Queer Creator Spotlight Pride Edition : Sereno by Luciano Vecchio

Happy Pride to all the LGBTQIA+ comic book and pop-culture nerds and geeks! For this installment of the Queer Creator Spotlight I got to catch up with Geeks OUT alum, Luciano Vecchio about his creator owned-book, “Sereno,” being published by CEX Publishing.

While I would find it hard to believe that anyone wouldn’t be familiar with Luciano’s work, he’s worked on books for both Marvel and DC. He’s drawn such titles as Ironheart and Iceman for Marvel as well as Teen Justice and Beware the Batman for DC. He’s done so many covers there would be too many to list here, but he’s worked on the X-Men, Hulkling and Wiccan, Spider-Man, Spinstress, Power Pack and Wonder Woman to name drop a few.

Luciano has recently added writing to his resume with both Marvel and DC Pride issue and the online Marvel Infinity Comics Iceman. This month saw the launch of his creator owned book written and drawn by Luciano himself, Sereno. I caught up with Luciano to talk about the importance of representation and how crucial it is for queer creators to tell their own stories.

Chris: Luciano, can you tell us a little bit about the origins of Sereno and how it manifested into the book we have now?

Luciano: It’s been a ride! It started as a weekly webcomic in Spanish, as part of an Argentinian collective doing creator-owned superheroes. As a creative exercise it pushed me to examine what the Superhero archetype meant for me, what could I say through it that I felt wasn’t said before, and in turn it made me find my voice as author and refine the way I approached the genre, my job and storytelling in general.

Sereno is a little bit Doctor Strange a little bit Wonder Woman. An interesting mash-up. Why did you go with his power set and characteristics?

Thinking of Superheroes as aspirational power fantasies, I wanted Sereno to represent the kind of powers I’d like to have, or that I’d like others to be inspired by. Complex three-eyed vision to perceive multiple dimensions of things, healing and empathic abilities, active but anti-patriarchal conflict solving. He’s a Magic Boy invoking his spiritual powers from the Moon, claiming for himself the traditionally gendered traits that we were taught to reject. His strength isn’t in being tough but in being soft and fluid. The kind of hero that tames the Dragon rather than killing it.

And it’s a power set that can be used in all kind of stories. He can have a Sci-Fi adventure and then a Vertigo-esque one and it’s all organic to his story.

For the book you chose a very specific color design. It’s quite stunning visually! Any specific reason behind the coloring style?

A few years before Sereno I worked on Cruel Thing, a series of goth graphic novels in Spain, which was all in black, white and red, and I found the potential of the one color limitation super inspiring and full of possibilities. So in Sereno I took it farther and experimented with picking one or two colors per episode to see what happens. It is an expressionist and poetic use of color accents in a world of lights and shadows, setting the mood of each episode and villain. And once the book was completed, it represented the focused decomposition of Sereno’s white light into one color at a time.

In terms of being a queer creator(writer and artist) what were the elements you absolutely wanted to incorporate into the story that the queer community could definitely relate to and why?

One of my obsessions growing up as male-assigned and identifying, was hacking the cultural notion of what “male” is supposed to be or associated with, so creating a powerful and assertive yet sensitive and soft male figure was a need. I don’t know if that is inherently queer, but I am and so is Sereno. So, on one hand I wanted that queer lead representation for me, for the boy I was and those who would relate to my sensibility, but I also fantasized about him being accessible and inspirational to anyone.

The villians in the story are avatars for very real emotions that we all have. Obviously, fear, obsession, paranoia are all relevant in the world-you angled them to the LGBTQIA+ community.  Can you speak to that a little bit?

Sereno’s Rogues Gallery is as important to the story as he is, this is a series of villain-of-the-week duels. So each villain is in a way, an anti-Sereno. And in the same way Sereno represents an aspirational power fantasy, his villains represent the battles we fight in life and for which we’d like access to Sereno’s powers.

It wasn’t so much an effort to think of issues of the LGBTQIA+ community, but instead working from my own personal experience and that of the people around me and being honest with the work so that it would organically resonate with kindred spirits. Which is the way I think queer rep in stories work best.

Can you tell us a little bit about the journey to get this book published? Why now? Why CEX?

