Welcome to Queerness in Comics, a column originated by Comics Beat Features Editor Avery Kaplan, exploring queer representation and themes in comics. This week, for the column’s return, Avery’s spouse, Rebecca Oliver Kaplan, talks to French cartoonist Soizick Jaffre about A Good Sport, exploring the history of the Gay Games, now crowdfunding on Zoop.

REBECCA OLIVER KAPLAN: Not everyone may be aware of the Gay Games. Can you tell our readers more about the event? And briefly, how is it related to the Olympics?

SOIZICK JAFFRE: The Gay Games is “a worldwide sport and cultural event that promotes acceptance of sexual diversity, featuring lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender athletes, artists, and other individuals.” It all started in the United States in San Francisco, California, in 1982, thanks to Olympic athlete and medical doctor Tom Waddell and others. I feel so bad for not knowing the history of the Games sooner. I learned a lot while working on the book. Their goal was to promote the spirit of inclusion and recreate the Olympics’ power to bring people together. It was also meant to be a positive event, a celebration.

A Good Sport
Photo: Stacked Deck Press

KAPLAN: Gay bodies playing sports is very politicized right now. What message do you hope readers take away from your graphic novel about the Gay Games and the athletes participating?

JAFFRE: The only message I have, at least that I am aware of, is that we must be free. Whatever we are, we are birds—it’s a metaphor in the book. It’s not just a book about about athletics and the Gay Games. It’s a book about playing, losing, and winning the game of freedom.

KAPLAN: I loved the “hallucinatory colors,” as Justin Hall described your work. What is your artistic process regarding color?

JAFFRE: I’m happy you love it. I am addicted to colors; I can’t help it. My process involves writing, working on the layout, and storyboarding. Then, I ink and write again. I letter and ink some more. And then, the coloring comes last and is the treat. It’s like fireworks. I have so much fun with colors.

KAPLAN: What was your artistic approach to gay bodies in motion?

JAFFRE: I did not think about gay bodies, and I think bodies are bodies, but I know what you mean. Well, there is mine. I was a non-conforming little girl, to say the least. In the book, I claim to be a bird. I am often represented as a bird throughout the book. In one chapter, I tell about this wonderful surf instructor back in the 90s who complimented me on how I could feel my body so well on the wave, and I show my body as a teenager as a highly functioning body, as in anatomic plates, and not a body that is over-sexualized. I care about “gay bodies,” but I am concerned about female bodies. Today, everybody has forgotten The Taliban and the backlash against women—female bodies are imprisoned.

Gay Gays Tom Waddell
Photo: Stacked Deck Press

KAPLAN: Did any artistic works (gay liberation buttons, art, comics, books, etc.) influence or inspire your approach to A Good Sport

JAFFRE: I did a lot of research and used a lot of archives. The book contains a lot of information. Some chapters are focused on history.

KAPLAN: My mother was a military brat and “tomboy,” so one line in the first chapter stood out—you grew up on a military site near Angoulême, France. How did that shape you?

JAFFRE: My father was a chemist for the army. The place where I grew up was a huge area in the middle of a forest. We had a lot of freedom. I was a tomboy, yes … Or a bird… Or a free girl. Like I said in the book, my mother respected that, and my father let me do whatever I wanted. Ironically, I grew up in a place where bombs were manufactured for war. However, the site is closed now. In the late 90s, it was decided France did not wish to develop so many weapons. With what’s going on with Russia, we hear we don’t have enough weapons and are not prepared. Now that I think about it, there is an allusion to war in the final pages of my book, but it’s not because I grew up on a military site. War is part of life; I was always aware of that reality.

KAPLAN: Since A Good Sport is currently crowdfunding through Zoop, what backer rewards are available?

TARA MADISON AVERY: For backer rewards, we are offering archival quality art prints of Soizick’s splash page chapter breaks. I think they’re excellent pieces of illustration and would be welcome in any collection of comic art. We are also offering a sew-on patch that may be applied to your own bowling shirt for when you hit the lanes. Other items include stickers, enamel pins, signed copies of the print edition, and a digital edition of the book.

All Are Equal in A Good Sport
Photo: Stacked Deck Press

KAPLAN: Is there anything else you would like to add?

AVERY: A Good Sport tells not only Soizick’s incredible story but also the story of the Gay Games themselves. In a time of division and challenges to LGBTQ+ rights around the globe, this book makes an important point about finding things in common and coming together in peace and friendship. It does this with wit, energy, and an engaging palette of much-needed color.

A Good Sport by Soizick Jaffre is crowdfunding on Zoop through April 3, 2024.