Queer comics (and the whole super-set of LGBTQ goodness) are a perennial topic for us, not least because I won't shut up about them, and we've done an annual round-up episode on the podcast for the last couple of years:
So I was on the lookout for queer content at Thought Bubble this year, and delightfully, just so many of the books at the show seemed to be somewhere in the LGBTQ ballpark.
Tab Kimpton (of Discord Comics) put together a "Thought Bubble Rainbow Road" this year, highlighting LGBTQ comics, creators and merch. Chatting to him (more of that on the podcast), he put the proportion somewhere a nose over eleven percent.
I didn't scratch the surface of that, but here's a quick round-up of what I found.
I've pulled out three things I thought were cool and that I'd not heard about before the festival. So this isn't so much a best-of as a big ol' serendipitous grab bag, but I reckon that highlights the ambient quality.
Laid - Cicy Reay
This was literally the last thing I bought at the show. Three quid on impulse, and my way out the door. Damn, I lucked out.
"We lived pretty close to each other" begins the body of the story, terrace and park spliced across tall panels "except his street was much nicer than mine". It could almost be a Beautiful Thing rerun, all hesitant teens and loaded friendship. Except we've just seen six pages of avuncular (and really professionally fastidious) sex work. Oh, and a nasty car accident.
Connection but distance is the thing here. That's called out pretty strongly in the client relationships, and mirrored in the way the panel focus zooms in on details at points, pulling away to backgrounds at others. But it's the nameless protagonist's relationship with Sam - more than a client, perhaps, but held at a distance still - that makes up the body of the emotional heft.
I'm not his boyfriend. I'm there for - well, for business. But I cared about him.
They fuck, they talk, they laugh at the shipping forecast. They have a just-missed moment of emotional connection that deftly ducks the temptation for cheap happy endings.
It's 24 pages of A5, and crazy-dense with little personal moments. All blue-on-white like a linocut printer lost a fight with an ancient gestetner machine. It's a style that works wonderfully with the tight panel grid layout, mostly 3x4 with occasional breakout pages.
It's sex work in close-packed terraced houses, and so much less grim (or patronizing) than that could sound.
If I had to nitpick, well, does anyone actually use KY Jelly any more?
Meh. ID Glide probably lacks the brand recognition, and in any case this gives us one of my favourite pages:
It's all about the angles and simple geometrics. Lube logo mirroring landscape and rumpled bedsheet. The textures all echo the body hair of the previous page. It's a blend of posed mundanity, and pushing the reader into the protagonist's gaze. A gaze that's here fixating on detail, ambiguously just before or just after the conclusion of a sex scene that's both plausibly tender and completely transactional.
Like I say, it's dense. And it's delightful.
It's from Black Lodge Press, and was new for November - so not yet available on their site when I wrote this. Hopefully it will be. If you enjoyed The Lengths (and you should) then you might trace some associations through to Laid - it's a neat little human thing that just happens to involve fucking for cash.
Get Your Man - Kami D (via Dragonhoard)
As a differnt end of at least some spectrum, Get Your Man is a goofy universe-hopping sex comedy that doesn't dodge the squishy bits. It embraces the squishy bits. Heck, it's a clear 40% squishy bits.
This made photographing some highlights tricky, even with my cavalier attitude to "NSFW" content. Even the cute little doggie get's a full-page butt shot:
What? Yes, of course I bought it when I saw the line "You're a corgi werewolf, Charles!" But(t?) also because the folks at Dragonhoard (the publisher/distributer) were utterly lovely. We talk to them on the upcoming podcast, so I won't dwell on that here, but just lovely.
It's a story about versions of Charles and Francis, usually a couple, across various manga-inflected universes and genres. So it breezes through sci-fi, vampires, contemporary romance, and of course coffee-shop chibi antics. It is relentlessly tongue in cheek, in both ways you might care to read that.
The stories vary between vignettes and gag strips in places, and a couple of longer pieces in the middle. There's a robo-mountie finding love (and elaborate upgrades) after being decommissioned, and a sweet, colourful/cartoony piece about versions of the same characters first getting together in the near present day. There's awkwardness in a coffee shop - it's cute. Then there's fucking, because that's the deal here.
It's reasonably body diverse, mind, and feels often emotionally real as opposed to a purely sleazy gaze. There's a levity and joyousness that carries through the whole thing, even into the downstairs funtime interludes. It helps that the stories often end with a big dumb joke.
Look, what it comes down to is, would you like to read a comic featuring a robotic mountie who ejeculates maple syrup?
Ok, great. You can buy it here.
The Foldings - Faye Simms
In the pre T'Bubz roundup, I called The Foldings "charming as balls", and I stand by that. It's just come off the back of a successful kickstarter, and the print edition includes a bonus prose story foregrounding some of the other characters.
Just look at this adorable shtick:
I'm loving that huge cascading vertical panel. It's got a couple of those, and it uses them well. As you'd hope for a comic set in a flying city full of magic, really.
One of the (few, come at me) things I like about the Harry Potter books is the gleeful little bits of imaginative engineering. The weird sweets and critters and plants, and little disorienting details. The Foldings opens on that, with a market stall selling fabric that eats dust, and warming top hats with built-in chimneys. I'm a sucker for that stuff, as is Jasper, the character who's introduced all kid-in-a-sweet-shop, handling it all.
Jasper's immune to magic, which gives us the body of the plot driver, and no end of a headache top his partner Micah, who is - obviously - a Mighty Wizard. It's a short story, really, a little thing of twenty pages or so. Jasper falls off a building, Micah catches him. There's adorable smooching and a pun.
In the course of this, though, it does a lot. It's got that feel of the city being a character, introduced in a few great panels looking out over it. Buildings are stacked onto each other like you showed the Ewoks the Winchester Mystery House and then asked them to build an aerial Venice.
Kids jump of buildings for kicks, knowing the air will catch them, magic has an amped-up Kirby Krackle, and the light plays over all of it. It's got this slightly cel shaded feel in places, with thick line work, and great use of colour for the light.
Oh, and it is Just. So. Sweet.
There's a bit more online, and the print edition is chock full of concept art. I'm really hoping we get further volumes of The Foldings in future.
Damn, I've missed so much here, including the fantastic looking Queer: A Graphic History from Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele.
I also picked up:
We'll probably cover these and a few more on the podcast.
So yeah, look at all this great queer stuff!