Queer Alt Comix History

“When Maggie sees Hopey, I know exactly how she feels. This story I’m doing right now is Maggie trying to figure out what boundaries she has with Hopey now that they are both with different people, and she’s kind of like, ‘We used to play around, can we still play around? Are we not supposed to play around?’ … Maggie is getting frustrated, and I’m just learning all this stuff about what Maggie is thinking about their relationship while they are together.

– Jaime Hernandez, on his current Love & Rockets story

I was so happy to be able to host a panel on queer comics at San Diego Comic Con this year. When I first started going to Comic-Con, it was important to me to attend the annual Gays In Comics panel at the show. The larger queer fandom wasn’t really accessible to me at the time, either online or in person (though I had some wonderful friends I could talk comics with), and sitting in the big room full of other people ‘like me’ was exciting. I’d dreamed of being on that panel for years, until the interests of the folks running that panel and my own interests as a reader and critic diverged to the point that I stopped attending… which meant that hosting a smaller queer comix panel with four comics authors whom I respect immensely–Mariko Tamaki, Gilbert Hernandez, Jamie Hernandez, and Ed Luce–was pretty much that dream come true. Thanks to Julia from D&Q for thinking of me to moderate.

The wonderful Brigid Alverson has a thorough write-up of the panel over at ComicBookResources. I thought it went really well, and I was happy to see that on reading Brigid’s article my memory lived up to the actuality of it! There’s some great commentary there on the importance of queer comix, but also, queer comix as they exist within the continuum of ‘alternative’ comics. Alternative comics and the scene around them have a really checkered history when it comes to queer representation. I got into it a little at the beginning of the panel, but basically while the undergrounds and early alt comix were certainly transgressive, queer narratives tended to be pushed to the side. nostraightlinesThe excellent anthology and history book No Straight Lines, edited by Justin Hall, does a great job at drawing connections between important works and putting together an overview of the queer alt-comix scene in the 70s, 80s, and 90s for contemporary readers. I recommended it on panel, and I’ll recommend it again here. But yeah, it was awesome to have Jaime and Gilbert on the panel  just come right out and say “No one was doing this,” when talking about their roles as straight creators of queer characters in the alt comix scene. They added a lot of continuity to the discussion! Having two out-and-proud creators on panel was also wonderful, particularly as Ed and Mariko have entered the field relatively recently and later in their lives, and they brought some amazing insight to the panel. It was amazing, and I could’ve talked to all four of them for another hour at least.

So yeah, please go check out the article! And the work of all four wonderful creators!

My thanks to Brigid Alverson for transcribing so much of the panel and writing it up, and sharing it with the readership of CBR.

– Christopher

P.S.: I originally posted a draft of this, and then finished it about an hour later. It may still be the old version in the RSS feed, sorry about that!

Shifts and living history

One of the things that I mentioned on the Inkstuds podcast with David, Brandon, and Robin, is an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for a long while now, and that’s the concept of the comics industry (and occasionally the medium) going out of its way to ‘other’ the success of books that they don’t like, or don’t want to be representative of ‘their’ industry. (If you’re not familiar with the term Othering, btw, this is a pretty good description.) I want to dig into that idea a bit more, because I think we’ve maybe just witnessed a real shift in the way the industry is able to deal with those successes.

So, basically, my theory goes that the manga boom in the late 90s sort of blew up every single thing that the industry thought about comics, and who the audience is for comics, and what comics can do. I’ve been writing about comics on and off since about 96-97, and I’ve been writing not only about the potential for comics, but then the realization of comics. It was a time of really quick change, a lot of it good change, sparked mostly by $10 trade paperbacks of Sailor Moon (big-ups to Tokyopop). The success of those books and the ones that followed like Card Captor Sakura, Peach Girl, Fruits Basket, and so many more, were the proof to the theories that comics could be for everyone, for women and for girls especially, and could sell in numbers that were comparable to how they sold overseas. Then Viz launched Shonen Jump, Random House launched the Del Rey Manga line (now Kodansha), Hachette launched Yen Press. The comics came out, the comics sold well, the comics brought in new audiences.  Sales exploded, sales leveled, sales crashed, sales leveled again, and just this year everyone’s saying that sales are up a little once more. Not just for girls and women, but across the board. This is all stuff that actually happened, and you can go back and look it up if you don’t want to take my word for it.

