Being queer means enjoying a degree of sexual freedom that's pushes boundaries. After all, if you're already operating outside of plain old boy-girl rules, the sky's the limit when it comes to romance.
And that's what comic author Josh Trujillo is exploring in the anthology series Love Machines. His tales have a twist: They all concern the strange ways in which technology intersects with love. The stories aren't explicitly queer, but then again, when the plots concern a relationship with a robotic Karl Marx or a libidinous microwave or a particularly disruptive bicycle, they're not exactly straight, either.
"I kind of struggle with this," he tells The Advocate. "Love Machines isn't overtly gay. Not every story has a gay character or a gay theme, but I'm a gay creator, so I guess the question becomes, 'how gay is gay enough?' And that's something I think everyone who's a gay creator struggles with."
(The correct answer, of course, is that nothing can ever be gay enough.)
Josh is a quiet nerd, long-haired and with a scruffy beard that comes and goes from one week to the next. He's been writing comics since around 2005, when he interned at Dark Horse and then Archaia. His first work appeared in Anything That Loves: Comics Beyond Gay and Straight from Northwest Press, a highly regarded press for queer authors. That was followed by a well-reviewed short story at the end of The Reason for Dragons, and now he's striking out on his own with Love Machines.
Putting together his own anthology gives Josh the opportunity to pursue the weird stories about which he's truly passionate. For example, his current research project is the incredibly bizarre tale of Lester Gaba, perhaps the most influential window designer of the 20th century (after Andrew McCarthy in Mannequin). Gaba was an artistic gay kid born about a hundred years ago who started his career as a soap sculptor before moving to New York to design an iconic mannequin for Saks Fifth Avenue named Cynthia. His mannequin became somewhat of a celebrity, landing on the cover of Life magazine and appearing in a film with Jack Benny -- this is absolutely true; you can look it up -- while Gaba himself rocketed to fame as a semicloseted fashion icon with a possible romantic tie to Vincente Minnelli.
It's hard to say whose biography is stranger, Gaba's or Cynthia's. But it's just the kind of historically weird, queerly queer relationship that Josh loves to explore. When he's not reading comics, he'll often consume historical nonfiction, which means his bedtime reading might jump from absurd superheros to an intimate look at the life of Harry Truman.
Next on his research list: the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. "It was created to celebrate the building of the Panama Canal," he explains. "It's this weird, most extravagant festival in the history of San Francisco. They built basically another city just to celebrate the Panama Canal."
He's also obsessed with Hotblood!, a comic about a centaur working for a shady businessman in the Wild West. Though their relationship is still young, we suspect that the human and centaur are on the verge of falling in love. "It is hands-down the weirdst greatest thing I have ever read," Josh says. He's also a fan of Wuvable Oaf, which San Francisco comic maestro James Sime called "the Scott Pilgrim of gay comics," and the bisexual and trans-focused Goochby Tara Madison Avery.
Queer comics are experiencing something of a renaissance these days, with organizations like Geeks Out and Prism Comics continuing to grow. There's a strong gay and lesbian presence at Anime Expo and the Small Press Expo. And of course, there's been a proliferation of queer owned-and-operated conventions like BentCon, Queers in Comics, and GX (formerly GaymerX).
"For a while, San Diego Comic-Con had the most prominent queer presence," Josh says, and these days there's so much queer acceptance that the need for specifically gay panels has kind of waned. After all, now DC has openly bisexual author James Tynion IV happily working on the Batman Eternal series.
Josh credits the Internet for the growing acceptance of queer content and creators. Being able to create and distribute digital art quickly and then spread it from friend to friend on Tumblr and Twitter, has been a real game-changer. After all, those social backchannels have always been how LGBTs have found each other.
"I don't think the straights realize how outclassed they are when it comes to networking," Josh says. See some of his art below.