Interview with Comics Creator Tab Kimpton

Tab Kimpton is a manchester based queer comic artist with a background in webcomics, crowdfunding and self publishing. His work includes comics such as Minority Monsters- An explorer’s guide to Alphabet Soup Land.  He’s also the co-editor of two PRISM award nominated comic anthologies: Come Together- European Erotic Comics, and Ambrosia- Trans Masc & Non Binary Erotica. You can find his work archived for free on or follow on Twitter

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

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

Hi! I’m Tab Kimpton, I’m a queer anthology editor/publisher and webcomic artist, who started back in 2009 with Khaos Komix, an LGBT+ slice of life comic about eight teenagers. I’ve crowdfunded a book every year for the last 9 years, the most recent being the Anthology Nectar: Trans Femme & Non Binary Erotic Comics.

Outside of comics I’m a cosplayer, pole dance instructor, house renovator, and spend any time I have left over throwing ridiculously themed parties and making food to match.

When did you know you were first interested in making stories, and what drew you specifically to comics?

Some of the first bits of queer media I read were webcomics, and I got into drawing stories because I guess I wanted my friends to be gayer (haha). I feel very privileged to be part of that early 2000s webcomic movement where anyone with a scanner was making stories. It’s a time that’s very nostalgic for me now. (Though now I actually have more queer friends so I have to find other fantasies to write about.)

Among your most famous comics is your Khaos Komix series and Minority Monsters, a collection of stories and vignettes about various members of the LGBTQ+ community? What inspired the two projects, and what have you thought of public reception to them since then?

Khaos Komix is a coming of age story that was written while I was coming of age, and really helped me explore my own self a bit during that time; whereas Minority Monsters is a silly pun-filled series of gag-strips and info about gender and sexuality that plays with my love of Mythology.

monsters came about because I drew a shirt design of “Sir Fabulous the Third, The Bisexual Unicorn” for a comic con, sold out of most of them, and then started thinking “What other mythical monster would live in a land of LGBTQIA creatures? An Alphabet Soup Land if you will…?”

Both of those are intended to be quite approachable and have a general idea of LGBTQ+ topics while attempting to be entertaining at the same time. Educating people without patronising them is a fine line to walk, especially as our understanding of these things is constantly evolving. Khaos Komix has some absolute cringe stuff in it, and Minority Monsters already has phrasing I’d like to change even though it’s only a few years old. 

What does creating diverse stories mean to you as a queer creator?

I think it’s about trying to make stories that people see themselves in, but also training readers in empathy and connection in people they don’t see themselves in. It’s something that feels like we can always do more, but as a single person I am limited. It’s one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed producing anthologies these past few years, as you get some beautiful and genuine stories from world views that get limited time in mainstream publishing.

As an aspec reader, your webcomic, Shades of A, was one of the first stories I got to see centering an asexual character (which I’m so thankful for!) What inspired the story, and what made you interested in representing asexuality?

To be blunt, readers were asking for it! That’s an interesting thing about webcomics- I’m super tuned into reader demands (which can be good or bad depending…). However I try not to see stories as a check box of minorities I can get through, so the challenge was how to do it well, how to make it a bit messy, how to explore stuff people haven’t touched on before, and how to make it entertaining enough that people will actually read it.

It was around the time 50 Shades of Grey was at its most popular, and I like a lot of people were super frustrated about how kink was represented in media. “An Asexual walks into a kink club” sounds like the set up of a joke, but in it was the glimmer of a story about subverting expectations, figuring out compromises with partners without sacrificing your own boundaries, and laughing at characters being awkward when things don’t go to plan.

Out of personal curiosity (no spoilers to those who haven’t read the book), was the ending to Shades of A something you had planned or did it naturally evolve that way?

I’m a nonlinear writer- I tend to get ideas for little scenes or sections that feel particularly juicy, write those all down, attempt to put them in some semblance of order, and then figure out what scenes can connect the dots. This way is possible when you work with more character driven stories, I do not recommend this for writing a murder mystery.

I learnt early on in my failed teenage attempts at comics that it’s very useful to write a full script, or at least an outline, so you know where you’re going before you start drawing and can pepper in all the little details which will add to everything later.

I adore solid, satisfying endings in the media I consume. I think there’s a lot of pressure to keep a webcomic that fans like going for a long time, but I’m more about leaving people wanting more than letting them get sick of you.

How would you describe your writing/illustrating process? What are some of your favorite/ most frustrating parts of both?

Since running anthologies behind the scenes as an editor, I’ve switched my process over from doing a single page from start to finish in one go, to sketching an entire chapter out at a time, then inking, then colouring, then lettering etc. This gives you a chance to fix things that need moving as early as possible and has really helped keep my work a bit more consistent (inside the chapter at least).

