love, an 80-page graphic novella about two older black women in love, that feels unprecedented, including its subject matter, its intersectionality, and the speed with which it was funded. This is a comic unlike anything on the market right now, and deserves attention. I first learned of Bingo Love through my Twitter feed, and was immediately intrigued. I always want to know about any queer-themed comics that are being produced, and support them as best I can, and the image of two black women with gray hair cuddling over bingo cards was stunning. Launched on March 15, the Kickstarter campaign organized by publisher Inclusive Press reached its goal in only five days.

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The story written by Tee Franklin (who will be tabling at FlameCon 2017) concerns Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray, two black women who meet in 1963 and become friends. Their relationship develops into love, but suffers because of the time period. It proves indomitable, though, as they reconnect several years later, and learn they are just as in love as older women as they were as teenagers. Jenn St-Onge is the artist who will bring these characters to life, accompanied by the colors of Joy San and the letters of Cardinal Rae. Erica Schultz is the editor.

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As quoted by Bleeding Cool, Franklin wanted “Black Mirror’s ‘San Junipero’ meets Moonlight. We want to tell the story of women who are gay, Black, and in love — and who learn to live without apology. We also want to show that love and passion are present at every age — and just as intense for women in their sixties as for teenagers.” Franklin is the innovator of the #BlackComicsMonth campaign and started the publishing company behind Bingo Love to increase representation. In a recent interview with Comicosity, she explained why she chose Kickstarter as the method of producing this book: “There are so many strikes against this comic that doesn’t fit in this straight white male comics dominated world.” Hopefully, this comic’s tremendous success will change the industry and what it perceives as bankable properties.

As of this writing, Bingo Love has earned more than $31,000 of its initial $19,999 goal, and that number continues to climb. With more than one thousand backers, it has garnered media attention on Huffington Post and Book Riot.

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The Kickstarter campaign for Bingo Love ends Monday, April 17 at 11:00 CDT. Among the rewards are digital and print editions, enamel pins, postcards, and variant covers by other artists, including Genevieve Eft and Nilah Magruder. There are also script and portfolio reviews available from comics professionals such as Shawn Pryor (Cash and Carrie) and Bryan Edward Hill from Top Cow, and Skype sessions with comics legends such as Gail Simone and Steve Orlando. Let’s see what stretch goals we can unlock!