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

Interview with Cartoonist Melanie Gillman

Melanie Gillman is a cartoonist and illustrator who specializes in LGBTQ books for kids and teens. They are the creator of the Stonewall Honor Award–winning graphic novel As the Crow Flies and Stage Dreams. In addition to their graphic novel work, they teach in the comics MFA program at California College of the Arts.

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

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

I’m a cartoonist who specializes in queer spec fic and colored pencil art!

What can you tell us about your latest book, Other Ever Afters: New Queer Fairy Tales? What inspired the collection?

A lot of the stories in Other Ever Afters originated as 24-hour comics! I’ve been participating in 24-hour comic day every year since 2016. I started drawing romantic queer fairy tale comics every year in part because I love the genre (and if you’re drawing comics for yourself, there’s no reason not to be as self-indulgent as possible about it), and in part, because fairy tales are short! It’s a good storytelling format for something you want to be able to get done in a weekend.

What drew you to storytelling, particularly to the comics medium? Were there any favorite writers or stories that sparked your own love and interest in storytelling?

I’ve always been an avid reader and writer, but I didn’t really fall in love with comics until college when I started stumbling across webcomics. In my early years, I was reading a lot of webcomics by people like Der-Shing Helmer, E.K. Weaver, Kate Beaton, and Lucy Knisley (who are all still active today and doing great work) – as well as any graphic novels I could scrounge up at my local library, which at the time was not a lot!

How would you describe your creative process?

It’s an everyday process for me!  I have set hours every day where I’m writing and drawing.  It might not sound very romantic, but I’m a strong believer in schedules and habit-building – it’s the best way to make steady progress on your creative work.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing/drawing? What are some of the most challenging?

I love the colored pencil process! (And you really have to love colored pencils to work with them at all, they’re slow and labor-intensive as hell.) Coloring is the stage where I can turn on audiobooks and really get into the zone for hours – it’s hard work, but it’s also meditative and relaxing in a way.

Scripting is often the most challenging part of the process for me – but only because I have a serious perfectionist streak as a storyteller, so it’s easy to get worked up second-guessing even really tiny decisions along the way. When you know you’ve gotten something right though, it’s a high like nothing else.

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

Outside of comics, I tend to read a lot of history and biology nonfiction, and that definitely worms its way into my comics in a lot of ways, even if most of it stays below the surface. I also will never ever pass up opportunities to visit weird niche local museums and historical sites and have gained a lot of valuable insight from that over the years, too. I think it’s a good thing for storytellers to be curious about the world around them, and to be lifelong students in whatever fields naturally appeal to them. Learning is the compost that good stories grow from – it’s never a wasted effort.

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

I rarely get asked about acting in comics, but it’s one of my favorite aspects of the medium!  Comics have a lot of overlap with theater – you can think of every graphic novel as being a one-man show in a way, with the cartoonist performing every role. If you want to get better at this part of the craft, besides the obvious stuff (practice!), as silly as it sounds, I genuinely think it helps to listen to a lot of musicals and sing along. It’s a way to train your brain to mimic professional actors’ expressions and body language in a ton of wildly different roles, and to feel those movements in your own body. Also, as a bonus, this is something you can do while drawing your comics, so you’re sort of doubling up on your practice there.

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

I’ve gotten majorly into foraging as a pandemic hobby – if you ever want someone who can talk your ear off about eating acorns or wild mushrooms or the various tasty weeds that grow in people’s yards, I’m your guy. On any given day, if I’m not drawing comics, I’m probably neck-deep in a bramble somewhere, filling up a container with blackberries.

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

Most of my forthcoming books haven’t been announced yet, sadly! But I can say I’m working on a lot of horror lately, which has been a ton of fun.

What advice might you have to give to other aspiring graphic novelists, whether illustrators and/or writers?

For writers: practice drawing your scripts. Comics is a visual medium, and there are very important lessons about comics storytelling you won’t learn without drawing.  Even if all you can draw is stick figures, do that! You’ll become a much better comics storyteller and a much better collaborator the more you do this.

For artists: you already know a lot about writing, even if you don’t think you do. There are a lot of people out there who seem to have this funny idea that comic artists are not also writers, but those people are wrong. I don’t think you can teach yourself how to draw comics without also learning a whole lot about how to write them. Approach this industry with the confidence that you are a visual storyteller with a full grasp of the medium, not a partial grasp.

