Interview with Webcomic Creator Achiru et al

Born to immigrant parents from Hong Kong, Achiru et al (1988) is the creator of UNSPOKEN, the Myth of Eros and Psyche, and the Mann and Lucky Channel. Growing up watching anime and reading manga from Japan, Achiru was inspired to make her own comics. Since 2002, she’s been collaborating with her characters, or “cast members,” acting as the researcher, artist, writer, director and publisher of her own meta-physical comic production studio. She resides in a tiny home studio in Calgary Alberta with their spouse and dog daughter @Vanilla.Almond.Biscotti on Instagram (Biscuit for short). 

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

CW: Discussion of parental mortality

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

Thank you, Michele, I’m happy to be here! I go by Achiru (she/they) and… I don’t have parents anymore. My mother lost her life to cancer and my father died of heartache two years later; they were both great teachers and loving parents. From the start of the pandemic, I retired from teaching due to health reasons, while also marrying my partner. So yes, a lot has happened!

These days, I do my best to focus on my creative work. I don’t plan on having kids of my own, besides my dog, so my legacy will be to teach through my comics.

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

Digimon Adventure was the main spark that led me to fall in love with what storytelling could achieve. I re-watched it during the pandemic: the arc where the Digi-destined travel to the human world to stop Myotismon still holds up—I had never before seen a story aimed for kids with eight protagonists handled in such a way that each child got a unique family circumstance such as being adopted, or divorced parents, or was chronically sick, or had siblings that outshined them, or was an only child, all juxtaposed to each other and framed as normal. Some parents also were involved with the plot and weren’t just background props in this storyline. Sacrifices were made and death was mourned. We have more of these stories today than back in 1999, but it made me desire to extend that kind of normalization to the diverse queer experience. 

As a webcomic creator, you are known for your webcomic, The Mann and Lucky Channel. What was the inspiration for this story?

The conversations with my partner was the inspiration for this spinoff. Matt Drawberry and I had been dating for four years at this point. I had just finished crowdfunding and printing my first self-published book, The Myth of Eros and Psyche: Eros’ Plan. I was doing a series of portrait illustrations when Mann and Lucky met in my head for the first time. I didn’t realize they had never met before this point in the meta-universe, as UNSPOKEN was on hiatus and their roles in Eros and Psyche did not overlap. The two started talking in November of 2016 and I began recording their conversations and we never stopped. The storyline was ready to be born, I believe because I finally had enough relationship experience to be able to relate to Mann’s struggles and emotions.

I’d never dated anyone on the ace spectrum until I met Matt, and his genuine reaction to everything sex-related and relationships was something I found really endearing and charming. I wanted to share that charm through Mann, Lucky, Kevin, and Andrew. While Kevin was as allo as can be and couldn’t relate to being ace at all, he shared with Matt other attributes like anxiety and panic attacks, as well as no desire for offspring. It’s been said when the world is ready for an idea to be born, multiple iterations appear—so I consider works like Heartstopper and The Owl House to be among the first of a wave of new LGBTQ media. My comic is just a more not-family-friendly version of similar themes and ideas that came out of a reaction to 90s homophobia.

Small spoiler alert: One thing that intrigued me about The Mann and Lucky Channel was the way the comic relationship explored an intimate relationship between an allosexual character and an asexual character, particularly one who is more sex neutral. Could you talk about how you explored that in the comic?

The entire plot of the series is tied to one of the first things Mann (crudely) tells his best friend in the first episode: “I’m not tying any knots until he’s willing to learn how to f*cking f*ck.” Lucky is a virgin and—up until Mann convinced him to be in a relationship—had every intention of being so for the rest of his life. He doesn’t think he’s missing out, doesn’t know what he likes, or how to start exploring. Sex is just what other people choose to do with their time.