So how did the rest of the comics industry react to this sea-change? In the pettiest way possible of course, by othering the success of that material as much as they could. “Manga aren’t comics,” went the discussion. They were, and are in many ways, treated as something else. The success that they had, the massive success that they continue to have, doesn’t ‘count’. All those sales and new readers were just ‘a fad’, and not worthy of interest, respect, or comparison to real comics. It was the one thing that superhero-buying-snobs and art-comics-touting-snobs could agree on (with the exception of Dirk Deppey at TCJ, bless him): This shit just isn’t comics, real comics, therefore we don’t have to engage it. You can see traces of this attitude, in, for example, The New York Times Best Sellers list for comics, which split manga out into its own category after pressure from non-manga publishers, because the lists woulda been manga-dominated every week. Then the manga boom and manga bust and leveling could all happen off to the side, and no one would have to encounter scary ideas like “women make comics” and “women read comics” and “women buy comics” and they could keep the now-more-narrowly-defined comics industry the exact shape that they wanted to, albeit a little smaller and a little sadder for the exclusion.

(Side note: Sadder still than the people who insist(ed) that manga aren’t and can’t be comics are the poor brainwashed weebs who insist that comics can’t be manga. It’s a dumb argument. If comics is a language then manga is at most a dialect, at least slang, not a different language entirely.)

(Side note 2: At least alt-comix finally embraced manga to a degree in the mid 2000s. Although the gender split among creators of manga translated into English and published by alt-manga publishers is about 90% men at this point, which is not really very good!)

So, the comics industry was able to successfully ignore the massive success and new audiences that the manga publishers brought with them. But you know who didn’t? Kids publishers. Scholastic Graphix. Papercutz. Abrams. First Second. Kids Can Press. Even Yen Press’ arm at Hachette. They saw that with the right conditions, you could get someone other than males aged 18-49 to read comics, and have it be incredibly successful. These publishers paid attention and put together imprints to publish original work specifically for the audiences that the comics mainstream insisted didn’t exist: Kids, girls especially, tweens and teens. And the books sold well. Won new audiences. A whole industry of “original graphic-novel” based creation sprung up that simply did not exist before the success of manga, the success of Bone at Graphix, of Twlight: The Manga at Hachette, Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys graphic novels, Binky the Space Cat, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, American Born Chinese. Or Smile, by Raina Telgemeier. Smile, which sat on the bestseller list for a year and was largely disregarded by the comics industry. Incredible bestsellers, many with outside-of-comics media attention, largely ignored, deliberately ignored. Because their success didn’t fit the paradigm. They weren’t comics. They were ‘for kids’.

(Side Note 3: Still heard the old saw that ‘Kids Comics Don’t Sell’ at Comic-Con this year from a larger pub.)

“Those aren’t real comics, aren’t real graphic novels,” went the refrain around 2010, 2011. “They’re for kids. They lack sophistication, they lack nuance, they’re babyish.” So you can ignore the massive success of Bone and Smile and 66,000 copies of Twlight: The Manga sold on release week, or a 190,000 copy print run on Papercutz’ Lego: Ninjago graphic novel, because the books, if kids are reading them, can’t possibly be any good. Because the books in a publisher’s line are all the same trim size, there’s no art to them. Because they sell well, there’s no art to them. Regardless of who is creating them or under what circumstance. It’s a garbage argument that, once spelled out here becomes obvious and sad, but it’s still an argument that gets made all the time, with every book release.  And we can successfully other, again, the success of books aimed at anyone who isn’t a male aged 18-49, and the industry puts even tighter blinkers on and it gets a little smaller, and a little sadder still.

(Side note 4: Raina Telgemeier wasn’t considered ‘notable’ enough by Comic-Con to be a Special Guest at Comic-Con in 2014–even though SMILE and DRAMA had topped the NYT Best Seller lists for more than a year each, at that point. They realized the error of their ways this year and she was a special guest for 2015.)