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

We’re incredibly lucky to be living in a time where we’ve got a wealth of queer comics out in the world to read, with more being published every year! If you enjoyed Other Ever Afters and want to read more fairy tale comics with a queer perspective, two books I would strongly recommend are The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen and The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang.

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

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

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

Hairology 1 cover art by Maru Davalos from Lifeline Comics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art by Kameron White; Colors by Dorilys Giacchetto

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

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

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

Art by Kenan Halilovic

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

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

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

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

Art by Yonson Carbonell

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

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

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

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

Art by Dorilys Giacchetto

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

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

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

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

Interview with Writer and Artist Madeleine Cull

Madeleine Cull (AKA Mccull) – has been a webcomic artist for close to ten years now, and has been writing stories for as long as she can remember. She currently lives in the pacific northwest and spends most of her time drawing or hanging out with her cat, but tries to travel as much as she can too! She loves attending “Artist Alleys” (at comic/anime conventions), music, writing, and the ambiance of her local coffee shop.

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

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

Thank you for giving me the chance to interview! My name is Madeleine Cull (AKA Mccull) and I’m the creator of the webcomic “The Leg Less Traveled” (which is my current project, although I’ve been a webcomic artist for nine years now). I’m also a novelist and have published a couple of books in the last few years. So, as I’m sure you can guess, I love storytelling. In my free time I try to attend “Artist Alleys” at comic cons/anime cons, so traveling and meeting fans and selling merch is also a big part of what I love to do!

What drew you to storytelling, particularly to the medium of comics? Were there any writers or stories that sparked your own love and interest in storytelling?

Ever since I can remember I’ve been into storytelling. And, I started drawing so young that I feel it’s simply always been a part of me. So, I think the truth about me getting into comics is that it was more of a “when” it would happen, than a “how” it happened. Of course, there are a lot of inspirations that have carved a path for me creatively and even helped me develop an art style. Artists like Hamletmachine, Lucid, Hazel & Bell, and a few others really set the stage for me when it came to webcomics. I started reading their work when I was just a freshman in high school, and by the time I was a senior I’d worked up the courage to start my own.

As a webcomic creator, you are known for your comic, The Leg Less Traveled. what was the inspiration for this story?

The Leg Less Traveled actually has a bit of a sad origin story if I’m being honest. Back in 2020, the Pacific North West had some really horrible wildfires, and one of them happened to sweep through the town I was living. I lost everything in that fire aside from my laptop and my beloved cat, and it was shortly after that fire that I decided to quit working on my previous project (A Webcomic called “Periwinkle Blue”). I’d been struggling with it for a while anyways, but after such a huge life-changing experience, I just didn’t feel like the same person anymore.

What really saved me at this time was meeting one of my closest friends (and now editor) B. Rowdy Lufkin. Rowdy sort of stepped up and encouraged me to get back on the horse when it came to creating. He added a lot of stability to my life when I needed it most, and in return, we ended up with TLLT. I remember talking with him about starting a new webcomic, and he told me then (in not so many words) that if I was going to do it, I needed to make it the most self-indulgent comic, and really write what I love most. He and I were both worried about my ability to be self-disciplined and finish a comic after what happened with PB, but in the end it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I absolutely ADORE working on TLLT. And since starting it, I’ve gone from thinking “this will be my last webcomic” to, “this is the new beginning of webcomics for me”.

So, I guess to answer your question more directly, my inspiration for TLLT was to write a story that would truly rekindle my love for webcomics. And the way I did this was by incorporating all things and themes that I personally love. Music, traveling, culture, humor, self-discovery, and romance… I wanted to write a story that was bright, lighthearted, and, above all, made me happy.

Can you give us any trivia (that hasn’t already been given) about the characters from The Leg Less Traveled?

