January 28, 2011

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The Very Real Story of a Real...Gay Kid Issue 1

Written by Katie Omberg
Illustrated by Katie Omberg
Self-Published

I first picked up some of Katie Omberg's comics at SPX 2009, and I was happy to hear she's working on a new series that started around the time of SPX 2010. This mini-comic is the beginning of a chronicle of Katie's working her way through her sexual identity. Here she's somewhere in the fourth or fifth grade, trying to go along with the other girls and having no idea she's gay. It's a time for reading magazines for older girls, giggling along to all the silly surveys, and snatching glances at the popular features in the grocery checkout lines.

(For those who are younger, there used to be a lot more magazines available for teenagers at the grocery store than there are today, so it really was a big thing to read a few pages here and there while waiting in line.)

Everything changes for Katie the day one of the stories she stumbles upon is about being a lesbian, and that's where we are by the end of this comic, with several more issues promised in the future.

This is a different kind of personal comic for Omberg, who normally works with stories of her adult life. In a time period where there is a strong focus on what happens to gay kids during their school years, a comic like this is important. Like the "It Gets Better" project, young men and women need to see that they aren't the only ones who go through the struggle of identity. I'm really glad to see Omberg, a cartoonist who happens to be gay, using her art to get a positive message out there, even if that message admits that hey, things are scary when you first start thinking you might be gay. She is in a place where she can talk openly about her sexuality (not everyone is), and does so. We need more of this.

Omberg's art is still as basic as it was in her earlier comics, but she lays out the story very well, and has a clever homage to the teen magazines with the cover. (I wasn't able to find an image, sorry.) My only slight quibble with this one is that it's a little on the short side, and I'm thinking that maybe this series will read best when all of the parts are collected together. It's hard to know where to start and stop things when it's a larger work broken down, and I think maybe Omberg stopped a bit too soon here. It will be interesting to see how the length changes in the different parts.

Regardless, we need comics like this one. I'm really glad that Ms. Omberg is taking the time to chronicle her struggle, and I'd definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys reading personal stories or who might relate to finding their personal identity. You can read more of what Katie Omberg is up to at her blog.