Fyodor Pavlov’s Tarot – A Deck for the Queer Oracle

For those who have been following trans illustrator and tattoo artist Fyodor Pavlov, you know that his original full tarot deck has been years in the making. But you also may already be familiar with his art from this deck’s Lovers card, which features two trans bodies unapologetically displayed, and unfortunately massively overshared and copied on sites like Pinterest without credit.

The entire deck has been carefully crafted, with mindfulness to each card’s origin while also exploring oft underrepresented bodies and cultures in each design. Now Pavlov’s vision will finally be available in its entirety, along with a book explaining each card’s symbolism and the choices behind the imagery.

There are only a few days left in the Kickstarter for this tarot deck, so if you need a new queer tarot on your altar, check it out here.

Themes of Revolution in The Dragon Prince

The Dragon Prince recently dropped a 3rd season on Netflix, and continues to break ground in its diversity of representation, which is as vibrant, unique, and exciting as its fantastical setting. But it also teaches some had lessons which other children’s media shies away from.

Sapphic Queens in the Dragon Prince’s World History

The first season gave us a mixed-race royal family in which a black man is the king. In pseudo-medieval fantasy settings, this is almost unheard of, unless the nation is exclusively made up of dark-skinned people. It also gave us a particularly loveable female knight who is hearing impaired – though I’ve found that every character in this series is loveable, even the antagonists. What brought particular joy to me was watching this character speak so expressively through sign, sometimes without another character vocalising for them, and never with any subtitles. The incredible effect of this is that the viewer begins to learn her sign, and when it is not translated, is excited to learn it. I can only imagine how exciting these extra bits of dialogue are to viewers, especially children, who communicate through ASL themselves and almost never see themselves represented.

Season two introduced a character with lesbian parents, who’s heroic demise is shown in flashback. Though this certainly falls into the Kill Your Gays trope, it doesn’t make them any different from most of the parental figures on the show, who are either heroically dead, toxic, or estranged.

This third season gave us something which is extremely rarely seen in children’s media – a male couple who are not just wholesome chaste companions, but shown sharing a passionate kiss. The Dragon Prince has a few ley lines which connect its various characters, arcs, and history. These are:

Questioning Deeply Held Beliefs. It is established from the start that humans are appropriators, who steal and corrupt magic because they cannot wield any on their own. There is nothing in the continuing establishment of the lore to refute this. Yet, one of our main characters discovers he is capable of innate magic through study and concentration. At this time, there is no explanation as to why this has happened. There is no Chosen One motif, no mystery of his birth – simply a passion to learn, and to question the status quo.

A symbol of shame for those who refuse to fight in a war they do not believe in, then turned into a symbol for a cause.

Being the First Generation to Break a Cycle of Violence. The main premise of The Dragon Prince’s politics involves a small group of young people trying to stop a war which has been perpetuated by the generations that came before. But it appears in other places too – for instance, the child queen who lost her lesbian mothers is told that her parents would have wanted her to arm her nation for war, and answer the call of her allies. She agrees. Yes, that is what her mothers would have wanted. But they also raised her to be her own person, and her own judgement was to say no to war. It is not a betrayal of her family’s values, but her own way of expressing her independent ones. Before there is ever any hope for peace, The Dragon Prince shows us an assassin refusing to kill in cold blood, a child caring for a baby dragon who is the offspring of the dragon who killed his mother. A regiment of soldiers who lay down their arms and are branded cowards for refusing to fight a war they do not believe in. The show shines with small acts of gentleness that require great bravery.