This is a good question and one that I had to really think about before answering! The most significant thing about the characters that people might not know, is that originally Kinley was going to be the main character/Judas’ love interest. His design came first and, while I liked his design a lot, after coming up with Judas and drawing them together I knew it wasn’t the right fit. Personality-wise, the story would have been totally different if Kinley had been our MC. So, I decided to set him aside and start over from a completely different angle. Fletch came rather quickly after that, and I think the only hang-up I had with him was that, at first, he was too “boring”. I knew I wanted to have some type of disabled representation in the comic, but it was actually Rowdy’s idea to have him missing a leg/use a prosthetic. I loved this idea for him, and that was what really sealed the deal. From there came the title “The Leg Less Traveled” and I was later able to bring Kinley back in as a totally separate character.

Another thing worth mentioning that I’m sure no one knows (this is totally just a fun fact) is that Fletch and his mom’s cats are all named after the soup. Gazpacho, Gumbo, Bisque, and Minestrone! Those four cats were named before ANY of the main characters were. LOL. 

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

My favorite part of the creative process has got to be… simply talking about the characters with Rowdy. Talking about their lives, their hurdles, their family, what they would do in different situations, how they would feel about certain things, and why. This is the part of the process that comes most naturally to me, and, I believe it’s what makes my characters feel real. When I start a big project like TLLT, I never have the entire thing figured out from the get-go. I have major plot points I want to hit along the way and goals for the story, but I sort of let the characters fill in all the gaps as we go. Rowdy and I always say “the characters write themselves” and it’s TRUE. Fletch and Judas have practically become real—that’s my favorite part.

As for the most frustrating and difficult part of the process… I think, physically, it’s the linework phase of creating. This is the most time-consuming portion of working on an update, and it’s the portion that I find myself dreading the most. So… so mindless.

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

I mentioned above a few of the other webcomic creators that have really inspired me… but along with them, I think the most influential thing in my stories is music. You’ll never catch me working on art without listening to something in the background. I have playlists for everything—sad scenes, happy scenes, background noise, angst; all sorts of moods. Even playlists for the character’s themselves. 

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

One of the biggest things I want people to know about me is that I’m not only a webcomic artist—I’m also a novelist! I’ve written two books (The Maple Effect and Honorable Discharge) and both of them are very near and dear to my heart. Rowdy and I also co-wrote a short story (RAWHIDE) and all of them can be found on Amazon. I love writing just as much as I love drawing, and sometimes I think I’m actually a better writer than an artist, so they’re worth checking out if you enjoy reading! 

I realize that ^^^ sort of falls under the same category as “my work”, so I’ll answer your question in a more personal way too.

I’d want people to know that (even though I’m not a shy person) I’m a very introverted one. So, it takes me a while to warm up to new people. I often think that (In person) I must come across as reserved or serious-natured, but in reality, I’m just tied up in my own head. Lol.

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

A question I wished I was asked… Hmm… To be completely honest, I’m not sure! I wish I was asked to be a guest creator at some big comic con or anime convention. Or asked to be on a panel alongside other amazing webcomic creators! Or come do a book signing… or sign a movie deal for one of my stories… or something. Hahaha. But these are all more goal-oriented “asks”, I know that’s probably not what you meant…

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

Right now, TLLT truly is the only project I am working on. I’m sort of afraid to let myself work on two projects at the same time because I get so sucked into my work that I fear one might take precedence over the other, and then I’d lose my momentum. Also, Rowdy would kill me if that happened.

What advice might you have to give to aspiring creatives, particularly those who might want to work on their own webcomics someday?

There’s so much advice I could give to new artists just starting out… but I think most important above all, is that YOU have to figure out what YOU want out of doing a webcomic. For some people, webcomics are just a fun hobby, and for others, they are a whole career. I believe the amount of effort you’re going put into your work is greatly affected by what YOU decide you want out of it. Knowing this from the beginning will help you stay authentic to yourself, and then you will be more likely to be proud of the work you put in.

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

There’s a TON of webcomics I could recommend, but I’ll give you two in particular. One of them is a comic that’s been finished for a long time, and it’s not hosted on any webcomic app (it’s got it’s own website). It’s called “The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal” by E.K. Weaver. This is the ONLY other BL road-trip-romance comic that I’ve ever read. It’s funny and nostalgic, the characters are unique, and the story itself is well-written. I find myself coming back to this comic a lot when I need a good pick-me-up read.

