Interview with Crimson Chains, Creator of Star Crossed

Crimson Chains is a self-taught artist who has always loved to create comics and stories. Star themes and aesthetics are some of her favorite things to create, and Star Crossed is her first published work.

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

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

Hello! Thank you so much for reaching out, I am super excited! I go by Crimson Chains (She/her) and I’m an adopted Chinese American and creator of the comic Star Crossed. I’ve been drawing for nearly two decades and creating comics and stories for about the same amount of time!

What can you tell us about your comic, Star Crossed? Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Star Crossed is about Polaris who is king of the stars and his knight Yildun. Due to Yildun’s lower status he feels unworthy to love Polaris, even though the king is willing to throw away tradition for their relationship. It’s a soft and sweet love story with a little bit of yearning!

The inspiration for this story is rather funny, in my opinion. For Star Crossed the story wasn’t something I thought of and then designed the characters, rather, it was the other way around. I drew a king with white hair, closed eyes and a star cloak and then a knight looking at him solemnly and instantly fell in love with the drawing. I posted it to my discord channel and talked with fans about it and slowly developed the story from there.

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, particularly comics/graphic novels? What drew you to the medium?

I’ve always been drawing comics as far back as I can remember picking up a pen! I don’t think there’s been a long period of time in my life where I haven’t been creating a comic or two. Back in high school I was working on three at once and the longest one got to be 1800 pages. I think I just love watching a story come to life panel by panel, it’s very satisfying.

For those curious about the development behind making a comic, how would you describe the process?

My process is particularly chaotic! I wouldn’t really recommend it to most people, haha. I sort of have a general outline in my head about where the story will go, points A to B to C and then as I draw I let the parts between those points fill out. I think it can make the pacing a little messy at times, but, for me it’s a lot of fun.

To me, comic making is a marathon and not a race. It requires a lot of focus and it can be hard to slog through some scenes which aren’t as interesting or are difficult to draw. But, looking back on the story and all the places it goes is very rewarding.

As a creative, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?

I feel like it’s hard to name them, as, I’ve just always read a lot of comics and manga growing up and it’s all been very fun and interesting, but, I can’t say if there are any in particular which influence me! When I was much younger I’d often trace panels out of Calvin and Hobbes pages or try and copy a jpeg I found of Sesshomaru online somewhere. I think maybe it was just having access to a lot of really different art styles which inspired me to just keep drawing.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by, reflected in, or that inspired your love for storytelling?

A lot of the stories I read growing up were fantasy based, I remember checking out basically every book I could find in the library which mentioned dragons! I’m not sure there was any particular story that inspired my love for stories, I just think I had a lot of fun reading and it grew from there.

Are there any like that now?

Lately I find myself really enjoying reading autobiographical comics! Definitely “Fun Home” is a really excellent read which I find myself going back to a lot. It’s very interesting seeing so many different perspectives and life experiences.

Besides your work, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

Haha, I feel like there’s not a lot to know about me which would be interesting. I really like birds and I sometimes think it would be fun to be bitten by a goose.

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

Oh, another tough one! Perhaps “How long does it take to draw a page of Star Crossed?” In which case the answer is that it takes anywhere from 6 to 8 hours depending on how complex the page is. My favorite part of the process is coloring the page.

Are there any projects you are working on or thinking about that you are able to discuss?

At the moment I am only working Star Crossed! But, I definitely have some plans down the line for my next comic. I’d really like to draw a comic based on the story of Swan Lake, except the cursed prince falls in love with the son of the sorcerer. It would be a light hearted comedy, I think!

What advice would you give to any aspiring creatives out there?

Especially with comics I think my biggest advice is to just start! The biggest roadblock I see with creating comics is that people can get too caught up in the planning and the idea they have to start out perfect. If you look at any comic creator you see their work get better as they go, both in story and in art, it’s okay if it’s not exactly what you want from the beginning. Tell your story, learn as you go, and enjoy the ride!

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

Heaven Official’s Blessing is a great book series, I also enjoyed reading Cherry Magic for manga!

Interview with Maurice Vellekoop, I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together: A Memoir

Maurice Vellekoop was born in Toronto in 1964. After graduating from Ontario College of Art (now OCADU) in 1986, Maurice Vellekoop joined Reactor Art and Design, an agency for illustrators. In a more than thirty-five year career, Maurice Vellekoop has worked for top international editorial and advertising clients, published numerous zines, comics and books, created art for animation, and participated in art shows around the world.

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

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT!

Thanks, what a pleasure to talk to you!

What can you tell us about your new graphic novel, I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together: A Memoir? What inspired you to create this project?

My graphic memoir operates on two levels: on one it’s a fairly straightforward story of a queer person growing up in an intensely Protestant community, and the resulting rift between a son and a loving mother who can’t accept her son’s sexuality because of her beliefs. On another it’s about a lifelong love affair with making art and delighting in cinema, books, music and theatre. It’s about the intense joy that can be found in art, but also the pitfalls of sublimation. That is, trying to find sexual and emotional fulfilment in fantasy and culture, rather than actual human relationships.

I was inspired to create this book, to paraphrase Quentin Crisp, for three reasons: I needed the money, I felt I had something unique to say, and it was something to do to pass the time!

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, especially comics/graphic novels and memoir?

I was never a huge comics nerd as a child. I liked Mad magazine, and Illustrated Classics, but I was not into superheroes at all. In the 1980s I discovered RAW magazine and it blew my mind. I started drawing comics because of artists like Joost Swarte, Charles Burns, Sue Coe, Mark Beyer and Jerry Moriarty. 

How would you describe your artistic background?

I grew up in a house where art was revered. My parents had an art library that I grew up studying. I learned art history from a very young age by looking at picture books. Later I went to art school for illustration, inspired by older my sister, Ingrid. I idolized her. She wanted to be an illustrator, so I did too. Since graduating from Ontario College of Art (as it was known then) in 1986 I have worked mostly as an illustrator. I published short comics and zines in my spare time. The graphic memoir is my first full-length work.

As a creative, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?

I get inspiration from nearly everything! I love just walking down the street and observing how people present themselves visually. Beyond that I love and am inspired by the classic New Yorker cartoonists like Charles Addams, Mary Petty and Peter Arno. Classic Hollywood has always influenced me; everything from really cynical black and white film noir, to the saturated colours and high camp drama of 1950s Douglas Sirk ‘women’s pictures’. As a young man I gorged on world cinema from the 20th century in Toronto’s rep theatres. Fellini, Visconti, Renoir, Bunuel, Ray and Antonioni are my gods. I listen to a lot of opera while I’m working too, I love getting lost in long, dramatic music-narratives. I’m sure opera has informed my work. Figuring out how the composer tells the story in music is more exciting to me than the singing!

Maurice Vellekoop Photo Credit Lito Howse

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

If you mean was there a lot of queer examples around, hmm, not really, you really had to dig to find them, and they weren’t usually very positive. What I did have were all the 1960s and 70s supernatural TV sitcoms, with their casts of freakish outsiders. Shows like The Addams Family, The Munsters, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie were inspirational because of all the outrageous situations, and the idea that the weirdos were the normal ones, and normal people were dull and boring. Oh, those fabulous character actors too! 

The first positive representation of a healthy, self-accepting gay man I encountered was Michael York’s character in Cabaret. My sister took me to see it when I was around sixteen and I still treasure everything about that film. Today we are so lucky to have so much great LGBTQ2S material, thriving despite all the book-banning.  

Besides your work, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

Ha! Audiences will find out plenty when they read the book!! Seriously though, I am a very dull, old, happily partnered person who is very fortunate to be able to go to my table every day and make art.

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

What’s with the colour in your book? Why are some of the chapters in a limited palette, and some in full colour?

“I’m So Glad” you asked me that! The limited palette refers to my childhood consumption of children’s books. I bitterly resented books that were printed in duotone because I thought the publishers were just being cheap, and I only wanted to experience the richness of full-colour printing. As a grownup I now love the look of those books, and so most of the chapters are in two-colour. Also, a large part of the book deals with depression, and the world can seem flatter and less colourful when you are depressed. The full-colour pages occur whenever something really great occurs, just like when Dorothy lands in Munchkinland in The Wizard of Oz.