Speaking of 2015… here we are. The past 20 years have been specifically depressing when it comes to how the comics industry, particularly what we think of as ‘mainstream’ comics and ‘art-comics’, have regarded the massive changes that have been happening in the larger medium of comics and graphic novels, and their perception and place in North America. It’s not all bad, there are some bright spots at traditional comics publishers when it comes to representation, diversity, and audience… but I think it’s mostly bad. But I also think that this year, 2015, is gonna pretty much put the nail in the coffin for the old way of thinking, because the ‘othered’ books, and the audiences for those books, and the creators of those books, are dominating any real discussion of the medium AND the industry, and the folks who haven’t gotten with the program look foolish as hell.

The optimism started for me earlier this year. The Tamaki’s This One Summer co-published by Groundwood and First Second Books took home the Printz Award and the Caldecott Award (among many other honours), a very big deal. Only the second time a graphic novel and won the Printz and the first time for the Caldecott. These were good, solid wins, that caused delightful controversy in library circles. Brought a smile to my face.

Last month Scholastic Graphix sent out a seemingly innocuous note that was actually a very loud statement: Congratulations to Raina Telgemeier for Smile being on the NYT Bestseller list for three straight years–oh and she’s also got the top four spots on the list simultaneously as well.


It was, as the kids say, shots fired. Scholastic e-mailed this graphic to the press of the entire comics industry, and they wanted to say something very clear: “This isn’t a flash in the pan, this isn’t ‘just’ kids books, this is a writer-artist who has made a major achievement, who has won a huge audience and continues to win new audiences every single week, with every single book she makes. Pay attention.”

Flash back to a little over a week ago: This is the first year that Marvel Comics as a Publisher did not win any Will Eisner Awards for excellence in comics, and none of the creators who won individual awards like penciller, writer, inker, colourist (awards that were basically invented to recognize achievements by creators working on assembly-line big-two superhero books) had any substantial Marvel comics work this year. DC Comics’ recognition came for J.H. Williams III’s work on Sandman: Overture and a month’s worth of Darwyn Cooke variant covers, which is a very small showing for them. You know who did take home Eisners though? A lot of women, a lot of folks working on books with large or primary female audiences, and young audiences too. Emily Carroll, Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson, Shannon Watters & Grace Ellis & Noelle Stevenson & Brooke A Allen of Lumberjanes, Ariel Cohn & Aron Nels Steinke, Cece Bell, Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki, Gene Yang, Raina Telgemeier, Fiona Staples, they took home Eisners this year. 

The 2015 Eisner winner list doesn’t look like other years, and even though the list has been trending in this direction for a few years, it was surprising to me. I smiled pretty hard at that one. The Eisner Awards are voted on by professionals working in the comics industry, and it’s pretty clear from the results that the professionals working in the comics industry AND the books that they think best represent the industry to the outside world have changed dramatically from even five years ago, to be considerably broader, and considerably more diverse.

(Side Note 5: I want to be clear: I specifically do not intend to denigrate the work of anyone nominated for an Eisner this year who didn’t win, either in my personal appreciation of their work or the larger recognition of their work. It’s intended to illustrate a larger shift in how Eisner voters are approaching the awards, and who the voters now are. Just needs to be said.)

I’ve been thinking about those Eisner wins for the last week, about Raina’s success, and about some great, important conversations I had at Comic-Con, and I can’t help but grin about it. Things aren’t just changing; things have changed. I think very much for the better. We are at a point where the success of traditionally ‘othered’ books and authors is so large, so in-everyone’s-face, and so displacing of traditional comics ‘successes’, that you simply can’t reduce the size of the industry enough, or tighten the blinders enough. You can’t other what has become the majority.

What finally prompted me to talk about this, to expand a couple of short sentences in the podcast into a blog post was actually this week’s New York Times Best Seller list for comics. The softcover list features female creators as 9 of the top 10 books (with a very women-audiences-friendly holdout by lovely male creators). The folks on my Twitter timeline had a nice little celebration when that list was released, and I’m really happy for them. Well, not really ‘them,’ actually. But us. All of us, including the superhero pubs and the art-comix pubs and even the sour fans and weebs; the industry is markedly, demonstrably better for more people right now than it has been in years, because we can produce successful books for women and men, for children, tweens, teens, and adults, and those books can sell, and we can celebrate our successes together, if we want to. We get more, different, successful comics. That’s a win.

