The Beat

NYCC ’18: Outspoken – A Peculiar Time to be a Queer Cartoonist

By William Henderson

The Outspoken: Queer Cartoonists Represent panel, moderated by Jennifer Camper on Friday at NYCC, brought together a number of queer cartoonists who aren’t always given a platform from which to discuss their work.  

The panellists – Blue Delliquanti (O Human Star), Katie Fricas (Checked Out), Jay Fuller (The Boy in Pink Earmuffs), Ivan Velez (Tales of the Closet), Annie Mok (The Astro Boy of Asbury Park and Annie Mok Loves Video Games), Phil Jimenez (Wonder Woman), Belden Sezen (#ButchItUp), and Carlo Quispe (Hairy Tales) – discussed their history of making comics, shared images and pages from their work, and talked briefly about the intersection of art and representation. 

Like Delliquanti’s Meal, which comes out this week and tells the story of a young woman who moves to a new town to work at a restaurant known for serving insect (as in bug!) cuisine, and while there, falls in love with a woman. Or in her long-running O Human Star, which is the story of Alastair Sterling, who dies, wakes up 16 years later in a robot body, tracks down his former partner, and meets a female robot who looks a lot like him. These types of stories, said Delliquanti, weren’t around when she was growing up, so she decided to make the types of stories she wanted to read. 

Fricas talked about bringing aspects of her life and childhood into her projects, including growing up on military bases and spending as much time as possible in libraries, including now, as she balances a career in comics with working in a library.  

Fuller read from his The Boy in Pink Earmuffs, Quispe and Camper read from some of their politically charged work, and Jimenez traced his history in comics through images he created during his nearly 30-year career. From Wonder Woman to X-MenTempest to the iconic Amazing Spider-Man cover featuring President Barack Obama, Jimenez weighed in on the value of bringing a queer lens to superhero comics and on the role comics have played in helping to shape his life. 

Velez spoke briefly about his involvement with the original Milestone Media, a production company that developed a number of multicultural characters for DC Comics, and about the recent death of his father. He apologized before sharing recent work, explaining that he has “so much anger in my work right now.” 

Mok, who came late to the panel, apologized about being distracted. She was having a rough day, as was Jimenez, who copped to being distracted by the day’s events (as in the confirmation of Brent Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court). 

The panelists sidestepped this potentially politically charged conversation and focused instead on the importance of creating, making available, and then actually reading queer stories, be it for a mainstream publisher, a creator-owned project, or in other formats, such as the postcards that Sezen creates and occasionally publishes, work supported by an award from The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. 

Bringing the discussion to a close, Camper talked about her work and efforts to create her “version of the world.” She shared pages from “A Slow Intermittent Leak” and talked about how free she feels knowing she can write about rude and angry women. 

After each of the panelists talked about their work and shared information about their current projects, they quickly discussed the types of books that young children will find accessible, and Camper talked about the upcoming Queers and Comics Conference, taking place in May 2019. 

“It’s a peculiar time to be a queer cartoonist,” Camper said, talking about how the more visible queer characters and creators are, the more likely there is for pushback and backlash. But she argued that there is still work to do, especially in telling the stories of transgender, non-binary, and queer woman of color characters.

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