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

Hmm, taste is so personal, and as someone intensely fascinated by history, I tend to skew to writers from the past. I reread Noel Coward’s and Tennessee Williams’s stories regularly. I love Christopher Isherwood, who wrote Goodbye to Berlin, which Cabaret is based on. Cecil Beaton is a personal hero, his diaries are wicked fun. More contemporarily, I love Edmund White, Alan Bennett and and Jeanette Winterson. Lauren Hough’s recent essay/memoir book made me laugh and cry. Oliver Sacks’s On The Move was fantastic. The writer Colm Toibin is a great favourite. In comics I love the incomparable Alison Bechdel, as well as Jillian and Mariko Tamaki.

I would strongly suggest to every queer person that they read a biography of Oscar Wilde. (I love the Richard Ellmann one.) Not only will you be entertained by Wilde’s wit and seduced by his charm, but you will discover the roots of modern queer activism. His sensational trial for sodomy, and his passionate, public defence of homosexuality shone a light on what was, in the late 19th century, an illegal and secretive world. His imprisonment and early death were the tragic consequences of the cost of his sacrifice. It would be decades before the sodomy laws would be abolished, in the UK and elsewhere, and many more gay men would suffer, but we all owe a great debt to Oscar. He was one of our first heroes.

X-Men ’97: A Blast of Concussive Energy from the Past

This week was what many of us have been waiting for, the release of the first two episodes of X-Men ’97 on Disney Plus. Don’t know what I’m talking about?

Check This Out

This was very much like a nice warm soup for my soul on a rainy New England day.

So I’ll say this if you watched the original animated series, you’re definitely gonna like this and if you didn’t, you will also like this, I think.  Here’s an in-depth review on Rotten Tomatoes. TLDR? It’s rated at 100%.

The story begins where the previous series left off, Charles Xavier, having been assassinated, and with human/mutant traffickers wearing FOH armbands (Friends of Humanity) and armed with portable sentinel blasters that make them look like a weird GI Joe/ Mega Man crossover, a charming rich kid with yet to be discovered solar powers, who hits the message on the head when he says “I was born this way”.

Anyway, the FOH folks have a lot of new tricks, gadgets, and are playing very, very dirty. You can tell by their motto ‘Tolerance is Extinction’ that they’re basically espousing the Great Replacement Theory.

So we kick off with Jean very pregnant, the X-men in somewhat of a rough spot following Xavier’s death, but everyone doing their best. Meanwhile a bunch of bigots have been amassing sentinel tech (in this case literally stockpiling arms?) in the desert.

There are several twists and turns in the first two episodes. Outstanding action sequences including some freaking amazing combination use of powers and definitely more violence than the original. Most of the original (might I add epic and the voices of my childhood) have returned. The writing is solid, and there isn’t a moment to breath during the episode.

There are some laughs, some groans, and a few moments that absolutely gave me the feels. If I try to give you hints I’ll just end up giving you a play by play of all my favorite moments so instead, please just go watch it and let me know what you think.

I will absolutely be eagerly awaiting the next episode (weekly on Wednesdays). Join me!

Cover Image is Official X-men ’97 Promotional Art provided by Disney+

Interview with Anna Kopp and Gabrielle Kari, Creators of The Marble Queen

Anna Kopp is a children’s author who lives in Ohio with her husband, two boys, and two cats. Anna loves creating fantastical stories for children of all ages, from Minecraft picture books to young adult novels. When she’s not writing she’s playing video games or reading the latest books about lost princesses.

Gabrielle Kari is a northern California-based comic artist and illustrator with her weenie dog Pumpkin. She loves creating sapphic stories depicting morally questionable women.

I had the opportunity to interview Anna and Gabrielle, which you can read below.

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

AK: Thank you, I’m so excited to be on here! My name is Anna Kopp and I’m the author of THE MARBLE QUEEN. I was born in Russia and immigrated to the US when I was 11. After serving as an IT specialist in the US Army, I settled in Ohio where I now write books. Aside from being an author, I’m the local Pokémon GO Community Ambassador and currently heavily involved in the world of 3D printing and design.

GK: Hello, thank you for having me! My name is Gabrielle and I’m the artist for The Marble Queen. I’m a lesbian artist living in California and I graduated from college in 2018. Since then have been honing my craft to create stories I want to see in the world.

What can you tell us about your latest book, The Marble Queen? What was the inspiration for this project?

AK: THE MARBLE QUEEN is what an author would call ‘the book of my heart’. It’s about a princess who accidentally accepts a marriage offer not from the prince of a mysterious country, but his sister, and must navigate both a dangerous alliance and a confused heart. When I was a queer teen, the only sapphic media I had available to me was anime and manga. Revolutionary Girl Utena carved a place in my heart and inspired me to create a queer fantasy story with princesses, ballgowns, swords, and magic that I could only dream of. Now that dream has come true and I can share it with the world!

GK: Anna and I are both huge fans of Revolutionary Girl Utena. The anime series was huge part of my college years and made me want continue to pursue art as a career

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically graphic novels/comics?

AK: I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember, but learning a new language was a big roadblock for me in terms of prose and finding the right words to describe the images in my head. When my agent, Claire Draper, proposed that I turn the traditional novel manuscript of THE MARBLE QUEEN into a graphic novel script, it was like the puzzle pieces slid into place. It was the perfect format for the way I think and create, I just didn’t realize it until then.

As an artist, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically graphic novels/comics?

GK: My dad used to talk about reading superhero comics growing up. It made me want to read all the thing he was interested in and from that it graduated into graphic novels and manga. I loved the way the stories melded word and illustration together and read anything I could get my hands on.

Anna Kopp

In addition to being a Sapphic romance, The Marble Queen also features some evocative representation when it comes to anxiety. How did you go about trying to represent that in your story?

AK: Anxiety was something I struggled with as a teen, but I didn’t know what it was, so I just thought there was something wrong with me. As I got older and had to navigate an array of physical and mental symptoms that impacted my life in various ways, I wanted to weave my experiences into my main character, and I hope at least someone out there feels a little less alone reading it.

GK: I wanted to depict Amelia’s anxiety as a creeping entity, a monster that follows her constantly whether she acknowledges its presence or not. Despite its oppressive force I wanted her to learn to coexist with her inner demons and overpower them.

How would you describe your creative process?

AK: I always start with a twist and build the story around it. I don’t even write anything down until I know the flow start to finish. Then I outline the chapters with names like ‘This is where x happens’ to make sure the main parts of the narrative arc are on track. Things move around during the writing process but organization is important to me so I don’t get overwhelmed.

GK: I have a lot of trouble illustrating chronologically. Most of the chapters in The Marble Queen were done out of order. I would work on pages I knew could be reasonably finished faster than pages that I could end up spending days on because a line wasn’t working out that day.

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

AK: Sadly, I can’t say there were many stories I could see myself in growing up. Where would I find a queer Russian girl who would rather rescue the princess in the fairy tales? The only one that I really connected to was The Little Mermaid (the version she actually died in) and I didn’t understand why until much later in life. Luckily, now that queer books are all around us, I am finally catching up on all my childhood reflections, and it’s wonderful!

GK: When I was younger I read a lot of straight media and while I did love the stories I realized over time I was mostly obsessing over the female lead and her female friends. Most of the lesbian media I found was during the height of my anime obsession in high school. Today there’s a much broader selection of lgbt media and it makes me happy to know more is being made every day.

As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general? 

AK: Aside from other books and my own experiences, it’s definitely rock music. I have a soundtrack for every book I write, and when I listen to it, I can see the story play out along with it in my head. For THE MARBLE QUEEN, Bring Me To Life by Evanescence is its’ theme song. I even made an OMV for it with the graphic novel panels I might share one day.

As a artist, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general? 

GK: I love Mary Blair’s concept art for Disney’s Alice and Wonderland, I love the bright colors and expressive silhouettes. I have the Magic Color Flair: The World of Mary Blair in my book collection and its an immediate grab for any artistic slump.

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

AK: I love brainstorming because it’s like watching a movie where I control the characters. The most difficult part is making big decisions like who dies. I still argue with myself about certain character deaths and whether I should have done something different, but I know it’s out of my hands now.  

