Indie comic publishers A Wave Blue World‘s new queer comic romance anthology, Young Men in Love is drawing a lot of attention. This collection of 20 gay love stories spans genres, art styles, and relationships, with a top-tier collection of queer creative talents including Sina Grace, Josh Cornillon, Chris Shehan, Charles Pulliam-Moore, David Booher, Anthony Olivera, Terry Blas, and Tate Brombal. Read our ★★★★ review.
The collection’s editors, Joe Glass, creator of queer superhero team The Pride, and Matt Miner, writer of GWAR and Orgasmageddon, spoke exclusively with The Queer Review‘s Chad Armstrong about putting the book together and why now is the perfect time for a healthy does of young gay love in comics.
Chad Armstrong, The Queer Review: take us through the genesis of Young Men in Love.
Matt Miner: “I wanted to create the book that I wished I’d had when I was a young guy figuring things out and feeling very alone. Along with some of the most talented and skilled queer creators in comics, I think we accomplished that, and created a book that adults will love and younger folks will find comfort in.”
Joe Glass : “When Matt approached me about putting something together, I’d been wanting to do tackle romance for a while. Pretty quickly, we knew that we wanted to make it special by exploring romance in a way that had a greater authenticity than is normally seen in the media. It was time to celebrate and show these stories from the point of view of people who’d actually experienced same sex romance.”
The collection spans various genres, was there a conscious effort to build that kind of diversity? Apart from love and romance, do you see any other unifying themes in these stories?
JG: “We told the creators that we were open to any genre and it went wild from there. In terms of unifying themes, there’s a big element of self-love that permeates the book, with many stories sharing that realization that to love others, one must also love oneself.”
MM: “There’s also friendship and acceptance in there. We tried to avoid the romance-comic tropes of heartbreak and cheating, and instead focused on telling great and positive stories.”
How did you go about putting together this list of creators to collaborate with? Did you approach them or ask them to pitch to you?
MM: “I’ve curated a few anthologies in the past and the idea of having to reject submissions scares the hell out of me! How do I tell friends and colleagues ‘no’, when they’re really hoping to get into the book? So it was much better to pick and choose the creators we asked to join the book. It also takes the whole “pitch” variable out of it. The people we asked to be in Young Men in Love are all seasoned professionals putting out spectacular work in comics. Once they were involved, we asked them for story pitches and if the idea didn’t work for us, or if we already had something similar green lit for the book, then we’d ask for another idea.”
JG: “I really wanted to see a mix of known creators as well as new and rising talents, so we had a broad range and a long wish list. Hopefully those who couldn’t make it this time might join us in the future.”
What was the editorial process like and how long has this been in the works for?
JG: “It’s been almost two years all in all, from conception until now. We asked our creators for story ideas first, and then we just reviewed each step of the way along the production process to ensure that it all fit within the larger image we had for the book. Some ideas were based on similar experiences, but everyone found a way to do something special and unique.”
It’s nice to see such a wide range of relationships portrayed, from early romances to settled domestic scenes. Gay relationships are often seen through the lens of sex, but not so much with these stories. Was that a deliberate choice or something that just happened?
JG: “It was a deliberate choice that this book wouldn’t focus on the sexual side of love, as we wanted it to be accessible to younger audiences. There’s a place for discussing queer sexual relationships, and perhaps that could be another book down the road, but we wanted Young Men in Love to focus on feelings and emotions. The fact that the story ideas pitched to us ran the gamut from ‘meet cutes’ and first dates to longterm partners of many years, and even love that is going through rocky patches, was a happy coincidence. I think worked perfectly.”
MM: “We wanted parents to buy this book for their queer kids and not have to worry that it was sexual, or gory or violent. Heck, there aren’t even any hard swears in it! But, just the same, all the stories will delight adult readers as well.”
Comics and graphic novels seem to be relatively safe space for LGBTQ+ folks to work in, what is it about the medium that makes it suit queer expression so well?
MM: “I think a lot of us were bullied and escaped into literature and comics. It’s where we first learned to feel safe from hostile elements in real life. Now that we’re older, we’re the ones making the stories.”
JG: “Many queer creators have a natural inclination towards visual art. So much of our lives has been spent holding back or staying under the radar, so there’s a natural desire to explode out visually when possible and comics and graphic novels are a perfect opportunity to do that. Plus, what many seem to overlook, is that the medium has a vast queer fanbase.”
Which story surprised you the most when you got the pages back?
JG: “The Treasure Map to my Heart was perhaps the most surprising. I’ve known Oliver Gerlach for a while and knew that he’d make a tremendous comic writer. I’ve been a fan of Daryl Toh’s work for a long time too, so I knew they’d make something lovely, but the story is filled with humor, adventure, sweetness, love and a moving message of acceptance; it really became more than I thought it would be.”
MM: “Most surprising for me was the autobiographical comic Another Name from Ned Barnett and artist Ian Bisbal. I knew Ned as an artist primarily, but pairing him as a writer with Ian on art so this trans team could tell a story unique and personal to Ned and trans folks, ended up being so touching and beautifully illustrated that I tear up every time I read it.”
Can we hope for a second volume at some point?
JG: “I certainly hope so! There are definitely other creators whose stories we’d love to get the opportunity to share. Perhaps we’ll do some thematic sequels, looking at other aspects of gay love.”
MM: “I’ll make queer romance comics for as long as queer people exist!”
Sticking with romance, what’s are your favourite love song, rom-com, and comic-book romantic couple?
JG: “I have two song choices, because I like happy ones and sad ones. For happy, I’d say the Maccabees’ Love You Better and for something sad, Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl’s If Only I. Notting Hill holds a special place in my heart when I think of rom-coms, and as for my favourite comic-book couple, it’s definitely Midnighter and Apollo.”
MM: “Some Kind of Stranger by Sisters of Mercy has been my favorite song for as long as I can remember having ears! I feel like a lot of romantic comedies are good, but ultimately forgettable, or later shown to be problematic when seen through adult eyes, so can I pick The Princess Bride? Does that count as a rom-com?! As for comic-book couple, I’m going to have to go old-school with 90s-era Gambit and Rogue. Aside from his atrocious costume, what’s not to love?!”