The NYT list and the Eisners and basically every single benchmark we have in this industry are flawed, often badly flawed, but we can take all of these things together and pull out some very clear and important trends: We as an industry have made enormous steps in the last 20 years to not deliberately exclude women and young people from the comics medium, and to actively celebrate their accomplishments. That doesn’t mean that everyone is now suddenly enfranchised, or that the industry is done deliberately excluding audiences (not to mention creators, not to mention people working in the publishing industry), but real progress has been made.

Let’s recognize it. Let’s celebrate it. Most importantly, let’s keep it going, and keep pushing for positive, inclusive change.

– Christopher



Three people talking about three comics I like…!

Some good writing in my feed this morning, as three different folks (in two different articles) took time out of their days to talk about some comics that I really enjoy. All three are different in tone and style and execution, but all three are very much worth your time and money.

First up, at Manga Bookshelf, Melinda Beasi and Michelle Smith have a nice conversation about Taiyo Matsumoto’s SUNNY and Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s LONE WOLF & CUBSunny recently debuted at The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and I was quite fortunate to be involved in that debut and welcoming author Taiyo Matsumoto to North America for its premiere. The book is phenomenal, quite possibly the strongest of his long career, and its surprising strength has pushed both Beasi and Smith to immediately want to go and read his other work, while they wait for volume 2. That’s high praise indeed, and Sunny is an extraordinary comic that is worth of the praise.

Smith and Beasi follow-up their discussion of Sunny with the impending re-release of Lone Wolf & Cub, now in an omnibus edition with a larger size and page count (volume 1 is 5″x7″ and 712 pages). I have a funny relationship with Lone Wolf & Cub, in that I absolutely love it but I haven’t yet finished the series. I stopped about 3 or 4 volumes from the end, despite being utterly consumed with the story and the world, because I wasn’t prepared for the series to end, and for the inevitable conclusion. I will probably finish it one day, and this re-release from Dark Horse may give me the impetus to do so… but I’m not there yet.

Finally, over at The Comics Journal, Craig Fischer writes an extended appreciation of the “Paul” series of books by Michel Rabagliati. The piece is very good at explaining what’s great about Rabagliati’s comics, and even better at explaining why it’s important to give his work a second or third look if you felt slightly unimpressed by it the first time around. I’m still working on my grand unified theory of why it’s so hard to develop a North American audience for French cartoonists, but Rabagliati is definitely on the list of folks whose work is extraordinarily popular and well-regarded in its native land (in Rabagliati’s instance that’s Quebec, rather than France) but has had difficulty finding an audience in English. I’m so happy to see articles like Fischer’s pushing for a reappraisal of Rabagliati’s work while it is still being published, still incredibly vital, and better-still, still in print. Go and track down Rabagliati’s catalogue at your earliest opportunity.

– Chris

TCAF in Tokyo – November 13-18

Heya! I’m pretty excited about my next trip to Japan, as I’ll be bringing along a collective of cartoonists and publishers as part of the work I’m doing with TCAF (The Toronto Comic Arts Festival).

I know I’d mentioned it a few times before, but now that the events are public I thought it warranted a blog post. Here are the quick-and-dirty details, but you can find all of the info and links and graphics and author biographies at http://torontocomics.com/news/tcaf-japan-2012-exhibition-details/.

If you’re reading this and you will be in the Tokyo area, I hope you’ll come say hi!

Oh, I’d like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting my trip.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $154 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil  a investi 154 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.

TCAF Presents: En Masse in Tokyo
at Design Festa Gallery WEST Room 1-D
November 13th to November 15th
3-20-18, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Free to attend

On Tuesday, November 13th, a group of Canadian and Japanese artists led by En Masse mainstay Rupert Bottenberg will collaboratively create three brand new works from blank canvas’, with the public invited to (unobtrusively) view the creation process. Then, from the 13th to the 15th, all three new narrative art works will be on display and for sale at the legendary Design Festa Gallery, founded by acclaimed contemporary artist Takeshi Murakami.

