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.

Interview with Eunnie, author of If You’ll Have Me

Eunnie is a Korean-American illustrator based in Washington. She loves exploring relationships through her art and writing, and finds much joy in the portrayal of queer intimacy. When she’s not cooking up new stories, Eunnie spends her time napping, watching video essays, and collecting hoodies in every color. Follow her @eunnieboo

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

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

Hi, I’m Eunnie, and I’m a lesbian illustrator and cartoonist. I love drawing and writing character interactions, watching animated films, and singing, especially while I work. Happy to be here!

What can you tell us about your debut graphic novel, If You’ll Have Me? What inspired you to create this project?

If You’ll Have Me is a YA sapphic romcom about two girls named Momo and PG. It’s a quiet love story about communication and intimacy, inspired by the sweet, fluffy feelings of shoujo manga and my own desire to see a queer college romance.

Can you give us any trivia (that hasn’t already been given) about the characters from If You’ll Have Me?

Oh I love this! Yes.


  • the type to carry everything in her bag or purse—she’s always extra prepared when she goes out
  • loves RPGs, but will usually avoid first-person games because they tend to give her motion-sickness
  • played the flute in high school band


  • fell out of a treehouse and dislocated her right wrist when she was young—she became left-handed because of this
  • secretly hates spiders but will never admit it because she likes being Momo’s knight in shining armor
  • would probably be interested in audio engineering

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

I’ve always liked telling stories, whether it be in conversation, writing, or art, but whenever I drew an illustration, I’d often feel like one picture wasn’t enough! Comics seemed like the next logical step, especially since I was already a fan of manga and webcomics. The fact that you can just pick up a pencil and create a world all your own, with endless opportunity to fill it with everything you love… It’s so exciting and so good.

How would you describe your art background?

I’ve been drawing ever since I was little. Around seventh grade, my brother gave me my very first tablet, and I became obsessed with digital art. When I was in high school I started seriously considering it as a career. I went to art college, got a degree in design, and now I work full time as a production artist for a small game company.

How would you describe your creative process?

On a typical illustration, I tend to jump around a lot. I’ll start coloring before I’m done inking, or I’ll have multiple WIPs up so I can constantly be doing whatever I’m most interested in. For my graphic novel, I had to focus on one part of the process at a time, so that was a bit of a challenge, mentally!

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

I’m constantly inspired by the artists I follow and the stories I read. I have a special place in my heart for indie comics—ShortBox Comics Fair is coming up soon, and that’s always such a treat. Music is a big source of inspiration for me, too. I often find myself wishing that I could make others feel the way a song makes me feel. I want my art to evoke emotions like that.

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

I can’t recall any stories that spoke to me in terms of my identity, so I think the closest answer might be A Series of Unfortunate Events. At the time, I felt it really grasped the unfairness of being a child, and having adults dismiss or belittle you because you’re young. Nowadays, I think My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness captured a lot of feelings I had as well, about sexuality, anxiety, and self-doubt.

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

It might not be apparent in my art, but I do enjoy horror! I’m too much of a weenie to watch most horror movies (unless I know literally everything that’s about to happen), but I like watching in-depth reviews and reading scary stories. I think it’s a genre that deserves more recognition.

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

So this isn’t really a specific question but I just wanted to talk about games because I keep hearing about Baldur’s Gate 3 and I’m like, do I need to get this? I don’t know if I’d be any good at D&D, but I’ve always been curious about it. The character creation is so intriguing to me. Disco Elysium has also been on my radar, and I’m dying to pick up Ghost Trick and River City Girls 2, but there’s still favorites I want to revisit, like Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing and Splatoon… Ahh! I miss playing games.

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

I’m currently writing the script for my second YA graphic novel! It’s another sapphic romance, and it’s going to be a bit more serious in tone—something more fantastical and dramatic. I still have a long way to go, but I’m really excited. I can’t wait to share more, in due time.

What advice might you have to give to aspiring creatives, especially those interested in working on their own graphic novels one day?

Wow there’s so much I could say, but for brevity’s sake: If you want to get into traditional publishing, you’ll need multiple sources of income or some kind of support system in place. The reality is, if I tried to live off the first quarter of my book advance alone, I wouldn’t have been able to afford rent. I got by because I had another job with a steady paycheck and health insurance, and friends who looked out for me. I think artists tend to deal with this sort of thing because we love what we do so much… but it’s still labor. And until the conditions in these industries improve, you’ve got to take care of yourself.

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

I’m personally fond of the Kase-san series by Hiromi Takashima. It’s just so sweet and gives me the most fluttery feelings. More recently, I started reading She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat by Sakaomi Yuzaki, and I’ve been enjoying that too!

Interview with Mari Costa, Author of Belle of the Ball

Mari Costa is a Luso-Brazilian cartoonist with a bachelor’s degree in Character Animation. She’s in love with creating stories and populating them with people who have very messy interpersonal drama. Some of her work includes Life of Melody, The Demon of Beausoleiland Belle of the Ball.

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

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

Happy to be here! I’m Mari! I’m luso-brazilian, currently based in Porto! I love fashion, cute things, the colour pink, telling stories and making people happy! My Sun is in Cancer.

