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April 27th, 2020

When Your Own Artwork Makes You Nervous Despite How Tame It Is

Opening banner for something I’ve been working on for well over a year now…

I should try to finish this, since I’ve been working on it for nearly two years now. Thing is I keep seeing panels I hate and I have to do them over again and I get discouraged.

Bear with me here please…

There’s an element of risk in giving the world a glimpse of your libido, which I suppose is why most writers of erotic fiction use pseudonyms. It’s especially true if your libido tacks in a different direction from most. I suffer here from a double penalty of both being gay, and being an American gay male who isn’t all that into guys that look like they model for superhero comics. It makes me nervous even talking about it. Yet I spent my formative adolescence on a diet of underground comix, men and women who were heroically…some might say a little Too heroically…willing to honestly write and draw about human sexuality and their own specifically. Howard Cruse is one of my heros in that regard, but there were so many others that gifted their talents and insights to Gay Comics. Even so I’ve struggled with how transparent to be in A Coming Out Story.

My initial concept of the character that represents my libido was he would simply be…in the underground comix tradition…a naked me. I tried drawing that over and over and was never comfortable with it. I just couldn’t do it. And then I thought…wait…that’s truth. And the first four episodes came immediately to mind, and I knew I had something I could go with. This is why the libido character is always wearing a fig leaf. As he says in that first episode “I’m your libido, not Robert Crumb’s libido.” Truth.

So I’m not the most brazen of cartoonists (my mild mannered fig leafed libido is a running gag in the story), which means I get nervous whenever I venture into this territory. Whenever I attempt something like You Can Leave Your Hat On (it’s a riff on a song by Randy Newman…the banner here is a riff on R. Crumb’s Keep On Trucking comic (which he now hates) which was itself a riff on a blues song Truckin My Blues Away by Blind Boy Fuller) I have to get the artwork as right as I can. That way if it provokes jeers I can shrug them off because I’m satisfied I got it right.

Some years ago I showed a cuteness I’d drawn to a gay guy I no longer hang out with, who cracked that he looked like he was one estrogen shot away from a job at Hooters…

Which only goes to show that even gay guys can be sexist jackasses. People like that are why males blessed with that beautiful angelic face often have a bad attitude about it.

Thing is, even allowing for the misogyny of it, there is still the coarseness by which people draw their lines around what is male and what is female. You’d think gay folk of all people would know better, yet I have been asked repeatedly (by that those same guys I no longer hang out with) if I’m really gay because the guys my libido alerts on just aren’t ripped enough, look too feminine, just aren’t manly enough.

Much of this is gay guys reclaiming their masculinity from a culture that blasts a torrent of abuse at gay males over gender conformity. So I get that pushing back thing. But I’m a solid Kinsey 6 regardless of what you think of my tastes in men. In A Coming Out Story episode 20, I have this argument with my libido who assures me that “You like Y chromosomes, just not the big overly muscled ones.” The punchline is when he asks me about photographing the next swim team meet. Even in some gay circles that kind of thing makes me weird. Hey guys…we’re gay…we’re all weird by the majority’s reckoning. Get effin over it!

So…anyway…I was struggling with this one because while I knew exactly what I want it to be I could not get comfortable with making it as sexy as I needed it to be to get my point across. For a while I was going to really go for it on this one and make it completely not safe for work…and I just couldn’t. But I think I know now how to walk right up to that line and still get my point across.

And yes..that’s Mr. Short-Shorts and Go-Go Boots. I first drew him around the same time as I heard You Can Leave Your Hat On played at a club in Laurel where I went to see classmate Rev. Billy Wirtz play. I assumed it was about a straight guy talking his girlfriend into dancing naked for him, but there was a lyric that jumped out at me…

Suspicious minds are talking
Trying to tear us apart
They say that my love is wrong
They don’t know what love is
I know what love is…

That spoke to me, obviously, as a gay man. And then this entire cartoon…mostly…came to mind. When it happens like that I know it’s something I have to get out of me. But this one’s been a struggle. 

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