Tagged: Fyodor Pavlov

Joe Corallo: Share Our Pride

I had other ideas of things I’d write about this week. I’ve been reading a lot of Jon Sable lately, so I was thinking of writing about that. That might be next week’s column. It was also Pride this past weekend, so I decided on a light piece on Pride with some comic and graphic novel recommendations. I’m still gonna recommend some stuff to you, but this piece isn’t going to be as light as I originally attended.

This year was the first year that the New York City Pride Parade here would be televised nationally since the first march nearly forty-eight years ago, a direct reaction to the Stonewall Riots. That is an incredibly big deal.

I attended as a spectator down Christopher Street across the street from the Stonewall Inn. The streets were packed and everyone seemed to be in the right mindset. One of the first groups to walk was the Pulse Nightclub remembrance from G.A.G., Gays Against Guns. They all dressed in white representing one of the forty-nine who were killed by that senseless shooting. This was very powerful both last year and this weekend and I’m sure will be a fixture of Pride for many years to come if not ‘til the very end.

As the parade continued I was able to work my way to a better view. Many floats went by packed with people from all sorts of groups. From pro-LGBT religious groups to Target and Citibank. I did quite enjoy that when the Citibank float was passing by my view that Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” was blasting from said float. The humor was not lost on me. And yes, Citibank, It is too late to say sorry for those Thank You Points I got screwed out of when you changed your policy.

Something happened during the parade that I should have expected, but didn’t.

There was a protest. And it happened just about right in front of me with a few people in the way to somewhat obscure it. At first we all had no idea what the protest was for. No one around me knew if this was an anti-LGBT protest, which was what many of us thought at first, or if it was a far-left protest… which is what it ended up being.

There were twelve protesters. They had an anti-police brutality/anti-corporation banner. Something about no justice, no pride. They intentionally stopped the parade in front of Stonewall and in front of the NYPD band.

The crowd was all over the place. Someone close by was chanting black lives matter, which is important but was confusing while we were still figuring out what the protesters were there for, which was not Black Lives Matter. Most of the protesters seemed to white men or at least white passing. Some of the crowd started chanting for the police to remove the protesters after ten or so minutes. Eventually the police did so to some cheers and some confusion. It was a peaceful process.

Despite this, it still left me feeling odd and conflicted. On the one hand a lot of people were standing around waiting and not quite understanding what was happening, many of the protesters appeared to be on the more privileged end of queer spectrum, and the parade itself is already an act of defiance with a lot of messages regarding resistance and proper representation of the entire queer spectrum. On the other hand, protest is a fundamental right. Telling anyone where and when protest is appropriate is antithetical to the entire process. It is a slippery slope and far too important a right to risk restriction, whether you agree with the protest or not. It was also handled so peacefully that having any criticism of it just seems a bit out of place.

Despite the fact that this was a nationally televised event, I was still nervous at what the police may do and wonder what could have been if it wasn’t nationally televised. And it was all the more troubling that this was right by Stonewall.

I don’t know how I feel about everything that happened there other than conflicted. I don’t have the answers, but it’s the kind of incident we should be discussing together.

I stayed and watched the parade for another a couple of hours before heading out. Afterwards, I swung past Carmine Street Comics, which had some queer comics creators promoting their work. It was a pretty queer day all around.

This year was an important year for Pride, just as every year before it and every year after that it happens. Some places across the world didn’t have as successful a Pride as we had this year and it’s important to know and remember that.

LGBT acknowledgement and respect doesn’t end here though; it’s year round even if Facebook doesn’t keep the Pride react. You can help support queer comics with queer creators by picking up comics like Iceman, America, and Detective Comics. You can pick up new graphic novels like Nothing Lasts Forever and Bingo Love. You can pick up comics and graphic novels from queer women of color like Mariko Tamaki, Gabby Rivera, Tee Franklin, and Vita Ayala or trans creators like Mags Visaggio, Fyodor Pavlov, Rachel Pollack and Lilah Sturges.

There are so many more creators like them out there too. Queer comics is a whole world in among itself and they produce some of the most thought provoking and forward-thinking comics you will ever read.