Mann, on the other hand, has never had to take the lead with a man before. He’s used to being the one chased and solicited; the role reversal is making his head spin. He wants to maybe marry this man, but he’s also not sure if this will work—he’s pretty sure he can’t be chaste for the rest of his life. He’s worried that Lucky is possibly sex repulsed, he doesn’t want to be a creep or force the subject. However, it’s been four months and he’s also fighting his own desperation on the matter. How should he initiate the conversation? Can he get his needs met in this relationship? Is it going to be another disastrous breakup over this one aspect, when everything else seems compatible?

Q&A is also a fun aspect of the webcomic—readers can ask characters directly in the comments about their thought process and feelings, including meta questions like “Is Achiru sharing this with your informed consent? Isn’t this embarrassing for you?”

I realized most people of my parents’ generation didn’t have the tools to talk about intimacy; the best way to illustrate what it looks like is in context for that dialogue. It doesn’t work to preach “healthy communication” to someone who has never experienced it. There’s no emotional anchor in the body for that term. So Mann and Lucky—and their friends Kevin and Andrew—give us that window to see into how they talk things out. The contrast between each character’s history, their personal style, and combined preferences of each couple is its own learning by juxtaposition. It’s always organic to who they are and what’s coming through, based on who they were and how they want to show up to grow as a couple. There are some commonalities you can find between people who can make a long-term relationship work, but how it plays out also looks different because every couple brings with them unique tastes and personal life circumstances. 

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

The creative process is fun when you’re in the flow and the ego is absent; it’s just the story and art being channeled onto the page. When the ego is loudest—usually when I’m tired, hungry, and/or stressed—that’s the most frustrating part. Ego wants the story to be done faster, the praise of millions of fans, the promise of riches and material wealth to reflect its genius; it wants things that are completely outside of my control. 

A huge part of the creative process is simply to keep Ego in the backseat and coax it to be quiet. It’s the voice of fear: you’re getting too old, you’re not healthy enough, you’re too poor, too invisible, working in too niche a genre, too NSFW, not NSFW enough, not being paid, working for free, and therefore not legitimate. 

What is the point of making something with no guarantees? Where is the proof that this journey will be worth it?

If you are building a universe and writing something long and epic that could possibly span several books, taking over a decade to make—it’s a long time to be working for free with possibly no audience. It’s a long time to be worried about whether the art is good enough, or the story is solid. If you are only in it for egoic reasons, it’s better to quit. 

I began this universe in December of 2003 in my early teens; it’s been almost two decades now since I’ve been developing this web of characters and their histories. When I’m serving them, with the promise of telling their stories to a satisfying conclusion, I’m not concerned about my identity in this reality; I’m not concerned about what my family thinks of me, how I’ll be judged for not earning a living wage, how I can’t afford to hire anyone at this time and how I don’t know how to market this thing that’s still being made. None of that matters. My art makes me a better person—I wouldn’t be as empathetic and compassionate without being open to learning about all the different ways there is to be human.

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

Story wise:

My parents’ relationship was the greatest influence for the current story I’m telling. My mother and father were smart in polar opposite ways. My mom was intuitive and feeling, while my dad was logical and deductive. One was almost a high school dropout, the other could have gotten a Ph.D. if desired. One loved teaching toddlers, the other instructed adults. Each thought of the other as stupid, because they didn’t have the ability to tune into the other’s point of view. They showed love in different ways and despite all the arguments and incompatibilities, chose to stay together. I learned a lot from observing both their strengths and weaknesses, especially as each of their health deteriorated with different afflictions.

I learned I couldn’t fix someone that wasn’t interested in changing. You can’t force growth where undesired. I learned how gender stereotypes hurt straight couples with reverse assertive/passive energies. I learned that shame, resentment, and regret kills you slowly from the inside. They taught me how to live life fully because they tried and came a bit short; they taught me not to be afraid of my dreams because they were and only got so far. I could see farther because they pointed the way to me.