The hardest part is the first stage of Thumbnailing (figuring out what panels go where making sure there’s room for the text), as it’s the blank page. My favourite part is also thumbnailling, as I love creating interesting layouts, especially in one shot short stories where I can do something more involved that I know I couldn’t keep up on a full length webcomic.

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

I can tell you the question I don’t want to be asked: How do you identify?

I’m in a ‘between labels’ stage of my life right now and really feeling the pressure to say something easy to consume and understand in a twitter bio. But this stuff is complicated, the ‘true self’ is ever evolving, and while labels are good for finding people like you, if they don’t give you joy don’t box yourself into them. I think we’ve been simplifying things down to make them easier to explain for too long, when it’s actually allies who should be explaining to us why they made the world so weird and rigid in the first place.

What advice would you give for aspiring creators?

Whatever work you’re drawing, find a way to make it fun to do the ‘boring’ stuff, because more often than not the boring stuff is most of the project. It’s nice to focus on the end goal of a book or the comic being finished, but spice up the process with podcasts, music, whatever keeps it enjoyable, or you’ll find getting to work on it will become harder and harder.

Also if you aren’t actually enjoying a story, quitting is still an option. A few years ago I started what would be a 300 page epic, but 50 pages in I was miserable and updates were coming few and far between. I changed projects and have been slamming it out ever since.

I feel like I shouldn’t advise webcomic artists to quit and start a new comic, but seriously if you aren’t enjoying a story find something you’d prefer to draw instead. If you work for yourself and hate your job, have a talk with the boss and figure out what needs to change.

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

We’re about to announce artists shortly for Nether Realms: Sci Fi Non Binary Erotic Comics which I’m working on with my co-editor Neon Caster. Behind the scenes most stories are on the pencils stage, and we’ll be waiting until the book is pretty much all done before launching the kickstarter this summer.

Sci fi has always been at the forefront of exploring gender as a medium so when choosing the theme for this book it was an obvious choice. We did an open call last Autumn to get the widest range of creators we could, asking for stories that either centered a non-binary character, or does something cool with gender.

I’ve mainly worked in fantasy and slice of life comics but this anthology I’m chucking myself in at the deep end by doing a Time Traveller Mecha story with co-artist Luce Northstar.

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

I’d like to recommend some of my favourites from people I’ve worked with in previous anthologies, in no particular order: Niki Smith’s The Deep Dark Blue which takes the ‘girl disguises self as knight’ trope and flips it on its head. Alex Assan’s Shaderunners which is a crime noir webcomic about a greyscale world where prohibition banned colour instead of alcohol. Jade Sarson’s Cafe Suada – the energy in Jade’s work is such an inspiration for my own panelling. Also anything from Quindrie press, which is run by our anthology letterer Eve Greenwood so the polish on them is impeccable.

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

Follow-up Interview with Blue Delliquanti

Blue Delliquanti lives in Minneapolis with a woman, a dog, and a cat. Since 2012, Blue has drawn and serialized the Prism Award-winning science fiction comic O Human Star at Blue is also the co-creator of the graphic novel Meal (with Soleil Ho), published through Iron Circus Comics, and The ‘Stan (with David Axe and Kevin Knodell), published through Dead Reckoning. They love cooking, riding on trains, and reading exciting updates about robots and outer space. You can find them online at @bluedelliquanti.

I had the opportunity to once again interview Blue, which you can read below.

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

I’m a comic artist and writer based out of Minneapolis. From 2012 to 2020 I published an online comic called O Human Star, about an inventor who wakes up in a robot body 16 years after their untimely death (and I’ve been rerunning it at one page per day for the last year and a half). My other well-known work is a graphic novel named Meal – it’s more of a realistic restaurant romance, but it’s just as gay. I also teach comic classes at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

What can you tell us about your latest graphic novel, Across a Field of Starlight? And what can readers expect from the characters?

Across a Field of Starlight is a young adult space opera that just came out from Random House Graphic. It’s about two teenagers from two very different spacefaring societies who had a chance encounter as kids, and who keep in touch surreptitiously as the galaxy around them gears up for a devastating war. Both Fassen and Lu are nonbinary, but the paths their lives take are very different – Fassen’s training to be a soldier in a scrappy militaristic rebel force, and Lu is doing scientific research for a reclusive, peaceful space commune. It turns out that can make a huge difference in your concept of who you are and what you deserve!

Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

I’m personally very interested in the concept of utopia and post-scarcity societies, and how science fiction authors explore them. My favorite prose authors in that genre are Ursula K. Le Guin and Iain M. Banks, if that tells you anything. I also love the spectacle and visuals of the space operas we get in film and comics, but I’m often frustrated by the ideological stances put forward by the creators, or the lack of consideration for what it would be like to be queer in these worlds – or how queerness affects the world. That’s what I set out to try and explore. Visually it was also an opportunity to explore an aesthetic I love very much when it comes to space stuff – the beat-up, brightly colored, 1970s look. That was a big departure from what I had done for O Human Star.

How did you get into comics and storytelling in the first place?

I got majorly interested in comics when I was in middle school. Originally I had thought about going into the field of animation, but as I learned about the amount of teamwork that goes into producing even the smallest bit of animation – and as I pored through everything I could find at my local comic store – I realized that with comics I could create entire worlds and stories on my own. It’s still a lot of effort, since as a comic artist you are simultaneously a writer, a director, a camera operator, a costume designer, and performing a bunch of other creative tasks. But the medium fascinated me. And funnily enough, it’s given me a chance to get closer to my childhood career aspirations, which were all based around outer space.

How would you describe the process of making a comic book?

My work is very character driven, so I will often sketch out characters, explore their potential, and get to know them way before I ever start writing their story. From there, I write an outline that lets me see the entire shape of the story and figure out the conflict and what I want the story to say as a whole. From there, it really depends on if this is a webcomic like OHS, where I’m serializing it page by page online, or if this is a graphic novel for a publisher like AAFOS. For OHS I was entirely on my own time, and I would draw a page completely before moving on to the next one – thumbnail, pencils, inks, colors, and lettering. I would do every step over the course of a week, queue the page on the site, and start all over again. It can’t work like that for graphic novels, which has benefits and drawbacks. I would be working from a complete script and would complete a create step for the entire comic at once, such as pencilling the whole thing or coloring the whole thing. Naturally that also meant I could work on page 52 immediately after page 237 if I wanted, and I think that helps my artwork look more consistent. But once I send my files off to the publisher it’s still another nine months or so before anyone reads it, so I miss that instant feedback I’d get from doing a webcomic.

What are some of your favorite parts of writing/drawing comics? What do you find are the most difficult?

I would say I really enjoy thumbnailing – the small initial sketches where I figure out how to make panels fit on a page and what gives them the most impact. The inking stage can also be relaxing, because by that point I’ve already done the stages that take most of the brain power and I can throw on a movie or audiobook in the background as I put the final lines over my pencils. Coloring is still the biggest challenge for me – I’m really proud of how my colors turned out in AAFOS, but they took so much work to get right!

What’s (another) question no one has asked you yet or that you wish was asked?

Hmm… I guess “what am I reading right now?” I always like hearing about what authors are reading for pleasure or reference or what have you. Right now I happen to be reading a nonfiction book about what childhood might have been like in the Paleolithic – Growing Up In The Ice Age by April Nowell. I’m alternating that with the manga Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda, which… I’ve never read anything that attempts what it’s attempting. I can’t help but admire how outrageous, absurdly violent, and unironically homoerotic it is. It’s a blast. 

What advice might you have to give to aspiring graphic novelists (both writers and artists)?

Just start drawing and creating your own stories – challenge yourself to draw a short, complete comic so that you get experience planning out and structuring a story beginning to end. Try developing hobbies other than just drawing – it’s a labor-intensive and isolating job sometimes, so find something that lets you socialize and think about things that aren’t just comics. Your other interests can also influence your creative work in ways that will surprise you!

Are there any new projects you are currently working on or project ideas you are currently nursing and are at liberty to speak about?

I’m currently working on a new comic that I plan to debut in the ShortBox Comics Fair this fall. It’ll be quite different from Across A Field of Starlight in that it’s contemporary fiction and very much for adults, but I’m pretty excited to share it with everyone.

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

So many great queer comics of all genres are being made right now, especially by people I know! I would recommend the works of Otava Heikkilä and Pseudonym Jones – they have such distinct voices and they’re really exploring what the medium of comics can do. Recent releases I recommend include Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens and Displacement by Kiku Hughes, which I think both accomplish that thing I mentioned earlier of exploring the impact of queerness on particular subjects or topics, albeit in very different ways! It really goes to show that there is no LGBTQ+ “genre” – more of a lens you can view everything through.

Interview With Illustrator Ariel Slamet Ries

Ariel Slamet Ries is an eggplant fanatic and longtime lover of dogs in snoods from Melbourne, Australia. They studied animation for four years before throwing away the prestige and money to pursue comics. They’re still waiting to see how that will turn out.

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

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

Thanks for having me!

I’m Ariel Slamet Ries, a comic artist and illustrator based on Wurundjeri land in Australia. I’m just an eggplant who likes to tell stories about people in fantastical worlds. I also spend a lot of time thinking about weird animals. 

