One of the most common criticisms of comic book communities is how straight, male, and cisgender those spaces can be. Unfortunately, for many LGBTQ people of color who are fans of comic books, they often find themselves not feeling at home in traditional comic book communities.
Thanks to a newly developed group, that might no longer have to be the case for LGBTQ comic fans living in the Rio Grande Valley.
April Cartwright, Ayden Castellanos, and Jeffrey Doyle first got the idea for what they now call the Brunch-Queer Comic Book Club in September of this year. The three were texting with one another one day about which comic books they wanted to read and about how they hadn’t had the opportunity to read them due to adulthood taking over.
“We just started texting and talking with each other [about this idea],” Castellanos said. “We thought it’d be really cool if we could designate some time for something like that as a group. I guess to kind of like hold each other accountable as well [to read the comic books].”
Together, the three started envisioning such a group and thinking of what would make the club a safe space for other people like them. They also began to take notice of the comic book world around them and seeing the changes that had been taking place, many of them for the better.
Cartwright believes it’s a diverse time right now in the comic book world, where there are increasingly more and more stories centered on LGBTQ identities, people of color, and with body positive images.
“I just think that some really interesting things are happening in comic books right now and in the [comic book] community,” Cartwright said. “There’s so many amazing queer people of color who finally have a voice. I’m kind of hoping that this might turn into a learning opportunity.”
While there have always been some compelling comic books out there, Castellanos and Cartwright also believe the current climate is pushing people to express their concerns and share their stories in more genuine and open ways.
They hope that the space that they are creating can be one imbued with intentionality. All three, for example, agree that space needs to be not just inclusive but also vigilant against the misogynist and heteronormative dynamics that can often unintentionally creep into community spaces.
One of the dynamics the group will seek to safeguard against is toxic masculinity. According to Castellanos, “toxic masculinity likes to poke its ugly head wherever there’s something good happening,” and it’s one of the leading reasons gaming communities and comic book spaces are not frequently safe spaces for LGBTQ people of color.
To ensure that space is one that is safe and welcoming to LGBTQ people of color, the comic book club will thus focus on themes representative of the community it is seeking to attract and retain.
“The comic book community can feel like a boys club,” Cartwright said. “I’m hoping that by focusing on [queer people of color] themes it will provide a safe space for people in the community who might not feel represented in an already alternative subculture.” By doing so, Cartwright also hopes that more gay brown people in the community will be able to see themselves in comic book stories and realize that in their own way they are superheroes too.
For his part, Doyle hopes that space and conversations that members have can extend beyond comics and into critical conversations capable of challenging perceptions of what “normal” means in our society. He believes such conversations can help society grow into a more welcoming place for everybody.
While the club will be centered on LGBTQ people of color and their stories, Cartwright told Neta that everyone is welcome to be a part of the club and to attend the regular gatherings.
The first meeting of the Queer Comic Book Club took place at Gigi’s Restaurant & Cafe in Edcouch, Texas, on Nov. 4, 2018. Moving forward, the group intends to meet the first of each month, with the next meeting to be held on Dec. 2, 2018. For more details about the Queer Comic Book Club, contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.