Northwest Press has recently published two excellent anthologies that feature a stellar roster of cartoonists exploring issues of sexuality. Both are highly recommended as showcases of comics discourse. It can be a challenge to find the right balance when putting together any anthology, especially one collecting works in comics. You want to find a way for each work to compliment the other in a medium that quickly signals the reader. In both these cases here, you have two books worthy of exploration, one a recent entry and the other from last year.
It’s up to the cartoonist to find a way to not follow so closely to the anthology theme as to not really have anything new to say. Singing to the choir will only get you so far. And when it comes to the issue of sex, it can easily unravel in so many directions, just ooze off the page, maybe in a blast of self-indulgence or in a misfire of political bombast. It’s all about timing, right? It’s all about foreplay and teasing out your story like a true burlesque artist.
QU33R: NEW COMICS FROM 33 CREATORS, Edited by Rob Kirby
QU33R is a significant comics anthology collecting the work of 33 cartoonists exploring queer themes that was recently published by Northwest Press. What you find here is a wide variety of styles and insights.
Consider Steve Macisaac’s “Vacant Lots,” which is a tour de force of storytelling. Everything about it is pitch perfect: the pointed dialogue, the spare and direct line work, the colors, the characters. As you flip through the book, this story hits you with one violent page facing one docile page. It’s these two beefy guys and you’re instantly curious to find out how they could be in a bloody death match on one page and, just one page over, be engaged in demure conversation in the produce aisle. Was it something he said about the bell peppers that set the other guy off?
This anthology kicks off with Eric Orner’s “Porno” and that sets the tone for the kind of intelligently blunt and bluntly intelligent comics you will find here. It follows Orner’s life, told in eight parts, and focuses on a pivitol moment in an adult movie theater. Throughout the story, Orner and his father maintain an ongoing conversation that sees them through the years. It’s an excellent examination of a life.
Another highlight is the piece by Nicole Georges, a poetic high priestess of comics. Avoiding the obvious, “Grief” is about a blind date. It’s been set up by a friend that Nicole trusts not to be a sadist. She feels sort of safe about it even when her blind date turns out to be a giant panda. The artwork is ironic and playful in the service of such lines as, “We parted ways. I turned awkward, shy, and an odd combination of shy and polite.”
You can find QU33R at our friends at Northwest Press right here.
ANYTHING THAT LOVES: COMICS BEYOND “GAY” AND “STRAIGHT,” Edited by Charles “Zan” Christensen
ANYTHING THAT LOVES is a wonderful exploration of sexuality through comics from 2013 by Northwest Press. If you don’t see yourself fitting tidily into a box labeled “gay” or “straight” or if you just want to explore issues of sex, this is a good book to read. This is not erotica, but honest and intelligent discussion through comics.
Sexuality is an essential issue. It’s essential like breathing. And it’s complex. The issue itself is personal, social, and political, often all at once. As this book makes clear, this isn’t about being gay or straight. It’s about being human. The book’s editor does a great job of lining up a variety of voices. Some cartoonists choose to stay very close to the message while others use it more as a jumping off point.
Jason Thompson’s untitled contribution has an uninhibited drawing style focusing on one very inhibited main character, presumably Thompson as a young lad. There is no simple rooting for diversity here. This is an immersive comic that takes you in with its quirky narrative and engaging composition. It also can boast a masterful color scheme that mixes playful earth tones with striking contrasts. Colorists are Jumana Al Hashal and Vanessa Gilungs.
It’s circa 1998, and Jason works as an editor at a small press comics publisher. He’s a young man still finding out what he wants or, more to the point, struggling to embrace his desires. He is quite confused and frustrated to say the least. It’s hard for him to figure out what turns him on. It seems like nothing in particular.
He is a 23-year-old virgin not sure about his sexuality and highly susceptible to the advice from the Adam Karola and Dr. Drew sex advice radio show. However, he already knows he loves to cross-dress so he’s at least figured that out. This is very deadpan and well-timed humor. Who wouldn’t want to follow Jason on his journey of self-discovery?
You can find ANYTHING THAT LOVES at our friends at Northwest Press right here.