TCAF Presents: Canada Comic Arts!
November 15th to December 2nd (Speaking Event November 18, 7pm)
Place: Shibuya Parco Part One B1F, Inside Parco Book Center at Presspop Gallery.

We are proud to present “Canada Comics Arts” curated by TCAF of Canada.

In trying to give us a chance to glimpse the presently expanding exciting comics and arts scene in Canada, TCAF has selected and brought over original artworks by amazing artists, Maurice Vellekoop and Love Love Hill, and also books by Canadian artists of their choice. The TCAF crew, artists, and publishers will be in store on November 18th from 19:00 to discuss what’s going on now in the Canadian comics/art/publishing scene. Authors will read short excerpts of selected works. Don’t miss out on this rare chance!

Kaigai Manga Festa, Tokyo, Japan
Featuring The Toronto Comic Arts Festival & Canadian Authors
Tokyo Big Sight, East-West Atrium, 3-11-1 Ariake, Koutou-ku, Tokyo
11:00am to 4:00pm
Admission 1000yen ($12.50CDN)

Kaigai Manga Festa is the first ever Tokyo exhibition of international comics and graphic novels. TCAF will be on hand to represent Canadian comics culture, with the support of Canadian publishers Drawn & Quarterly, Koyama Press, and UDON Entertainment. Authors include Rupert Bottenberg, Omar Dogan, Jeffrey Ellis, Agnes Garbowska, Dax Gordine, Love Love Hill (Collective featuring Wai Au, Kim Hoang, Julie Man), David Namisato, Benjamin Rivers, Miguel Sternberg, Maurice Vellekoop.

In addition, TCAF has created an original doujinshi in honour of the Festival’s 10th Anniversary, celebrating the wonderful original artwork that has been created to represent the festival.

And just cuz it’s kinda neat, here’s the TCAF appearances flyer in English/Japanese:

– Chris

TCAF to exhibit in Japan, November 18th

So if you follow my online happenings more deeply than just this blog, you might have heard that a thing that I’m helping to make happen is TCAF’s first international exhibition on November 18th. What this means is that TCAF as a festival is going to go and exhibit at a comics event in Japan, in furtherance of its mandate to promote Canadian cartoonists and graphic novels. We’re inviting a bunch of Canadian cartoonists to come with us as well. I go more in-depth about the event and what we’re planning here: http://torontocomics.com/japan/.

Anyway, I just wanted to drop a note here on my blog in case any Canadian TCAF Exhibitors didn’t get our e-mail or otherwise missed the news, and really just to let people know that we’re doing that I think is a cool thing. Maybe it will inspire all y’all to keep doing cool things too?


– Chris

No more gatekeepers

I feel pretty good about comics right now. This thought was spurred by the news that, the week after the Batman movie opened, the bestselling graphic novel in the country was Raina Telegemeier’s Smile, a semi-autobiographical account of a young girl finding her way through middlegrade. It’s a full-colour graphic novel for kids, girls in particular, and it’s been on-and-off the top of the bestseller lists for the better part of the two years since it was released. Telegemeier’s next book, Drama, arrives at the end of next month and is likely going to do just as well.

Smile started out as mini-comics, and as web-comics, quite a while back. Raina has been making comics and putting them out there for people since before there was a ‘professional’ avenue for her to do so. She was like hundreds of other creators out there in that way, doing work that is (by every other measure) in a popular genre or mode, but where a professional delivery system for that work did not exist in the comics industry.

It does now.

I don’t mean to suggest that there isn’t work to be done of course, but we’ve hit a point where the lie espoused by the industry gatekeepers, that “there isn’t an audience for kids comics” or “there isn’t an audience for girls or womens comics” has finally been put to rest. Oh, the gatekeepers hung onto it as long as they could, “webcomics aren’t comic books” or “manga aren’t comics” or whatever nonsense they dug up. They’re still espousing it to some degree or another–I particularly liked this article by Heidi MacDonald on why superhero publishers will never “get” women–but it’s demonstrably false. Comics for kids sell now, the Lego Ninjago comic has a 425,000 copy first printing, a number that dwarfs most others in comics… and DC had that license at one point btw. Comics for girls (and boys) like Smile continue to sell very well. Despite the gleeful hand rubbing over the demise of manga, it still sells quite well, thanks. And the internet…? The internet is home to a fantastically diverse array of cartoonists either making their living or a significant chunk of it from the online serialization of their work–and they’re coming for print too.  They are COMING FOR PRINT.

