Rob-Kirby

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Rob Kirby has reviewed Jesse Jacobs’ Safari Honeymoon (think a lysergic Jack London and you have a slight idea of what’s in store). 

“Presenting nature as a pitiless arena for survival of the fittest isn’t the most original of scenarios, but Jacobs’ presentation is wonderfully fresh and drolly humorous – a genuinely personal vision … [he] is a cartoonist gifted with tremendous imagination and one-of-a-kind visual acumen.” — Rob Kirby, The Comics Journal

Check out the full review here!

Review - Qu33r: New Comics from 33 Creators edited by Rob Kirby

Supported via kickstarter, this collection is an solid addition to field of queer comics.  I really enjoyed it.   I want to give particular praise to three of the standouts:

Words cannot express my love for Andy Hartzell’s comic about Chelsea Manning.   Hartzell uses her own words from chat archives to tell the story of how she wrestled with her gender identity and eventually decided to leak the documents she encountered.  It gives Manning’s story a real pain and heart that the mainstream coverage of her (both pre and post announcing her transgender status) have been lacking.   I feel like the collection is almost worth it for that piece entirely.  It nearly made me cry for her.   

Qu33r also includes a lush watercolor piece by Asian bisexual comic artist MariNaomi whose bold and beautiful works of autobiographical comics were treated horribly when she was sexually harassed by a straight male comic creator.   The piece in this book is yet another beautiful look at the complexities of love.   On top of her piece in Anything That Loves, it cements MariNaomi as one of queer comics stand out creators from 2013.

I also want to give props to Confession by L. Nichols, where a little doll with button eyes navigates coming out when the boundaries of gender and sexuality are not clear   It was adorable, especially the last two panels where the doll is clearly loved by someone who calls them ‘my princess-prince’ and it all explodes into a giant panel of rainbows and happiness.   

It could have used more bisexual content, but then again I pretty much believe anything could use more bisexual content.  It could have also used more racial and ethic diversity.  However the work within is all well executed and queer comic fans (including bisexuals) will find a lot to enjoy.   

- Sarah 

“Kuš! has set new standards for the artistic range, experimentation, and production values in minicomics. Pulsing with energy, freshness, and ambition, they come highly recommended to anyone interested in comics art that pushes against and pushes past boundaries.”

mini kuš! #26-29 reviewed by Rob Kirby for Festival Season! Read the whole review here and get the minis here, if you haven’t yet.

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This new trio of excerpts from What’s Your Sign, Girl? features the two signs ruled by the planet Mercury—how’s that for a theme, astrology fans?—namely, page one of my in-progress Virgo story and the first two pages from Gemini Whit Taylor’s wonderful 5-page story“The Duality.” 

More excerpts coming soon! What’s Your Sign, Girl? is coming this fall from Ninth Art Press, debuting at SPX.

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Cartoonist and comics critic Rob Kirby reviews Elisha Lim’s 100 Crushes for Panel Patter.

100 Crushes expands the conversation of comics beyond the binaries of male/female, black/white, straight/gay. It comes highly recommended for queer and gender studies groups and to anyone else on the outside looking in, or inside looking out.” — Rob Kirby, Panel Patter

Read all of Rob’s review here, and if you are in the Toronto area this weekend come on down to TCAF to meet Elisha and get a copy of their new book!

Whit's Thursday Review: 'QU33R' [Edited by Rob Kirby]

Let’s be honest. Reviewing an anthology is hard. Why? Because you are judging it on two levels: that of the individual stories and that of the editing. What do I mean by this? Well, one deals with evaluating each story on its own merit. When reviewing an anthology it’s near impossible to cover all of the stories adequately. And further, it’s impossible to like all of them. On the other hand, you have to judge the editing. The editor is crucial to the success of an anthology, as the editor must select and combine separate stories into a book in a way that makes sense. Weaker parts of an anthology can subtract from the stronger parts making for an uneven product. As I said, it’s  inevitable on some level. But the importance lies in the editor having a vision that weaves a thread throughout the whole piece, tying everything together by the end of the book.

In the case of QU33R, an anthology edited by Robert Kirby, all I can say are positive things. Why? Because the individual stories are quite strong and Kirby’s editing makes for a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Kirby has been editing anthologies for a while, and it’s quite clear to me that he’s very skilled at it. QU33R however, is a big leap forward for him for several reasons. First, visually it’s quite arresting and clever, for instance using a rainbow header that spans the book. The feel of the book is nice and the jacket is colorfully covered with individual faces exploring multiple identities. Second and more importantly though, Kirby has an editing style that does not stifle individual artists from exploring their visions, but one that allows for their pieces to complement each other.

The book starts off quite strongly with Eric Orner’s “Porno” and Anne Murphy’s “Mother’s Sister”. Both artists deal with being haunted by the past, but in opposite ways. Orner recalls his process of coming out and regrets concerning a possible sin of omission, while Murphy reconstructs the life of her Aunt Helen, a dynamic yet somewhat mysterious family member who was most likely a lesbian. In Steve MacIsaac’s story “Vacant Lots”, he runs into an old bully at the supermarket years later and learns to make peace with his painful past.