I hope you had a chance to celebrate Pride this month, and I hope you keep celebrating by reading the works of those creators and a whole lot more.

 

Joe Corallo: Caitlin R. Kiernan and the Rising Stars

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img_0085Last week I interviewed Rachel Pollack in this space. In my introduction I mentioned that only two trans women have written for DC before. That’s somewhat true, and somewhat not true. It would be true to say that only one trans woman had written for DC, and it would also be true to say that number is three. Rachel Pollack is the only one who has written for DC proper. The late Maddie Blaustein wrote for Milestone Comics, for which DC had (and has) the publishing and distribution rights. Rachel had created a trans character for comics. Today, I’d like to talk about Caitlin R. Kiernan.

In 1996, prior to becoming an accomplished and award-winning author, Caitlin R. Kiernan was an award-nominated author of short stories shopping around a novel. She was fronting a band called Death’s Little Sister, in reference to the character Delirium from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. In that year of 1996 she would be approached by the very same Neil Gaiman to write for The Dreaming, a Sandman spinoff, for DC’s Vertigo imprint. Caitlin R. Kiernan would go on to say yes, becoming the second and last trans woman to write for the Vertigo imprint.

For those of you keeping track at home, that means Neil Gaiman has played a crucial role in hiring 100% of the trans writing talent that has freelanced at Vertigo. If we add Maddie Blaustein to the mix, that’s still a sizeable 66.6%. Either way, not too shabby.

caitlin_r-_kiernan_by_kyle_cassidy2I don’t mean any of that to sound like a knock against Neil either. Quite the opposite. It’s great knowing that trans and queer representation was important to Neil at a time where the majority of Americans felt that it wasn’t even okay that we exist at all. It makes me more sympathetic towards his handling of the character of Wanda in Sandman as well considering the time that story had come out. You can see some of what Neil has to say on Wanda towards the end of this fairly recent article here.

Now back to Caitlin R. Kiernan, she would go on to write thirty-five issues, over half of The Dreaming. Working with people at Vertigo including Neil himself, she crafted stories in the dreaming with many characters we already know, like the Corinthian, as well as her own creations like Echo.

On earth Echo had been a male transvestite, but upon entering the dreaming she became a woman. Unlike Rachel Pollack’s Coagula and Maddie Blaustein’s Marisa Rahm, Echo isn’t trans in the same way. It’s through a sort of magic that Echo goes from being a male transvestite to becoming a woman in The Dreaming. That’s not to diminish the importance of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s contributions to comics or to imply that it makes Echo’s stories inherently less important than Coagula’s or Marisa Rahm’s, but Echo’s story and her journey as a character is certainly different, and it’s a story that does fit well into The Dreaming.

img_0084After The Dreaming ended with issue #60, Caitlin R. Kiernan would leave comics for the next decade before returning to the medium at Dark Horse, most notably with Alabaster: Wolves. Unlike Kiernan’s peers at DC Comics, she’s had six of her issues of The Dreaming collected in The Dreaming: Through The Gates of Horn & Ivory. This of course is just a fraction of her work on the title, and three of the issues in the collection are written by other writers. Any readers getting a chance to meet Echo in this collection will be disappointed to find that the rest of her journey remains uncollected.

While yes, many other comics at DC have not been collected (I’m still waiting for volume three of John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s The Spectre) the fact that the only three trans women that have written at one DC imprint or another have had nearly zero success at getting their comics collected and in print beyond their initial release is troubling.

If DC Comics is going to talk about the importance of diversity, push characters like Supergirl, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Midnighter, and the new Superman, then I see no reason why they wouldn’t want to celebrate how they were ahead of the curve decades ago. They’ve solely been working up to this by reprinting Tony Isabella’s Black Lightning, but reprinting the works of Rachel Pollack, Maddie Blaustein, and Caitlin R. Kiernan is an important part of that. Reprinting Milestone Comics instead of sitting on them is important.

img_008320That’s not to say this is just a DC Comics problem. Trans representation at other comics publishers is lacking as well. We’ve seen Sophie Campbell and Tamra Bonvillain getting more recognition for their contributions to comics, and that’s a step in the right direction. We’re seeing Mags Visaggio becoming a rising star with her comic Kim and Kim over at Black Mask Studios. However, we are not seeing enough trans and queer representation overall.