The other comic I will recommend is “Countdown to Countdown” by Xiao Tong (AKA “Velinxi”) who is a master at world-building and overall, incredibly talented artist. This webcomic is by far the most beautifully drawn comic I’ve ever read, and It’s still ongoing! Which is great, because if you read it, I can almost guarantee you’re going to get sucked into the world and want more. 

 “No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics” to Premiere on PBS

‘To be black and queer and learn about Rupert Kinnard’s work — only two years ago! It was very profound to me, yet also sad… How many other Rupert’s are there that I didn’t know about? ….’ was the reaction of cartoonist, Lawrence Lindell, when he discovered the Brown Bomber and Diva Touché Flambé, drawn by black gay cartoonist, Rupert Kinnard. It’s a bittersweet moment.

Decades later, the works of the five pioneering queer cartoonists are still being discovered by the next generation of artists (including myself).  Lindell reflected on how Kinnard’s work could have aided him on his artistic journey — “…It would have been nice not to struggle.”

“…I wanted to create a film that I needed when I was a queer youth…” was director Vivian Kleiman’s mission. Inspired by queer comic artist and historian Justin Hall’s anthology of the same name, No Straight Lines — The Rise of Queer Comics is a celebration of the history of comics by and about LGBTQ people, telling the stories of the five pioneers of queer cartoonists: Alison Bechdel, Howard Cruse, Mary Wings, Rupert Kinnard, and Jennifer Camper.

No Straight Lines is a labor of love that started as a conventional documentary then later evolved into a cross-generational think piece that intersects everything from the AIDS crisis, coming out, and same-sex marriage, to themes of race, gender, and disability.

It’s highly-stylized editing creates the illusion of a comic book coming to life. It cuts between candid interviews of the five pioneers, then to comic panels featuring commentary from contemporary queer cartoonists, and lastly a heartfelt tribute of the founder of Gay Comix, Howard Cruse.  

No Straight Lines is a rare gem, a brilliantly crafted masterpiece that crosses historical preservation and inspiration. We’re reminded that all one needs to tell their story is a pen and paper. It remains a powerful idea to write about yourself when not seen.

Premieres Monday, January 23 at 10:00 pm EST and streaming on PBS.org starting Tuesday, January 24

Interview with the Creative Team Behind Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story Graphic Novel Adaptation

ABOUT EDMUND WHITE’S A BOY’S OWN STORY: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

A landmark American novel, hailed by the New York Times as J.D. Salinger crossed with Oscar Wilde, is masterfully reimagined as a timeless graphic novel.

A Boy’s Own Story is a now-classic coming-of-age story, but with a twist: the young protagonist is growing up gay during one of the most oppressive periods in American history. Set in the time and place of author Edmund White’s adolescence, the Midwest of the 1950s, the novel became an immediate bestseller and, for many readers, was not merely about gay identity but the pain of being a child in a fractured family while looking for love in an anything-but-stable world. And yet the book quickly contributed to the literature of empowerment that grew out of the Stonewall riots and the subsequent gay rights era. Readers are still swept up in the main character’s thoughts and dry humor, and many today remain shocked by the sexually confessional, and bold, nature of his revelations, his humorous observations, the comic situations and scenes the strangely erudite youthful narrator describes, the tenderness of his loneliness, and the vivid aching of his imagination. A Boy’s Own Story is lyrical, witty, unabashed, and authentic.

Now, to bring this landmark novel to new life for today’s readers, White is joined by co-writers Brian Alessandro and Michael Carroll and artist Igor Karash for a stunning graphic novel interpretation. The poetic nuances of White’s language float across sumptuously painted panels that evoke 1950s Cincinnati, 1980s Paris, and every dreamlike moment in between. The result is a creative adaptation of the original 1982 A Boy’s Own Story with additional personal and historical elements from the authors’ lives

I had the opportunity to interview the creative team of this graphic novel adaptation, which you can read below.

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

Michael: I’m a long-time fan of author Edmund White. The first book of his I read I read aloud with my partner at the time Patrick Ryan when we were on a road trip in college, States of Desire: Travels in Gay America. Next was Boy’s Own Story.  A few years later while I was in Eastern Europe in the Peace Corps, I wrote Ed a fan letter and at the end of that summer moved to Paris to live with him. Then later married him. Patrick Ryan and I became writers and moved to New York at the same time.  Patrick lived with us for a month while he was getting his bearings. That’s part of gay life, this portable sense of commune.