Basically, the gates are down. There are smart publishers, and they aren’t turning down projects by rote anymore. Projects with queer characters, for girls, for women, for kids, for people of colour. And where there aren’t publishers, there are now distribution systems for creators to put their work directly in the hands of readers. If your sole desire is to write/draw Spider-Man or Superman (or god help you Batgirl) then, yeah, the gates are tighter than ever. They probably aren’t going to loosen, either. But if your goal is to do comics, and tell stories that reach people, then that’s at least possible now. There is an industry now, where there wasn’t 10 years ago.

It’s bogus to be denied access to the market do to age or gender or ethnicity or sexuality, and those are the gates that I feel have fallen. Now the challenges of these creators are the same, legitimate challenges that established creators have been facing for years–finding and connecting with your audience, digital, piracy, contracts, publishers, distribution, all of that. It’s not easy, and I doubt it ever will be, but I do finally feel that everyone can finally face those challenges together.

– Chris

Two events in Toronto: Adventure Time Wednesday, Underwater Welder Saturday

I’ve got a billion things to write about having just gotten back from vacation, but the two most time-sensitive are events I’m running in conjunction with The Beguiling and Little Island comics on Wednesday and Saturday…!

Adventure Time Signing Spectacular! w/ Meredith Gran, Ryan North, and Michael DeForge
Wednesday July 25th, 2012
@ Little Island Comics, 742 Bathurst Street, 1pm-3pm
@ The Beguiling, 601 Markham Street, 6pm-9pm

Hey everyone! The Beguiling and Little Island Comics are teaming up to throw a kick-butt ADVENTURE TIME event on Wednesday, July 25th, and you’re all invited! There will be signings by the creators of the ADVENTURE TIME comics, costume contests, presentations and more! It’s gonna be mathematical… TO THE MATH! Check out all the details at:



The Underwater Welder: Book Launch & Discussion
Featuring author Jeff Lemire
Saturday, July 28th, @ 7pm (Doors @ 6:30pm)
at Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Ave (at St. George, one block south of Bloor St.)
$5 admission or free with book purchase

The Underwater Welder Book Launch and Discussion will take place on Saturday, July 25th at Innis College Town Hall, and will feature a presentation by Lemire from the new work, an on-stage interview with Q&A, and a signing. Admission to this event is $5 for two persons, however, anyone purchasing The Underwater Welder in-store at The Beguiling will receive a free ticket good for two admissions and guaranteed seating. Tickets and The Underwater Welder advance copies on sale now. More info at:



– Chris

Little Heart Kickstarter Reaches Goal! Still time to get cool stuff.

This afternoon, the Kickstarter for Little Heart, the marriage equality-supporting comics anthology that I’m participating in hit its goal of $8500, and so it looks like the book is definitely going to be a reality. I’d like to offer a hearty congratulations to editor Raighne Hogan and all of the contributors on a successful campaign. I’d also like to thank all of you who read my words, shared them, and purchased a copy of the book: Your support is amazing, and I thank you. I don’t really ‘go to the well’ very often from my readers, but I greatly appreciate that you were there when a good project needed you. Thanks.

There’s still time to pre-order a copy, or get some amazing prints or original art–you’ve got until Friday in fact! Head over to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/765505753/little-heart-a-comic-anthology-for-marriage-equali?ref=live for details.

Meanwhile, I was just informed about another queer comics Kickstarter, though this one met its fundraising goal in just 48 hours! It’s for Alex Woolfson’s gay sci-fi series “Artifice”, and it looks like there will now be a graphic novel collection of that web series. I’ve attached the full PR under the cut below, but you can check out the Kickstarter at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/alexwoolfson/artifice-graphic-novel-print-drive.