Hopefully we’ll see more trans writers telling their stories in comics. Not only people like Caitlin R. Kiernan or Rachel Pollack, but people like Sophie Campbell who have gotten greater name recognition as of late, rising stars like Mags Visaggio, Lawrence Gullo and Fyodor Pavlov, and the countless others out there around the world. Some of whom I’ve heard of and some I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing their work yet.

And maybe Marvel could hire one of them to write a story… as they’ve yet to do.

Joe Corallo: Flame Con Burns Bright

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flamecon 2This past weekend I tabled Flame Con 2 at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott Hotel with my friend and collaborator Robby Barrett. We premiered our new comic, Saturn’s Call. It’s about a group of witchy queer kids who are trying to come together to protect each other, so obviously Flame Con was the perfect venue to debut this comic.

For those of you unfamiliar, Flame Con is New York City’s first LGBTQ comic convention organized by Geeks OUT. The show premiered back in spring of 2015 at the Grand Prospect Hall for one day only after a successful Kickstarter campaign helped spread the word and launch the show. Flame Con was such an immediate hit that not only was quickly confirmed that they would be back in 2016, but that the show would go from one day to two and move to a larger venue. That’s a very impressive feat.

Although an integral part of Flame Con’s success comes from Geeks OUT’s own planning and organizing, there is no doubt in mind that the LGBTQ community is an underserved community and often neglected part of mainstream comics and pop culture.

For people outside the queer community, it may seem like the queer community is being properly catered to in comics. I bet some people may even feel like the community is over represented with the press hits some queer-led comics get. I’m here to tell you that is absolutely not the case. We may be getting the press coverage when it comes to some mainstream comics and a few indies, but a disproportionate amount of the majority of comics are still very straight, very cis, very male, and very white.

Flamecon 3Flame Con is very much a different experience. Gone are the very straight, very cis, and very male aspects of many comic conventions. And while the show and its guests are certainly pretty white, there were also efforts put in place to be inclusive in every way and there was racial and ethnic diversity both in the people exhibiting and the attendees on the floor. They even had an AFK lounge at the hotel as a quiet space for people to unwind and collect themselves if they felt overwhelmed.

Robby and I spent the vast majority of the convention behind our table, outside of a few quick bathroom breaks. Those bathrooms were designated as all-gender, something everyone seemed very pleased with. I overheard one person who seemed a little confused at first when the convention was just opening, but after that I didn’t hear any confusion at all. It’s pretty simple. It’s arguably simpler than the standard gender designated bathrooms we see in public that are becoming less standard. And, oddly enough, we were not swallowed up into the bowels of hell, much to some people’s disappointment I’m sure.

Flame Con also provided preferred pronoun stickers for people to wear, and many people took advantage of that. Male, female, gender neutral, and “ask me” stickers adorned many fans and exhibitors. This is the only comic convention I’ve seen do something like this despite people of all gender identities attending all different comic conventions all over.

From my view at my table I saw all sorts of people in all sorts of cosplay. Cosplaying was encouraged throughout the con and people got really creative. People of all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, abilities, and gender identities dressed up as whoever they wanted and everyone I saw seemed supportive of everyone’s decisions and openly complimented each other appropriately.

I saw a lot of Steven Universe fans, Pokémon fans, as well as fans of older and more obscure comics. One guy was in an Ultra Boy t-shirt on Saturday and a Timber Wolf t-shirt on Sunday.

Everyone myself and Robby interacted with were friendly and supportive. We even sold dozens of comics, and Robby sold a ton of prints. It was honestly the best experience either of us had tabling a convention. I had my friend Nate get me a signed comic, Emma got me coffee, and fellow ComicMix contributor Molly Jackson got me a Princess Leia sketch from the incredibly talented Sophie Campbell while I was stuck at my table. Thanks, friends!