What can you tell us about your latest project, Belle of the Ball? What was the inspiration for this story?

There wasn’t so much a concrete inspiration as there was just the desire to play around with familiar tropes and character archetypes and make them my own! I got the idea in my head during a family holiday that I wanted to make characters that represented different high school stereotypes and from doodling them in my sketchbook and putting them in all kinds of situations I eventually developed them into something that could later be shaped into a fully-fledged story with an actual plot and stakes and all that stuff!

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

Ooh! Now you’re asking the right questions, I love random character trivia! Let’s do one for each.

Gina is the oldest of the girls! At the beginning of the story, she’s the only one of them who is already 18 (Belle and Chloe turn 18 as the plot progresses, though I couldn’t tell you their exact birthdays without doing some very deep thinking ahaha). This is mostly reflected in how she assumes she’s the most mature person in the room at any given time.

Chloe speaks fluent Japanese (don’t ask her to read or write it, though), but because the only people she communicates with in it are her grandparents and she doesn’t consume a lot of untranslated media her dialect is super stiff and formal.

Belle actually has been in a lot of different clubs along her high school career. She’s been in creative writing, anime, yearbook (to get closer to Regina, which she failed at) and D&D. However, you will not find a single scrap of photographic proof of any of this having taken place.

Also, everyone is welcome at any time to shoot me an ask on tumblr or an email if they want specific character trivia. I love ruminating on my little paper dolls.

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

You’d be surprised at how much easier it is to draw a background or character than it is to describe it. I’ve managed to transition into prose over the past couple years, but for most my life I really struggled with description when writing while dialogue always came to me very naturally. From then, I could either get into scriptwriting for radio (prohibitively difficult for a Brazilian preteen) or I could copy my favourite mangakas and draw little comics in my roughed up sketchbook. I chose the latter and the rest is history!

How would you each describe your creative process?

Vaguely chaotic and mostly inside my head unless I truly need to commit it to paper ahaha.

In general, I’m a pretty visual and visceral person, so I keep my notes extremely brief and extremely undecipherable to most people but myself and some keen-eyed editorial until it’s time to actually start drawing. I know a lot of people write scripts before they lay out their pages for comics, but I just can’t do it without becoming verbose or forgetting about the visual minutiae that’s meant to make comics so engaging!

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

Everyone says this, but it’s for good reason! I’m greatly inspired by Ghibli movies and magical girl/fantasy anime. My favourite author is and will forever be Diana Wynne Jones. As for comics, manga did play a big role in my personal development as an artist and I’m forever grateful to names like CLAMP and Peach-PIT especially, but if it weren’t for Gigi DG’s Cucumber Quest webcomic, I don’t think I’d be giving this interview today.

This might be a bit of a call back, but an older work of yours I’ve really enjoyed in the past was your comic, Life of Melody. Could you talk to us about the inspiration for that story?

I swear to the high heavens this is true: I watched Kung Fu Panda 3 and got unreasonably mad it wasn’t more about the odd couple co-parenting between Po’s two dads.

That’s it. That was the inciting incident that made me want to write about an odd couple who’s forced to co-parent a child and eventually develop a blossoming romance.

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

Hmm, this is a tough one. I don’t think so, off the top of my head? Not that there weren’t any stories out there about lesbians or growing up the awkward, nerdy kid, but I can’t remember deeply resonating with anything I had access to! I’ve always loved stories, but mostly it’s been as a third party observer into a window of different experiences (which is also good! You don’t have to relate to works all the time!).

Currently, though, there’s so much more on the market that seems catered specifically to the kind of person I am and would like to see in media, it’s really heartwarming! One recent example is I read the first couple volumes of She Loves to Cook and She Loves to Eat and it really tugged at my gay little heartstrings how much of a dream relationship the main couple has! I, too, like to cook (and frequently, I like to eat. We contain multitudes).

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

I just love drawing people! Character work is some of the most rewarding kind of work I can do! I love drawing bodies and faces acting and emoting. For that same reason, when writing, dialogue is my favourite part! Honestly, my dream project to work on would actually be a character illustrator for a visual novel (please get at me).

On the other hand, if I never have to draw a car again, it’ll be much too soon. I’m pretty awful at giving inorganic environments/objects a personality. I have heard practice makes perfect, though, so I might give that a shot sometime.

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

Oh, but isn’t an aura of mystery just so much more appealing?

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)?

Yes, I would love a million dollars.

(Alternatively: I think lesbian media should be allowed to be way more messed up than it is, as a treat.)

What advice might you have to give for other creatives?

Everyone knows all the platitudes about doing what you love and sticking to your guns, so here’s something more practical: It’s better to have a finished work than a perfect WIP that lives inside your head. Especially if you’re like me and crave validation. It’s okay to cut corners and it’s okay if some parts of your work look messy or rushed, so long as you’ve managed to put out something that you’re overall proud of sharing at the end of the day!

Also, stay hydrated.

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

When am I not working on other projects! I’m very much a storytelling shark in the sense that I’m pretty sure if I ever stop allowing stories and concepts to run around the hamster wheel in my brain I’ll shut down entirely.