Igor: I am an illustrator and designer and was born in the city of Baku in Azerbaijan (while it was still a republic of the Soviet Union).

I designed my first theater set in 1979 at the age of 19 and published my first illustrated book in 1993. In that same year, I immigrated to the U.S. with my wife and children.

Immigration is quite the challenge for an artist: one is removed from their artistic and cultural roots, environments, and people that stimulate one’s creativity. Although my overall experience in America has been very positive, financial pressure diverted my career into the field of design.

I re-emerged in the sphere of illustration in 2012 when I won an illustration competition and subsequently illustrated several major titles for the Folio Society in London. 

Michael Carroll

What can you tell us about your latest book, the graphic novel adaptation of Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story? What was the inspiration for this project?

Michael: The project started when Ryan Runstadler, founder of Closure Creative, asked me what I thought of the idea of making Ed’s novel into a graphic novel. I think we were walking down Duval Street in Key West. I hadn’t thought of what my second book would be, but I had published my first and it looked like I was a viable writer, and in the next moment Ryan asked if I’d like to write the script. It didn’t really take off until I met Brian Alessandro, who nudged me along. We did versions of the script back and forth. It got frightening and kind of hot when Brian inserted the flash-forwards into our character Eddie Valentine’s later life, taking in the changes wrought by gay rights, AIDS, and the developments of his own career. Flash forwards are not easy to manage. There’s something about the bending of narrative time that can be abrupt or confusing.  Brian was in a channel that brought Igor Karash in as the illustrator, and among all of us including Ryan we thought about and discussed which flash forwards should have smoother transitions and which ones could benefit the book with quick jumps. I don’t remember which are which.

Brian: It is a visual interpretation of Edmund White’s 1982 classic novel, of course, but also an intimate epic of a gay man’s experiences throughout the second half of the 20th century, from the oppressive 1950s to the liberation of the late 1960s-early 1970s occasioned by Stonewall, and on to the devastation of the 1980s due to the AIDS crisis.

Igor: This book is my first major ‘graphic novel.’ Previously, I have produced a number of limited-edition publications in this format but had not attempted anything of this scale.

In my visual interpretation of the masterfully written adaptation (and original novel, of course) I focused on weaving together inspiration from fine art, graphics, and literature that I felt had sophisticated and painful qualities: Balthus with his erotic sensibilities and Nabokov’s Lolita. Another source of inspiration was Edward Hopper’s empty cityscapes and interior spaces, containing people that are lonely and uncomfortable. I live in the Midwest and looking at my own surroundings became a reference for the colors and textures of the Midwest as depicted in this story; I am very much inspired by local architecture and traces of ’50s advertising on old brick walls.

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

Michael: My first graphic novel was Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? I loved it, but because I can’t draw I never gave much thought to the idea of branching out into the form. Writing ours, I thought more cinematically about the story. It took Igor to make the page very real.

Brian: I grew up reading comic books and graphic novels and have always loved them. I even attended Comic Con in New York long before it became the phenomenon it is today. I always found in stories the opportunity to explore the lives of other characters. It is a gift to live vicariously through an invention.  

Igor: Well, in my country of origin, comic books and graphic novels were almost completely missing from the market. 

I only remember seeing a few primitive comic strips on the end pages of children’s magazines. Only upon my arrival to the U.S. did I learn of so many amazing graphic works by artists such as Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Shaun Tan, Brian Selznick, Dupont, and Nina Bunjevac. My first experiment in this format was writing and illustrating a grotesque political satire entitled Sir Drakon. This work was produced years before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but it was my attempt to warn of his regime. At that moment, my exploration of graphic narratives evolved into a passion. 

Brian Alessandro

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

Michael: I’m very old-fashioned. I loved the Peanuts, who were very real to me. But my favorite writers were Salinger, Irving, Capote, Stephen King. Later I added gay writers since it was obvious I wasn’t going straight. And Ann Beattie, Joy Williams, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Yates, VS Naipaul, and Muriel Spark.

Brian: In film, it’s Stanley Kubrick, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Chantal Ackerman, and David Lynch. In literature, it is Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, William S. Burroughs, and James Baldwin. In theater, it is Edward Albee and Tony Kushner. And in visual art, it is Francis Bacon, Gustav Klimt, Lee Bontecou, and Jim Lee.