It seems the time is now! I wanted this for so long, and at some point I had almost given up and was ready to be content with the local Spanish edition. Then during the pandemic quarantine and industry crisis that left me with a lot of unexpected free time, I redirected my energy to refine the English translation and get a limited digital release. That led to an agent (you) Chris Allo of Magnus Arts taking interest in the book and making the bridge with CEX Publishing, to finally manifest it physically. Meanwhile it also led to some writer/artist work at Marvel and giving me time to grow my visibility and audience, so in the end this is one of those cases where the road wasn’t what I wanted, but what I needed. Now’s the right time.

Besides creator owned, you’ve worked for DC and more prominently, Marvel. Can you tell  us what you’ve been working on recently?

I’m web-slinging a lot this year! Between Web-Weaver and Spinstress in the Spider-Verse, and I just finished Spider-Man 11, an extra-sized issue featuring Spider-Boy. I’m also part of the artists roster in this year’s X-Men Hellfire Gala, doing a lot of cover work and about to start a series we’ll announce soon.

I was also lucky to work with my main interest of queer representation in mainstream superhero comics in the last few years, like in DC Pride, Teen Justice, and as writer/artist in Marvel Voices Pride and my favorite, Infinite Comics Iceman.

Any advice for our queer creators looking to publish through Zoop or crowdfunding in general?

I admit I’m terrible at giving advice, and I recognize I was terrified of running a crowdfunding campaign for the hardcover collection, with no previous experience. But with the assistance and company of CEX and Zoop, and the audience support, it turned out to be much easier or less stressful than I anticipated. I’m still experiencing it, but I’m very happy with how it’s going so far.

How are you celebrating Pride this year in Argentina?

I live between two worlds, living in Argentina half of my attention is in the global north, experiencing international Pride Month and all the attraction, celebration and visualization of our fights through social media and my work. While here in Buenos Aires Pride March (one of the best in the world I’ll say) is in November, our spring time and usually close to my birthday, so it’s the best time ever.

Any plans for a follow up to Sereno?

This is a book that works as a self-contained story, and I like that aspect. But it’s always open to new explorations, like the extra episode titled Sereno and Rufián Pride Special. It’s mostly up to how the book does, but my main interest right now is for this to be a satisfying read that holds on its own.

Hey Luciano, thanks for taking the time to talk with me and we look forward to reading Sereno in the deluxe Hardcover Edition! Have a Happy Pride! Stay safe and have fun!

You can get your copy of the Sereno here by going to the Zoop website, link below!


Queer Project Spotlight: Hairology with co-creators Kat Calamia and Phil Falco!

In this installment of the Queer Creator Spotlight I had the opportunity to talk with Kat Calamia and Phil Falco. You may be familiar with those names as they are the creators, editors, and publishers behind the wildly successful anthology, “Bi-Visibility!” They have another fantastic project running right now on Kickstarter called “Hairology Vol. 1“.

Hair. Love it. Hate it. We all have it. Mostly. Kat and Phil have assembled a wonderful compilation of writers and artists to tell us their own personal hair-raising tales and take us on some very funny and relatable stories about hair. Let ‘s get to it…

Hairology 1 cover art by Maru Davalos from Lifeline Comics

Chris Allo: What prompted the idea to do an anthology about “Hair?

Kat Calamia: I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my hair. I love my curly hair, but throughout my life I’ve had people try to tell me how I should style it. 

I would learn that everyone has a complicated relationship with their hair, and these are stories we should showcase. I’m very proud of the diverse amount of narratives and genres we were able to stick into this one.  

CA: In terms of the talent, you have on the book, did you put out a call for ideas/stories?  Were there people you knew you wanted to have contribute to the book?

KC: We received all our stories from a submission form that we shared on our social media platforms. We had a great range of writers submit including veterans like Sterling Gates and even newcomers making their comic book writing debut. 

We also had a handful of artists that we hired through the submission form, but we also hired artists we worked with in the past and new artists that we’ve had our eyes on from their social media posts. 

CA: You’ve used KickStarter before, quite successfully, with Bi-Visibility. What is it about the platform and the experience that keeps you coming back?

KC: The community! We love the community we’ve been able to create with our readers, with fellow comic book creators, and the people of Kickstarter themselves. 

Art by Kameron White; Colors by Dorilys Giacchetto

CA: What are some must know/must do when running a KS campaign that you’d like to share with future and current creators?

KC: Know your elevator pitch. What makes your comic book stand out compared to other comics in that genre. 