Art wise:

The Slayers, written by Hajime Kanzaka with art by Rui Araizumi, was a great influence. It reads a little dated now, but it tried to tackle the misogyny of its time. Plus, I LOVE how the television series has a cross-dressing episode every season. The main character is embarrassed by any thought of romance and shares a rather ace relationship with her “bodyguard” by today’s standards.

Ituko Itoh’s Princess Tutu—which aged phenomenally well considering it came out in 2002—is also a major influence. How many stories exist about a duck who gains magical primadonna ballerina powers with the help of a dead author to save a prince from a story come to life? Just this one masterpiece: it’s a one-of-a-kind experience and that’s what I wish to deliver with my art as well.  Cute, pretty characters with deeply philosophical undertones about fate/destiny? Sign me up!

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

I paid a lot of money for two Bachelor’s degrees—my first degree was in Socio-Cultural Anthropology and my second degree was in Primary Education. Between these two degrees, I was struggling with undiagnosed Chronic Fatigue where I only had enough energy to use the toilet and eat and spent two years practically bedridden and exhausted. I couldn’t even draw, so my identity as an artist was forced to die. I know I’m more than that now. It’s not as disabling being forced to rest, compared to when I was fighting to hold onto a past identity. It’s one thing to be in pain and another thing to be mentally beating yourself for not being able to conquer that pain. Decide on your good enough bar and commit to the idea of done being better than good or perfect. Just keep finishing small things. They add up.

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

How do you tell the difference between inspiration and fear disguised as inspiration? (Because fear can absolutely do that.)

Inspiration doesn’t make logical sense—it’s a leap of faith. I was once paralyzed from the neck down, but I knew in my heart I was totally ok. I told my parents not to call an ambulance and to give me an hour or two. I gently focused on just trying to move a finger at a time, wiggle my toes, chatting with my dad next to me. Eventually, I was able to regain all movement one small digit at a time. It never happened again. Life is stranger than fiction; there is no one with a life quite like yours, so use it in your art as much and often as you can.

Fear disguised as inspiration feels more like wish fulfillment. It’s the toxic positivity where you are mentally trying to force a good outcome or prevent a bad outcome. You might be “inspired” to take a course (because you don’t feel good enough as you are) or to go to the gym, or to invest your money, or anything that logically improves your life by society’s standards. If you can reasonably predict the outcome, it’s fear in disguise. If you think, “This is it! This will be the solution to my problem!” and it makes perfect sense, it’s probably fear disguised as inspiration. You can still follow it because it’s there to teach you something; just be aware it’s not actually inspiration.

Inspiration is the now and fear concerns the past or future.

The Mann and Lucky Channel was absolutely inspiration at work. I was working on two other comic series at the time; one was finally going to be a five-book series, but they both had to take a backseat. I had no idea where this story was going, but it felt like being drunk on first love. I had to give it my utmost undivided attention. Did it make any sense to abandon what I was previously working on? Wouldn’t that upset the fans of those stories? Why was I madly scribbling with no thought as to backgrounds or panels or even speech bubbles? Why was this so much fun? How is it over twelve volumes long already? I never expected any of it. I didn’t expect to be here, telling you how I had no idea this was gonna become something at all.

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

I’m currently working on the Genderbend Sapphic Spin-off—My Girlfriend is Ace, now updating monthly on GlobalComix.

I have an aesthetic preference for women, so redrawing the whole story and rewriting it for a female perspective was something I actually really enjoyed. It’s a bit shorter than The Mann and Lucky Channel, so I’m excited to be wrapping it up soon at seven volumes. 

Our Sapphic Kickstarter Campaign can be found here

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

For the just starters:

Trust your art to teach you as you go along. Your art will not look professional. Your story isn’t going to be flawless. Silence the critics. Make bad comics. Stop starting over; commit to the current version evolving with you for a long time. Buffer, buffer, buffer—I know it’s tempting to share straight away, but you need insurance for when life gets in the way in order to have a seemingly consistent, scheduled release to build an audience. Build at least 3 months’ worth of episodes before launching, then focus on maintaining that buffer. Some of us build a year’s worth of buffer—you’ll get faster at it as your muscle memory kicks in with practice. 