How did you find yourself getting into comics? What drew you to the medium?

I’ve probably been into comics since I sprung from the womb. My family had a small collection of comics—Calvin and Hobbes, some old Matt Groening—but I was rarely allowed to buy them for myself. My parents were both journalists at the time, so I think they considered comics junk food reading. 

Because of that, part of the appeal of comics to me was the forbidden fruit aspect. In my search for a taste of that elusive comics flesh I stumbled across webcomics. They were free and accessible, so I read as many as I could get my hands on. 

It was inevitable then that I got into making comics. I was already passionate about drawing from a young age, and took to creative writing in school. Combining the two somehow always seemed like the natural progression. I had dabbled with making comics in high school, but nothing stuck until I started Witchy during a break after my first year of university. 

How would you describe your comic, Witchy? What was the inspiration for this project and how did it come to be?

Witchy is set in the witch kingdom Hyalin, wherein everyone’s magical ability is determined by the length of their hair. If your hair is too long, you’re deemed a danger to the state and executed by witch burning. 

The story follows Nyneve, who is haunted by the burning of her father and the threat the Witch Guard poses to her own life. When conscription rolls around, Nyneve chooses to defy the institution complicit in her father’s death and commits a selfish act of heresy. 

Hair is a central part of the story because I was drawn to its ubiquity—most people have hair and so can easily imagine themselves in the story world. In the Witchy universe, the capacity to grow long hair is also something you’re born with—I wanted to use that to interrogate how power and wealth works in the real world; what kinds of strength we value, and who gets to wield that power based on the traits they were born with.

How did it come to be? Well, it had been something I’d been planning since high school, and then I started it in university, and then instead of having a life in university I spent all my free time making a webcomic. (don’t worry, I’m joking at least 50% here.)

Since your story is clearly set in a fantastic world, what draws you in to speculative fiction, and witches in particular? Did any real-world or magic based systems inspire you while creating your own universe?

First and foremost, I think magic is fun! Also, writing speculative fiction is all I can do—it’s just how my brain is wired. I find it more difficult to set something in the real world because there are so many elements that you have to get “right.” In a fantastical setting I’m able to examine reality and humanity through a different approach, and maybe that’ll lead to an interesting insight?

I actually don’t think I’m interested in witches explicitly—I wanted there to be magical people in this world, and I thought it would be fun to play with the more traditionally feminine image we have of witches.

The most significant influence to the magic system are the real world animistic religions that are practised traditionally all throughout Asia–the idea of a spirit, of godliness, being inherent in all things. They’re belief systems that are rooted in practicality–pay close attention and love to the rhythms of the natural world, you will be rewarded with food, medicine, and security. I’m just adding a magical twist to that. 

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters and/or themes featured in your books?

Pretty much all the characters in Witchy fall into one or more categories of the LGBTQ+ umbrella. I’m not particularly interested in writing about cis-straight characters; those aren’t the people I’m spending most of my time with, and there’s enough people out there doing that already.

That’s kind of the point of Witchy—I don’t have any grand illusions about the power of my work, I just want to create stories where us queers get to do the things that the straights get to do. Telling an action/adventure story like all the shonen manga i loved reading as a teen, but that centred on a lesbian protagonist, was a major part of my initial drive to create Witchy. 

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

Hmm, Ursula K. Le Guin and Satoshi Kon come to mind as artists whose works I admire deeply, but who didn’t sacrifice kindness and patience in their personal philosophies. They stick in my mind because of the way they resisted the grind mindset that is so prevalent in creative industries–when I think of how evocative and powerful their works are, I try to remember this and bring it into my own practice. 

I’m also hugely inspired by my friends! I’ve somehow stumbled across a supportive international community of comic and art-making friends that are frankly incredibly smart and talented, without whom I think I’d feel very adrift in the world. 

What are some of your favorite elements of craft when it comes to comics?

I pay a lot of attention to page layout and composition. Coupled with good writing (which, in comics, is paradoxically as much about image choice and acting as the dialogue, in my opinion) I think you can get away with everything else looking pretty rough. There’s a reason ONE—the creator of One Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100— is so popular; despite the naivete of his draftsmanship there’s a real understanding of these fundamentals. 

Creating a page with a good flow for the reader can take a bit of work, but when I’m reading comics there’s nothing more off-putting than a page that’s hard to parse.

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

“Have you learnt any cool facts about eels lately?”

Why yes I have! Thank you for asking. We don’t really know how freshwater eels reproduce in the wild. We’ve been able to make them reproduce in captivity but we haven’t observed them mating or spawning or whatever, out there in the ocean. I just think that’s neat. 