That being said, my current darlings are The Demon of Beausoleil, which you can find being crowdfunded by Hiveworks right now and is an M/M gothic story about a half-demon exorcist and his reluctant bodyguard exorcising baddies around their city.

Forgive-Me-Not is a bit more distant in the horizon, but it’s another graphic novel being published by First Second about a changeling and the princess she’s replaced at birth working together to prevent a political coup.

And next year I’ll be coming out with my first ever Big Words Prose Novel called Shoestring Theory, about a royal wizard who goes back in time to stop his husband, the king, from becoming a despot (by murdering him). A real eclectic mix!

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

She Who Became the Sun and The Darkness Outside Us are two books I’ve read recently that changed my brain chemistry so completely I’ll be seeking compensation for emotional damages. If you’re looking for recent comic reads, The Moth Keeper and A Boy Named Rose also come highly recommended from yours truly!

Things That Made Me Gay: O Human Star

Hello friends, enemies, fans, critics and everyone in between.

This blog is a slightly different format from my others and will be more vulnerable and probably missing some of my usual snark. (I am working to finish several other blog posts, but perfectionism can sometimes be rough. Some of you may be wondering what my blog posts look like before all the editing, but trust me).

So I know that Michele has already interviewed the amazing Blue Delliquanti here and again here – but rather than focusing on the author, I just wanted to discuss briefly how this comic impacted me on a personal level.

So there I was, a fairly new member of the Queer community, realizing only the year before that I was Bisexual, and only having dated anyone other than women for a few months, when I found myself deployed, out at sea, for significantly longer than the entirety of the run of Firefly – with little to do after standing watch and working. I couldn’t work out, because nobody knew how Covid spread at that point and the gym in the ship were shut down, and it was easily 115 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

During deployment I challenged myself to only consume media created by non cishet white men, for the entire year I was gone. While I initially thought it would be challenging in the sci-fi and fantasy realm, I soon had my eyes opened. I discovered so much more in the genres than what I had previously seen featured on the shelves of the big box book stores.

So, I had read a lot of great reviews of ‘O Human Star’ and decided to give it a try. Several weeks later (being out to sea reminding me a great deal of the very first Compact Disc (ask your parents kids) where I had to ride my bicycle to get a money order and mail it in then wait 6 weeks – the struggle was real) I got my copy.

Initially reading along, it resonated with me, but I wasn’t sure why. Much like the protagonist, Alastair Sterling, I had an amazing mustache which always got lots of commentary and was clearly the envy of everyone … or so I told myself each day in the mirror.

See, look how well I did masculinity! And I’m on a boat!

Anyway, things began to resonate as I read through the story, which I highly recommend. You can read it here for free, but also support the artist please.

And by the time we got to the final image, I thought (and very very spoilers ahead so stop reading this and go read literally the entire comic right now if that bothers you)

… Oh, of course. Anyone would become a beautiful woman if they could just swap out their robot body for one they designed. That makes total sense.

So, two years of reading, self work, and therapy later I came out as Trans Femme/ Non-Binary, and very recently began my transition. Look how happy I am now!

FlameCon 2023, and the costume was my wonderful partner’s idea, and she did all the work, I just showed up and looked pretty

Looking back, this is all less surprising that I initially thought. The book that originally made me question my sexuality to begin with was actually Sissy by Jacob Tobiah .

So young people, be gay and do comics. Parents, comics and fandoms won’t turn your kids gay or trans etc, but seeing positive representation will definitely make their lives better.

Until next time, gay space cowboys (redundant?) ….

Damon (they/them)

Interview with Creator of Dead End: Paranormal Park, Hamish Steele

Hamish Steele (he/they) is a freelance animation director and illustrator who grew up surrounded by legends, myths, and folktales. Since graduating from Kingston University in 2013, Hamish has worked for the BBC, Cartoon Network, Disney, Nickelodeon, among others. He is the creator of and showrunner for the Netflix series Dead End: Paranormal Park, based on his graphic novel series, DeadEndia, and the Eisner Award-winning creator of the graphic novel, Pantheon. Hamish currently lives in London.

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

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

Hey! I’m Hamish Steele. I’m a creator of comics and animation. I recently showran Netflix’s Dead End: Paranormal Park which was an adaptation of my webcomic series DeadEndia which has just been published by Union Square & Co. I’m gay and actually yes that is my whole personality. 

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

It came from problem solving. I had these original characters, Barney and Norma, and I loved writing their dynamic but I didn’t really have a story. I also loved ghost stories and time travel plots and queer romantic comics… so I basically just threw it all together. I often tell people if they can’t decide which idea of theirs they should focus on, to throw them all together and see what happens. That’s essentially what I did. 

Speaking as a fan of your work, a few of the reasons why so many people love your work is because of its excellent queer sensibility (including awesome trans rep) and neurodivergent representation. Could you possible speak a bit as to what this type of representation means to you?

