Surely Books, the new LGBTQIA imprint from Abrams ComicsArts, will see the publication of its first book, Lifetime Passes, on November 23rd, 2021.

In advance of the graphic novel’s release, The Beat got the chance to catch up with imprint curator Mariko Tamaki over email and ask all about how the imprint is defined, about the first two titles from Surely Books, and what we can expect for the future of the imprint!

AVERY KAPLAN: Can you tell us about the genesis of Surely Books? How did you come to curate this imprint with Abrams ComicsArt?

MARIKO TAMAKI: The idea for starting a queer comics imprint was my partner, Heather Gold’s, idea. I was looking for an opportunity to do more editing and working with writers and illustrators. And I was writing a series for Abrams at the time and loved collaborating with them, and I knew they were developing the imprint with John Jennings, and it just seemed like a bit of perfect timing.

KAPLAN: As an imprint, what can Surely offer that other publishing initiatives cannot?

TAMAKI: I don’t think of it as an “us” and “them.” Our goal at Surely is to make LGBTQIA comics, we have a very open mandate in terms of what those books look like in terms of genre and style (as in we have no restrictions as to genre or style). Really I think with Surely we have the opportunity to make MORE LGBTQIA graphic novels, which is an awesome thing.

KAPLAN: Do you think there’s a reason so many queer voices are drawn to comics? 

TAMAKI: We’re all really very LUCKY that there are so many incredible voices in queer comics! I mean really there are so many books to be inspired by, and so many unbelievably talented writers and artists. I think especially at Surely Books we feel pretty lucky to be able to work with the people we’re working with.

KAPLAN: What’s it like to be working “behind the page” instead of “on the page,” so to speak? Have you had any unexpected experiences (outside the field of experience for most creators)? Furthermore, has the experience of curating the imprint affected your creative output? 

TAMAKI: I really love working with writers and artists. I’ve done it as a teacher before, for me this has been incredible because you’re seeing a project through to publication. The whole thing is hugely motivating! I’ve also had some pretty amazing editors working with me over the years, so I feel like I’m paying back years of support in some ways?

KAPLAN: How did you go about recruiting talent for these projects? Have there been any challenges?

TAMAKI: We have a few projects that come to Abrams, and a few projects we’ve gone looking for. There isn’t really one way we’ve gone about it. As an editorial team we try to check in as we move forward on our list to make sure we’re always thinking outside the box.

Lifetime Passes by Terry Blas & Claudia Aguirre.

KAPLAN: Is there anything in particular about the upcoming Surely Books launch releases Lifetime Passes and/or Flung Out of Space that readers should be aware of in advance? Is it significant that these two titles are the first books to be released by the imprint? 

TAMAKI: There’s no one common theme, per se, and I’m actually pretty pleased it worked out that way. I think these two books speak to our mandate of making books by queer creators, as opposed to a certain kind of book. I love that these books are very different in terms of tone, that one is much more fantastical than the other, although they’re both about characters that spend time escaping into a kind of fantasy. They’re both by exceptionally talented queer creators, both, coincidentally, writer and artist teams. They’re also both books by people I certainly WANTED to work with from the moment I started working with Abrams and so it feels pretty fortuitous that they’re our first books.

Flung Out of Space by Grace Ellis & Hannah Templer.

KAPLAN: Can we look forward to more titles from Surely Books in the future? 

TAMAKI: YES! SO MANY! New artists! New writers! So many new amazing books.

Stay tuned to The Beat for more on upcoming Surely Books titles like Lifetime Passes, Flung Out of Space, and MORE!