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

Absolutely! I’m currently taking a hiatus from Witchy (I’ll be back! I promise!)  to work full time on my graphic novel Strange Bedfellows, a queer sci fi romance about Oberon, a boy who’s recovering from a very public “breakdown,” then develops the ability to conjure his dreams in real life—including a facsimile of his high school crush, Kon.

It’s a story that’s been floating around in my head for a long time, so I’m really excited to finally be working  on it. It has a lot of my favourite things in it, so I’m putting everything I’ve got into every stage of the process. We’re about wrapped with the writing now, and I’m so stoked to start drawing!

What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives?

Take care of your mental and physical health above all else. Going through a bad burnout is so much more of a sacrifice than getting enough sleep every night! Don’t buy into grind culture and work at your own pace—you’ve got time.

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

Here’s a few of my recent favourites:

Our Dreams at Dusk — a gorgeously drawn coming of age manga about a troubled gay student who discovers an eccentric queer community group in his small town. 

Beetle and the Hollowbones — this ones for readers looking for LGBTQ+ stories they can share with their kids: A super fun romp through a monstrous world as a goblin, a skeleton and a ghost try to save their local mall. 

Mamo — A young witch returns to her small town in the wake of her grandmother’s death and meets a girl whose family is besieged by a poltergeist in the attic. Beautiful art, captivating story.

Interview With Illustrator Kristina Luu

Kristina Luu, she/they, is a queer Vietnamese Canadian comic artist and illustrator from Vancouver, BC. She loves making colourful worlds and stories full of diverse characters and little moments of magic and joy. The first volume of the BESTIES graphic novels series written by Kayla Miller and Jeffrey Canino is available now. She’s also the creator of “Intercosmic“, an all-ages space fantasy webcomic published through Hiveworks.

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

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT and congratulations on your new book, BESTIES: Work It Out. Could you tell us a little about yourself and the project?

Hello! Thank you for having me here. It’s a real honour and pleasure. I’m Kristina Luu, a queer Vietnamese cartoonist based in Canada! My pronouns are she/they, with no preference for either.

BESTIES: Work It Out is my official published comics debut and I couldn’t be more excited and proud of it. It’s a Middle-Grade graphic novel written by the incredible duo Kayla Miller and Jeffrey Canino. I had the honour of illustrating the adventures of Beth and Chanda – a pair of best friends who have a knack for fashion, big dreams, and mayhem. The book is all about learning what it means to be responsible for your actions and behaviour. 

How did you get into illustration? What drew you to becoming an artist?

I’ve loved drawing cartoons ever since I was a young kid! I used to draw on piles and piles of printer paper and on the walls. My parents did not like that particularly. I also used to spend hours watching animated films and shows every night and the love of animation and cartoons never left me honestly. 

I’ve always loved how artists can turn something vague, mundane, or even empty into something. With a single drawing, you’ve made a whole fantastical world I can dive right into and spark my imagination. At the same time, I loved how art was a way of communicating too. It’s a voice, or a story, or an idea, put on paper or canvas! It’s the closest thing to turning your imagination into reality and the appeal of it has never left me since. 

Were there any artists or books growing up that inspired or influenced your style?

For me, the biggest inspiration was actually Adventure Time. I watched a lot of it during my middle school years and would draw fan art all the time trying to imitate the style and designs of the show. I was honestly obsessed with it and had my own fan characters, t-shirts, merch – you name it! As a teen, I read Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet and Tony Diterlizzi’s Wondla series and was utterly obsessed with both of those too. So much of my earlier art draws inspiration from them, as well as some classic Disney films as well. I only got into manga and anime much later in life, but that also completely shifted how I drew in my college years.

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

I think it’s fair to say that creating graphic novels is a lengthier and more complex process than most people expect. It seems quite simple at first glance, but then you realize each page is a piece of artwork in itself! Each panel is a drawing, and that’s not even mentioning the writing and planning that goes beforehand too. Comics aren’t just “drawing what happens”. When you think about “who says what in each panel” or “what page layout works best for this story”, you realize there’s a lot of thought and care that goes into drawing a page. And gosh, can you imagine how many hours it takes to make just one page? Think of that but times 100 now!  It takes a lot of time and effort to make comics, so it’s truly a labour of love.

What are some of your favorite things about making comics? 

Comics are a fusion of art and writing – two of my favourite creative outlets! I love how versatile and honest comics feel and how it allows creators to share their own unique and independent voice. You usually don’t see that kind of thing through more “mainstream” media, like a TV show or something that has a massive creative team behind it. Until recently, webcomics and indie comics were one of the only places I could find really honest and nuanced representations of LGBT+ people for a long time because they were made by other queer people who just wanted to share their own voice. Comics are also so accessible for audiences and creators alike. Almost anyone can make one, and it’s so easy to just put them on the internet for people to read. It’s a medium that allows for some truly unique creator-driven storytelling and human connection, and that is what I love most.