While miles and miles has been written on Kickstarter and the like, I will throw in exactly 2 cents worth and say that that it’s pretty clear having a strong, dedicated following and a very public personality at the helm of your Kickstarter campaign yields very different results than not. I think the Little Heart book is an incredibly important project, but it “suffered” by not having a 25,000-readers-per-day lead-in (if one can suffer that), and it really did take the full month of non-stop promotion to get the word out about the project. I hope that other indy projects looking to use the service take note. A multi-creator book that supports marriage equality should, theoretically, have a much broader appeal for support than a dual-creator gay sci-fi graphic novel, but the web as a mass-funding medium is pretty darned unique.

(This also ties into my thoughts on why Kickstarter as a replacement for the NEA or governmental arts funding is abhorrent, but my two cents are up… for now.)

– Chris

Continue reading “Little Heart Kickstarter Reaches Goal! Still time to get cool stuff.”

My Introduction to Little Heart (1st Draft)

I feel like I’ve been far too lax in getting the word out about Little Heart, a forthcoming comics anthology full of great comics work, that’s also supporting a great cause. Below, you’ll find the first draft of my introduction to this book (sure to be edited because it runs 1200+ words!) and I hope that in talking about my life and the work in this book, I can convince you to take a chance and buy one today. Full details about this book and purchasing info at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/765505753/little-heart-a-comic-anthology-for-marriage-equali. And, not to rush you, but you need to do so by next Friday March 16th at the latest. – Chris


I married my husband Andrew in 2006, shortly after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the gay marriages that had been performed by our provinces since 2001 (give or take) were in fact informed by Canadian values, not merely provincial ones. Despite a challenge or three from the Conservatives, the law… and my marriage… has remained on the books to this day.

Growing up as a gay kid, and then a gay teenager, and finally a gay adult, the notion that I could ever get married was simply not something that occurred to me. Perhaps it was just a failure of imagination on my part, but from what I knew and had experienced of gay culture, gay people could have just as loving, committed, and important relationships as heterosexual people could… but ‘marriage’ was just something that wasn’t for us. I can’t tell you how happy I was to be wrong about that, and I am forever in the debt of the brave gay and lesbian couples that fought the battles, and won them, that allow me to have rights that I quite frankly should’ve been born with. That gay kids today, and the gay teens and adults of tomorrow, will hopefully never have been without.

I met my husband in 2004, and I’ve spent the better part of our 8 years together indoctrinating him into the world of comics and graphic novels. I’m a comics guy; I’ve read written, drawn, lettered, published, talked about, and sold comics since I was 8 years old, and indoctrinating new readers is just what we do. Andrew didn’t really have comics growing up—I think he’d only ever read Spiegelman’s Maus for school when he met me. He’s an opera, symphony, perfect diction kinda fellow, and so when sharing my first comic with him I went the intellectual route and chose McCloud’s “comics textbook” Understanding Comics. Frankly I was/am so in love with Andrew he probably could’ve hated it and we’d still be together, but he loved it and we talked about it at length, and he was curious for more. Now I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure the very next comic I gave him was Maurice Vellekoop’s sadly out-of-print classic Vellevision, a repository of accumulated gay culture, gay wisdom, and gay folly. It’s was also quite the unique work at the time as, save for perhaps Howard Cruise’s excellent Stuck Rubber Baby, it was the only ‘gay graphic novel’ I was aware of that wasn’t intended solely as pornography (though, make no mistake, Vellevision’s got some pretty great scenes in it that address those particular interests…!). He loved that too, and when Vellekoop’s “A Nut At The Opera” came out it was the best of both worlds for both of us!

In 2011, it was very heavily rumoured (and somewhat supported) that if the Conservatives in Canada were elected with a majority government they’d reopen ‘the marriage debate’ and that future marriages between same-sex couples, and even already-conducted marriages between same-sex couples, could be stopped or annulled. I know, it seems crazy that something that’s been happening for 10 years (give or take) could, with a change in government, be stopped or rescinded, but looking at the rhetoric coming out of the Republican party right now, where they’re seeking to roll back women’s rights 50 or 60 years, well, it still doesn’t seem so far-fetched does it? I made a fairly impassioned plea to vote against the Conservative party because I didn’t want the nature of my relationship attacked or invalidated by a bunch of government thugs… and this is where Raighne Hogan, editor of this book, noticed what I was saying and decided I might be a good person to say a few words on its behalf.