For the long haulers:

Take breaks. Go outside. Drink water. Stretch. Follow what feels light, fun and arouses your curiosity. Detours, plateaus, and hiatuses will happen; don’t be emotionally attached to your ideal work schedule, just go along with grace and humility. Graduations, weddings, and funerals—be present for your milestones and for the loved ones in your life. Your life must come first before the comic can continue. Prioritize sleep. Whatever hustling you could get away with in your younger years won’t be sustainable forever. Sometimes you have to kill a past identity and start over. But every time you return to your art—you will come to it with a renewed perspective and appreciation. It will also have new things to teach you too.

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


For those of you who, like me, are a fan of Japanese style art: I Want to be a Wall by Honami Shirono is an ongoing slice-of-life series following an ace BL fangirl who marries a closeted gay man with a crush on his childhood friend. As the story expands, there are other queer characters who take part in their lives. 

Another ace-centric story: Is Love the Answer? by Isaki Uta, follows a young woman exploring her aro-ace identity. She’s trying to make sense of her memories and past interactions as well as find friends who will accept her for who she is.

Our Dreams at Dusk is a 4 volume series by Yuhki Kamatani with a highly praised realistic portrayal of the Japanese queer experience as a young high school boy confronts his own prejudices regarding his homosexuality and the diverse identities of others “like him.” Trigger Warning for suicide attempt.

On a fluffier note, Manly Appetites: Minegishi Loves Otsu is a 3 volume BL series by Mito about a cynical office worker, Otsu, who doesn’t believe he’s getting hit on by a more conventionally attractive co-worker. Minegishi, on the other hand, thinks Otsu is the cutest when he’s eating and keeps supplying him with offers of snacks, treats, and meals.

The Bride was a Boy by Chii is an autobiography of a transwoman’s life leading to her wedding. X-Gender by Asuka Miyazaki is a memoir about coming to terms with being non-binary. It’s similar to The Girl That Can’t Get a Girlfriend by Mieri Hiranishi, another autobiography manga regarding how difficult it is to be a butch girl trying to date another masc-presenting woman. Another memoir story is My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata. 

If you want something more fun and comedic involving ladies that like ladies, ROADQUEEN: Eternal Roadtrip to Love by Mira Ong Chua is absolutely hilarious and will forever be my go-to example of the term “useless lesbian.” She has many other titles too if you love her art and story style.


Amongst Us by Shilin Huang has gorgeous art and is both a GL webcomic and a book coming out this July from the Seven Seas + Hiveworks Comics team-up!

Night Owls and Summer Skies by Rebecca Sullivan with art by Tikklil and other team producers follow teen girl Emma Lane as she is forced to attend a summer camp with the attractive camp assistant counselor Vivian Black.

If you are a fan of men who like men: Ham & Matt by Sensaga is an absolute riot. His use of endearing, vulnerable characters and over-the-top slapstick comedy is top-tier. There is also a mermaid AU story on his Instagram account.

Faroff by Lennon Rook is another romantic comedy webcomic where two soldiers are stuck guarding opposite sides of a wall in the middle of nowhere and only have each other for company. They also unknowingly share a cat. 

If you’re looking for younger protagonists for a teen reader, Daybreak by Moosopp is a slice-of-life BL romance following two really cute black students Marcus and Cog. Clearly, a running theme in my choice of BL is one who likes to cook and one who likes to eat.

If you like action fantasy, REEDS by zzsleeps is about a Hmong prince who doesn’t want to be seen as a girl and his older brother who falls in love with a mysterious man withholding a ton of secrets. Also, there are dragons, magic, and political intrigue between royal families.

I could go on, but I think fifteen recommendations is a good place to stop. There are so, so many queer comic titles that are ongoing and coming out; it’s a really exciting century to be in!