When you’re not drawing, what do you enjoy doing or consuming in your free time?

I love writing! I suppose that goes hand-in-hand with drawing when you’re a comic artist. I have absolutely no intention to publish a written novel, but I still love writing in my spare time all the same.

As for hobbies, I play a lot of video games and read lots of novels. I’m a big fan of fantasy RPGs of any kind. As for reading, I tend to read mostly Middle-grade, Young Adult, and Adult Science-Fiction/Fantasy and LGBT+ stories. I try to read almost every night. It helps calm my brain down after a long day.

When my head isn’t staring at a screen or in a book somehow, I also really love delving into craft hobbies and outdoor activities too. I’m a big fan of hiking, biking, camping, and just recently picked up bouldering. It’s been so nice to have an active outlet when I spend so much of my days in my own head or in front of a screen.

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

I wish more people would ask me what I like drawing most. While I do love beautiful scenery and fuzzy animals, for me, it’s always been people. I don’t necessarily mean character design or portraits. I really just enjoy drawing characters emoting and interacting! Particularly, dancing. While drawing action can be fun, I just love how much emotion there is in dancing. It’s an act of pure joy and self-expression. 

The world is filled with so many people and they are all so much more interesting beyond the way they look! You can tell so much about a pair of characters just from how they interact. Are they lovers, family, archenemies, best friends? We all express so much with just our faces and body language. I’ll always find it intriguing.

What advice would you have to give for other aspiring artists?

YOU are more valuable than your art. 

I’ve always been a huge advocate for taking care of yourself first and foremost as an artist: body and mind. I’m not just talking about making art. I also mean how you think about making art. Art can and should be fun but you should never compromise your wellbeing for the sake of art. The idea of the “tortured creative artist” is so harmful! You will always be able to make better art when you are healthy and happy. Don’t hurt your back by drawing 24/7. Get up and take care of your body. Don’t let “not being good enough” hold you back from drawing. That’s not good for your brain. Surround yourself with good friends who elevate you. Your peers are NOT your competition, but your support system. Learn how to be kind to both your body and mind, and it’ll carry you a long long way as an artist.

Are there other projects you are currently working on and at liberty to discuss?

Absolutely! I’m currently developing my own original graphic novel. There isn’t much to show for it yet, but I’m hoping to make my author/illustrator debut some time in the future so stay tuned! I’m also still working on Intercosmic, my all-ages space fantasy webcomic. It’s been on hiatus this year, but there are plans to return to working on it next year and I’m very excited for it! I’ve also got a few smaller independent comics in the works that I’m making mostly for myself, such as journal comics and experimental short stories. With my upcoming projects, I’m hoping to explore more topics such as queer identity as person of colour and the complexities of Asian diaspora and generational divides.

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

Oh, where do I even begin!

For LGBT+ comics and manga, I absolutely love Nimona by Noelle Stevensen, The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang, Our Dreams at Dusk by Yuhki Kamatani, Beetle and the Hollowbones by Aliza Lane, and of course My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi.

As for novels, I read mostly fiction and fantasy. Personally, I really enjoyed Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Happy reading, everyone!

Interview with KaiJu

Jen Xu and K. Rhodes, also known as KaiJu, are a couple of comic artists working together to create projects close to their hearts. They are SVA graduates and debuted with Chromatic Press in 2014 with The Ring of Saturn. Their next work, Mahou Josei Chimaka, won a DINKy award in March of 2016. Their short comic Inhabitant of Another Planet, was also nominated for a DINKy the following year. The two-headed monster is currently working on their webcomic, Novae, and their middle-grade graphic novel duology HAVEN and the Fallen Giants. I had the chance to interview KaiJu, which you can read below.

What does the title, Novae, mean? What drew you to this word, and did the story evolve from the title or vice versa?

KaiJu: When we were first starting to write Novae, we didn’t have a particular title in mind. We were calling it the very wordy “The Necromancer and the Astronomer’s Apprentice” for the longest time before deciding on Novae. 

Novae means a nova within a binary star system. It’s a phenomenon where one star becomes bright due to an explosion of energy taken from another star. We thought it was a fitting title for our story—as it revolves around two characters that become “locked in each other’s orbit”, and bring brightness into each other’s lives.

Your name, KaiJu, is both a play on Japanese mythology and your names, correct? How did KaiJu come to be and how would you describe your collaboration process together?

