At this year’s WonderCon, a panel was held to discuss queer youth and queer comics. The panel featured four prevalent artists whose comics feature queer characters: Brian Andersen (author of So Super Duper), Rachel Dukes (author of Primary: A Love Story), David Kelley (author of Rainy Day Recess) and Christine Smith (author of Eve’s Apple, a web comic featuring transgender characters and themes).
The discussion opened with Andersen, who said comics aren’t just for kids anymore—in fact, most comics these days are aimed at mature audiences.
“I wanted to create a different voice that I had not seen in comics. Comics are for everyone—that’s what is magical about our medium,” he said.
His series, which features a gay superhero, is geared toward a teenage audience. He then spoke about a problem with comics.
“Many [comic] books visually appeal to kids, but they are not really marketed towards them,” he said.
This can lead to many parents becoming disgruntled at the content in the comics, and this is an even greater problem when the comic contains queer themes and characters.
Dukes spoke fondly about the impact her series has had on her readers, saying that she often gets e-mails from closeted readers, many as young as middle-school age. Smith remarked that she often receives e-mails from mothers “telling [her] that it helps their trans[gender] children…feel strong and have courage.”
But how exactly do these artists market their comics to a young audience when many parents are quick to steer their children away from queer comics?
The internet is the best medium, as printed comics with queer themes often scare parents away. Andersen lamented the fact that parents often see words such as “gay” or “queer” and instantly assume that his works are all about sex.
“People are scared of queer sexuality,” he said. “They always go towards the sexual side of queerness.”
At this suggestion, Smith chimed in: “A G-rated kiss between two gay characters is scandalous, but many ‘straight’ comics often feature scantily clad women with huge breasts.”
Dukes shared a similar view.
“People are always scared that our comics are going to be pornographic and overly sexual,” she said.
This raises an interesting point regarding queer sexuality. People tend to zero in on the mechanics of queer sex simply because it is seen as “different” or “abnormal.”
Smith didn’t think that this same fear of queer sexuality was prevalent in comics that feature transgender themes and characters.
“My work is more about gender, not sexuality, a step away from the ‘naughty zone,’” she said.
She went on to mention that she does not give any details regarding the main character’s genitals, as this is not relevant to the story.
“People don’t necessarily think about sex with transgender characters, they don’t usually picture the act. My [comic] focuses on gender identity,” she said.
The closing comments of the panel regarded the fact that DC and Marvel are now beginning to introduce gay characters. They also praised Kevin Keller, the newly revealed gay character in the Archie comic series.
“We support mainstream queer comics,” said Andersen proudly. “This is a step in the right direction.”
Brian Anderson, “So Super Duper” http://www.sosuperduper.com/
Rachel Dukes, “Primary: A Love Story” http://www.webcomicsnation.com/racheldukes/primary/series.php
David Kelley, “Rainy Day Recess” http://www.rainydayrecess.com/
Christine Smith, “Eve’s Apple” http://evesapple.comicgenesis.com/d/20081201.html