Gabrielle Kari

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

GK: I love drawing hair, long tendrils, and swirls. Organic shapes are comfortable draw, but I hope one day I can master drawing backgrounds.

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

AK: I love being creative outside of writing too. I make bookmarks, bookshelf signs (like THE BIG GAY SHELF for my own bookshelf), and other fun designs for 3D printing. If you want to check them out, you can find me on Makerworld under Kopp3D and on Etsy under BookshelfShowcase.

GK: I puppy fold my favorite parts in books so I can reread them later. One book I liked so much I ended up puppy folding a quarter of the pages…

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)?

AK: What’s your favorite Pokémon? It’s Snorlax (he likes to eat and sleep, say no more).

GK: What’s your favorite minion in the hit MMO series Final Fantasy XIV?

It’s the Spriggan! I look forward to every easter event for their Spriggan themed quests.

What advice might you have to give for aspiring graphic novelists?

AK: Art is hard. It takes time. It takes so much effort. Whether you’re just the author or also the illustrator, try your best to not get hung up on the details. Capture the feel of your story without having to draw so much that it takes up a ton of time and doesn’t have significant impact. Give those wrists a break.

GK: Don’t give up. Keep working on the story you love, your personal passion and dedication to your story will be acknowledged and celebrated as long as you keep going. No one can tell a story like YOU can.

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

AK: I am (hopefully) going out on submission with a new project soon! It’s a graphic novel about a rock band that must perform as tribute to the god that protects their home or be sacrificed. And yes, it’s very queer!

GK: I’m working on an adaptation of one of my favorite classic novellas. I hope I can bring a story that impacted me deeply to more readers.

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

AK: I recently finished SO LET THEM BURN by Kamilah Cole and it was fantastic! If you like dragons in your YA, this is definitely one to pick up. For a darker, adult read, I always recommend THE BOOK EATERS by Sunyi Dean, because how can you not love the idea of eating books giving you their knowledge? For graphic novels, I just discovered ATANA AND THE FIREBIRD by Vivian Zhou and it is so sweet!

GK: Fun Home is a wonderful biographic novel by Alison Bechdel that you should read at least once in your life. Also recently I’ve started to read Kingfisher by Rowan MacColl on Tapas. I love the characters and I can’t wait to see where the story goes!

Interview with Sunny and Gloomy, Creators of RAINBOW!

Sunny Funkhouser Aka Sunny (they/them), is a neurodivergent, queer creator who has been writing ever since they were a teenager. Sunny is autistic with ADHD and likes to collect dolls, make reborn dolls, crochet, act, and sew. They love learning how to do things creatively. An avid table-top gamer, Sunny is a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering. Musical theater is their other love aside from writing and Gloomy. They’re also an ENFP for people that like that sort of thing.

Angel Aka Gloomy has been making comics since they were 10, starting with a lovingly crafted Sailor Moon rip-off. Despite the soft magical girl influence in their work, their favorite genre is horror. Besides drawing, Gloomy loves to bake and garden (in theory, if they could only keep things alive), as well as collect merchandise from whatever is currently suiting their fancy, typically cutesy things like Ghibli or Sanrio. Opposite Sunny, they’re as introverted as they come, but consider themselves friendly anyway. They’re also obsessed with bagels.

CW: Brief discussion of post traumatic stress disorder and maladaptive daydreaming.

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

Angel: I tend to keep to myself most of the time– it can be difficult sometimes to get me out of the house and away from drawing. When I’m not drawing either professionally or for personal pleasure, I’m usually playing gamecube-era games, watching horror movies, reading webcomics or baking.

Sunny: I’m the reason Angel gets out of the house. I’m a nonbinary writer, and I love to be constantly doing things. I love theater and learning how to do things myself. I love to sew and crochet. I enjoy spending time with people. I like going to restaurants and amusement parks, and just playing Jackbox with my friends. I work at a special needs elementary school, so I’m always busy running around with the kids. I only really sit still to write and to binge shows with Angel. I’d never be able to work an office job.

What can you tell us about your debut graphic novel, Rainbow!? What was the inspiration for this story?

Angel: When we first made RAINBOW! when I was about 14, there were a lot of boys-love type comics getting popular on the webcomic hosting sites I visited, but almost no comics about girls to match them, and what little there was were usually sexualized. We wanted to see something that reflected ourselves more (at least, who we were at the time anyway), and so, RAINBOW! started. The characters were even originally based a bit on us, though I wouldn’t compare myself at all to Mimi anymore!

Sunny: RAINBOW! started as a way to explore our queer identities we were both just figuring out. Over time, RAINBOW! became a way for me to tell a story about a girl like me (though I wouldn’t compare myself as much to Boo now) finding her place in the world and rejecting the influences in her life that were hurting her. It became something really special to me. Boo is a girl that tries so hard to be good that she doesn’t really consider herself and her happiness beyond fantasies that are a way to cope with the difficult parts of her life. She learns to stand up for her own happiness and to fill her life with people that help her grow.

Can you give us any trivia (that hasn’t already been given) about the characters from Rainbow!?

Angel: Way back when we created them, Boo’s fashion sense was meant to be heavily influenced by fairy kei, and Mimi’s by scene fashion. Boo has stayed quite similar, though toned down since she couldn’t realistically afford many fancy clothing pieces. Anything particularly cute or detailed in her outfits, she more than likely made or altered it herself. Mimi, on the other hand, completely changed her fashion sense since her inception. Though it happened slowly over time rather than all at once.

(Spoiler) From what I’ve seen of your comic, it appears that Rainbow! explores some elements concerning mental health, including depictions of maladaptive daydreaming. Could you discuss your decision to include this in the comic?

Sunny: While we never intended Boo to have any specific condition as far as her daydreaming is concerned, it has been very interesting to hear from people that can relate to Boo and her issues with daydreaming. Her daydreaming is meant as a coping mechanism to deal with her less than ideal life. Boo likely suffers from some form of post traumatic stress disorder at the very least, but her daydreaming represents her desire to escape from reality and enter a fantastical realm where she is something special and important because that isn’t how she feels in reality. She loses control of her coping mechanism when her real life problems become harder to ignore. A fantastical land that once brought her comfort starts to become corrupted. It takes healing her real life to heal her inner world.

As creatives, what drew you to the art of storytelling, particularly to comics/graphic novels?

Angel: When we met as teenagers, we both drew and told stories individually, each with a specific interest in anime, manga and comics. My first comic was at 10, and was essentially a Sailor Moon ripoff. Sunny would often write and was more skilled in telling a wider story, but they were less interested in drawing them, while I was more focused on drawing and better at smaller character details than full plotlines, so we decided to combine our strengths to make comics together instead.

Sunny: In a way, I think it’s magical the way Angel can take my words and paint such beautiful pictures with them. I see my own words in picture form and suddenly it isn’t something I created, it’s something we created, and it’s better for it. Angel adds so much in beautiful backgrounds and subtle expressions. It’s incredible the way they make me see RAINBOW! in a completely new way.

How would you each describe your creative process?

Angel: I’d say I can’t quite turn mine off, it’s always in the back of my mind when I look at just about anything, when I’m doing anything, it’s always churning in some way or another.

Sunny: I agree with that! My creative process is just a part of who I am and the way my mind works. If I’m listening to music, I’m imagining my stories. If I’m taking a walk, I’m stopping to jot down ideas in my phone notes app as they come to me. I like to write down every idea I have, but I don’t often look at what I write down. I see what stays with me while my ideas turn and turn like a rock in a tumbler getting smoother. I lose a lot of detail, but Angel has always been better at remembering details.

As a creative, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?

Angel: For me, Naoko Takeuchi and Osamu Tezuka’s art influenced me a lot growing up. Nowadays I really love the art of Leslie Hung and Rii Abrego.

Sunny: I grew up really loving to watch any anime I could get my hands on and it’s probably still obvious in what I write now how much influence anime had in my early development. Actually, the thing that has been most influential to me, Avatar the Last Airbender, was also inspired by anime.

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

Angel: I’m sure I’ve mentioned Sailor Moon enough, but… Sailor Moon! Still one of my favorite things to this day. Also, Treasure Planet was one of my favorite movies as a kid and still is. I always found its story and protagonist to be more unique and relatable than a lot of others that I saw as a child. He quite influenced the protagonist of our next adventure, even.