Recognising Toxic Behaviour in a Loved One. Season three takes on a topic which is almost never handled by children’s media with any subtlety or realism: Being gaslit by a toxic parent. In Disney’s Tangled, our heroine needs to be a naive, isolated shut-in to be duped by her mother and not considered a complete idiot. The mother is earmarked for villainy to the audience from the very beginning, and therefore they learn nothing about how to spot a truly manipulative adult. In The Dragon Prince, Lord Viren is not depicted this way. He is styled as a villain by his profession and color palette, but so are Claudia and Soren with their respective dark magic and bullying. The three of them are depicted as more complicated than just the colors they wear. Viren’s two children are accomplished young adults with their own careers and passions, and yes, it is the cleverer one who remains trusting of him even when he has slowly turned into a monster. This is another valuable lesson – when you are the favorite child, it can be more difficult to see the warning signs, and easier to dismiss the alarm of your less-loved sibling. That is perhaps the most difficult lesson The Dragon Prince manages to get across – someone can truly love you, and be a villain too.

The pattern the antagonists in The Dragon Prince go through is almost a mirror opposite of Steven Universe, which presents binary evildoers and slowly reveals there is more to them, and inevitably, gives them all a chance to redeem themselves. The Dragon Prince Begins with a vast array of characters from different sides of a political conflict, some with duties to their nation, their race, their profession, or their family. As the plot develops, decisions need to be made, and lines in the sand need to be drawn. Some give up duty to better serve their moral compass. Some manipulate their position to achieve their goals. Characters who were once troublesome to the protagonists come to fight for them, and some who were beloved turn into radicalised monsters.

It is very rare that a piece of media for children should pull no punches when it comes to the hard lessons one learns when growing up. Your nation is not always good. Your family is not always right. And sometimes being kind is the hardest thing you can do.

All images from thedragonprince.com

New Web Comic – I’ll See You Again

Hello comrades! As some of you may already know, unearthing and paying homage to suppressed and censored LGBT history is a great passion of mine. Lately I’ve been thinking of how to create a work that would explore places and physical artefacts that could be said to be Queer Pilgrimage sites. Perhaps some day, I’ll get a huge grant to travel the world and make a travel guidebook on that subject. The Stonewall Inn is a wonderful place, but it ain’t the only place!

So let me present to you my explorations in a new web comic, I’ll See You Again. With this comic, I aim to present a fictional pair who can show us various sacred spaces through their own explorations, while also telling their own story. The cover and first page are below, and I’ll be adding a new page every 1 or 2 weeks. I hope you enjoy!

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I'll See You Again - Cover.
I'll See You Again - Page 1.

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On Being the (Second) Drag Queen in the Marvel Universe

My Interview with Actor Terrence Clowe

Photo courtesy of terrenceclowe.com

Earlier this month, Marvel announced it will be expanding its podcast offerings to include several scripted programs and nonfiction shows. This makes sense, given the success they’ve had with their Wolverine podcast, which won the Webby Award for Best Original Music/Sound Design and the iHeartRadio Award for Best Scripted Podcast. Wolverine: The Long Night ran from September to November in 2018. The second season, The Lost Trail, premiered in March, with weekly episodes from July to September 2019.

The Lost Trail’s third episode, “The Cold Blooded,” contained a nice surprise for LGBTQ X-Fans. It introduced the character of Flamingeaux, a drag queen compatriot of Logan whose as good with a gun as a one-liner. Joking about him being grumpy and calling the titular mutant “Lo-Lo,” Flamingeaux proves to be a resourceful ally in the fight for mutant freedom with hints of a rich backstory.

Actor Terrence Clowe performed the voice of Flamingeaux, and, though he only appears for a few minutes, he leaves a distinct impression, and not just lipstick smears on “Lo-Lo”’s cheek. I contacted Mr. Clowe via email to see if he’d like to share more about the role, Flamingeaux’s place in the wider Marvel Universe, and what it’s like to be the (second) drag queen in the X-Men canon.

How did this role come to your attention? What was the audition process like? Was there anything in particular that attracted you to the role?

I initially received the audition through my manager. It was a bit daunting at first as they requested me to record two scenes and to prepare a song in the style of the character.

The character description was as follows: A drag singer who performs in the French Quarter of NOLA. In another life, he was a private security guard in a conflict zone abroad. But he left that behind. Now he’s a beloved performer who fashions himself as an advocate for oppressed people of all stripes. Fiercely loyal to his friends. Singing ability a plus.

So you see, I had no idea it was for Wolverine!

