My essay, “Of Anthologies and Activism: Building an LGBTQ+ Comics Community,” has been published in the collection, The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader: Critical Openings, Future Directions (University Press of Mississippi, 2022). It received an honorable mention for the Comics Studies Society’s 2023 Article Prize. The collection won an Eisner Award for Best Academic/Scholarly Work.

Read the original abstract below.

Cover of The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader (2022)

Cover of The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader (2022)

Of Anthologies and Activism: Building an LGBTQ+ Comics Community

Because local, grassroots periodicals were the publication spaces that fostered the development of LGBTQ cartoonists in 1970s-1990s America, many artists were disconnected from each other. My previous scholarship meditates on this separation and how cartoonists started to build networks of self-syndication that brought them into contact with other artists across the nation. Anthology series emerged as the method to knit together these artists. One of the longest running series, Gay Comix (1980-1998), curated a diverse grouping of LGBTQ creators, allowing them the space not only to share about their local experiences but also to begin to come together in common cause. This chapter examines how this series set the stage for the activist anthology, Strip AIDS USA (1988), which featured many Gay Comix contributors more explicitly reflecting on and representing their activism.

In tracing this history, this chapter analyzes how American LGBTQ cartoonists formed a community through anthologies that foregrounded activism as integral to their comics work. Centering Strip AIDS USA (1988) and the British anthology that preceded it, Strip AIDS (1987), in this chapter recuperates these often dismissed works and shows how they coalesced this community around HIV/AIDS activism. In these comics, LGBTQ artists viscerally represent their community under threat and the different tactics they undertake for survival. Through examining the production history of the volumes and close reading the comics themselves, this chapter establishes how activist discourses were foundational to the development of LGBTQ comics community and how cartoonists formulated their own visual politics that engaged with emerging discourses of activist and academic queer thought. More generally, this chapter serves as a corrective to how comics studies focuses almost exclusively on work created within alternative and mainstream comics industries and thereby neglects other important histories and spaces of production.