Many of the stories such as those by MariNaomi, Rob Kirby, and Sina Sparrow delve into past romantic relationships, exploring their complexities as well as the fickleness of love. The take away from these concerns the struggle between sexual attraction/chemistry and miscommunication in certain relationships that we all experience at some point in our dating life. The most developed exploration of this is in Justin Hall’s “Seductive Summer”, which was one of my favorite stories in the collection. He experiences young love, wrestling with what his relationship boundaries are as he learns more about himself and what his needs are. Ultimately he realizes that you can’t make other people into who you want them to be.

While many of the autobio stories stir up painful emotions, some are humorous and lighthearted such as Carrie McNinch’s “Toot Toot HEYYYYYYY Beep Beep”, a first love situation that charmingly allows McNinch to discover her love for disco. Ed Luce’s “Kindness of Strangers” while most likely more semi-autobiographical, bring us into a subculture that the protagonist initially finds himself somewhat terrified of but eases into.

Not all stories are autobiographical or semi-autobiographical. There are some campy and pop culture-based pieces woven throughout the book, making for an engaging pace. “Just Another Night in Carbon City”, by Jennifer Camper, is an homage to old-school crime dramas complete with a scandalous and dangerous lesbian dalliance. “So Young, So Talented, So What?” by Jennifer Camper and Michael Fahy, satirizes the “typical” artist’s move to the big city to well…make it big. Things don’t quite turn out as planned, leading to a somewhat disturbing ending. Eric Kostiuk Williams explores the popularity of the show ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’, in “Sissy That Walk”, which will make you chuckle if you’re familiar with the show. He explores how bonding over pop culture, especially material that pushes boundaries, is community building. Sasha Steinberg also does a short story about drag queen who destroys a Walmart with her superpowers. That description does it little justice, but I assure you it’s fierce.

There’s no dearth of creative pieces in QU33R. Andy Hartzell’s “Manning/Lamo Project” follows a controversial political exchange while the protagonist explores their gender identity. Nicole J. Georges'’"Grief" is a very personal and thoughtful meditation on self-defeating behaviors. Ivan Velez, Jr.’s “Oso Oro: the night I got my hero card… ” takes the reader on an erotic adventure into a secret gay mask bar full of all sorts of fantastical creatures. In his untitled piece, John Macy remembers his historical and fictional muses, ultimately acknowledging his passion for being a cartoonist. Marian Runk leads us through the transition from winter to spring in a sweet and quiet journal comic with lovely pastel colors. And L. Nichol’s “Confession” is a perfect way to round out the book, as it highlights the juxtaposition between not defining yourself (ie. gender identity; in this case identifying as either male or female) and identifying as part of a larger group (ie. being queer). This is a nuanced sentiment to leave with, and one that I assume Kirby intentionally thought about when organizing the pieces.

Kirby certainly has a vision. It’s one that celebrates 33 contemporary queer artists, allowing them to authentically tell their own diverse stories in whatever storytelling style they want. And they may all be contemporary, but their work often wrestles with their past or explores their worries and hopes for the future.

Many of the themes throughout the anthology deal with LGBTQ-specific issues such as “coming out”, living in secrecy about one’s sexual identity, HIV/AIDS within the community, and gay erotica. Overall though, the deeper themes represent what it means to be human, whether it be exploration, concerns about exposure, miscommunication, community, or self-discovery. And that’s why providing a space for those with historically marginalized identities is vital to us on a larger scale. It lets us realize our shared humanity.

Preview of the cover art for QU33R by the awesome Michael Fahy, coming this fall from Northwest Press, Edited by Rob Kirby, and featuring 33 of the finest FGBTQ creators around, including Justin Hall, MariNaomi, Sina Sparrow, Carrie McNinch, Marian Runk, Ed Luce, Nicole J. Georges, Dylan Edwards, Carlo Quispe, Sasha Steinberg, Eric Kostiuk Williams, Kris Dresen, David Kelly, Rick Worley, Annie Murphy, Eric Orner, Edie Fake, L. Nichols, Jon Macy, Christine Smith, and so many more! 

Rob Kirby rounds up “What Was So Queer About Comics in 2014” for The Comics Journal and includes Elisha Lim’s 100 Crushes, which he calls “a sensitive, often fascinating collection of portraits, meditations, and memoirs ruminating variously on gender, masculinity/femininity, lesbianism, pronouns, and ethnicity”. 

Read Kirby’s most excellent article here!  

A page from Marnie Galloway’s contriubution to the upcoming (Fall 2015) anthology from Ninth Art Press,  "What’s Your Sign Girl,“  edited by Rob Kirby.

Here’s how Rob describes the book:

Most people can say what sign of the zodiac they are, whether or not they know what the sign means or even believe in astrology. But the twelve alt-cartoonists in What’s Your Sign, Girl? have something to say about their locations on the zodiacal calendar. With enthusiasm, skepticism, or dismay, the artists share how their signs impact self, relationships and their places in the cosmos.

Stay tuned for more!