Streaky the Super-CatMany other vendors I know had similar experiences. Mags Visaggio, writer of Kim and Kim for Black Mask Studios, told me that she not only had a great time but she exceeded her expected sales. Magdalena Fox, the owner of the booty shorts shop Booty and the Geek, gushed about how Flame Con was such a positive experience that she wishes there were more queer centric conventions to vend at. Fyodor Pavlov premiered a printed copy of his webcomic, Bash Back, that he’s collaborated on with Lawrence Gullo and Kelsey Hercs, and he offered new prints as well. This was his second year tabling Flame Con. To quote Fyodor, “Long live Flame Con.”

I cannot recommend Flame Con enough. It’s a wonderful, inclusive time with a welcoming group of staff and volunteers and a great mix of both mainstream and indie comic offerings. It was already announced that Flame Con 3 is definitely happening in the summer of 2017. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces in comics, a lot of people you didn’t know you love yet, and you’ll feel safe and included.

I even got to end the show by running into Steve Orlando and jokingly complaining about how Streaky and Comet were not featured in Supergirl #1. I can’t think of a better way to leave any comic convention than to complain about why elements of the Silver Age of comics aren’t in the comics the kids are reading these days.

Really, though. What about Streaky and Comet?

 

 

Joe Corallo: Bash Back Kickstart!

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Lately I’ve found myself backing more comic related Kickstarters. From a successful campaign by Drew Ford reprinting Joe Lansdale and Sam Glanzman’s Red Range to Michael Sarrao’s new graphic novel SID: Special Intergalactic Detective that was just successfully funded. The latest Kickstarter I’m backing is Fyodor Pavlov, Lawrence Gullo, and Kelsey Hercs Bash Back.

I’ve written about Fyodor Pavlov here before. Bash Back is a comic project he’s co-created that he, Lawrence, and Kelsey have been posting new pages of on Tumblr since March of 2015 with frequent updates, often weekly, through April of this year finishing up Issue 0. They are currently on hiatus working on the next issue, promoting their Kickstarter to print physical copies, and getting ready for Flame Con.

Back Back is a queer mafia story set in contemporary New York City. The story follows a young trans man, Bastion, who gets saved from being bashed by a young queer man, Angelo, that gives Bastion a card for the New Oxford Youth Shelter. From there, Bastion meets Stephen, the older man that maintains this sanctuary for queer youths. From there, we meet an ambitious cast of characters through the eyes of young Bastion, with minor narrative shifts to further develop the world and its threats.

This comic is easily one of the most authentic looks into the queer experience and the dark places that the mind can go. It’s a story about overpowering our oppressors using the same violence and hate used against us. It’s about taking our rightful place back from those who took our place from us with fear and disdain in their hearts. Ultimately, it’s about pride.

The only way a comic like this can reach this level of authenticity is by having a creative team behind it that reflects the characters in it. All three of the creative talents behind this comic are queer and cover both trans and cis representation. That combined with all their unique life experiences and deep, rich understanding of queer history really shines through. I’m hardly the only person to notice all this as well, as Bash Back has been praised by all sorts of queer comics professionals from rising star Steve Orlando to veteran gay cartoonist Howard Cruse.

Though the Kickstarter for Bash Back is going very well and has a couple of weeks left, it still needs more help crossing the finish line. If you want to see more queer comics succeed, you need to strongly consider backing this project. We’re seeing more and more queer comics succeeding on Kickstarter. The more these projects succeed and the more money they bring in will be noticed by publishers. If we prove that audiences for these projects exist, more publishers will take the risk and publish projects like Bash Back.

We are already seeing the effects of a changing mindset and a better understanding of queer audiences over the past few years, as DC Comics has increased Batwoman’s profile, created a series for Midnighter and will soon be debuting a series for Midnighter and Apollo, which I believe will be a first in terms of a superhero duo book with gay male leads. It’s important to note that DC Comics has queer talent like James Tynion IV and Steve Orlando working with these queer characters.