I mean, I sometimes feel like a bit of grinch when it comes to representation. I always see these meagre crumbs being applauded in giant blockbusters. Oh! Everybody clap! Spider-man swung past a pride flag. We’re so much further along than that! We deserve better! I’ve been in rooms where I’ve asked to be included in the story I’m writing, and they’ve said it’s not appropriate this time around but maybe next time! NO! Take up space! Demand to be seen! It’s so important, now more than ever, that we’re seen and our stories are told! If people aren’t seeing what’s happening in the world right now, the battles that are about to be fought, I don’t know what to tell you. I used to be thankful for the tiniest drip of rep. Now, I will never work on another project where the lead isn’t queer again.

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

I just loved stories and I wanted to tell stories – big, bold adventures! And comics are so marvellous, because you only need a paper and pencil and you’re already there! With a paper and pencil you have actors, locations, costume departments, cinematographers, all the visual effects you could want! I never have to scale down my stories in comics. 

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

I have a special interest in Godzilla, Ultraman, Super Sentai… all those Japanese special effects shows and movies. I find their constant inventiveness so inspiring. They’re not scared of being laughed at – they just GO for it! I find that endlessly inspiring. 

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

As I said before – I’m gay and that really is my whole personality. My hobbies include kissing my husband! And kissing my boyfriend! And watching gay things and reading gay things and hanging out with my gay friends. I really, really feel sorry for straight people, they all seem so miserable. 

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

Are you free for dinner later? And yes, if you’re paying. 

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

I’ve just signed a deal for my next comic series! It’s my take on the aforementioned Godzilla type story, but really focussing on my experiences as a queer, autistic kid. I know it feels like that’s what DeadEndia is, but this is 10x more personal. It’s actually a project I’ve been wanting to do since before DeadEndia was a thing. 

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

The “aspiring” word is always so weird to me. What I do now is no different than what I was doing 10 years ago, I just obviously have people paying me to do it now. But if you’re telling stories, making stuff – you’re IN the industry. So don’t change who you are, just find the people who wanna hear what you gotta say. 

Interview with Ari North, Creator of Always Human

Ari North is a queer cartoonist who believes an entertaining story should also be full of diversity and inclusion. As a writer, artist and musician, she wrote, drew and composed the story and music for Always Human, a complete romance/sci-fi webcomic about two queer girls navigating maturity and finding happiness. She’s currently working on the webcomic Seven Days in Silverglen, a modern fantasy romcom about the masks we wear to fit in when we feel monstrous. She lives in Australia with her husband.

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

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

Hi, thanks for having me! I’m Ari, I live in Australia, I make webcomics, and I’m really bad at answering this type of question! Some people are really good at talking about themselves and I’m not one of those people.

I’m bi and use she/her pronouns.

What can you tell us about your upcoming book, Love and Gravity, a sequel to Always Human?

Love and Gravity is the print edition of the second half of the Always Human webcomic.

It’s a YA sapphic romance set in a future where sci-fi body-modification is all but ubiquitous. The first book followed the two main characters as they met, formed a relationship, and worked through their first fight. Book two continues their story, as – with each other’s support – they figure out this adulting business, and what they really want out of life.

What was your inspiration for your comic, Always Human? What inspired this queer sci-fi world?

I’d been wanting to draw a practice comic – something maybe 20-30 pages – as a way to develop my skills, and was thinking about a short romance between a girl who was an ordinary human, and a girl who had a secret about her identity (maybe she was a vampire, or a witch, or a spy, I didn’t know exactly, this was a very vague idea.)

At this time I saw that was running a sci-fi comic competition, and decided to enter (I wanted the comfort of an external deadline).

Obviously this meant the girl with the secret couldn’t be a witch – maybe she could be a robot, or a cyborg? But that didn’t seem like any fun to draw, so I stopped thinking about mechanical parts and started thinking about bioaugmentation – genetically engineered super strength? cat eyes to see in the dark? a prehensile tail, for convenience? neon hair, because it’s cool? – and then I started thinking about sci-fi fashion, and how much fun it would be to draw this sort of stuff.

And that was where Always Human started to take form: I no longer wanted to tell a story about a girl with a secret, who was hiding her bioaugmentation from her normal human crush. I wanted a story set in a world where bioaugmentation is everywhere, and a romance where a girl who uses this technology falls for a girl who doesn’t.

The sci-fi setting is equal parts inspired by what I wanted to draw, and what I’d want to do to myself, if this sort of technology existed now.

Spoiler: One of the elements that struck me about Always Human was the inclusion of disability into its worldbuilding, i.e. Austin’s autoimmune condition, Egan’s syndrome, that prevented her from using mods (modifications that other individuals in this world can use.) What inspired this element within the story?

So following on directly from the above question – at this point in the story development process I had a vague story idea about a girl who uses bioaugmentation technology (mods) falling for a girl who doesn’t use mods.

I needed to figure out who this girl was. Did she not want to use mods? Or was it that she couldn’t use mods?

Since I’m the type of person who’d use mods in a heartbeat, I didn’t think I’d be able to do a good job of writing a character who chose not to use them. I needed this character to be a person who wasn’t able to use mods. An autoimmune condition seemed the most sensible explanation for why mods might not be accessible for her.

I continued to think about the character who became Austen. What jobs might be available to someone who can’t use mods? How would she do in school if she can’t use the focus and memory mods everyone else uses? It occurred to me that I’d created a setting where Austen – a person who wouldn’t be seen as disabled in the world we live in – was in practice disabled by a futuristic society built around technology that wasn’t accessible to everyone.