And here we are.

Little Heart: A Comic Anthology for Marriage Equality is a fascinating document of a time and a place, of comics creators coming of varied sexualities and genders and backgrounds coming together to comment on the nature of marriage and the nature of love. Of course Maurice Vellekoop is here, and his journalistic piece on the realities of gay marriage in Canada 5-10 years later is just as melancholic and just as ironic and just as delightful as his work has ever been. Marinaomi’s wonderful piece about the trials and tribulations of getting married in a ‘non-traditional way’ certainly hit home, as did Noah Van Sciver’s thoughtful piece of comics journalism about miscegenation—last century’s marital ‘boogeyman.’

Probably the pieces in this book that ring truest to my experience are the ones by Jeremy Sorese, and Emily Carrol and Kate Craig. Sorese’s “Love Me Forever! Oh! Oh! Oh!” resonates deeply with me, because the incredibly talented Mr. Sorese, at 23, has all the same questions about life and relationships and especially gay marriage (“Who is walked down the aisle? Who wears white?”) that I did at 29 on my wedding day. My only advice to Mr. Sorese, 10 years my junior, might be that I found my answers to those questions by doing them, and if that’s what he wants I hope he gets the opportunity. Likewise for the talented Carrol and Craig, mine and my husband’s wedding rings are vintage (or perhaps ‘second hand’ if you’re feeling uncharitable), and I couldn’t help but wonder at the lives lived by the bearers of those rings before we wore them. Carrol and Craig in their ring neatly encapsulate the hopes of marriage, of commitment and anticipation, that I feel unite anyone who enters into the practice, while still making allowances for the unique relationships and agreements that define every union.

Even the pieces that don’t directly address marriage, but instead talk about queerness obscured, like “Roosterlegs” by Ed Choy and Sam Sharpe, or mediate on the complicated nature of young love, like Joseph Remnant’s “I Told You So,” speak to human experiences that touch all of us. Moreover every contributor to this book answered the call, “Help us support marriage equality in Minnesota,” by doing what they do best; creating comics—regardless of style, theme, or materials used. They’ve come down on the side of supporting the rights of all people to equality under the law and by picking up this book and supporting this fight you have too.

I was taught from an early age that equality needed to be fought for. I learned last year that what should be inexorable rights are not always so, and we must fight on. I learned from Jeremy Sorese that rights are worth fighting for even when they might not speak to us directly, from Marinaomi that celebrating what we have does not come at the expense of fighting on the behalf of others, from Noah Van Sciver and Emily Carrol and Kate Craig that love—and marriage—have always faced questions and obstacles, and from Maurice Vellekoop that even when marriage turns out not to be what you think it would, that the core concept of equality is still incredibly important. Finally, I learned from Raighne Hogan, 2d Comics, and the dozens of contributors to this fine volume that this is a battle that may need to be fought state by state, and even heart by heart, but that people regardless of background can come together and lend their voice. I’m happy to be lending mine and, by purchasing this book, thank you for lending yours.

–          Christopher Butcher, March, 2012.


Judgey McJudgerson – Contest Now Open

The contest is now open! Head to https://www.welovefine.com/contest.php?id_contest=10 for details.

Original Post below…

– Chris

I was asked to be a judge for a t-shirt design contest that Mighty Fine is doing for Scott Pilgrim t-shirts, which is cool. I said yes mostly because Mr. Bryan Lee O’Malley and Mr. Edgar Wright are also judges, and I like those dudes a lot.

Today the first teaser was released and like, I am the only person listed on it*, because I am clearly the judgiest out of all of the participating judges. Edgar and Bryan are just too nice, is the problem, and so entrants need to know they will be judged by the judgiest, and that is Me.

Teaser: http://welovefineshirts.tumblr.com/post/18101616007/its-coming-artists-get-ready-to-level-up

– Chris “Judge” Butcher
*Cue 10,000 Scott Pilgrim fans asking “who the fuck is Chris Butcher?”