Sunny: I have a bad memory, especially in the moment, but I’ve already mentioned Avatar the Last Airbender. What that show was able to do truly made me a better writer just from experiencing it. It was one of my earliest fandoms. I used to make amvs for it. I love how they were able to make something that was accessible to a young audience, but didn’t talk down to them. Avatar the Last Airbender told a story of trauma, loss, friendship, doing what you believe is right when no one else will. It is special and I aspire to make something so special. I hope RAINBOW! is also able to make certain conversations accessible to a teen audience in the same way without talking down to them.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing/illustrating? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging?

Angel: I find laying a comic out to be the hardest part— just planning out the panels, where the speech bubbles will fall, etc. It can make starting an episode difficult sometimes, but it’s all smooth sailing for me once I’ve finished sketching. My favorite things to do is probably coloring and designing outfits to suit each character’s different fashion senses.

Sunny: I tend to struggle with the finer details. Some people have to take a lot out of their first drafts, but I have to add a lot in. I start out with laying out the critical parts of the story. Angel often tells me to flesh out things I gloss over so they will be easier to convert to comic form. My favorite thing is to put together the plot like it’s a mystery to be solved or a giant puzzle. I love to sort out how it all fits together into a meaningful story.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would like readers to know about you?

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)?

Sunny: I base a lot of my work on my own experiences, but usually by taking just enough of the real experience to make what I write more real, so I can make a lot of experiences work for a lot of different scenarios. If someone were to ask me if RAINBOW! is based on my life, in a way it is. Anyone that feels seen by RAINBOW! know you aren’t alone!

What advice might you have to give for other creatives?

Angel: Whatever art you want to create, start it! Planning is necessary of course, and it’s good to have a solid path laid in front of you to start with, but all of the planning in the world will be no help if you are always waiting to start because you think you aren’t ready, or you aren’t good enough. The best way to learn is to get experience!

Sunny: Always remember the reason you create. Never lose sight of the childhood wonder that causes you to pick up your creative tool of choice. I started writing because I wanted to read what I wrote. I wanted to create for me, and soon after I met Angel and wanted to create for them too. I might not be as far along with my writing if it weren’t for Angel reading my writing over and over and begging me to write more. I felt so motivated. If possible, find yourself an Angel. If you can’t, just write for you. Never lose sight of the initial spark that made you want to write in the first place. Childlike wonder is so important.

Any specific advice for those hoping to make their one graphic novel one day?

Angel: Start a webcomic! I’d suggest starting with a shorter one-shot to get an understanding of your own process, what parts you like best, what parts you struggle with, how much time you need, etc. It might be hard, but try to resist starting with a project that is your “baby”— experiment with things that you won’t stress the need to be perfect and that you can be more malleable with.

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

Angel: We have plans to begin another webcomic after RAINBOW!, and similarly, it’s also a story we’ve had together since we were teenagers. It’s a ghost story, but not one that is particularly scary despite our affinity for horror. Rather it’s about friendship, love, loss, trauma, and perseverance, and has a larger cast and story compared to RAINBOW!.

Sunny: That story has been a challenge because of the large cast! I’ve always been better at telling small stories, so I can’t wait to spread my wings and finish a story to that scope. I’m so happy when I work on it, and I can’t wait for people to read it!

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

Angel: I’m a little behind on brand new ones, but I love The Prince and the Dressmaker!

Sunny: I am a fan of The Witch Boy series by Molly Ostertag. I own those books! Love them!

Interview with Jasmine Walls and Teo DuVall, Creators of Brooms

Jasmine Walls is a writer, artist, and editor with former lives in professional baking and teaching martial arts. She still bakes (though she’s pretty rusty at martial arts) and has a deep love for storytelling, creating worlds, and building tales about the characters who inhabit them. Along with Levine Querido, she has works published with Boom! Studios, Capstone, Oni Press, The Atlantic, and The Nib. She lives in California with two dogs and a large stash of quality hot chocolate.

Teo DuVall is a queer Chicanx comic artist and illustrator based in Seattle, WA. They graduated in 2015 with a BFA in Cartooning from the School of Visual Arts and have had the immense pleasure of working with Levine Querido, HarperCollins, Dark Horse, Chronicle Books, Scholastic and more. He has a passion for fantasy, aesthetic ghost stories, and witches of color, and loves being able to create stories for a living. Teo lives with his partner, their two pets – a giant, cuddly pit-bull, and a tiny, ferocious cat – and a small horde of houseplants.

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

J: I’m a comics writer and editor, with a past career in baking and a deep love for hot chocolate. I’ve written for DC, Webtoons, Oni Press, and BOOM!, along with Levine Querido.

T: I’m a comic artist, illustrator and barista from Seattle. I’ve worked on projects for Star Wars, Avatar: The Last Airbender and DC, among others. I love ghosts, witches of color and stories with queer joy. Brooms is my second graphic novel.

What can you tell us about your new book, Brooms? What was the inspiration for this

J: Brooms was heavily inspired by my own family, half of which come from the
American South. I wanted to tell a story set in a world of magic that was about the people who are often left forgotten on the margins. I also wanted it to be fun. I didn’t think I needed to make another story of hardship and struggle, but one of overcoming the odds and finding joy in a community.

T: It was important to me to draw witches who weren’t only white, cis and straight. Witches belong to all communities, and I wanted to make something that reflected all of the BIPOC witchy folks who exist in the real world – myself included.. Our communities have been long overdue for more representative magic content, and my hope with Brooms was to bring some of that content into the world myself.

How did the two of you come together to work on this project?

J: I was already of fan of Teo’s work and though he’d be a perfect fit as a collaborator for the story. Back then, I didn’t have much of a presence in the comics world at the time, but I sent Teo an email with the story pitch when I felt brave at 2am and was honestly shocked that he replied with an enthusiastic yes!

T: I truly could not say yes to Jasmine fast enough when I saw her email. I knew Brooms was something special, and I needed to be a part of it.

As creators, what drew you to the art of storytelling, particularly the graphic novel

J: I’ve loved storytelling since I was very young, my whole family is very big on reading and I’ve always had an active imagination. The toughest part is trying to narrow down what stories to focus on and to actually get them written down. As for what drew me to graphic novels in particular, I think they are an incredible blend of storytelling mediums, it’s like having a printed movie in your hands, or a prose book that’s come to life, and they can span across every genre. There are also so many incredible ways of experimenting with style, lettering, and color to completely change the tone or mood of a scene.

T: I’ve been drawing stories ever since I was a kid (somewhere my mom has a picture book I drew in kindergarten about dinosaurs going to school). There’s something so beautiful about words and images coming together to create an immersive, emotional experience. Also, art helps bring characters to life in a way that we don’t get in prose novels. I can’t tell you how many times a teacher or librarian has told me that their students who have a hard time reading become so engaged when introduced to graphic novels. Visual imagery is very powerful.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+
content featured in your book?

J: As with any book I write, queer characters are front and center. In Brooms, there are three main openly queer characters: Billie Mae and Luella are in a relationship with each other and Cheng Kwan is a trans woman. There are also plenty of queer and gender nonconforming background characters. Teo did an amazing job of really bringing every person you see on the page to life.

T: I like to think that a good majority of the folks we see in Brooms belong to the LGBTQ+
community, particularly in the race festival scenes. I was deeply inspired by historical queer communities and how they would come together no matter how society fought to keep them hidden or isolated. I wanted the world of Brooms to feel populated by LGBTQ+ folks who would otherwise be pushed to the side by the annals of history, so I designed many folks with an intention towards queer representation. I hope marginalized readers can feel that energy and see themselves reflected in those characters.

Jasmine Walls

Since Brooms is a historical fiction graphic novel, I was wondering if there was any
research involved during your creative process? And if so, what kind?

J: Absolutely. I love doing research for stories, and I love history, so whenever I work on a project, especially a historical project, I try to do as much research as I can. Even though the characters and their lives are fictional, the setting (aside from all the magic) isn’t. We wanted to represent the kinds of people who really did exist in 1930s Mississippi, and we wanted to do so respectfully. A few examples on my side of things included looking into my own family’s history, but also doing research on the Mississippi Band of Choctaw which Luella, Mattie, and Emma are part of. Emma is deaf and uses sign language I referenced from Indian Sign Language by William Tomkins which is not entirely regionally accurate, but is period accurate. Loretta uses mobility aids from the time period after having a stroke at a young age, and the foods you see in various scenes are all things that would have been made by people in those places and times.