Having a background in musical theatre, I was up for the challenge and excited to audition for my first podcast. I had heard that podcasts in general were becoming more popular, but unless you are submitted through your representation and granted an audition it is pretty impossible to get in and be considered for roles. So, just getting an audition, I felt like I scored! LOL

I chose It’s Raining Men by The Weather Girls as my song which I sang (down a few octaves) and envisioned myself performing in my favorite Drag Bar, the now-defunct Xes Lounge. I have to admit, recording it with my voice over coach was a ton of fun. The monologue resonated with me on a personal level, especially in light of our current political climate where so much division is being promoted and accepted. I found it moving and poignant. It was key to create these imaginary relationships and experiences through improvisation on my own so that once it came to recording there was a clear understanding of the text. Guess it worked out alright!

How similar and different was it to auditioning for a tv or film role? What was the recording process like?

In general, I prepared the same as I would auditioning for any role in any medium. Although it is voice over, having to define the wants and needs of the character were the same. I study with a fantastic coach, Anthony Abeson, who is big on identifying references to the past and character relationships so I put that to work. The recording process was thrilling. In most of the VO work I’ve done, I was confined to the recording booth and movement was impossible as you were hooked up to headphones in front of a microphone. Here, we were in a large booth were we were blocked and choreographed. It was so cool. During the fighting scenes I was literally hurling myself on the floor. During Flamingeaux’s on-stage performance, I was actually moving and dancing, and I entered my dressing room to meet Wolverine tossing a pair of high heels to the floor as I spoke of “getting out these heels.” I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Are you a fan of the X-Men or Marvel movies? Did you do any research to prepare for the role, like read any comics or watch any movies? Did you do any research into drag, New Orleans, or espionage?

Yes! The recent Black Panther movie is my favorite to date. Once I found out the project was Wolverine, I did some online research into the character and watched Hugh Jackman do his thing. I must admit I got distracted by his beauty most of the time. LOL My husband is also a huge fan so we generally go and see the new Marvel movies as they are released.

Hugh Jackman in Logan

I have dabbled in drag for different roles. Most recently for a TV movie titled Eye for an Eye starring Lew Temple from The Walking Dead. The release date hasn’t been set. I also love RuPaul. I remember seeing him perform at a club in the East Village back in the 90’s when I was at NYU called The World and thought he was so magnetic. I envisioned Flamingeaux having a bit of his flair onstage.

Wolverine has been depicted in a same-sex relationship in the past, though this was dismissed as having been in an alternate universe. Do you think it’s a possibility that Flamingeaux and Wolverine would be a couple? Did you intend to imply that? Or is this just wishful thinking on my part?

Hmmmm…it’s fun to think of a relationship as a possibility, but I felt they were only extremely close friends. I envisioned a situation where Wolverine had Flamingeaux’s back early on as he perhaps came out while on security detail and encountered homophobia. This created a bond that led to an undeniable trust where we now see Wolverine seeking his help and Flamingeaux willing to fight on his behalf.

Richard Armitage voices Wolverine in Wolverine: The Lost Trail. Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema

I was disappointed Flamingeaux didn’t appear again for the rest of The Lost Trail. Do you think we’ll see or hear Flamingeaux again? Would you return to the role, maybe in a tv show? Would you like to see the character depicted in a comic?

There was talk of it happening, which is one of the reasons he didn’t die during the confrontation [with Weapon X later in the episode]. I would love to see him in one of the franchises on screen, and YES I would certainly be available! I think it would be cool to see him have a life in the comics as well. He is such an interesting character with a luscious background, but I think ultimately seeing him again would be up to the fans.

Earlier this year, Sina Grace introduced the character of Darkveil in Iceman, vol. 4 #4, “seemingly Marvel’s first drag queen superhero,” according to the Marvel fandom wiki. Had you heard of this character? While there’s obviously plenty of room for two drag queens in the Marvel Universe (and hopefully many more in the future), do you have any concerns that people might consider her too similar to Flamingeaux or vice versa? Why or why not?