Interview with Comics Creator Velinxi

Velinxi is the creator of DPS Only! and the ongoing webcomic Countdown to Countdown. Her greatest passion lies in storytelling through illustrations, which she has been doing for the past few years (with varying stages of success). You can find more of her work on Twitter and Instagram @Velinxi.

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

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

I’m Xiao Tong Kong, better known as Velinxi online! I’m an illustrator and the creator of the webcomics DPS Only!!! And Countdown to Countdown. I also draw an unhealthy amount of fan art on the side.

What can you tell us about your upcoming book, DPS Only? ? What inspired the story?

DPS Only!!! is about a teenage girl who’s in love with a competitive FPS game called Xenith Orion, but no one knows about her secret hobby, nor her proficiency at the game. Not even her brother, who’s actually one of the best XO players. However, she’s discovered one day, and is inadvertently drawn to competing in a grand XO tournament in disguise, climbing in notoriety and eventually has to face her brother, fears, and the esports world on stage.

I dropped out of art college in my first year in 2019, it was a pretty confusing time in my life. The only sure comforts in my life at the time was my art, the people around me, and strangely enough- Overwatch League, the competitive esports scene of the FPS Game Overwatch. It’s a lot different these days, but OWL was at its peak around then, and I found the atmosphere absolutely exhilarating. I’ve always been drawn to esports, and I loved keeping up with past esports scenes of games like Smash and League of Legends. However, OWL was the first time I was truly immersed, there wasn’t a stream I didn’t watch with my sister. We bought team merch, engaged with the community and memes, went to meet and greets with players, and watched the first OWL finals in NYC. This atmosphere full of adrenaline, excitement, and frustration shared with my Overwatch friends was the main inspiration for DPS Only!!!

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though, and it still isn’t now. My friends and I encountered rather rampant sexism when we played the game, though to be fair- it wasn’t anything new from any other gaming communities we’ve mingled in. It was really only the help and support from each other as well as our male gamer friends and even strangers that made it tolerable. And then there were controversies sprouting up online regarding sexism in the competitive esports community, even in Overwatch. I won’t bring up specific names, because I don’t want to dig at any old wounds of these players, nor bring them to an uncomfortable spotlight again, but many female players had accusations of cheating thrown at them, and were constantly discouraged and harassed from playing the way that other players wouldn’t. It was strange, in a way. Competitive or casual, it seemed that there would always be people trying to stop women from playing competitive games. It was especially difficult to watch these particular women in the spotlight, with so many eyes on them, trying to prove themselves just as worthy as the male player next to them. It’s a lot better these days, and the gaming community as a whole is making strides to be more inclusive, but there’s always going to be those people that refuse to budge, or arguably worse- which is to pretend that there isn’t or hasn’t been a sexism issue at all. These experiences and issues were another core inspiration to DPS Only!!!

In addition to DPS Only (which started as a webcomic), you are also known for the queer webcomic, Countdown to Countdown. What inspired this story?

CTC first started as a passion project in 2015 when I was a Junior high school student, with absolutely no solid guideline or written plot structure. It was just a mix of everything I liked at the time, video games, movies, random spurts of ideas I’d get at 2 am. It’s hard to pinpoint what was the main inspiration for the comic. I just wanted to write one. However, it wasn’t going anywhere, so I scrapped it in 2018. It’s rebooted now, with a more structured story and sustainable art style in the long run. In a way, it’s inspired by the original 2015, and thus- inspired by what inspired that. It’s a complicated situation, but that’s rather fitting for Countdown to Countdown.

Not only do you draw some pretty gorgeous webcomics, but you are also known for your illustration work, particularly for The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System series, as well as book covers, like Xiran Jay Zhao’s Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor. How would you describe your work and process as an illustrator?

