Queer Quick Hits Featuring the Beyond Kickstarter, Blue Delliquanti, Derek Marks, and Gilbert Hernandez

In the spirit of our friends at Lightspeed (who just finished funding a series of genre fiction specials focused on queer prose writers and characters, including a story by Panel Patter-er Erica Satifka), it's a "Queers Destroy Panel Patter" quick hits column today, as the team looks at comics that feature either queer creators or queer characters. There's a large and vibrant queer community within comics, and these are just a small sample of what's out there. While we've never given them a specific tag at Panel Patter, many of us are fans of the work of everyone from Alison Bechtel to our own Rob Kirby. Several members of the Panel Patter staff identify as queer as well, including the site founder, Rob McMonigal.

Like Lightspeed, which publishes stories by queer authors on a regular basis, we feel that sometimes it's nice to recognize queer creators as a group, and so we present this column today, leading off with the highly successful Beyond Kickstarter, which is in its final days of funding...

Beyond Anthology
Edited by Sfe Monster and Taneka Stotts
Featuring: Blue Delliquanti, Dylan Edwards, Leia Weathington/Lin Visel, Rachel Dukes/Gabby Reed, and Sfe Monster/Brittney Sabo (plus work by Evan Dahm and Douglas Wolk/Kel McDonald)

Ever since it was first announced on Twitter, the Beyond anthology has been eagerly awaited, and it's almost here. An anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories with a queer theme, Beyond features a murder's row of Panel Patter favorites working either within their own comics worlds or doing one-off stories. Over the life of the Kickstarter, which funded easily and has broken its own stretch goals, primary editor Sfe Monster has been sharing sneak peeks on Twitter, and they look absolutely amazing. You can look at some of them here on the project's website as well. It's clear that Sfe and Stotts have taken the time to ensure that this is not just a theme anthology, but packed with high-quality stories that will hold up against any of the other anthologies that come out this year.

In addition to being cool comics from cool people, there's also some other things that make this a KS worth backing in an era when there are simply too many to support all of them:
  1. All of the work is already finished, and just needs put together into a book. No waiting for someone to complete the comic or get sidetracked by a better paying art gig. There may be delays, but they'd be production-related, not content-related.
  2. The stretch goals went to pay the creators. Thanks to going over $60,000, each creative team is getting another $250 above what they were already set to be paid.
  3. The backing levels are quite reasonable: $10 gets you the PDF, and $20 gets you a copy of the book. You can go higher, but $20 for a physical copy of a comics anthology is good value, especially for 18 stories and over 250 pages of content.
As of this posting, there are 3 days left to back the Beyond kickstarter. It's funded, but don't let that stop you. If you love science fiction and fantasy comics, this is an anthology that's not to be missed! (Review by Rob McMonigal)

Oh Human Star!
Written and Illustrated by Blue Delliquanti
Published online at http://ohumanstar.com/

O Human Star is a science-fiction family drama webcomic which has been running for just over three years. This comic was a winner of the Prism Queer Comics Press Grant in 2012 and also completed a successful kickstarter campaign last fall. The main character is Alastair Sterling, an inventor who helped lay the foundations of the AI revolution through his brilliant work in robotics. Unfortunately, Alastair died before he could see his work completed. Sixteen years after his death Alastair wakes up in a robotic body that exactly matches his former human form. He seeks out Brendan Pinsky (his former research partner and boyfriend) looking for answers, but Brendan is at a loss- indeed, Alastair's reappearance nearly gives him a heart attack. The question of who granted Alastair this second life is one of the central mysteries of the unfolding story, as Alastair begins to re-learn how to navigate in a world that his work created. Gorgeously illustrated in near-monochromatic colors, this comic has high concepts, deep insight and a sweet humor. It is truly a human story. (Review by Maia Kobabe)

Grace, Jerry, Jessica, & Me
Nights and Weekends
Written and Illustrated by Derek Marks

These two well-produced comic zines by Derek Marks are different in subject matter but tonally all of a piece. The first, Grace, Jerry, Jessica, & Me, takes as its starting point the rather startling fact that Grace Jones, Jerry Hall, and Jessica Lange were actual roommates in the early 70's. As Marks' bemused alter-ego says on page one: "No fucking way." He then economically and amusingly plants himself into the story: "The trio's potential fabulousness blew me so far away, I found I had time-traveled to Paris and landed as their fourth roommate." There, he finds the perpetually nude, always intimidating Grace, the party girl Jerry, and of course Jessica, who is such a good actress that she can channel actual demons. It's all good, sublimely silly fun, and over far too quickly, as far as I'm concerned.

Nights and Weekends is comprised of three short stories: “Lukewarm,” the tale of the fallout from a young woman's mediocre one-night stand; “Dec 8, 1980,” a reminiscence about the time a real-life tragedy saved a teenage friend from his mother's discovery of his stash of Playboy magazines; and “Darla Darcy Dee Darlene,” a riff on the indie film Martha Marcy May Marlene. Marks rounds it all off with some neat little one-pagers, among them “Dick Talk” and “Why I Deleted Grindr Again.” A Brooklyn-based illustrator, Marks has a clean, elegant style (dig that groovy Art Deco lettering!) and a sharp, gently absurdist wit. Many of his stories star slightly glamorous, slightly desperate straight women and gay men as their allies and confidants, with everyone chasing after fun and sex (which prove to be elusive). His mixture of slice-of-life with sardonic, occasionally surreal humor really clicks. As with Grace, Jerry, Jessica, & Me, I found myself wanting more pages and really looking forward to seeing what Marks will do next. (Review by Rob Kirby)

Julio's Day
Written and Illustrated by Gilbert Hernandez
Published by Fantagraphics

Julio’s Day follows 100 years, from 1900 to 2000, in the life of one person, in 100 pages. It explores the 20th century from the perspective of a man living his life in a tiny Central American village. The book does not delve into the history of the events of the time, allowing them to occur around the characters as they grow and change. As the world changes, so does Julio and the way gay men are treated, and Gilbert Hernandez is able to show the differences in the thoughts and beliefs of the 1900s and 2000s with ease, sliding the audience through the years as though they were aging along with the titular character. Hernandez depicts a life with all the style, grace, and artisanship of someone who has been making comics for over 30 years, with impeccable art and a fascinating, well told story. 

What makes this book even more interesting, though, is that despite this fact the story feels fresh, as though Gilbert were going back to what he loved for the first time. That's appropriate, because he's actually finishing something started in Love and Rockets Volume 2. If you are not yet familiar with his work, Julio’s Day is an excellent introduction to the themes, characters, relationships, and settings typical of Gilbert Hernandez. (Review by Guy Thomas)