And have a good thumbnail and sub-header because that’s going to be the first thing potential readers are going to see before committing to clicking.

Art by Kenan Halilovic

Chris Allo: We all love hair!  What do you want for people to take away after reading this amazing book?

Phil Falco: We want our readers to come away from the book with an overwhelming feeling of self-love. Everybody has a different relationship with their hair — it’s such a huge part of everybody’s self-expression. And while every story in “Hairology” is very unique and different, I think it’s fair to say that each of them has an undercurrent of learning to love/accept yourself more through your unique relationship with your hair.

CA: Which are some of your favorite stories from the anthology and why?

PF: We genuinely love all of the stories in “Hairology”, but to name just a few stand-outs: we have an anime-inspired action story about a young professional literally”fighting” her hair before her first day on a new job, a hilariously heartwarming autobiography about a protagonist always considering himself “ugly” finding self-confidence through his hair, a dystopian story that touches on the oppressive feelings of dress codes and hair length requirements, and a beautiful autobiographical story about a trans woman’s first time growing out her hair as part of her journey of self-discover and being surprised by the result.

Art by Yonson Carbonell

CA: Do you have any personal “Hair” stories that you’d like to share that were not included?

KC & PF: We both have plenty of our own hair stories — Kat especially surrounding the brash way people sometimes regard curly hair. But we decided early on not to contribute our own stories to this anthology. One of the main reasons we create these anthologies is to give other writers/artists the opportunity to tell their own stories. And we wanted to give our creative team as many pages as possible to do so.

One hair story we’ll leave you with that actually partially inspired “Hairology”: Phil was on a professional phone call related to a gig that Kat and he were both working on. For whatever reason, Kat couldn’t join that call but had been on previous calls. And completely unprompted, the other party told Phil that we needed to “think big, like Kat’s hair”. We were both baffled by this random declaration and discussing it after the call is part of what led to the conversation about creating “Hairology”.

CA: Since you’re both editors, can you share some advice for aspiring creatives on some of the ways to get their work seen and read?

Art by Dorilys Giacchetto

PF: Just keep putting yourself out there! We’re fortunate to be in a time where there are so many different avenues to break into creative spaces. So we always encourage creatives to try it all — whether that’s pitches, self-publishing, posting on Webtoon and other digital comic platforms, building an engaging social media, etc. Just always been putting your work out there and keep creating new and diverse work!

CA: Kat and Phil, thank you both for your time and for another great project!

Please click on the Kickstarter link below and get your copy now and continue to support our Queer Creatives!

Hairology: A Celebration of Hair! by Kat Calamia (Lifeline Comics) — Kickstarter

Interview with Iron Circus Comics Founder C. Spike Trotman

C. Spike Trotman was born in DC, raised in MD, and lives in IL. An artist and writer, she founded Iron Circus Comics in 2007, which has since grown to become the region’s largest comics publisher. Her notable work includes the webcomic “Templar, Arizona,” the Smut Peddler series of erotic comic anthologies, and Poorcraft, a graphic novel guide to frugal living. A Kickstarter early adopter, she pioneered the widely-adopted bonus model that’s since completely reshaped the pay system of the small press, jump-starting the current renaissance of alt-comics anthologies. Iron Circus is also the first comics publisher of note to fully incorporate crowdfunding into its business model, inventing one of the single most effective uses of new media in comics publishing today.

Iron Circus’ latest anthology, Failure to Launch, is live on Backerkit now.

I had the opportunity to interview Spike, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself? 

Hi, I’m Spike! I was born in DC, raised in MD, and live in IL. I was in Maryland’s “Gifted and Talented” program in middle school, and ever since, nobody’s been able to tell me nuthin’. I absolutely got high on my own supply with that one, decided I was special, and took it from there.

I was in what I like to think of as the first big wave of webcomics, the most maligned and hopeless wave, the pre-Paypal, pre-Webtoon, pre-Tapas, pre-everything kids who mostly just flailed around, and experimented, and hoped something would work out, eventually. For me, the thing that worked out was Iron Circus Comics. With a little help from my friends, I’ve since grown a self-publishing imprint into the biggest comics publisher in the Midwest, with multiple Eisner nominations and wins to its name, a multi-million-dollar crowdfunding footprint, and a brand-new animation wing, Iron Circus Animation, responsible for the Lackadaisy animated short, dropping in March!