At the time I was developing these ideas I was a newly graduated primary school teacher, doing casual work in (mostly) underfunded schools. During my degree there had been a lot of focus on making sure that lessons are accessible to everyone. I was thinking in these terms when developing Austen. Schools often fail when it comes to accessibility – often not for lack of trying on the part of teachers, the support and budget simply isn’t there – and kids who would thrive in a different environment can struggle to succeed in the socially constructed environment that is a school.

I mirrored this in the setting of Always Human, by having an apparently utopian future built around technology that isn’t accessible to everyone – because no one’s willing to put the time, money and effort into supporting the very few people who can’t access mods. Austen knows she would thrive in a different environment, and her frustration throughout the story was very much inspired by the frustration of some of the children I met while teaching.

What inspired you to get into comics, particularly webcomics (which Always Human was originally)? Were there any writers or stories that sparked your own love and interest in storytelling?

A friend got me into anime and manga when I was 12. I fell in love, and immediately trawled the internet for anime art tutorials. At some point I followed a link to a webcomic, then followed more links to more webcomics, and I was hooked. I was amazed by the idea that anyone could do this, could create any story they wanted and just post it online. How wonderful!

I’ve been wanting to make my own since back then, and went through multiple never-to-be-seen attempts at webcomics before starting Always Human.

The manga that most inspires my storytelling is Honey & Clover (the way Umino Chika weaves together contrasting narration, dialogue and images is incredible.) 

*I probably didn’t use google, it was a long time ago!

Seven Days in Silverglen

As a queer comic creator, what does queer representation mean to you?

Someone told me once that representation in fiction can either be a mirror (reflecting parts of the reader’s own experiences back at them) or a window (giving the reader a glimpse of experiences unfamiliar to them.) I love it when queer representation does both – I love seeing myself in stories, and I love seeing other people too.

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

I mentioned above falling in love with manga. I love the cinematic paneling, and the way the eye flows so easily from text to art to text to art, it’s so immersive. I’m especially inspired by shoujo manga – the big expressive eyes, the delicate hair, the backgrounds that are more about atmosphere than setting.

I’ve also always loved Alphonse Mucha and Art Nouveau. Delicate, flowing lines!

For those curious about the process behind a comic/graphic novel, how would you describe the process? What goes into creating a script and translating that into panels?

Since I create webcomics in the mobile-scrolling webtoon format, I thought about scripting in terms of episodes (for Always Human this meant around 20-30 panels per episode, which is very short for a graphic novel chapter.)

I’ll start scripting with a short sentence describing what happens in the episode, and what parts of the story I want the episode to progress eg. “Character A has been waiting for a letter, it finally arrives. We see A’s normal routine, and how impatient they are. Hints that a storm is coming. End with the tension of the letter containing unexpected news.”

I’ll then write a panel by panel script which looks something like:

  1. Long panel showing menacing clouds over a city skyline. A snippet of a phone conversation flows down the panel: Yes, I just want to know when –
  2. Smaller panel, zoom in to A’s apartment. Phone conversation continues: No don’t put me on hold again I- CLICK
  3. A is standing in the kitchen, medium shot, surrounded by meal prep debris. They’re holding a mobile between shoulder and face, and look very annoyed.
  4. etc.

I’ll then roughly sketch all the panels for the episode on a very long canvas, with the layout they’ll have when read as a webcomic. I place dialogue and speech bubbles at the sketch stage, and if I’m using 3D models to assist with backgrounds I’ll add them as well. Then I ink all the panels, then colour all the backgrounds, then colour all the foregrounds, and then add any final details.

I think the process of moving from script to panel layout is a lot more complicated when you’re drawing a comic for printing – since the panels have to slot together on a page while guiding the reader’s eye through the story – but I’ve always drawn comics for webtoon format, where there’s a lot less choice in how the panels are placed, they just have to flow down. I imagine people who write for page/book comics might script in a different way (probably with page divisions?)

What are some of your favorite parts of the creative process? What do you find to be some of the most frustrating/difficult?

I love colours! Figuring out the colour scheme for a scene is one of my favourite things to do, it’s so satisfying seeing it come together.

I don’t particularly enjoy inking. It’s fiddly and doesn’t really involve making creative choices (since these choices mostly get made while sketching.)

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

I don’t like pineapple, unless it’s on pizza.

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

A lot of artists (comics and otherwise) listen to audiobooks/podcasts/youtubers/streamers while drawing, and I’m always curious to know what they’re listening to. Since this is a question I’d like to ask of other people, I guess it’s a good question to ask of myself.

Some of my favourite listens are: The Locked Tomb series, The Parasol Protectorate, Discworld, Skulduggery Pleasant, The Murderbot Diaries, A Master of Djinn, Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit, The Magnus Archives, Welcome to Nightvale, Jessie Gender’s youtube channel, WithCindy’s youtube channel, Princess Weekes’ youtube channel.

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

I’m currently working on another webcomic, Seven Days in Silverglen, a modern fantasy romcom starring a gorgon who really shouldn’t have agreed to fake-date her crush, what a terrible idea.

