By Mike Ciriaco
As technology continues to evolve through the 21st century, the concept of love remains as visceral and illogical as ever. It is this juxtaposition of tech and heart that forms the crux of Love Machines, a new ongoing anthology from writer Josh Trujillo debuting this week on Comixology. With dry humor and talented artists, Trujillo explores how romance and progress have collided throughout human history.
"Everyone knows how dependent we are on the objects that make our lives easier," Trujillo says, "What people don't realize is that we've been struggling with these same kinds of issues for hundreds of years. We apply so much meaning and value to objects, but we're getting to a point where for the first time the objects might actually be able to love you back."
The first story, "Workers of All Lands, Unite!" focuses on young Ritsuko Yashida, who is working at a Japanese theme park to pay for school. It is here she finds renewed purpose in the teachings of a robotic Karl Marx, something which puts her directly at odds with her employer at the SunSunFunLand Theme Park.
Illustrating the piece is veteran manga artist Ryo Kawakami. Known mostly in the U.S. for his illustrations at TokyoPop, Love Machines is Kawakami's first work to read stateside in years. Still living in Tokyo, he and Trujillo were in regular contact through e-mail to make the project come together.
"I knew I wanted to draw inspiration from some of the incredible shonen manga I grew up with," said Trujillo, "It was important not to do a parody and to have an authentic Japanese artist, which is definitely what I got in Ryo [Kawakami]."
Trujillo is no stranger to comics. A life-long fan of superheroes and Sunday morning comic strips he took on publishing internships during and after college. Ultimately this led him to Archaia Entertainment where he wrote a back-up story with artist Ben Bishop for 2013's The Reason for Dragons.
Also last year Trujillo was featured in Northwest Press' Anything That Loves: Comics Beyond Gay & Straight in a semi-autobiographical comic with artist Dave Valeza. This led to appearances and panel appearances at several West Coast conventions, including Stan Lee's Comikaze and San Diego Comic Con. A print edition of Love Machines containing "Workers" and a back-up story, "Appliances in Love" with Michael Schisler (Deadeye Dick), debuted earlier this year at WonderCon 2014.
"WonderCon was incredible for me since I had never debuted my own comic before," Trujillo says, "It really felt like everything had come full-circle, since my first job was working for 'The Mouse' across the street."
While the first issue of Love Machines takes several swipes at a certain company, Trujillo's primary focus in Anaheim was to tackle the themes of love, both with his comic, and on the panel of "We're Here, We're Queer, Now What? New Direction in LGBTQ Comics." Moderated by Prism Comics board member Roger Klorese, the panel featured Trujillo and fellow out writers Tommy Kovac (Skelebunnies), Ed Luce (Wuvable Oaf), and Shayne Why (Overshare Party) as they discussed new directions and neglected subjects in LGBTQ-themed comics, how technology is changing the way people relate to each other, and new methods of publishing comics. These topics are familiar terrain for Trujillo: "In promoting Anything That Loves I found myself speaking about our evolving views on love and romance. That's a big part of what I wanted Love Machines to deal with".
While his finger is definitely on the pulse of queer comics, Trujillo's work aims to transcend the barriers of the Kinsey Scale.
"I hope that Love Machines speaks to romantics and tech geeks from all backgrounds. I'm reflecting the world as I see it in these stories and that world is much bigger and weirder than just the LGBTQ community. It's not just humanoid-looking robots. People can form powerful attachments, and even attractions, to all kinds of machines," Trujillo reflects.
Upcoming Love Machines stories feature smartphones, iron lungs, mannequins, bicycles, and more. The next issue, due in time for San Diego Comic-Con, has a Western tale with artist Ben Bishop and a "provocative" pinball story with Seattle illustrator Jonathan Bell Wolfe.
Trujillo's pleased to go digital this week: "Comixology has become such an important platform for self-publishers such as myself. Eventually I hope the book finds more 'mainstream' distribution, but the internet has empowered an entire generation of creators and I'm thrilled to be a part of that."
Independently published by Josh Trujillo through his Lost His Keys Man Comics imprint (LostHisKeysMan ComicsFix), pages from new Love Machines stories are posted every Wednesday on Sequentialink.com. The first issue of Love Machines is available NOW online through Comixology and Comicsfix.com. Print issues and limited edition Karl Marx buttons can be purchased at his Etsy shop. You can find Josh on Twitter @LostHisKeysMan.