Before I get into new projects, I thought it would be a good idea to take a moment and talk about my goals.
I'm a details liker. Left to my own devices, I can spend a lot of energy refining incidental aspects of my art. I mean, look at these pages!
These are some of my favorite comic pages I've ever drawn. But they're also great examples of what I shouldn't be doing if I want any chance of telling a complete story.
When I start stumbling on a project, it's usually because I'm spending too much time on things that aren't "the point." That's been the theme with all of my troubled work of late.
So what is The Point? What did I get into art in order to make?
What is it that incited me into this deeply inadvisable career path? What deficiency did I identify in the world around me?
If I think back, maybe I can remember.
I WANTED TO DRAW CUTE TRANS GIRLS MAKING OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Goal #1: "The Representation"
"Representation" has become a tricky word to use lately. The media landscape is very different from where things were when I started doing webcomics in 2014.
And yes, it freaks me out a lot to think about how long ago that already is.
Though it's by no means common, you don't have to look too far these days to catch a big-name pop-culture media product sporting A Trans Or Two.
So what does this mean for my artistic raison d'être? Has my purpose run its course?
NOT EVEN A LITTLE TINY BIT!!!!!!!!!
Where's all the heart-quivering T4T romance?! Where's the rush of picking out your first skirt?! Why do these trans characters only hang out with cis people?!
True representation is authentic! And true authenticity stabs out from one naked heart to another. Authenticity is vulnerability!! Good trans representation should make you shiver with the embarrassment of recognizing that the shape of these characters' desires dwells also within yourself!!
NONE OF THESE TRANS FUCK!!! THEY DON'T EVEN GET TO HAVE SWORDS!!!!!
I often get sidetracked from this goal. But from the start, my biggest interest has been in telling stories about queer mundanity.
By that, I don't mean stories where the presentation and experiences of queer characters are "normalized" by making them indistinguishable from those of non-queer characters. That's the Coward's Path.
By "queer mundanity," I mean that I want to write stories where the thoughts, feelings, and bodies of queer and trans folks are highlighted and drawn upon so universally that they become mundane.
When you do that, you leave the audience no escape hatch. The reader is forced to inhabit these characters and feel their feelings, because they're given no non-queer perspective from which to observe them.
Also I think they should let trans girls have swords.
Goal #2: Also I Like To Make It Kind Of Hot
Th--the sword thing wasn't an innuendo, for the record. Though, uh, I mean, it's, uh. I mean, it's no secret that I... um.
Well, look. If "queer mundanity" is about making the viewer inhabit a queer headspace, then obviously that includes queer attraction. And that can take a few forms...
Let's just say, hypothetically, that I drew a picture of a trans girl in a state of undress. Stripes and a little bow, you know what I mean. Assuming I did do such a thing, one might argue that I was committing the act of Sexualization.
I would never claim that my purpose for drawing such materials had nothing to do with titillation. But I would also point out that titillation isn't the only context that matters here. Sexuality in media can reflect constructively upon the viewer. It can be aspirational!
To put it in plain English, I'm saying that when I draw a trans girl's scantily-clad dickbulge, the responses I'm fishing for in a viewer are:
- "W--wow!! She has one..."
- "But it's hot/cute!"
- "I have one too..."
- "...Maybe I can be hot/cute...?"
in that exact order. It's a warm, blushy kind of empathetic relief that I seek -- not mere horniness, but a feeling of horny catharsis.
This only really works in the context of the "queer mundanity" outlined above, but it's an important part of the package for me, and it always has been -- so it qualifies as Goal #2!!
Or it would, if I had ever drawn a horny picture, which, again, is impossible to prove.
Goal #3: Comfort
I consider my art "comfort food." Even when there is blood or evil going on, I want to tell stories that are pervasively kind to the reader.
This isn't everyone's bag, and I feel like there's almost an expectation that queer media must be this way, to the point that a lot of my colleagues find themselves feeling stifled and pressured out of creating work that feels raw or challenging.
But a comfortable story doesn't have to be one devoid of conflict. For me, a comfortable story is one that has a lot of conflict -- many small conflicts yielding many small resolutions. A wave of tiny victories creates the feeling of reassuring stability for the reader.
Things like anxiety, embarrassment, trepidation, crises of confidence, loneliness, miscommunication -- these sorts of tiny conflicts are the backbone of a comforting story to me. 'Cause they're pervasive in real life, and by modeling them in fiction, you can set the reader up for a bath of warm resolution.
This type of story also plays to what I consider to be my strengths as an artist. I like drawing people in daily life. I like writing dialogue and building characters through conversation and subtle interactions. I like a comic that feels like you're hanging out with the characters!
Needless to say, this goes great with goals #1 and #2. Queer life is rife with internal conflict, after all. If I can write a story that reaches out and comforts someone plagued by the same thoughts I've struggled with, that's the biggest success I can imagine.
This turned into a bit of an expository essay, huh? I feel like I haven't really said anything here that I haven't said before, but it's important to pull back and reassess.
My goals haven't changed one bit since 2014. What I want to accomplish today is the same as what I've always wanted! Yet the shape of my art has changed over time, and not always in ways that are conducive to this stuff.
For 2022, my theme is going to be "simplicity." I want to pare everything back, cut all of my art down to focus only on what matters. I want to tell shorter stories on smaller scales. Next post, I'll really for real get into what some of those stories are going be.
See ya soon!!