T: There was tons of research involved, which was great for someone who enjoys amassing folders and folders of reference. I dug through a lot of vintage photography from Mississippi in order to get a sense of the environment and clothing of the period.

Upon reading Brooms, readers discover that there seems to be a unique magic system that the main characters use, in particular referencing root magic. Would you mind going into some of the world-building behind that?

J: Because none of the girls have gone to an official magical academy, they’ve all
learned magic through familial knowledge or what they’ve shared with each other, and in the American South, particularly in Black communities, root magic is a very real cultural aspect of life. The magic Billie Mae and Loretta use and teach others is based loosely on the structure of real life root magic practices, which is often based in drawing energy from the earth and seeking guidance from ancestors.

How would you describe your writing process?

J: A little bit messy to be honest! I often think of a particular scene that just sticks in my mind and if I think it’s solid enough for a whole story, I begin to build around it bit by bit until everything starts to take shape. I often have several scribbled ideas on sticky notes all over the place before compiling them into a very rough outline. Then I rewrite it many, many times before showing it to anyone else.

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

J: One of my favorite books growing up was Her Stories by Virginia Hamilton, which
is a collection of oral stories, myths, and fairytales collected from Black folks in the American South. As a kid it was one of the few times I saw people who looked like me in fairytales and folk tales. Now that I’m older, I know there were other books but they were just harder to find. I think things have definitely improved as more queer and BIPOC stories are being published, which has been a joy to see, and I hope that trajectory continues.

T: As a kid, I read and re-read His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, and watched Studio Ghibli films whenever I could. Princess Mononke in particular always resonated with me, as well as Kiki’s Delivery Service. I never felt reflected by these stories, but they touched me very deeply. Now, I immediately think of Aidan Thomas’ Cemetery Boys. It was the first time I ever encountered a character that looked like me, and felt like me.

Ted DuVall

As creatives, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences
and/or sources of inspiration in general? 

J: This one is always tough because I feel like I draw from so many influences from
books I read to artists I follow, but I can say that one of my earliest influences in writing was
Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles series, which made me rethink the role or classic fantasy tropes and how they’re used in stories. I was also obsessed with InuYasha as a teen so that probably had a lingering effect.

T: Mike Mignola is a huge one for me, as well as Ray Bradbury, Fiona Staples and Rosemary Valero O’Connell. Their works always remind me why I love (and need) to create stories. Music is also really important to my process. I listen to a lot of Wolf Alice, serpentwithfeet and Nation of Language and they never fail to inspire me.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing/illustrating? What do you consider
some of the most frustrating and/or challenging?

J: For me, the best parts of writing are the initial rush where everything is new and
exciting, and then the point where it’s all a completed written mess and I get to go in and edit it into something polished. It’s just so satisfying. The parts I enjoy the least are when everything is half done and I have to slog through writing the less exciting scenes, or when I’m stuck and can’t seem to get the words to work the way I want them to. Usually that’s when I need to step away for a bit and take a long walk so I can come back with fresh eyes.

T: I really enjoy designing characters, and when I get to the inking stage for interior pages. I’ve always loved inking, and inking pages in particular is very satisfying. On the flipside, creative stamina is inevitably a huge challenge. I think this struggle is something a lot of graphic novelists can relate to. It’s a very troublesome mental block to experience, especially when you’re working on a project that requires years of commitment.

Many creators would say one of the most challenging parts of writing a book is finishing
one. What strategies would you say helped you accomplish this?

J: It’s true, the bulk of working on a book is sitting down and powering through the
tedious bits. My motivation (aside from deadlines and never wanting to burden my collaborators by delaying their work) is honestly using the parts of a story that I’m looking forward to writing as a reward for getting through the boring parts. Another factor is balancing the work that needs to be done while also giving yourself space to recharge the creative battery and step away. Work should never take over every aspect of your life. Take breaks, stretch, move around, drink more water, and get your sleep. You’ll come back to your work more energized for it.

T: Communication is really important, in my opinion. Talking with your team, asking for help…I can’t stress enough how vital that was to helping make BROOMS a reality.

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

J: I’m not very exciting outside of work, but I do love food and the process of how it’s made. I am a big supporter of agriculture workers and sustainable farming practices, particularly in the spice trade. If you ever need to know a good vanilla vendor, I’ve got you.

T: My spouse and I bought combat-grade French lightsabers and I’m learning how to spin with it. We’re planning on performing a choreographed battle sequence instead of a first dance at our wedding reception, and it’s been a blast to learn. If you’re curious, check out Michelle C. Smith’s spinning videos.

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)?

J: I always secretly hope people will ask for hot chocolate recommendations, and I
have several! These are all companies with fairly traded, sustainably grown cocoa, and are
owned by BIPOC: Cultura Chocolate’s Mexican Drinking Chocolate, Villa Real’s Vanilla Hot
Chocolate tablets, CRU Chocolate’s amazing flavor selection of drinking chocolates, and
Lucocoa’s Orange holiday hot cocoa mix.

T: I love rocks, gems, crystals…and I want any excuse to talk about them! It would be fun to be asked what my favorite is. (The answer is obsidian. Mirrors of polished obsidian called tezcatl were used by Aztec shamans as a way to view the spirit world).

What advice might you have to give for other aspiring writers?

J: My advice to aspiring writers is to write what you love, don’t try to jump onto trends for a quicker foot in the door, though it can be very tempting. Writing is a slow process and we only ever see the “sudden” successes from the outside. Take your time, put in the effort to get from start to finish, and write the stories you want to tell. And lastly, be open to feedback (from editorial pros, not internet randos who just want to be mean) because they’re there to help the story be the best it can be, it’s not a personal attack, so don’t be too precious with your first few drafts.

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

J: I’ve got a couple secret projects, but I also have a few new pitches I’m excited for. An enemies-to-lovers romcom about two former rival crime bosses, a non-romantic comedy about two ace teens fake dating, and an alternate history western.

T: I have some cool projects in the works, but nothing I can talk about just yet. Though hopefully I’ll be able to share some news soon!

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

J: I have SO MANY, so I’ll narrow it down to just a few. Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became The Sun, Olivia Stephens’ Artie and the Wolf Moon, Kat Leyh’s Snapdragon, Mike Brooks’ The Black Coast, and Sacha Lamb’s When The Angels Left The Old Country.

T: This isn’t comprehensive, but off the top of my head I would recommend Cemetery Boys by Aidan Thomas, Nimona by N.D. Stevenson and Let Me Out by Emmett Nahil and George Williams.

Interview with Deya Muniz, Creator of The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Deya Muniz was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where they grew up watching Pride and Prejudice and reading copious amounts of shojo manga. In 2017, they moved to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in sequential art, where they met and fell in love with a wonderful girl who makes delicious grilled cheese sandwiches.

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

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

Thank you!! I’m Deya, I’m from Brazil, I have a beautiful wife and two dogs. You may know me from my comic strip series Brutally Honest, or me and my wife’s WEBTOON Blades of Furry!

What can you tell us about your graphic novel, The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich? Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

It’s cheesy and silly and gay!! I got the inspiration from my beautiful wife!! I explain it better in my author’s note at the back of the book. Basically, it all came about because of an incident involving grilled cheese sandwiches while we were both brainstorming ideas for a scriptwriting class.

In addition to The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich, you are also known as the co-creator of the webcomic, Blades of Furry (a webcomic that said to be a mix of Yuri on Ice meets flurries, co-created with your partner-which is like the gayest thing ever ). What inspired this project, and co-creating it with your spouse?

Blades of Furry came about for my MFA thesis! I was writing about suspension of disbelief, so to prove my point I came up with the most out there concept I could at the time! I was at the early stages of my figure skating obsession then, and my wife had turned me into a furry. I have also always loved vampires and had a pretty intense Twilight phase, so that’s how that all came about.