I always start with thumbnails, usually several. I (or my clients) pick one out and I get a more refined sketch. From there, it’s all a normal illustrative process, really. I don’t think my process is anything particularly interesting, it’s just a lot of color corrections, over-painting, and more painting. If I get stuck on colors, poses, or lack any inspiration, I always turn to my bookmarks full of my favorite artists. Seeing other people’s works, with such varied yet beautiful art styles always gets my creative juices flowing.

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

Shilin and Yuumei are the two artists that come to mind. They were integral to my interest in both art and storytelling when I was in middle school. Years later they still are.

How would you describe your writing/illustrating process? What inspires you as a writer?

Lots of long walks around and inside my house, lots of staring at the wall, outside my window, and lots of sleepless nights trying to come up with something interesting. Of course, just like my art- I also look to other storytellers for inspiration. When it comes to pacing, story paneling, I always look at the comics and mangas on my shelf (Devil’s Candy, Gunnm, and Witch Hat have been my go-to’s for comic paneling these past few years!). For storytelling itself, it’s a hard process of looking inward, and just trying to connect these messy plot-lines and dots I’ve loosely concocted until it forms a cohesive storyline. I also try listening to guides and videos on improving my writing, though I tend to follow these as a springboard, rather than rigid rules. Hello, Future Me on Youtube has some great videos on writing, such as world-building, magic systems, etc.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing/illustrating? What are some of the most challenging for you?

I like writing and drawing out the parts of the story that I created the comic for. I’m sure most writers and artists can understand this. When one creates a story, they usually always have a part or several that they envision first, that beautiful moment that you’re so excited to show off and spend the rest of your time building up to. That’s always been my favorite part. The challenging part is everything in between, honestly. So it’s 80% suffering and 20% payoff. 

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

I’ve been taking up baking and cooking a lot recently. It’s been a good hobby to have, something that doesn’t strain my eyes like drawing, video games, or reading. It’s also just nice to have an activity to do outside of work or thinking hard about my stories, and just letting myself relax. I’d like to think I make really good cheesecake and cinnamon rolls now. 

What advice might you give to other aspiring creatives?

Don’t let your first webcomic be your big magnum opus. Your first story should be experimental, loose, and even nonsensical, just like mine was. You’re going to learn a lot in the process, things that can’t really be taught but must be experienced through trial and error. You must write and draw yourself into corners and fumble, until you can come out of the experience and think to yourself “So that’s what went wrong, so next time I can do this instead”. It’s frustrating because a lot of creatives, especially younger ones, are excited to create their grand story to show to the world- but I highly recommend saving that for later, when you’re more seasoned. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

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

I’m working on my next big project with tapas! I’ve been working at it nonstop for the past year, and I’m so excited for it to be revealed. 

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

Of course! My current favorite LGBTQ+ comics/ authors include:

Amongst Us by Shiling Huang (who also has the ongoing webcomic Carciphona)
Cucumber Quest by GiGi DG
No. 6 written by Atsuko Asano, manga illustrated by Hinoki Kino
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu (which also has wonderful Donghua and Live action adaptations)
Tamen De Gushi by Tan Jiu

I also want to shout out my fellow webcomic friends, who are currently creating massive, amazing webtoons that are unashamedly queer!

Lysandra Vuong, currently writing Covenant
Kris Nguyen, who has written Cape of Spirits

Interview with writer Rex Ogle

With the graphic novel “Blink” from Tapas Media to “The Supernatural Society” from Harper Collings, Rex has written dozens of books and graphic novels for the YA audience! In his very candid and critically acclaimed memoir, “Free Lunch“, he talks about the rigors of high school, growing up poor in an environment with incidents of domestic abuse. Tackling topics of abuse, eviction and mental illness, Rex is as transparent and as authentic as very few writers dare to be.

Chris Allo: So tell us a little bit about yourself.  Your pronouns of course and your initial foray into Geekdom. When/how was that passion ignited? I always loving hearing the queer comic geek’s perspective.

