‘Qu33r’ edited by Robert Kirby
It’s a new year, and Qu33r, Rob Kirby’s grand, glorious anthology of thirty-three queer comics, feels as fresh and bright as these early days of January. Since 2010, Kirby has been editing Three, a high quality, LGBT comics anthology of three cartoonist’s works, with the expressed purpose of giving the creators space for their work to shine. The high quality of work, editing and presentation of these comics recognized Three with nominations for two Ignatz awards and a 2011 Prism Comics Queer Press Grant. Qu33r (Northwest Press), a beautiful hardcover volume, feels like an exponential expansion of all these good qualities, times three.
In his introduction to Qu33r, Justin Hall (cartoonist and editor of No Straight Lines) says, “This book is a massive, full-color collection produced by a queer comics publisher, and will be sold in bookstores, comic book stores, conventions and on the web. Comics have grown up quite a bit, and queer cartoonists are making confident, sophisticated works that are finding readers across the entire landscape of publishing. We’ve moved out of the radical karate cooperatives, and kicked and chopped our way onto the streets.”
And that is what feels most new about this book. It’s not that LGBT cartoonists haven’t been there, or haven’t been doing quality work; it’s the lack of publications, the lack of distribution, and the lack of publishing staff with an LGBT sensibility that have kept LGBT comics ghettoized. To finally have a high quality book that’s edited by queers, designed to queer standards (both politically and aesthetically) and distributed far and wide is a milestone.
Plus the world is changing. I was reading Qu33r in the laundromat when a comic geek boy asked me, “What’s that?” I showed him, and after chatting about comics titles we’d recently read, he said, “I’ll be sure to check that one out.” I don’t know his sexual orientation, but from the other titles he mentioned, queer comics weren’t on his radar. I don’t think this would have happened ten years ago. Of course, queer comics need first and foremost to be for a queer audience. But this changing reach and audience for queer comics is exciting and new.
I’ll get to the comics in a minute. But first, a shout-out for the book’s design. This is a book that feels good to hold. The coloring of comics throughout is cohesive (rare in anthologies). The rainbow-tabbed page tops help readers identify creators, and Michael Fahy’s hip cover and end paper design of multiple identities, wraps the whole thing up with a hug.
The book opens with Eric Orner’s “Porno,” an about–perfect comic, recounting a non-AIDS related tale of how silence = death. Eric Kostiuk Williams’ deft comic on the importance of Ru Paul’s Drag Race imparts both cultural and sociological insight, while Steve MacIsaac’s comic wrestles with all the inner torture created by a childhood bully, when he re-encounters as an adult. Rob Kirby writes literally about wrestling, illustrating a tale contributed by SpiderBaby, a queer wrestler from Minnesota.
Justin Hall, Nicole J. Georges, Carrie McNinch, Jon Macy, MariNaomi, L. Nichols and Sina Sparrow all contribute insightful personal tales. Carlo Quispe tours an all-night party scene, while Ed Luce drags a character to a heavy metal show (which turns out not as bad as the character thought it would be). Jennifer Camper’s noir tale has just the right dark twist at the end, and she and Michael Fahy collaborate on a hilarious send up and take down of a young artist’s trip to the big city. I loved José-Luis Olivares drawing of Beavis and Butthead tonguing it up, Craig Bostick’s No-Exit rock trio was spot on, and Annie Murphy’s tribute to her female relatives shows a creative, new way to view family history. Amanda Verwey’s collaged cartoon about meeting Paula Poundstone was great, and Sasha Steinberg’s piece about a drag queen doing Walmart stole my heart (and serves Walmart right!). Rick Worley contributes poetry, Andy Hartzell tackles privacy, technology and international politics, Ivan Velez Jr. sends in the superheroes, there’s amazing art by Marian Runk , Tyler Cohen, and David Kelly–is there anywhere this compilation doesn’t go? Oh yes, Howard Cruse parodies Bumstead, Edie Fake plays with double entendres, there’s identity exploration with Christine Smith, Dianne DiMassa and Dylan Edwards and Kris Dresden shares the full recap of a relationship over a cup of tea.
All in all a superb collection, one I want on every graphic novel e-reader, and, as a librarian, in every library, personal and public, including my own.
Edited by Robert Kirby
Hardcover, 9781590214916, 264 pp.