There is a lot to love about the new queer anthology Be Gay, Do Comics. While the book’s memorable title is juicy enough — a take off on ABO Comix popular meme, “Be Gay Do Crime” — it's the wide-ranging collection of indie comic strips within the pages that makes this anthology worthwhile. Be Gay, Do Comics winningly weaves humorous cartoons with deeply personal short-form comics and historical comic strips to offer an entertaining and informative read.
The comic creators spotlighted in Be Gay, Do Comics originally debuted their work online on The Nib, a home for daily “political cartoons, comics journalism, humor and non-fiction.” According to The Nib’s Associate Editor, Matt Lubchansky, the goal with this anthology was to curate a collection of cartoons that proudly featured their “humongous base of really great queer contributors and to highlight them and their amazing work.”
The Nib's editorial team had a tough time choosing from “such a deep well of contributors creating such good strips by queer people and about the queer experience from all across the world,” Lubchansky says. After thoughtfully selecting a bevy of great comics, the editors turned to Kickstarter. Originally hoping to raise $30K to fund the book’s publication, The Nib team was thrilled to find demand for the anthology sailed far past that goal (they ended up raising over $50K). Comic book publisher IDW Publishing saw the cultural importance of Be Gay, Do Comics and offered to partner with The Nib in producing and distributing the anthology.
Lubchansky stresses that they and The Nib editors felt the importance of finding the right balance with the comics showcased in the anthology, comics that ranged from “finding joy and humor to serious activism.” Lubchansky, themself a self-taught comic creator who has been creating comics since 2009, also has a handful of fantastically humorous strips featured in the anthology. Their clever cartoons explore their non-binary identity and present a stinging commentary on our society.
The various strips by trans creator Joey Alison Sayers are particularly excellent. From reflections on queer parenting, to the various voices disseminating misleading “medical advice” towards trans individuals, Sayers manages to mix the hilarious with guileless honesty in a way that will make the reader pause, think, and laugh.
Coupled together, Sayers's “The Final Reveal” and creator Kendra Wells's “Gender Bent,” are two comic strips that prove the most timely. These one-page cartoons take an honest and absurd look at the inherent ridiculousness, and danger, of gender reveal parties.
The humorous and informative “Boobs Aren’t Binary” by Mady G is so filled with truth it’s like a personal cultural reset for the mind. “The Homophpbic Hysteria of the Lavender Scare” by Kazimir Lee and Dorian Alexander is a sobering, powerful, and evocative exploration of the history of queer rights and our continued need to stand up and speak out for each other.
“The Wonderfully Queer World of Moomin,” also by Mady G, is a historical narrative that delves into the life of the creator behind the beloved Moomin character, while “Eight Queens” is an exploration of drag identity by Rupaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Velour.
The history of gay life in Puerto Rico is powerfully and joyfully explored in Rosa Colon Guerra’s “Puerto Rico’s LGBT Community is Ready to Kick the Door Down,” and with the 2020 election nearly upon us, “A Covert Gaze at Conservative Gays” by Sam Wallman is a frank and straight-forward look into what makes right-wing queers tick.
In reading Be Gay, Do Comics, it's clear how much these LGBTQIA+ comic creators have put their heart and soul into every aspect of their various creations. Such unvarnished queer truth is refreshing and affirming.