The webcomic is currently on hiatus, courtesy of long covid, but I hope to be back to regular updates soon.

What advice might you have to give to aspiring graphic novelists (both to those who write, those who draw, or those who both draw and write )?

Read lots of comics! Storytelling with words and (still) images is very different to storytelling with prose, or animation, or any other medium. Start with a webcomic, webcomics are great 🙂

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

An incomplete list of queer webcomics that I love (and which you can read for free!)

Ava’s Demon, Miracle Simulator, Sleepless Domain, Muted, Covenant, Blades of Furry, Vampire Magicka, Straylight Tiger, Namesake, Mage & Demon Queen, Apollonia, Susuhara is a Demon!, Diamond Dive, Love Not Found, High Class Homos, My Dragon Girlfriend, Heir’s Game, The Witch, Heartstopper, REEDS, Kiss it Goodbye, Facing the Sun, The Right Knight, Castle Swimmer, Console Her, Novae, Electric Bones, How to be a Werewolf,

An incomplete list of queer, non-webcomics that I love.

Donuts Under a Crescent Moon, Bloom into You, Given

Graphic novels:
On a Sunbeam, Mooncakes, Bloom, The Tea Dragon Society, Basil and Oregano (I got to read this early, it’s so good!!)

Prose novels:

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Legends & Lattes, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, Gideon the Ninth.

Queer Comics Crowdfunding – Magical Boy Basil

Busy Geek Breakdown (TL;DR): If you haven’t checked out this webcomic, you’ll get hooked quickly. It has adventure, magic, teen angst, and plenty of geeky references. We need more stories like this, with complex representation of Queer characters. Checkout their newest Kickstarter. If you want to checkout the comic, you can do that here.

Get ready for an exhilarating adventure as “Magical Boy Basil” returns with its highly anticipated fifth chapter, “Magic Fight,” and you have the opportunity to make it a reality!

In this thrilling installment, Basil finds himself immersed in a world of enchantment as he investigates tangles, mischievous creatures born from fractured magic items. But what starts as a mere investigation takes a dramatic turn when Basil and his friend, Eli, become entangled in an epic magic fight between Noah and Aaron. Brace yourself for action-packed sequences, vibrant magical transformations, and plenty of laughter as Basil navigates through the concluding chapter of the first arc of “Magical Boy Basil.”

If you’re new to the comic, Magical Boy Basil is a free-to-read webcomic that updates every other Friday. It is an LGBTQIA+ story featuring a group of undercover teenage magicians that battle monsters in order to maintain the balance of the universe.

Magical Boy Basil is produced by Jordan Wild (writer) and Beck Murray (artist). They’ve been working on Magical Boy Basil together for 7 years now. (1 year of pre-production, and 6 years of publication)

Since the webcomic’s launch in 2016, the audience has grown to over 30,000 readers. In October 2022, Magical Boy Basil became part of the Tapas Early Access program, was number 1 in ‘New Releases’ the first week of release and has since exceeded 6 million views on the platform.

The first print edition of issues #1-4 (awarded “Project We Love by Kickstarter staff) were all successfully funded through Kickstarter.

Creative Team: Jordan Wild, R.E. Murray, and Sid McNulty

And here’s from my interview with one of the creators, R.E. Murray:

DGH: How has it been interacting with your fans, whether in person or online?

REM: I feel like we’re a small little comic but we’re almost always approached by folks at cons (notably Flame Con) who not only recognize us but are so excited by and love Magical Boy Basil. Having conversations with fans about the story, the genre, and life in general is my favorite part. Everyone is just so friendly!

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

REM: I think I almost exclusively write, draw, and am inspired by LGBTQIA+ content. I spent the first fifteen years of my life not knowing why I was different and only consuming heteronormative stories until I learned that queerness was real and that stories could be queer too- My stories could be queer even! 

DGH: 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?

REM: Usually there’s some back and forth with Jordan (our writer) as to what the character’s core traits should be or what a storyline should roughly look like. Sometimes it takes some teasing the threads out to come to a solid conclusion but sometimes designs or story beats will come on like a lightning strike. It’s very in the moment!

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

REM: Personally, I consume a lot of manga (and graphic novels) so it’s less anyone or anything specific and more a hodge podge of the things that catch my eye- how someone draws clothing folds or expressions or their shorthand for environment details- that kind of thing. I will say that Yuhki Kamatani has amazing visuals and that it’d be cool to try to incorporate more visual metaphors like they do.

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

REM: I think just telling a queer magical kid story is impactful in and of itself. After all, queer folk can have magical adventures and save the town/world too! Magical Boy is something I wish I’d had when I was younger and we’ve had younger readers come up today saying how excited they were to see Basil’s story so that tells me our message is coming out loud and clear.

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

REM: Oh gosh, no judgements please but I’ve never watched much Trek… That being said I DID watch Next Generation and I think Picard is a fantastically complex character.

(That was a close one, Beck. I was worried for a second. Everyone here knows I have strong opinions. Anyway, even now, we all know Jean Luc can get it. Then again, so can the new Captain Pike. Anyway, what was I saying? Let’s geek out more when we see each other at Flame Con!)

