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33 LGBT stories from 33 comics creators
Longtime readers of the Gay People’s Chronicle may remember Robert Kirby from his strip Curbside, which used to run in these pages. You might also recognize his name from editing the queer comics anthology Three, a few volumes of which are now out.
The conceit of Three is that Kirby gets three great comic creators to contribute stories to each volume. At times he went a little crazy and put more than three creators in, but that is what one calls creative liberties.
This follows his history of anthologizing and contributing, like his early Strange Looking Exile and Boy Trouble, the latter with David Kelly.
Now, however, Kirby has gone completely crazy, cramming 33 creators into his newest book, Qu33r, out now on Northwest Press, the home of everything gay in comicdom. Publisher Charles “Zan” Christensen puts out so many incredible volumes of comic book goodness, reviewing even half of them would make this newspaper look like a subsidiary of Northwest Press.
But, I digress. Back to the volume with 33 of the best the LGBT comic scene has to offer today. In the introduction, Kirby talks about No Straight Lines, Justin Hall’s 2012 Fantagraphics release covering 40 years of queer comics. Kirby says that he wants Qu33r to pick up where that volume left off, “to provide a frieze of the present.”
While he has done that, he is perhaps too modest in his aspirations for the book. Yes, some of the best of today are included, but a number of them (Kirby included) are also icons whose work has defined decades of queer comicdom. Diane DiMassa of Hothead Paisan fame, Howard Cruse (nominated for the Eisner Awards Hall of Fame), Eric Orner, Jennifer Camper--all of them are in the midst of their careers, decades in with decades to go.
There are new names and faces in there as well. Well, not necessarily new, but not as well-known, certainly. Carlo Quispe, for instance, puts forward his lascivious and witty “Political Will,” the tale of a connection made at a New York City sex party, filled more with sociopolitical commentary than with sex.
Andy Hartzell, whose Fox Bunny Funny is out on Top Shelf and is a classic in wordless storytelling, tells the story of Chelsea Manning, born as Bradley Manning, now facing a 35-year sentence for releasing thousands of classified military documents to WikiLeaks. It’s a sympathetic look at the situation, with dialogue taken from Manning’s chat logs with the former hacker who turned her in.
Carrie McNinch turns in another charming tale of youthful romance under the shadow of a falling Skylab, to the tune of Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” while British sex god Sina Sparrow tells the story of a sexual obsession that falls apart. Alternately, it might be the story of why Germans make bad lovers, but that’s probably not what he’s trying to put forward there.
Dylan Edwards and Diane DiMassa both put forward stories of youthful acceptance of sexual difference; they are very similar, almost as if the two were holding a competition to see who could tell a basic story in a more heartwarming manner.
Ed Luce’s “Wuvable Oaf Presents Kindness of Strangers” wins for best story, not because it is necessarily better than the rest (although it is wonderful), but for integrating disco-diva superheroine Dazzler into the very first page of the story. It might also make the story, about two gay men at a death metal concert, the gayest one in the collection.
MariNaomi’s kid’s-book illustration style rocks a story about a relationship that might be going nowhere, but is fun while it lasts, and Sasha Steinberg sends Miss Sasha Velour to “Wal*Mark” to buy stockings, which is simply a divine romp. L. Nichols’ examination of the complexity of identity might win for cutest protagonist, while Jon Macy turns in an examination of his artistic heroes.
“It was a tremendously arduous task and I had a serious anxiety attack about it last February 2013 when I had almost nothing in and only about 4-5 months to get all that work in, write an introduction, sequence it, etc.,” Kirby told me. “But somehow through determination, blind luck and a bit of serendipity, it all came together.”
“I'm very proud of what we all accomplished with it,” he concluded.
As well he should be. And this is the point where I must apologize to any of the contributors not mentioned by name--don’t feel slighted, accept that you are in such good company that I ran out of room!
Robert Kirby’s Qu33r is available in print and digital editions from Northwest Press, at finer retailers everywhere.
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