Emily became an official co-creator when it came time to actually start production on BOF! I was already working on Grilled Cheese and realized I couldn’t do both at the same time on my own, so I asked if she would like to join. She had such a big influence in the creation of the concept, and we knew we worked really well together, so it was a natural fit! Little did I know that even doing Blades of Furry with her, I was very far from being able to pull off all the work I had to do on time. Whoops.

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, particularly comics/graphic novels? What drew you to the medium?

I’ve always liked comics, and even at the tender age of 8 I was writing silly little comics with my friends at school. When I was on the final year of my Bachelor’s degree, I was mostly thinking of going into either animation or video games. However, I started making the Brutally Honest comic strips instead of working on my thesis and they got popular online! One thing led to another and my thesis ended up becoming a comic, and then I went on to get my masters in Sequential Art. I was still considering getting into animation, but my pitch for Grilled Cheese got accepted before I got any storyboarding job offers, and now here we are!! I’m happy with how it all turned out!

For those curious about the process behind a graphic novel, how would you describe the process?

Slow and painful. I like getting attention on the stuff I make, so it was really really hard for me to be putting in all this effort into writing and drawing this story with NO ONE giving me compliments. Yes, I know exactly how ridiculous that sounds, but it’s true!! It’s a big difference between online publishing where you’re interacting with your readers at least weekly, and print publishing where you work in the dark for years and get no interaction or feedback until the work is finally published, however many months of years after you’re done working on it!

As a creative, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?

I could list so many things… For The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich I was very much inspired by Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 movie version specifically) and by shoujo manga/anime. I was obsessed with CLAMP as a kid and LOVED the way they did sparkles, fabric and hair. From there, I became obsessed with the work of Alphonse Mucha, who was a big influence on the CLAMP style.

More recently, and around when I was working on Grilled Cheese, I was mostly inspired by artists I followed on twitter. I get a lot of inspiration from that nowadays, whenever I end up in a new fandom there’s always so many incredibly talented people pumping out beautiful art, it’s wild! Back then I was heavily into this story called Mo Dao Zu She (or Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation) and the art coming from that fandom was incredible!

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

Yes, so many!! I already mentioned a few in the previous question, but there’s many many stories that have touched me deeply through the years – Kingdom Hearts, Fruits Basket, Howl’s Moving Castle (both the book and the movie), Yuri on Ice, Banana Fish… I don’t know if I felt reflected by them as a whole, but there’s always little pieces of who I am or want to be reflected in some of my favorite characters.

Right before starting work on Grilled Cheese I was reading TONS of gay webtoons/manhwas and my absolute favorites were Wolf in the House and Dark Heaven (both 18+, be warned!) – both stories had an iron grip on me. Wolf in the House has incredible heart and humor, and Dark Heaven had me extremely deep in my feelings. Those two helped me get through some tough times.

Right now I’m profoundly infatuated with Trigun Stampede. I’m listening to the soundtrack while writing this!! I also just read Monotone Blue and really liked it!

Besides your work as a creative, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

I broke my skull when I was a baby and I’m fine, so I have reason to believe I might be immortal and undefeatable.

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

“Would you like 10 million dollars deposited in your bank account yearly?” The answer is yes!

Are there any projects you are working on or thinking about that you are able to discuss?

… Unfortunately, I am legally bound to secrecy. 

What advice would you give to any aspiring creatives out there?

Be self-indulgent in your creativity. Doing what you think you should instead of what you want to do is going to lead to some serious burnout pretty quickly. Enjoy yourself in your work as much as possible.

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

Ok! I have already mentioned a fewso here’s some more:

Manga/Anime: Our Dreams at DuskRestart After Coming Back Home, Given, the Kase-San series.

Western/US WEBTOONS: Castle Swimmer, Covenant, LoveBot, Not so Shoujo Love Story, Prince of Southland, and Nevermore.

Also, look into Danmei. Phenomenal stories there!

I’m not very good at recommending western LGBTQ+ books/comics because I get anxiety reading them. I’m also behind on every single Webtoon I mentioned for that reason. Everyone is so talented and imposter syndrome sucks! Anyway, I really liked The Prince and the Dressmaker!

Queer Comics: Emily Corn- A Graphic Novel of Cosmic Proportions and Personal Discoveries

Ever since Page Wooller announced they would be releasing the next book in the Emily Corn series at Providence QTZ Fest I have been excited to discuss with them how this journey started.

In a world oversaturated with superhero sagas and dystopian dramas, Page Wooller and Ali Vermeeren’s graphic novel, “Emily Corn“, emerges as a refreshing comet in the vast universe of graphic literature.

The Uncharted Journey of Emily Corn

At the heart of this tale is Emily, a character shrouded in mystery and isolation. Raised in seclusion, Emily’s journey is not just about discovering the world but also about self-discovery and breaking free from the confines of a shielded life. The revelation of a secret propels the story into a high-stakes adventure where Emily’s acceptance of her identity becomes crucial for the survival of Earth itself.

A Rich Tapestry of Art and Storytelling

Vermeeren’s artwork is a visual feast, a blend of shadow and light that perfectly encapsulates the dual themes of darkness and enlightenment prevalent in the story. The black and white palette underscores the eternal struggle between good and evil, making each panel a piece of art worth pondering over.

Accessibility: A Small Hurdle in the Digital Age

For those opting for the e-book format, be prepared for a bit of zooming in and out. The small text can be a strain on the eyes when read on a smartphone. However, this minor inconvenience does not detract from the overall experience, especially given the engaging narrative and striking visuals.

Conclusion: A Must-Read for Graphic Novel Enthusiasts and Beyond

“Emily Corn” is not just a graphic novel; it’s a journey of magic, identity, and the complexities of growing up. It’s a testament to the power of storytelling and how it shapes our understanding of ourselves and others. While there are areas where the narrative could have been more nuanced in its representation, the novel remains a significant contribution to the genre.

To those who have yet to delve into the world of graphic novels, let “Emily Corn” be your gateway. To the seasoned aficionados, add this to your collection and revel in the magic that Wooller and Vermeeren have so vividly brought to life.

For those who haven’t met Page, they are somewhat of a modern Renaissance person. A writer, dancer, painter, farmer and activist, musician, and previously wrote text books. Page is … an experience.

And Now on to the interview!!!!!

Damon: Have you had a big presence at Conventions (ie. Flame Con.)? Either way, how has it been interacting with your fans, whether in person or online?

Page: Due to our release date being in early 2020 during COVID, being a big presence at conventions was not a possibility for us. We instead contacted stores, a radio station in Australia and a few reviewers who wrote about the comic. Most contact with fans happened through Facebook, one person messaged about the excitement they had in getting a non binary comic book for their child who identified as being non binary, they said it would be a welcome distraction from all that was going on with COVID. Just reaching even one child and giving them hope that there are non binary characters in comics made me feel like I had a purpose.

Damon: How does your personal identity and experiences as an LGBT individual influence your creative process and the stories you choose to tell?

Page: My stories I draw heavily from my own experiences and identity as a non binary/ gender fluid human. There are times when I have felt totally alone with my feelings. This is another reason I felt like a story like this needed to be written, in order to reach those who have felt as alone as I have during my process of finding my identity. On one hand I don’t feel welcomed into the gay world and on the other hand I don’t feel welcomed into the straight world, so I’ve learnt to start creating my world, through stories.

Damon: Can you walk us through your typical creative process? How do you develop ideas, create characters, and bring your stories to life on the page?

Page: Mmm, my process is pretty complex, I start with a general frame work and then begin to gather scattered pieces of ideas from my head, small detailed experiences and creative ideas that I feel would fit into the plot of the story. At this time I’m never quite sure as to when these glimpses into my mind will occur, so I carry a note book and pen everywhere I go, scribbling down the ideas as fully as I can. Next I randomly transfer these scribblings onto the computer, in no particular order. The process then continues into ordering the sequences of the story into a streamline tail that runs smoothly from beginning to the end. This is then read and re read, edited and re edited until its clean and then I transfer it chunk by chunk into a graphic novel script for the illustrator to then work from, which gives a detail description of what occurs on each page, how many panels per page, characters in each panel and what’s being said by whom and so on.

Damon: Are there any specific comic book artists or writers who have influenced your style or storytelling approach? How have they inspired you?