While webcomics provide an excellent and accessible medium (and I love being able to load them up on my Kindle or phone when I travel), there’s something extraordinary about holding a comic book in your hands. It brings the story to life in a unique way, immersing readers in vibrant artwork and captivating narratives. The creators of “Magic Boy Basil” understand this, and their desire to provide a complete and immersive experience led them to bring the series to print.

By supporting this Kickstarter campaign, you’ll help make “Issue #5 – Magic Fight” a reality and ensure that “Magic Boy Basil” continues its positive impact on readers. Let’s bring this extraordinary story full circle and place the power of “Magic Boy Basil” into your hands. Experience the magic, excitement, and heartwarming moments that await within the pages of this remarkable comic book. Back the campaign now and join us on this enchanting journey!

Title Image and all other images used with permission: The copyright of Magical Boy Basil belongs to Fireside Stories, LLC.

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!

SERENO – Exclusive Hardcover Collection

Meet SERENO, the Mystic Master of Light and guardian of New Teia, a city where magic and science intertwine by night! Created by Luciano Vecchio (Iceman, Ironheart, Champions, and DC Pride), this personal tale of a super hero fighting for his community and to understand his own heart is a deeply personal work for the creator and LGBTQ rights advocate.

Interview with Christine Suggs

Christine Suggs is an illustrator, designer, and comic artist. Their work explores the intersection of their identities, namely being a queer, fat, Latinx feminist who loves all things cute. They’re also way too into Pokémon and cats. They’re currently living in Dallas, TX with their super rad husband and insanely adorable pets.

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

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

Hello! I’m a cartoonist living in Dallas, TX with my cool husband, 2 cats and a dog. I am a little obsessed with the cats and I have the camera roll to prove it. I mostly make work about identity, particularly my experience as a fat, queer, Latinx person.

What can you tell us about your debut book, ¡Ay, Mija! (a Graphic Novel): My Bilingual Summer in Mexico? What was the inspiration for this story?

I’m half-Mexican, and with that comes a lot of experiences that make you feel like you don’t quite fit in with either world. I’m also not fluent in Spanish, which only increases that feeling of not being “Mexican enough.” This book is about the time I went to visit my grandparents and my tía in Mexico City for a month as a teenager. It’s really a love letter to Mexico, language, the biracial experience, and my mother.

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

I started with webcomics! I was super into Questionable Content by Brian Jaques; Girls with Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto; and the autobiographical work of Dustin Harbin, Lucy Knisley, Erika Moen, and Kate Beaton. I started making my own autobio comics in high school and college to process my feelings. Eventually I started posting them online and I really appreciated the connection I’d feel when sharing these stories.

How would you describe your writing process?

Oh gosh, it’s a lot of sitting around in a bathrobe, listening to moody music, and staring into space. I start with what I call “word vomit” which is just getting it all out on a doc, usually with bullet points. For this book, I also interviewed my mom to jog my memory on a few things. I fiddled around with the order of events to create a detailed outline – memory is a funny thing, so the book is kind of an amalgam of a few different trips – then got to scripting! I’m very flexible about page count and paneling at this stage just because I know once I get to drawing, I’ll have to make 100 little decisions, so the layout is bound to change. But I do take notes on what I generally picture happening, like expressions or actions.

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

I’m an organization nut. I have a “Chalkboard of Doom” in my office where I divvy up the work week by week. I give myself padding before my deadline in case an emergency comes up. I also listen to my mind and body! Some days are gonna be really productive and I’ll go over my page count. Some days, not so much.

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

This is kind of why I made the book! In the 90s I wasn’t seeing anyone who looked like me on the cartoons I loved so much. This was the age of “heroin chic” and I was a chubby half-Mexican kid. I did love the Lioness Quartet series by Tamora Pierce. I still read it every few years for those great gender feels. Nowadays I love a quirky and soapy comedy, like Jane the Virgin, Ugly Betty, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

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

I have a degree in graphic design, so I think that informs a lot of my decision making in comics, like limited color palettes. Miyazaki was another influence; I tried to capture a lot of small, quiet moments in the book. Finally, I’m lucky enough to have a great online community of artists that I follow and engage with regularly. I love my internet friends and am constantly in awe of their work! Liz Yerby, E. Joy Mehr, Kate Wheeler, and Rose Bousmara to name a few.

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

Inking, hands down. It’s when your work really starts to look real. And the satisfying swoosh of when a line turns out just right…there’s nothing better. Writing always takes it out of me, especially with autobiographical work. I mean at the end of the day, you’re digging through a lot of emotions and even trauma and that can be rough!

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

Well, since this is a geeky place, let’s talk about Dungeons & Dragons! I’ve been playing with a dear group of friends for about 5 years now and it’s the highlight of my week. Right now, we’re in a space campaign and I play an agender robotic monk who accidentally became a druid even though they don’t believe in magic. I used to DM and I’d definitely recommend that as a way to practice writing and acting. And it’s a great way to make your friends practice using different pronouns!

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)?

What do music you listen to when you work? It changes depending on what part of the process I’m in. For writing I curate a playlist based on that time period: ¡Ay, Mija! was a lot of broody Mexican music like Chavela Vargas, Vincente Fernandez and Jose Jose. Once I get to thumbnails and pencils, I switch to musical theater – Phantom of the Opera is particular fave. And then later in the process I can turn my brain off and listen to comedy podcasts like MBMBAM or The Adventure Zone.