Rex Ogle:  I go by he/him/his.  My inspiration always came from reading.  I devoured everything I could get my hands on, and was reading a lot of adult content when I was way too young.  But given my home life, I had a maturity that allowed me into those worlds.  I also started writing at an early age.  I knew straight away I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, I just didn’t know how.  So I started writing every day, and building a practice of spending at least an hour creating something.  From there, I worked my way up 5 or 6 hours of writing every day.  It’s not always easy, but there’s no feeling quite like finishing a piece.

CA: You worked as an intern at Marvel, then editor at DC comics and onto editing for Scholastic and Little Brown Young Readers.  How was that journey?

RO: I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was scared of being a starving artist.  So after college, I packed a duffle bag and four hundred dollars, and told myself, “You’re going to NYC to work in publishing.  Make it happen.  I got a lot of nos but I kept at it until I got that first yes.  I enjoyed my time as an editor, but found it difficult to often be the only queer on staff.  So it’s been really rewarding to see that change in recent years.  

CA: What were your takeaways from editing comics versus prose?

RO: Editing was fantastic, because I got to learn about the inside of the industry. It gave me valuable insight into how books get made.  Some of it is talent, but a lot is also timing and luck.  It helped me realize that rejections didn’t mean my writing was bad, it just meant the timing or editorial champion wasn’t right.  As for comic versus prose, I love them both so much.  They’re so different.  With prose, I get to control nearly every aspect of the story.  With a comic or graphic novel, I’m on a team, which takes some of the pressure off me.  That’s probably why I write both.

CA: Can you tell us some of the projects you’re most proud of from each of those positions?  

RO: I’m really proud of Free Lunch, my (prose) memoir about growing up dealing with poverty and domestic violence.  And I’m not just proud of it because it was my first book (under my own name), but because I truly believe it’s an important story to be told because so many kids are living with similar experiences.  I’m also in love with The Supernatural Society, my recent (prose) middle grade fantasy novel, because it’s very much a love letter to the Universal monster movies I grew up obsessed with.  As for graphic novels, Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdom, comes out in early April, and it’s been years in the making.  It’s a fast-paced and fun fantasy adventure about friendship and inner strength.  As for comics, I’m ready to write more.  Traditional book publishing is great, but it can take a while, so it’s nice to have the immediacy of a monthly comics.  So yeah, essentially, I’m really proud of every project that I work on.  LOL.    

CA: You’ve written a number of fantastic books and graphic novels. The upcoming, Abuela, Don’t Forget Me, the raw book, Punching Bag, the graphic novels, Blink and Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, to name a few.  Did you always want to write comics or prose?  And what was the moment you decided to do it and then take the steps you took to make the project manifest?

RO: As a young writer, I was always writing prose.  But that was mainly because I had no idea how to write a comic.  Then I interned at Marvel and got to read actual scripts, and thought, “Oh, I can do this.”  From that moment on, I found myself jumping between prose and sequential storytelling, because I loved both styles so much.  I decided pretty early on that I was going to be a write, come hell or high water.  But it took a lot longer than I anticipated.  I wish I could have started getting published in my 20’s, but it just wasn’t in the cards.  Now that I’m doing full-time, the projects are snowballing, one leading into the other, and it’s so exciting.  I can’t wait to see all my books come out.    

CA: You’re very open about your life: growing up poor, struggling with hunger and domestic violence as a kid.  A lot of LGBTQI youth can relate.  What was the impetus for telling your story, so real, transparent, and powerful, by the way? Did you struggle with deciding what you would talk about or did you always know you were going to be completely forthcoming and honest?

RO: I’ve always practiced 100% honesty and life, but I’ve always gravitated towards fiction.  BUT after years of rejection, I knew I was doing something wrong.  Then one day, an editor gave me the advice to try and write a true story about my life, so that I could learn to dig my heels into the emotional core of a narrative.  It turned out that’s what was missing from my storytelling.  And as I wrote it, I knew I needed to be as honest as possible with my reader.  I think that’s what readers–especially young readers–appreciate most.  

