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Prism Comics: A Queer Kaleidoscope of Comics

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Sam Orchard’s Rooster Tails is among the gems to be found via Prism Comics (prismcomics.org).

Fellow comics nerds, have you heard about Prism?
by Alex Grandstaff

Prism Comics is a hybrid online database of LGBT comics creators, both web-based and in print. It is also a communication hub for LGBT comics fans to discuss appearances of LGBT characters in mainstream comics, discover new LGBT comics on the rise, and to simply connect with fellow comics fans.

Big names in comics: volunteers (l–r) Nathan, Kira, Donald, and Jayson creator Jeff Krell recently staffed Prism Comics’ booth at Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon, where “The Gender Bender” stopped to visit.

In my eyes, this is a total boon. I am a comics fanatic: I love comics—reading them, writing and illustrating them, and learning about other artists’ techniques. Web-based comics are something I especially adore—most web comics are free on the Internet, go on for years, and you can find them about almost anything. Their digital nature usually allows you more intimate insight into the creator’s work, with links to their blogs and even invitations to live-stream with them as they draw pages.

Web comics are an interactive experience, and there are quite a few creators I adore in the web comics community—a majority of which happen to be queer artists. I am always looking for more to read, and Prism is a treasure trove. Finding web comics that satisfy your craving is a bit like combing the beach for precious metal—you may find a diamond ring, but most of the time you’re pulling up Coke cans. Prism takes out the sand and leaves you with just the metal to sort through. The online database lists hundreds of LGBT print and digital comics creators; you just have to find what you’re looking for.

Shaenon Garrity’s Skin Horse at Prism.

Prism does not screen the content of all the creator profiles. In fact, it lists everyone, regardless of skill or the nature of the content. But with sample pages right alongside the creator profiles and handy links to the creator sites, it makes finding what you want to read a lot easier. For example, when you’re in the mood for an autobiographical comic about the life of a trans man, it’s a bit disappointing to realize, 30 pages in, that you’ve stumbled upon the story of a cross-dresser who is the on-call shrink for the department of supernatural investigations. Both of these comics exist, I promise! I am thinking of the informative, honest, and sometimes funny stories of a New Zealand trans man in Rooster Tails by Sam Orchard, and the bizarre, comedic goings-on over at Skin Horse by Shaenon Garrity. Both of these artists have their profiles on Prism’s site.

Born in 2003 from a group of comics fans and professionals who volunteered to do an annual publication called Out in Comics, a listing of LGBT comics creators, the founders of Prism Comics were looking to go beyond that listing and create an online dialogue for queer comics, with articles, forum discussions, and interviews to supplement a digital database. At comics conventions, Prism has expanded so much that it now sponsors panel discussions dealing with the presence of LGBT characters in comics. In 2012 they’ve held panels at WonderCon, Emerald City ComiCon, C2E2, Stumptown Comics, and in July they will be at San Diego Comic-Con, one of the largest and most well-known conventions in the nation.

Prism Comics also created the Queer Press Grant, the only still-running grant given to independent comics creators every September. Started in 2005, the Queer Press Grant awards $1,000 to high-quality self-publishing comics creators in need of financial aid. In addition to the funds granted for print and publication of the artist’s work, Prism promotes the winners at conventions and through press releases.

Winners in 2010 included Jon Macy’s Fearful Hunter, a gay romance set in a world of druids and werewolves (oh my!), and Tana Ford for her ongoing autobiographical series Duck; Ed Luce and Eric Orner won in 2009 for Wuvable Oaf and Storybox, respectively. In 2008 Pam Harrison’s House of the Muses, a historically inspired fiction work based on the works of Sappho, took the prize; in 2007 there was a tie between Tommy Roddy’s Pride High and Justin Hall’s Glamozonia; in 2006 one of my favorite comics creators, Megan Gedris, won with her fantasy lesbian romance Yu+Me Dream; and in 2005 Steve MacIsaac’s Shirtlifter took the inaugural-year’s grant.

See www.prismcomics.org.

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Alex Grandstaff

Alex Grandstaff is a contributor to OutSmart magazine.

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