How would you describe what you do professionally and creatively?

I make comics and cartoons. I think they’re pretty good.

As the founder of Iron Circus Comics, how would you describe your company? 

We actually have a motto and mission statement that does the job pretty well, in my opinion: “Strange and Amazing.” It’s something I once saw a banner that hung on a circus freak show tent, and it’s exactly what I strive to bring into the world. WEIRD stuff. Stuff not everybody else is out there doing.

What drew you to storytelling, particularly to the medium of comics and erotic fiction?

I’ve always been Team “Erotica Is A Legitimate Genre.” I just felt that, like msot attempts at storytelling in ALL genres, not just erotica, most of it was either poorly done, didn’t really appeal to me personally, or both! And I always knew specifically what I wanted to see in media wasn’t going to get shown unless I did it myself. Which is where stuff like “Iris & Angel” and “Yes, Roya” comes from, along with the Smut Peddler series.

And I just love comics. They’re my favorite medium, ever. Like a lot of people my age, it’s probably because I grew up during the last hurrah of the newspaper comic, reading Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side and Bloom County in the Sunday Washington Post. Those guys set a high bar.

What are some of your favorite elements of storytelling? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or difficult?

The stuff that comes easiest to me are cute little vignettes, homeless little scenes that I want to see play out on the page for no good reason. Stuff I just think would be fun to see. Stuff like, “What if this character saw a bunch of baby ducks trapped in a storm drain?” “What are they like with their mom?” “What would they do as part of a crew aboard a spaceship?” I have a whole file of single-sentence prompts like that, prompts I won’t allow myself to include in anything I make unless I can find a way to slot them into the comic so they actually move the story forward instead of dwelling on how pwecious I think everyone I’ve made up is.  

As someone who has worked on their own comics, including Yes, Roya, how would you describe your creative process?

There has to be a gap I see, and need to fill, in my own entertainment. Almost all homegrown Iron Circus stuff starts off that way; my work, the anthologies, the books I commission the authorship of (Like the Poorcraft Cookbook). And when I’m writing and drawing it, an actual valuable part of the experience is the time I spend AWAY from the script or page. After I finish drawing a page or scripting five or ten pages? I need to walk away for at least half a day, come back later, and reread it with fresh eyes. I always, ALWAYS catch something I’m not happy with, doing that, so I swear by the method.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

As a kid, I loved “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.” I mean, to an unreasonable degree. I was very into Auntie Entity because back then, there wasn’t a lot of media with a Black woman unquestionably in charge of things. She had real power, was competent, set the rules and enforced them. And even though she “lost” in the end, she wasn’t punished or killed for being in charge. She just drove off into the sunset. You kinda knew she was gonna be fine, that that wasn’t the end of her. She lost this round, but she wasn’t out of the fight.

I LOVED THAT. Major role model vibes.

As someone who has had their hand in a number of acclaimed titles, what usually draws your eye professionally and creatively?

I have a bunch of hurdles work has to get over, and the first is the art. If I’m not feeling the art, then my interest ends there; the way I see it, art is what draws the eye first, and if I can’t get into the art, there’s no point in checking out anything else. Then, I check out the quality of the writing AND lettering (yes, lettering matters! It’s about legibility and aesthetics!). It’s only after those two hurdles are cleared that I take a look at any paperwork the creator sent along. That’s probably backwards, but that’s how I do things.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

I’m a helluva home cook. My homemade mapo tofu, from-scratch Japanese curry, and kimchi are to die for.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

Why YES, I AM available to write for your television show!

What advice might you have to give for aspiring creatives?

Hold onto your IP with a white-knuckle grip, don’t sign over anything, no matter how pretty a story someone’s telling you. The new money coming into comics right now how brought a whole new wave of predatory exploiters with it. They don’t care about you, they care about what they can take from you. And sell to someone else. They’re leeches and carpetbaggers; don’t ever let them think they’re doing you a favor.

Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?

Up down up down left right left right B A start.

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books(comics included)/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

Ooo, an easy question!

Kyle Smeallie is an unappreciated gem. I love his work. Check out his webcomic, Softies!

The same goes for Jon Allen’s Ohio Is For Sale comics. We publish two volumes of it, The Lonesome Era and Julian in Purgatory. Dude should be famous, honestly.

Kendra Wells’ Real Hero Shit is tearin’ up social media, and for good reason! Grab it and read it!