It's not often that you see reality TV inspiring good comics.
RuPaul's Drag Race is gearing up for a new series featuring contestants from past seasons with RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars. To prepare for the occasion they've enlisted comic artist Chad Sell to do a series of comics for a caption contest on Facebook. The comics debuted last Friday and a new one will appear each week in the run up to the premiere of the new show on October 22.
So how did the project come to be? Did you pitch this to Logo or did they come to you?
The fine folks at Logo had seen my illustrations of RuPaul's Drag Race, and so they enlisted me to do some storyboarding and concept design for them. And then they contacted me about the All Stars comic, which was so, so awesome.
Is this going to be a regular feature?
We'll be posting a new comic every week for a total run of 8 weeks! And yes, each strip will incorporate the "caption contest" where readers can submit their suggestions for what was "bleeped out" of the comic.
I've been given a lot of freedom with the story, (too much, even?) but everything is approved before being posted. Rest assured, however, that things will get very, very ridiculous, as any comic about drag queens should.
You're no stranger when it comes to drawing the contestants from the show, could you talk about your mini-comics 30 Queens and 40 Queens?
I've been watching Rupaul's Drag Race obsessively since its first season, but I only started doing weekly fan art during the third season. That work garnered a great reaction online and even led to some attention from the queens themselves! I continued with the fourth season, drawing my favorite queens from each episode. It's been totally fabulous to become so engaged with fans and the Drag Race contestants–on one hand, it's kind of ridiculous to have gotten so committed to a crazy reality show, but on the other, I find the queens truly inspiring, admirable, and utterly delicious. What's better than drawing drag queens?
Oh! And to get to your question: I sell prints of most of my Drag Race work online, and I've collected the best pieces from the 3rd and 4th seasons in the books 30 QUEENS and 40 QUEENS, respectively. You can find my Drag Race prints here, go to my online store for 30 & 40 Queens.
Any interesting responses from the queens on the show?
Well, my greatest and first muse from Drag Race is (and always will be) the inimitable Raja—she was incredibly supportive of my work, and I was able to hang out backstage with her all night when she came to Michigan. (incriminating photos here)
A lot of the other queens have been really supportive, too, and it's always a delight to hear from them! Plus, I've done some drawings of the Pit Crew, and it's pretty great to hear from both of those guys, too!
You have a very interesting style, what is your process like?
It's strange—I only developed this particular style through the process of working on these Drag Race illustrations. Given the colorful subject matter, I wanted to work with simple fields of color, capturing the bold character of each queen.
I love sketching messy gestural drawings of the queens, then refining each image down to its essence—a lot of my favorite pieces are the simplest. The actual process I use is rather convoluted, and I'm not sure that anyone else is crazy enough to utilize it. But for the curious, I did post a tutorial on the technique here.
Could you talk about some of your other projects?
Well, I mostly consider myself a comics guy, but I've been getting more and more involved with a variety of illustration projects, too. In addition to the on-going All Stars comic, I've been hard at work providing the graphics for a fabulous, upcoming iOS game!
In terms of my comic work, I do a sexy and absurd webcomic called MANTA-MAN, about a guy who turns into a manta ray. I've also self-published a wordless graphic novella SHADOW PLAY, which is available online, on the Kindle, and in print!
I'm also working on a variety of other graphic novel projects, but none of them are far enough along to talk about.
What comics are you reading now?
Honestly, I read a lot of my friends' webcomics, like Jim Anderson's ELLIE ON PLANET X, Tony Breed's FINN AND CHARLIE ARE HITCHED, Denver Brubaker's TALES OF A CHECKERED MAN, and Jay Fuller's BOY IN PINK EARMUFFS.
In print, my reading has been just as eclectic–I'm slowly working my way through EMPOWERED and discovering all sorts of things about female anatomy. I loved Justin Hall's GLAMAZONIA, and I just got Tom Gauld's GOLIATH, which I can't wait to dig into!
Are you planning on visiting any upcoming conventions or festivals?
You bet! I've been showing at a lot of cons this year. Coming up, I'll be at SPX and MICE in September, and then Detroit Fanfare in October!
Chad Sell's work can be found at www.chadsellcomics.com. The Facebook caption competitions can be found here.