CA: You also wrote the OGN Blink with art by the incredible Eduardo Francisco. What are the challenges or the things you like about writing prose and writing for an artist on an OGN?

RO: Prose is wonderful, because I’m in complete control.  Though, with an editor’s eye contributing.  But otherwise, it’s just me (and the cover artist).  That’s freeing.  But with an OGN it’s a partnership, which staves off the completely loneliness and fear of writing alone.  So I try to jump back and forth between the two styles to keep a nice balance.  

CA: In recent years comics have become more inclusive of LGBTQI and brown characters.  Obviously, not enough but things are changing.  As a creator on that front, what are some of the things queer folks can do to help facilitate more inclusivity or even exposure to queer folks and lifestyles?

RO:  I think a lot of folks are supporting queer creators, which is a beautiful thing.  The biggest problem I’ve found is discoverability.  Luckily, both bookstores and librarians are getting better about curating LGBTQIA+ sections for those readers. It’s no longer something to be ashamed about–at least in most places.  And I couldn’t be happier that we live in a time where people of color are getting their due.  It’s been centuries of mostly white males telling stories, so it’s really awesome to see the switch.  There should be room for people of all kinds to tell stories, which is one of the reasons I talk about being half-Mexican myself.  

CA: Who are some of your queer heroes in the comic world both real and fictional and why?


RO: ND Stephenson, who created Nimona, is just amazing.  She went on to queerify the new She-Ra and it’s such a fun TV watch.  I’m also a massive fan of Mariko Tamaki, Molly Ostertag, and Kevin Panetta for the graphic novels they’ve contributed to the world of young readers literature.  As for fictional characters, I’m definitely obsessed with the X-Men (and have been since I was kid), which are more queer than ever.  But I also have to give a shout out to Midnighter over at DC for being someone who defies stereotypes.     

MIdnighter/DC Comics

CA: What words of guidance would you impart to up-and-coming queer creators who want to work in the mainstream world of comics, graphic novels and prose?

RO:  1.) Get comfortable with rejection.  It’s going to be hard to break into comics, but once you do, it’s going to be so worth it–especially when you hold the final product in your hand.  2.) Create the stories you would want to read.  Don’t try to create for others.  Make something you enjoy.  And 3.) Your art is never going to be perfect.  But it can be done.  So stop mulling over every little sentence and every panel of art.  Just keep moving forward.

CA: What got you into comics?  Who were some of your favorite heroes growing up?

RO: My middle school best friend got me into comics.  I had dabbled in Batman, but it was his introduction to me of the X-Men that made me fall in love.  I soon graduated to New Mutants, where I met Magik, aka Illyana Rasputin, who to this day remains my favorite character.  She’s dark and powerful and survived so much tragedy in her youth, and so she reminds me of me, battling every day to make a happier life for myself.  

CA: Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects Four Eyes, Northranger, and Abuela, Don’t Forget Me?

Norton Young Readers

RO: Northranger is my love letter to Jane Austen, as I’m taking her gothic novel Northanger Abbey and updating it with a queer protagonist who falls in love with a cowboy who may or may not be a killer.  It’s a graphic novel, and I’m so stoked for it to come out.  Four Eyes is another memoir, but this time a Disney-version graphic novel of my life, meaning I’m dropping the violence to focus on an almost-universal experience of getting glasses and dealing with the onset of puberty.  And Abuela, Don’t Forget Me is my first foray into writing a novel in-verse.  It started out as a project for my grandmother who is suffering from dementia.  I was writing all of my memories of her down in short verses, so that she could read them with ease and hopefully remember happier times.  But soon I had a book on my hand, and I thought how great would it be to get this published as an homage to supportive grandmothers everywhere.  

CA: Really wonderful, Rex! Thank you so much for your time and the truly fantastic work you’ve been putting out into the world.

For more about Rex and his work check out his website,