Marvel has been increasing queer presence as well with Iceman being out and Wiccan and Hulkling becoming more prominent in the Avengers. Even smaller publishers are taking risks with queer leads like Kevin Keller at Archie Comics and Kim and Kim at Black Mask Studios created by trans writer Mags Visaggio.

So please, if this is an issue you care about, back it and share it. If you know anyone who might care about this, share it with them. Let’s help Fyodor, Lawrence, and Kelsey succeed in a big way because if they succeed, we succeed.

Joe Corallo: Fyodor Pavlov, Artist Extraordinary

Fyodor Pavlov

Last Thursday, Fyodor Pavlov, a person I’m honored to call a friend, had the opening reception for his exhibition at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.Titled Carpe Noctem: Eros to Thanatos, the exhibition celebrates the interlocking themes of queer desire, sex, myth and death. The opening reception featured not only wine and cheese, but music and burlesque performances. It was an evening of celebrating queer art in many forms, and something that the comic book industry should be aware of.

Fyodor is a queer artist, a Russian immigrant, and a New Yorker. His art has been commissioned both privately and commercially. Additionally, he works on comics including Baritarian Boy co-created with his partner Lawrence Gullo and Bash Back, his current web comic co-created both his partner and with writer Kelsey Hercs.

Bash Back is a queer mafia story. Here’s the quick pitch as taken from their page, “Thousands of of years of bloodshed, torment and ridicule. Now it is time to take what is ours. Retribution.” Sounds pretty tense, doesn’t it? Bash Back is a uniquely queer creation delving into a queer power fantasy; a subgenre that is scarcely seen or heard of in just about every entertainment medium, particularly as well thought out and diverse as this story. Their work on Bash Back speaks much better than I ever could on it, so please check it out here.

Lawrence and Fyodor, in addition to both being accomplished artists, produce and direct Dr. Sketchy’s for New York, the flagship of the Dr. Sketchy’s empire.

I could continue going about Fyodor’s many impressive artistic accomplishments, but it might be easier if you just check out his website here. The point is, the LGBTQ community has incredibly talented people in it like Fyodor Pavlov, and the comic industry should be aware of him and others like him, because they need him.

Mainstream comics have become more or less stale. The same stories happening to the same characters in an endless loop that recycles itself faster and faster. I own or have read more #1 issues of comics from the big two currently than I ever thought I would have when I was in grade school. Part of solving this problem is diversity. Just having people with different life experiences and points of views to tap into alone can help make fresh and new stories for a general audience.

Even beyond the mainstream, many of the smaller publishers get stuck telling similar stories as well. Over at Image, the incredible success of Saga has opened the floodgates for science fiction driven stories – over there. Some of the other smaller publishers putting out more autobiographical books still put out a great deal of graphic memoirs from predominantly straight white men coming of age. Not that they aren’t great reads, like Jeffrey Brown’s Clumsy, but we are still lacking in terms of LGBTQ stories.

Yes, we do get some. The big two have a couple of books with LGBTQ leads, smaller publishers seem to have more representation, but not a great deal more. Certainly not when it comes to characters leading books and pushing plots forward, and certainly not to the extent of that Fyodor, Lawrence, and Kelsey have gone in Bash Back. Comic companies need to be keeping an eye out for people like them for their very livelihoods. To stay relevant in a rapidly changing age.

One company that might be trying this is Aftershock Comics. A new publisher that already has some grade A talent attached, they released a comic last week by Marguerite Bennett titled Insexts. It’s a Victorian era lesbian body horror tale. I can’t imagine a major publisher taking a risk on this, or thinking that there is even much of an audience for this. However, from seeing the kind of stories that people like Fyodor put out and make available online, and the positive reactions they receive, I can say that it is very likely that this is exactly the kind of story that can sell right now. Fellow ComicMix columnist Molly Jackson feels this could be the book that blows up for Aftershock and helps to make them a major player in the field.

The comic industry is changing. The audiences are changing. The demands are changing. If the industry is as smart as I hope it is, they’ll see incredibly talented artists like Fyodor and try to snatch them up and help them navigate this brave new world. Not because these artists need the comic industry, but because the industry has never needed them to tell their stories more.