Igor: The heart of the city of Baku is a walled city called Icheri Sheher. My experiences of this ‘city within a city’ in the ’70s remain a large inspiration for my work. Back then, I couldn’t imagine myself ever leaving that place. Currently, I am surrounded by the urban landscape of old St. Louis, and I find inspiration from this city as well.

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

Michael: I love writing non sequitur (see Joy Williams). I find transitions difficult so largely I just double-space and ignore them. Illustrated panels are a marvelous form or element to play with.

Brian: My favorite elements are also the ones I find most frustrating. It’s a fulfilling frustration, though. Working out a character’s development, structuring a story, dissecting themes, and developing a style. It’s all hard work, but also very rewarding.

Igor: Process is everything to me: my favorite part of illustrating is making a deep dive into the story to find the theme. Then, it can be difficult to stay focused and find a path through an endless sea of research and visual references. Sometimes starting this process can be scary, but after many attempts, it has grown easier.  

Aside from writing/illustrating, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

Michael: My life isn’t about writing. It’s about becoming the adult I wanted to be and was afraid to be as a teenager dealing with the advent of AIDS. If reading and writing aren’t pleasurable, the way the pursuit of romance and sex are, then I want nothing to do with it. Life is too short.

Brian: I also hold an advanced degree in clinical psychology from Columbia University and have taught at the high school and college levels for over a decade.

Igor: Aside from illustration there’s very little of me. I guess I am an alright husband, father, and now grandfather.

I am a huge Beatles fan, from my days in art school playing prohibited rock songs with my friends in the underground (physically). Now, I sit in my basement studio and perform some of these songs when having bits of free time.

Igor Karash

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)?

Michael: What’s the relationship between my writing and my personal desires and disappointments? It’s complete. Even when I’m not working autobiographically, I’m thinking that way: my growing up wasn’t that different from Edmund White’s.

Brian: About this project? It’s what inspired me to incorporate so many other elements of Edmund White’s life and work into this adaptation. I wanted to make the project my own. Doing a straightforward transcription of someone else’s work would not have been satisfying, so I had to put my own twist on it. I also wanted to give Ed’s fans something unexpected and more substantial to chew on and explore the themes that have plagued and blessed gay men over the past century. About me, it would be: what is my general worldview? I find the human condition bittersweet, though maybe a bit more bitter than sweet. 

Igor: I haven’t been asked: What is the relationship between your personal style and the stories you create or illustrate? 

I don’t have a strong signature style, or maybe I was unable to develop one. I would say I wasn’t too focused on creating one. It’s a big question of one’s philosophy, ethics, and marketing. Personally, I believe the most important part of illustration, as a profession, is to find the right visual ‘key’ of a story. This ‘key’ leads me to develop a unique visual language for each project. So, on the marketing front, I sometimes suffer, but in the end, I am pleased with my work when I solve visual problems.

What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers/illustrators?

Michael: Work pleasurably and don’t try to destroy others in your quest.  Work steadily but don’t be in a hurry.  You’ll never become a less good writer unless you lose your way creatively.  You’ll be better in ten or twenty years.  I published my first book when I was 49.  I’m glad.

Brian: Be patient and stay open to constructive criticism. It takes a while to get to where you need to be, and you don’t do it alone. 

Igor: Visual ideas do not come out of your mind fully formed as beautiful and complete visions. Great visuals only follow after you draw, practice, and improvise to develop meaningful work over time. So, draw, draw, draw.

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

Michael: Zero. I’m working on being a housewife who goes to the gym and collects underwear.

Brian: My second novel, Performer Non Grata, will be released in April 2023 by Rebel Satori Press. It is about how fragile egos can wreak havoc when not coddled.

Igor: I have a few ongoing projects: One is a large graphic novel about the siege of Leningrad (how horribly ironic it is to be making a book about a tragedy of that scale while at this moment Russia is bombing the Ukrainian power grid as winter approaches). Another war-themed project is a series of illustrations for the dark satire Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. 

