June Vigants writes for Bleeding Cool:
The Prism comics panel drew in a huge crowd, and dozens of people filed into the large panel room to watch the presentation and listen to creators Joan Hilty (Bitter Girl), Jennifer Camper (Women's Review of Books, Bitch Magazine) Kristin Enos (Web of Lies), Ariel Schrag (Likewise, Adam) and Elizabeth Fernandez (The Code Crimson) in an inspired discussion moderated by Tara Avery. The panel was a refreshing change of pace, as many of the ones I had been attending over the past few days were staffed entirely by cisgender, heterosexual white men, and while I gathered great advice, this panel is where I felt most at home, and the information was relevant and articulately delivered.
Fernandez opened the conversation up by discussing how her bisexuality has helped shape her writing. She discussed the way understanding fluidity in sexuality can help us understand the fluidity in other areas of life. She touched upon the concept of love and how that gray area works with romantic friendships where the tension goes unrealized, non-sexualized love, and the lack of pushing the boundaries of platonic relationships in comics.
Hilty discussed her influences, focusing mainly on the newspaper strips she read growing up, and how she admired the way concise storytelling could be accomplished and good gags could be delivered in such short spaces. This is something she's taken into her own work.
Enos talked about the different ways that queerness and her experience not just as a member of the LGBT community has shaped her writing, but also the ways in which fantasy allows you to write about identity in different ways as well.
Schrag talked about their shifting identification with various facets of the LGBT+ community and queerness, and how that has translated into their autobiographical comic work, where a significant amount of the focus is 2000's lesbian and trans community.
Camper discussed her use of liminality as a source of narrative power, and how having a sense of 'othered'ness has allowed her to tell different stories. Her queer Muslim friends and experiences as an Arab-American gives her a unique perspective and experience that has never been picked up by the white, cis mainstream LGBT+ community, and her work creates space for Arab identities in particular in queer comics discourse – although she started talking about her experiences because she didn't see them represented, and not necessarily as a political statement by itself.
When asked about how queer comics have changed since they began working, the panelists gave thought provoking responses. There was a brief discussion of the way that women are becoming the face of comics that are taken seriously, with queer women at the forefront of that. Camper remarked that comics have been shifting away from being dominated predominantly by "sweaty white boys". Hilty discussed the amazing ways that technology has changed the face of collaboration between artists and writers. Fernandez discussed the intimate connection that is suddenly possible between the producers of creative work and their backers/benefactors/customers, especially though Kickstarter.
Overall, the panel ended on a note of hope and inspiration for the future of the queer comics community. Camper plugged an LGBTQ Cartoonists and Comics conference that will be held May 7th a CUNY(@Queercomics twitter will cover this in more depth), and the artists discussed their upcoming creative works and collaborations. I couldn't help but think about the question Avery posed towards the end of the panel about change in the community, especially in how well queer comics are being received now – there weren't panels like this twenty years ago, when our identities alone – let alone the way those identities interact with our work – were not considered legitimate. It is a good time to be queering comics!
June Vigants is a comic artist and writer. Follow them on twitter @jvigants.