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

Indulge yourself! Write fanfiction, read “trashy” novels, do whatever it is that fills your cup. Nobody wants to read a book that even the author didn’t like. Same goes for drawing: if you love drawing cats, keep drawing cats! Yeah, you’ll eventually have to learn how to draw backgrounds and it sucks, but it’s the fun stuff that keeps you going.

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

I was fortunate enough to get a 2-book deal with Little Brown Ink, so I’m already thumbnailing my next book! It’s based on my life but is slightly fictionalized. It’s about queerness, finding your community, and financial barriers to art education.

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

Well, I can’t recommend Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe enough. I know Maia is going through the ringer right now with book bans, but that book completely “cracked my egg” as far as gender goes. Trung Le Ngueyen’s The Magic Fish made me cry with its queer immigrant story, and Pslam for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers may be the most beautiful novella I’ve read in my life. Incredible world-building and two nonbinary main characters!

Interview with Author & Illustrator Mike Curato

Mike Curato is the award-winning author and illustrator of the Little Elliot series and the graphic novel Flamer and has illustrated a number of other books for children, including What If… (by Samantha Berger), Worm Loves Worm and All the Way to Havana.

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

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

Cheers, queers! I’m Mike Curato. I am an author and illustrator of graphic novels and children’s books.

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

Flamer is the story of Aiden Navarro, a chubby fourteen-year-old Filipino-white mixed kid who is away at scout camp. The year is 1995, and Aiden is navigating friendships, bullying, and how they can overlap. He has lots of questions about his religion, struggles with his body image, and deals with racism. All of that is the backdrop to Aiden confronting his sexual identity, and questioning his very existence. Also, there are fart jokes. The story runs parallel to a lot of my personal experiences as a teen. 

As opposed to your other work, much of which includes children’s books based in fiction and fantasy, Flamer is semi-autobiographical. What made you decide to explore the personal in a young adult graphic novel?

While much has changed in nearly thirty years, queer youth still face many of the same challenges that I did. Except now, they don’t have to think they’re alone. I wrote Flamer as a life raft for those young queers who have not found their community yet, who don’t feel safe, who feel like there’s no one out there who understands them. Writers are called to create the books they want to read or wish they had when they were younger. Flamer is my response. I’ve also heard from a lot of adults who felt very seen by this story in a way that they hadn’t before.

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, particularly comics and children’s books? What drew you to the mediums?

I loved picture books as a child and was an avid comic book reader from middle school through college. In high school, my dream was to one day write and illustrate for X-Men. In college, as an illustration major, I rediscovered my love of children’s books. I figured, why limit myself? I want to do it all! The magic of picture books is that there is so much emotion and wonder boiled down into just 32 to 40 pages. Meanwhile, a comic plays with time and pacing in its own unique way with limitless possibilities. Picture books and comics lay somewhere between the written word and film, each commanding their own realm. That kind of magic excites me.

As someone who has worked on many of their own picture books, as well as having collaborated with others, can you give insight or advice into what goes into making a picture book?

Laughs? Tears? Metric tons of ice cream? There are so many ways to approach making a picture book (or any type of book), but my free advice is that you have to be moved by your own book if you want it to resonate with a reader. That’s the test. If your book doesn’t make you feel something, then it’s not ready to be shared with others. Don’t waste the time and trees otherwise.

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

Whoa, buddy, that’s a long list. Here are some names in no specific order: Alison Bechdel, Edward Hopper, Ian Falconer, Michael Sowa, Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki, Mark Ryden, Gene Yang, Berenice Abbott, Pierre + Gilles, David Small, Tillie Walden, Wes Anderson, Isabel Arsenault, Beatrice Alemagna, Chris Van Allsburg, Shaun Tan… I think I need to stop with names because I will just keep going, but I also need to say that my friends and family are probably my biggest inspirations and support system.

Besides your work as an author/illustrator, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

My sister made fun of me once for a promo reel I made for a picture book that I illustrated. I guess I have a certain way I speak when talking to children and parents that’s “cutsier” than my normal self. But in my defense, I can’t really sell picture books by being a sarcastic cussing mess, which is how I appear in my natural habitat. So if you see those clips, just know that I did it for the kids. You should also know that I am a sugar fiend, film buff, Pisces sun (splash!), Scorpio rising (smack!), and world traveler who loves karaoke.

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

THANK YOU for this. 

Q: MIKE! If you were on Drag Race, who would you be on Snatch Game?

A: Edina Monsoon, darling!!! Help mama…

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

Well, wouldn’t you like to know! Yes! I am currently working on my very first adult graphic novel called Gaysians, which centers the gay Asian American experience, all T (some shade). It features an ensemble of friends in early 2000s Seattle as they navigate dating, family, racism, and transphobia. It is going to slaysian the house down boots.

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

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

The Check, Please! series by Ngozi Ukazu

The Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

The Marvels by Brian Selznick 

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Melissa by Alex Gino

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Header Photo Credit Dylan Osborne