Page: So many influences, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Marion Zimmer Bradly, Ann Rice, and Edgar Allen Poe to name a few. The main way these artists have inspired me is by the way they touch my visual thinking. I have dyslexia and one gift it gives me is the ability to see in images rather than words. Dimensions and form grow from words. All these artists have fueled this skill.

Damon: How do you envision your work impacting readers, particularly those who identify as LGBTQ+? What messages or emotions do you hope to convey through your stories?

Page: I hope to paint a clear depiction of how aspects of my own psyche have formed over the years as a child with an extreme imagination and a flare for the extravagant. I have never stopped learning and growing as we live in a world of adult absolutes. I love changing and finding out new things and this child like enthusiasm to uncover new things, like the ability to write while also having dyslexia which I only discovered in my fourties’ should never leave us. I hope the readers gain a reconnection to that inner child before the worlds rules of rational thinking took over and sensible choices were made over fun and adventurous ones.

Damon: Who is your favorite Federation Captain, and why?

Page: Ooo, I love this question, what a great one to finish on. I would have to say Janeway. I like powerful intelligent women who are in charge as role models that challenge male dominated characters. When I grew up there were very few gay role models in fictional stories and on the tv, so, I turned to women as my main arena of selected models. Women that stood against the overpowering male dominant stigma. Women who weren’t afraid to feel emotions and express them in the face of being opposed by with anger, violence and manipulation. It gives me goose pimples just thinking about it.

Good choice page …. good choice.

Interview with Sage Cotugno, Author of The Glass Scientists

S. H. Cotugno is a queer and mixed-race Victorian horror nerd born and raised in
Los Angeles, California. They are a director, writer, and storyboard artist in the
animation industry and have previously worked on projects such as Gravity Falls,
The Owl House, and Star vs. the Forces of Evil. The Glass Scientists will be their first
published graphic novel. You can see more of their work by following them on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok (@arythusa).

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

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

Thank you so much for inviting me! I’m an animation director and comics creator who has worked on shows such as The Owl House, Gravity Falls, and Star vs. the Forces of Evil. My debut graphic novel series The Glass Scientists will be published by Penguin Random House in a three-volume series starting October 2023.

What can you tell us about your latest project, The Glass Scientists: Volume One? What was the inspiration for this story?

The Glass Scientists is a reimagining of classic gothic science fiction set in a world of bubbling potions and misunderstood monsters. It follows the story of Dr. Henry Jekyll as he works to create a safe haven for mad scientists in the heart of London, where they can defy the laws of nature in peace. But everything changes when a mysterious stranger arrives, shattering all of Jekyll’s carefully laid plans and threatening to expose his darkest secret. 

I have been obsessed with the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde since I was in high school. As a mixed-race, bisexual, and nonbinary person, I’ve always been drawn to stories about characters caught between two worlds. I can’t think of a character who embodies that experience more than Dr. Jekyll, a man so desperate to fit himself into the boxes society laid out for him that he literally splits his soul in two. Like, same, dude. 

As a creative, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically within the comics/ graphic novel medium?

I came to comics through anime! In middle school, I needed to know what was going to happen next to my favorite Yu-Gi-Oh! character, Yami Bakura, so I started reading the imported manga from my local Japanese bookstore. (I couldn’t read the words, but I could glean the general gist of the story from staring longingly at his beautiful, evil face.) 

But I didn’t start making my own comics until I embarked on my first full-time job as a storyboard artist on Gravity Falls. Gravity was a wonderful experience, but I missed getting to tell my own stories, like I had done while making student films. It seemed impossible to make my own animated show (having now developed four shows, can confirm: yeah, it’s super hard!). But it seemed slightly-less-impossible to create my own comic, so I decided to take the plunge. 

In addition to being a graphic novelist, you are also known for your work in animation, most recently working on The Owl House. As a fan of the show myself, I would love to hear more about your experience working for the show if youre interesting in sharing them?

The Owl House was such an extraordinary show to work on! I learned a ton from the incredibly talented and hardworking crew Dana assembled, especially my fellow directors Stu Livingston and Aminder Dhaliwal. Now that the show has finished airing, it’s been amazing to see how much they’ve accomplished, especially in the realm of LGBTQ+ representation. It takes an incredible amount of courage, perseverance, and downright stubbornness to get an honest-to-God gay kiss into an American animated TV show, but hopefully their hard work will open the gates for the queer creators who follow after them. 

How would you describe your creative process?

For me, storytelling is a testing ground for reality, a place where I can play around with different identities and viewpoints before I’m ready to claim them for myself.

It took me a long time to come out as bisexual–and even longer to come out as nonbinary–in part because I was always questioning my own thoughts and feelings. I’d think: “You’re not gay, stop obsessing over yourself and focus on something that really matters,” or: “You’re not really trans, you’re just overthinking things, as usual.” 

But in fiction, I didn’t have to interrogate every moment of my life leading up to that point. I could explore the queer relationship between Jekyll and Lanyon (a big focus of volumes two and three) and the backstory to my transmasc werewolf character, Jasper, just because I felt like it. And I felt like it because, for all my second-guessing, some quiet, authentic part of me knew what I wanted all along.

I guess that means my creative process is “listen to your heart??” That’s so embarrassing to say out loud! Oh well, I guess I’d just better own it . . .

For those curious about the process behind a graphic novel, how would you describe the process?

My process might be a bit unusual because The Glass Scientists was originally posted as a weekly webcomic over the course of eight years. The challenge of writing a story over such a long period of time is that you’re committing to the way you saw the world at the moment you first wrote it. I see the world pretty differently as a 33 year old than I did when I was 25, so I had to find ways to make the story feel true to me at both stages of my life. 

Not that I’ve been doing massive overhauls this whole time, but I’ve made some significant changes when something just didn’t feel right:

For instance, since The Glass Scientists incorporates a lot of famous characters of late Victorian literature, I originally thought I should include Sherlock Holmes. I had this vision of depicting Sherlock as this severe, gorgeous lesbian effortlessly dissecting my characters’ defenses, but when it came time to actually write her, I had to admit that I just wasn’t that big of a Sherlock Holmes fan, and trying to fake it would be a disserve to the real fans out there. Plus, from a story economy POV, it made more sense to replace Holmes with a character I already knew I wanted to introduce later in the story. 

As a creative, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?

I’ve always been drawn to stories that take a playful approach to classic literature. In the hyper-specific realm of “reimaginings of classic sci-fi,” I love the stageplay adaptation of Frankenstein by Nick Dear. The way it streamlines the cast down to Frankenstein and his monster throws their fraught relationship into stark relief, and Danny Boyle’s directing in the 2011 production makes the story feel so fresh and modern. 

I also love queer stories in historical settings. I went absolutely feral the first time I read A Gentlemans Guide to Vice and Virtue. You couldn’t get me to shut up about it. It even made me reconsider–and eventually rewrite–the ending I had in mind for the main couple in The Glass Scientists

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

There wasn’t a lot of LGBTQ+ representation when I was growing up in the ‘90s, but I have a soft spot for shows that weren’t explicitly queer but had a certain vibe, like Ouran Host Club. It might not seem like Good Representation™ in today’s landscape, but for a closeted teen who still had a lot to unpack, real queer characters would have been way too scary for me to engage with directly. I think this kind of media can be an important stepping stone for folks who are still questioning. 

At the same time, I’m glad there are more opportunities nowadays to tell stories unambiguously for and about LGBTQ+ people. Recently, Abigail Thorne’s The Prince hit me square in the chest with its playful yet deeply empathetic depiction of a closeted trans woman told through the lens of Henry IV.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing/illustrating? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging? 

My favorite part about comics is that I get to write a story that’s just for me! When I started in animation, it was incredibly difficult to get a series greenlit unless it was a show for young kids or an adult sitcom like Family Guy. (Streaming has expanded those categories a bit, but not by much.) I knew that trying to fit my story into one of these narrow categories would render it unrecognizable, so I never seriously considered pitching it. Because of this, I was free to write exactly the way I wanted to, without having to cater to the whims of focus groups or studio mandates. That experience has been vital for building my confidence as a storyteller. 