This will be an illustrated edition of the novel and not a graphic novel, but maybe one day? Also, the decline of Russia into fascism has been driving a self-initiated series of satirical graphics. However, the horrific loss of human life in Ukraine has made it more difficult to keep this series going.

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

Michael: Dancer From the Dance by Andrew Holleran (and everything else by him).  Anything by a gay writer. Support them. One thing I need to do is branch out and read more work by trans and other queer authors.

Brian: Edmund White, naturally. Edward Albee. Severo Sarduy. Herve Guibert. Jean Genet. Tony Kushner. Tennessee Williams. Edouard Louis. Andrew Holleran. James Baldwin. David Santos Donaldson. Brian Broome. There are too many to list! 

Igor: To my knowledge, Edmund White, Michael Carroll, and Brian Alessandro are the best! I would also add Alison Bechdel as a great visual storyteller. To be honest, I am not as familiar with the works of LGBTQ+ creators as I could be. So, I am always open to seeing and reading more!

Interview with Cartoonist Will Betke-Brunswick

Will Betke-Brunswick is a cartoonist and a recent graduate of the California College of the Arts MFA in Comics program. Will’s work has appeared in the new print edition of Trans BodiesTrans SelvesHow to Wait: An Anthology of Transition; and the websites INTO and Autostraddle. A former high school math teacher, Will lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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

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

Hi! Thank you for this opportunity. I’m a cartoonist living with my partner and our chihuahua in Colorado. A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings is my debut book. I graduated from California College of the Arts MFA in Comics program and I share my comics online and at lots of zine fests.

What could you tell us about your new book, A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings? What inspired the project?

A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings is a graphic memoir that takes place in 2009, when I was a sophomore in college and my mom was dying. I was motivated to chronicle this time in my life, to celebrate my mom, and to explore our family’s quirky dynamics. I drew the characters as penguins originally because it was too hard emotionally to draw my mom sick and dead as a human, but then found that my penguins morphed into their own distinct characters.

How would you describe your creative process? What are some of your favorite/most challenging parts for you?

I sketch out my comics using pens in a one subject college ruled notebook. I use pens so I can’t erase anything at this stage, and I do a lot of crossing out and rewriting speech bubbles. I have used one subject college-ruled notebooks for everything since high school. In college, I hand-wrote all my papers before typing them, and over time these notebooks have contained so many of my ideas and dreams, and doodles. When I’m drawing ideas, I don’t want them to be precious or neat or tidy. This is the most fun and creative part of the process for me, and I draw either at the library (I have a specific table I call the inspiration station) or on my couch. After this initial stage, I work digitally on my iPad, usually drawing at my kitchen table. The hardest part for me is drawing panel borders, I don’t like drawing lots of straight lines!

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

My greatest creative influences are Lynda Barry and Nicole J Georges. Their work inspires me to accept my own work and myself and to keep drawing and stop thinking about what or how I am drawing. They also both draw lots of creatures and animals, which I love to draw as well.

As an author, when and where you say you first found your interest in storytelling? And what specifically you to comics?

I started making comics to process the world around me and inside me. Comics can go in multiple directions at once, with text, images, arrows, things inside and outside the panel borders, speech bubbles, thought bubbles, narration, flowcharts, emanata, and page layout. There are multiple methods to communicate emotions, time, actions, reactions, emptiness, jokes, and anything I see or feel or experience, or dream. I appreciate the freedom and expansiveness of comics.

Aside from writing/illustrating, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

I love jogging. I am part of a running club with the motto, “All Speeds, All Distances!”

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, “Hey, will you make a precalculus comic series?” I have been wanting the energy to make a whole series (I’ve only done one on logarithms) but external motivation would be helpful. If I knew someone was really excited to read it, I would be thrilled to make it for them. I taught high school precalculus for 5 years and have tutored it for 5 years, so I have a lot of thoughts about precalculus.

What advice would you give to other aspiring creators?

You can make whatever social media boundaries you want or not use it at all. There are other ways to share our comics, and let’s find and use whatever works for us!

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

I am brainstorming my next book and currently working on a zine about my grief and depression and another zine of gay vegan love comics. I also have a weekly diary comic on my Patreon.

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

I recommend comics by Nicole J Georges, Lawrence Lindell, Emma Hunsinger, Ajuan Mance, and Sharon De La Cruz!!!