KaiJu: Yes! Though the word kaiju is more associated with the Japanese film phenomenon nowadays than mythology. The word carries the meaning of strange beasts, sometimes used to describe dinosaurs in the early 1900s.  We were trying to combine our names into something coherent and we kept landing on KaiJu. It just seemed like a cute idea. We like to think of ourselves as a two headed creature that creates worlds, instead of destroying them.

As far as how our collaboration process goes. We write the script together. We each take on the persona of different characters in the dialogue. It’s a really fun way to write since we never know how the characters might react to each other during the drafting process. We also each storyboard different pages, and pencil our own set of characters. Kate does backgrounds and color, while Jen inks. We get a lot of help from our assistant color flatters as well. It’s very much a collaborative project from start to finish.

In a field like historical fiction, which has been noted for its absence of people of color (as well as LGBTQ+ characters in an era where queer language hasn’t evolved the way it has today), how did you develop the diversity as seen in Novae? What resources did you consult for historical/cultural accuracy?

KaiJu: We borrowed quite a lot of books from the library when we were first writing the script for Novae, and it’s prequel Inhabitant of Another Planet. A particularly useful title was In the land of the Christians, which is a collection of Arabic travel writings from the 17th century. However, the information on people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals was very limited from what we could gather. We try to be as accurate as we can, but in the end the character’s experience is very reliant on their individual circumstances. 

As you mentioned, queer language had not evolved the way it has today, so it’s hard to make a direct linguistic correlation between a persons identity and our modern terminology. But of course, LGBTQ+ folks still existed and felt the same way many individuals do today.

Novae leans towards alternative history, so we don’t intend for it to be a perfectly accurate representation of historical figures or events. Though, we do try to incorporate some historical events in a way that suits the narrative of Novae.

We hope that Novae reflects the diversity that has always been present in history. In truth the lack of diversity in historical fiction is an inaccurate representation limited by narrow perspectives. Though ultimately, the idea of “accuracy” should not limit representation. No one should feel like they have to justify the inclusion of LGBTQ+ and POC characters.

Within the comic, one of the main characters is revealed as mute and shown to communicate nonverbally using a combination of Tactile fingerspelling and sign language. What kind of research do you implement in creating a character with this type of disability in this time period?

Jen: For Sulvain’s character, I looked up articles about non-verbal individuals and how they communicated with their loved ones before established sign language. I found that personalized sign language, writing and fingerspelling were a common way to communicate during the 17th century. For Sulvain’s sign language I watched a lot of Instructional videos on ASL and other world sign languages. Then I mixed and matched to make something representative of Sulvain’s experience. I plan on finding an ASL adviser as Sulvain uses more sign language.

What are some of your favorite elements of webcomics/graphic novel medium? What craft elements/techniques stand out to you the most?

Jen: I love how the visual elements of webcomics/graphic novels convey emotions and freeze moments. It’s different from film and other forms of visual media, that it allows the readers to absorb these moments in their own time. For example, a contemplative scene in a film plays for five seconds— and the scene changes. But with comics, I can choose to dwell on a panel, on a page, or on a scene for as long as I like and really experience the content at my own pace. 

I think comics give you the ability to inhibit space and the minds of the characters, allowing emotions to brew.

Kate: I love the drama that can be conveyed in comics. I also love that the nature of the medium, the ability to create without a big budget, allows you to pursue big ideas with a smaller audience. I love to see the unbridled creativity that comes purely from an individual’s brain.

Techniques that really stand out to me are paneling and framing, and the ability to draw an emotion out of a reader through expressions. I love it when I can immediately feel something just by looking at a few panels. 

Are there any other stories (whether already published or upcoming) fans of Novae could check out from you? 

KaiJu: Yes! We have the prequel for Novae called Inhabitant of Another Planet as well as some other short stories you can find on the Novae website’s about page

As far as upcoming work, we have a middle-grade graphic novel called HAVEN and the Fallen Giants slated to come out with Viking Children’s in 2022. It’s a silk road inspired fantasy adventure with a good mix of fun world building and confronting important social issues. 

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

KaiJu: Oh gosh, we read quite a lot of LGBTQ+ comics that are really great but we’ll highlight just a few here.

We really love the energy in Sammy Montoya’s comics. Sammy does a lot of shorter comics and they’re very addicting. They’re great at pulling the reader in right away and making the characters and conflict very engaging.

You can find some of Sammy’s comics here

Cunning Fire by Kaz Rowe is a great example of a LGTBQ+ webcomic that focuses both on character relationships, as well a complex urban fantasy plot. Kaz uses a lot of great cinematic techniques that are really fun to read. You’ll definitely find yourself rooting for the characters.