The most frustrating part about comics is how long they take to draw! I’m not saying that writing isn’t hard work, but in terms of pure man-hours, drawing outweighs writing ten to one. Granted, my setting isn’t doing me any favors. The Victorians couldn’t design a single chair leg without adding twenty little swirlies and clawfoots to it. Last night I turned to my partner and said, “I’m setting my next story in IKEA.” Nothing but straight lines and sleek Scandinavian design, baybeeee! 

Aside from your work, what are some things you would like readers to know about you?

I’m a huge nerd about medical history, and my favorite part of medical history is (surprise, surprise) the Victorian era, that special period of time after the invention of modern technology but before the invention of modern safety regulations. There were so many ways to die, from wearing the color green, to working in a bakery, to having any kind of surgery beyond basic limb amputation. (Especially if you had the misfortune of being alive during the decade or so between the introduction of ether as an anesthetic and the discovery of germ theory.)

People say it’s hard to time-travel if you’re anything besides a straight white cis man–which is true–but I take solace in the knowledge that there are plenty of eras straight white cis men wouldn’t want to time-travel to, either.

What advice might you have to give for other creatives, particularly aspiring comic book writers/artists?

Embrace your cringe! I was so afraid of looking cringe-worthy as a teenager that it makes me, well, cringe. I regret that I never had a phase where I bought all my clothes from Hot Topic and made rainbow wolf-sonas with spiky sidebangs who cried blood tears while listening to Linkin Park. I love that episode of Mortified where the guest reads her wildly anatomically-incorrect Harry Potter slash fanfiction. I would have learned so much from writing something ridiculous like that! Instead I wrote these very mature, carefully structured, distantly snarky songfics that never had satisfying endings because I was afraid to commit to anything. 

Don’t avoid doing something you love out of fear that you’ll look back at yourself and cringe. You’re going to do that no matter what! But you’ll learn a lot more if you just do the thing you wanted to do in the first place.

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

I wish! Animation is such a slow process, especially if you’re trying to develop and pitch your own shows. I haven’t been able to talk about a project I’ve worked on in years!

But–and this may be cheating a bit–I have been creating new merch for The Glass Scientists pre-order campaign: enamel pins, bookplates, bookmarks, that sort of thing. Before starting TGS, I ran the Kickstarter for a prequel comic called Bleeding Heart and had to make all of the rewards for the campaign, as well as the book itself. It’s been fun to stretch that muscle again. The world of traditional publishing can be so big and overwhelming, so I’m glad to have a small but tangible part I can take on myself. Plus, I get to hand-package them for the fans who pre-order the book. I love being able to give that personal touch! 

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

I just finished reading Molly Ostertag’s Darkest Night, a masterfully-crafted graphic novel about depression and childhood trauma in the traditional of magical realism. I had the honor of reading an early draft of the comic a while ago, and it’s been so inspiring watching it evolve and grow over time.

I’ve been excited to read Mari Costa’s Belle of the Ball ever since they first started posting sketches of the three main characters . . . I don’t even remember how long ago! Mari has a talent for crafting juicy queer relationships that will have you hooked after a single page.

Interview with Archie Bongiovanni, Author of Mimosa

Archie Bongiovanni is a comics artist and illustrator who focuses on making work that’s gay and good. They’re the cocreator of the award-winning A Quick and Easy Guide To They/Them Pronouns and the creator of Grease Bats, a serialized comic about two queer BFFs navigating dating and late-stage capitalism. Bongiovanni’s the author of History Comics: Stonewall, and their work has appeared in The New Yorker, the Nib, Vice, and Autostraddle. They live in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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

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

Hi! My name is Archie Bongiovanni, I’m a cartoonist living in Minneapolis. I make comics that are gay and good. My books include (but are not limited to) A Quick And Easy Guide To They/Them Pronouns, Grease Bats, History Comics: The Stonewall Riots. I’ve been published in The New Yorker, The NIB (r.i.p.), and Autostraddle. I also make queer merch, zines and more which can be found in my shop.

What can you tell us about your latest graphic novel, Mimosa? Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Mimosa is about four queer BFFs in their mid and late thirties as they navigate growing older without a heteronormative script! I was inspired by getting older myself and realizing that my thirties don’t look at all like I expected. I was taught growing up that you’d reach adulthood by landing a steady job, having a retirement account, buying a house, raising a family, etc etc. Instead, I found me and my fellow pals in their thirties with roommates, multiple jobs, and families that look very different from the iconic straight family two-parent household. I wanted to draw a bunch of friends balancing all these aspects while also trying to keep their friendships intact.

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, particularly comics/graphic novels? What drew you to the medium?

I’ve ALWAYS loved comics. I have a high school diary entry where I write about wanting to be a comic artist. I love the way the brain works when filling in the blanks between images and words. The text can say one thing but the character’s expression can read differently and I think that’s where the magic is. I adore facial expressions and find comic characters able to showcase complex multilayered emotions with just a few lines and when it lands, it feels magical! I was never fully satisfied with writing, I love the pacing that panels allow in a story. So far my comics are all slice-of-life because I find the daily aspects of our lives incredibly interesting and complicated.

For those curious about the process behind a graphic novel, how would you describe the process?

There’s not a single way to create a graphic novel, but for me, I started with just a concept. I wanted to draw about a group of friends in their thirties because I wanted to draw characters that grew and aged with me. I then focused on the individual characters and developed them deeply. I think a lot about what the characters would want to say out loud but can’t, what they can’t quite admit to themselves. That’s where the juicy parts of the story lie! From there I wrote an outline and pitched it to my editor who I met briefly at a comic convention. I got some feedback and changed the outline and once it was accepted, I wrote the script. Scripting is the hardest part for me. The script can read as bland but once it’s in an image, it can shine with life, but it needs to be written to be critiqued and edited. Thumbnailing, penciling and inking flows a lot smoother! After it’s done, there’s a lot of waiting and behind-the-scene details to hammer out (cover designs, book designs, book copy, etc) that are both exciting  and tedious at the same time!

As a creative, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?

Honestly, it’s zine-makes and independent comic creators! I don’t feel influenced by a single creator or author. I get compared a lot to Alison Bechdel (a high compliment I don’t take lightly!) but I didn’t read any of Bechdel’s work until I was already drawing comics. I love seeing what people put out on their own, with their own money. A zine is made from nothing but desire and an energy to create and I love seeing what people come up with.

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

I grew up reading Archie comics but I didn’t really feel reflected in them. I liked that they were funny and had regular kids featured in them. I couldn’t get into superhero comics at all despite trying. I discovered manga as a high school student and fell in love with the way the comics focused on emotions, feelings and growing up.

I really connected with the book My Body Is Yours. It’s a memoir featuring zines, intense vulnerability and self-exposure, cruising and exploring the different ways to exist in a body.

Besides your work as a creative, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

While some of my work is for young adults and kids, I as an individual, am not–yet that doesn’t negate my ability to create work or promote work for a YA audience. I have a YA graphic novel I wrote coming out in 2024 that I am very excited by! I have a lot of fun on my instagram and recommend folks follow me there–just note it’s NSFW! I contain multitudes.

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

I wish someone would ask me about my love of creepy dolls! I have a small but growing collection of dolls that I believe to be haunted. My newest doll, who I’ve named Veronica, is a three-foot curly-haired self-standing doll that I put right behind my TV. She’s always watching.

What advice would you give to any aspiring creatives out there?

I’m currently working on my next graphic novel, aimed at adults, that I’m really excited about. It takes place in a fictionalized version of my hometown in rural Alaska. I’m also currently looking for comic writing freelance jobs as I recently wrote a graphic novel (mentioned above!) that’ll be out in 2024 and found it to be such a cool experience!

Advice is hard because everyone is trying to do and create different things so I don’t think there is any blanket advice that would work for everyone. For me, it was helpful to re-define what success looks like and really naming what exactly was important to me while working in the industry. Is it a livable wage? Was it accolades? Was it the ability to tell my stories without being censored? Or maybe the most important thing are the relationships I have outside of my creative output so ensuring my work allows me to have the brainspace to engage with my community?  Doing this helped me decide where to focus my energy and ensure I wasn’t constantly comparing myself to others. I’m also, because I created my own standards of success, very successful! 

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

I really loved the mix of simplicity and complexity in Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal. I also loved Stone Fruit by Lee Lai, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, and literally every comic Silver Sprocket publishes.