Frankly, I was not familiar with Darkveil. I personally think the more LGBTQ representation there is the better. Seeing these characters that are comfortable in their own skin kicking ass is amazing. I say the more the merrier. The commonality between the two of course is drag but I think fans will be able to clearly distinguish the two because their personalities and backgrounds are so unique.

Darkveil. Artwork by Sina Grace

Where can we see/hear you next?

Thank you for asking! I am in my first Christmas movie, A Christmas Movie Christmas premiering on October 27th on UPtv, Dish188, Direct TV338 7pm Eastern and 4pm Pacific. I play the role of Mr. Peterson and Scrooge in an endearing story of a woman who loves Christmas movies and gets magically transported into one.

Wolverine: The Lost Trail is currently available on Stitcher.

Queer Comics Review: Emma Jayne’s Trans Girls Hit the Town

Trans Girls Hit the Town is a potent and amusing comic about an evening between a transitioned transgender woman, Winnie, and a more recently transitioned woman, Chloe. The sensitive portrayal of how the introspective Chloe navigates her evening is thoughtful. The story shows her anxiety, in a distinct character-driven manner, with frustration regarding how she deals with being in public spaces: a train, a restaurant, a bar, the street. She never knows if the next person she meets will be polite, or think she is an abomination. She encounters about equal parts of both.

Personal anecdote time. The narrative reminds me of a similar experience I had the night Sasha Velour won Drag Race. I attended a gay bar, saw her win, and then needed to go to a straight social space for a birthday party. I was bedecked in a glittery necklace, about a dozen rainbow bracelets, and a black shirt with “Sashay Away” in pink glitter on it. I was high on Sasha’s triumph, I didn’t even think about what I was doing, and where I was going. Feeling completely out of place like a big gay thumb, I was surprised to find the one out queer-identified person in the party approach me to say he liked my look. Trans Girls Hit the Town is a smart risograph comic that will resonate with every queer individual who has entered a heterocentric bar, and is relieved to be joined by someone with a shared experience.

There is a moment where our two protagonists enter a similar large space, as one says, where “there is no place to hide.” In this work, Emma Jayne finds a place of comfort for her main character in a one-person bathroom. But, the evening starts with her on public transit feeling aware of her gender dysphora, and being stared down by a stranger. Or, perhaps that’s just her perception of the circumstance. She does not feel comfortable in herself, much less cute. The discomfort is present from the start, but intensifies when the two go to this bar together. The perspective is from Chloe the whole time, wearing a crystal necklace around her neck and a modest dress, she wants so badly to pass. She is impressed by Winnie’s confidence. All she wants is to derive a little part of that. The fear of being identified as trans, or “clocked,” is prevalent throughout. It’s a sincere recounting of a young woman feeling herself through an uncomfortable social situation, though she wants so badly to succeed. We are put firmly in her shoes.

Upsettingly, she takes her frustration on Winnie. Just trying to take her friend for a safe night out, she awakes unexpected anger from Chloe, which is recovered. This comic is relatable for anyone experiencing social anxiety. More specifically, it speaks to suffering the gender dysphora that is experienced through being newly transitioned.

All that having been said there are humorous highlights. There is an ongoing thread connecting their conversations to the X-Men. Winnie compares strength to that of Wolverine’s, and the ladies play the arcade game “Z-Peeps,” having a dispute over who gets to pay Dazzler. The best gag happens when they leave the restaurant where they start their night. As they prepare to pay the bill, the man at the register says, “Anything else I get for you tonight, gentlemen?” with a look of scorn. The total comes to $22.05. They leave a tip of -$22.05, and sign the bill “fuck you <3.” It’s also refreshing to have to look up terms I am unfamiliar with. I can say this is likely to be the only comic to motivate you to look up “muffing” and “Rose of Versailles mace.” I’ll leave it to you to look them up, but I love that they name the mascot of trans sex “Mark Muffalo.”

Please buy Emma Jayne’s comic in hard copy here. You can also find it in a name-your-own-price digital edition here.