Castle Swimmer by Wendy Lain Martin has great world building, characters and spot on humor. If you’re not reading it already you have to check it out.

Tiger Tiger by Petra Erika Nordlund is a super creative and intriguing fantasy comic set on the high seas. Every visual detail in Petra’s comic is a delight.

If you’re looking for a really sweet comic with a healthy relationship that also features a partially nonverbal character, you should definitely check out #Muted by kandismon. 

You can read it here

My Broken Mariko by Waka Hirako is a incredibly well done and heartbreaking manga that just came out recently. I’m not sure if this one is considered LGBTQ+ but I think it can certainly be read that way. It’s worth checking out just to marvel at the emotional power of Hirako’s work. 

There are many more we would love to talk about but these are the ones we’re currently reading.

The Weird and Wonderful World of Digger

If you had asked me what my favorite genres were eight years ago, chances are I would not have put Epic Anthropomorphic Fantasy at the top of the list. It wasn’t until my sister (somewhat relentlessly) insisted that I read the first volume of Ursula Vernon’s Digger that everything changed. It introduced me to strange new world that challenged my every notion of what comics and characters could be. I could go on about its clever use of footnotes, or its beautiful black and white artwork. I could talk about how it inspired me to take on the daunting task of writing my own indie comic. What I will do instead is take a close look at the way it challenged and subverted gender norms and the tropes of the genre.

When your principal cast consists almost entirely of non-humans, the lines with which we typically define gender become blurred. Yes, they’re anthropomorphic and have humanistic attributes, but our notions of human gender don’t line up when it comes to wombats or oracular slugs. What becomes important here is that you find yourselves relating to the character regardless of their gender (if they even have one). Some of us do this naturally, but we’re often going against the grain of what’s expected of us when we do. The world Ursula Vernon creates in Digger is so far removed from that paradigm, that it’s refreshing. You can be yourself here. The old rules need not apply.

Digger is the narrator and titular character. Her name is short for Digger of Unnecessarily Convoluted Tunnels. She is a wombat who likes engineering and is not at all a fan of gods or magic. She is also our steady voice of reason guiding us through a bizarre and irrational world. Her gender is not immediately apparent (in no small part due to her being a wombat) but it’s also not especially relevant. Digger’s androgynous nature ultimately makes her more easy to relate to.

At the center of the story is a matriarchal tribe of hyenas that Digger becomes entangled with. Creating a matriarchal tribe of hunters (which my spell check just tried to change to patriarchal) is no simple task. It’s not just “what applies to males in human society now applies to females here.” Vernon does this meticulously through mythology and ritual (and probably lots of research on spotted hyenas actual matriarchal society). We learn that female hunter in the hyena tribe will typically lose her first born child, and surviving first born children are considered special because of this. They also have a custom of excommunicating shamed members of their tribe. This and much of the hyena lore is revealed through Ed, an excommunicated male hyena that Digger befriends. Eventually Digger also becomes acquainted with the hunter Grim Eyes, who at first wants to eat her before they become reluctant allies. The way Grim Eyes is presented as a bit of a meathead, and is obliviously patronizing to their male guide Herne, leads to some thoroughly enjoyable banter.

Lastly there are the two actual human characters. First we have Murai, a faithful servant of Ganesh and a member of The Veiled. Subverting the typical fantasy quest of a protagonist fulfilling a glorious destiny, Mauri is neither the protagonist nor is her destiny glorious. It’s more like a curse than anything else. Her encounter with a god has left her broken, but her condition resembles the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While she is a true believer and follower of Ganesh, her story becomes one of finding her own voice. There is also leader of the Veiled, Captain Jhalm. In many ways, his place in the story is a perfect example of using toxic masculinity as a villain. While he is not the chief antagonist, his misplaced commitment to serve all of the gods consistently causes harm and creates unnecessary obstacles. This comes to a head when he faces off with hyena clan leader Boneclaw Mother. As he is about to kill one of his own soldiers in order to save a dying god, he’s met with her biting wisdom: “a god that demands the life of a child is not a god worth saving.”

It wasn’t until after I sat down to write this article that I realized how difficult it is to articulate exactly what I love about the gender subversion and obscurities in this story. This is in no small part because it casts a wide net. I didn’t even get to touch on Shadowchild (a genderless feral demon child who asks lots of questions) or Ganesh (the avatar of a male god whose voice I always find myself reading as female). There’s so much detail in every culture encountered in this epic. It’s so densely packed with nuanced characters and blurred gender lines that it’s hard to focus on just one. It isn’t just one character or one central theme, it’s a whole world. But here is the best part: you don’t have to take my word for it. It’s still free to read on the original webcomic site, or you can pick up the new omnibus edition.