In The Maw of the Great White Rabbit

Panel from Howard Cruise's aclaimed graphic novel Stuck Rubber BabyWe honor the legacy of gay comics artist Howard Cruse, who died on November 26, 2019, and share our condolences with his husband, daughter, and chosen family. 

Howard’s work began during a time of tremendous social change in the US in the early 1970s, when he utilized the energy of the underground comix movement to create gay characters and stories with love, laughter, and poignant drama. He was an early editor of Gay Comix, and his breakout work, Stuck Rubber Baby, explored queerness and racial justice through a Southern lens. Perhaps his most well known character, Wendel, represented a bit of Howard himself, with optimistic, simple charms.

Most importantly, Howard worked at a time where he established the frameworks of gay comic storytelling himself, truly a pioneer where few visual artists were creating work by, for, and about queer people. To meet him in person, you would encounter a gentle soul, a very kind and thoughtful human being, in some ways an ‘anti-celebrity’ of sorts. He was candid about how drug use sparked his creativity, and he told human stories in ways that made them universally relatable.

Thank you, Howard, for the path you created, the artists that you inspired to create their own queer work, and for leaving the world with a rich legacy of queer visual stories. Your memory is a blessing.

By Any Means Necessary

P-Form #23 coverIn 1992, the drag queen Joan Jett Blakk ran for presidential office with backing from Queer Nation. Using the slogan “Lick Bush in ‘92,” Blakk’s campaign brought national attention to issues impacting queer communities, particularly the AIDS epidemic that the federal government was completely ignoring1. In the midst of the campaign, Terence Smith, the activist who performs as Blakk, penned an article for the performance art zine P-Form. Smith writes that drag carries a politics of “invulnerability,” providing a means of protection for Smith on both the stage and the streets. “No one can ‘harm’ me in drag,” writes Smith, “Because part of me is hidden underneath a Maybelline shell.” The article is a beautiful illustration of drag as a queer political force—a form of gender-fuckery that according to Smith “stomps out” the signifiers of masculinity and femininity.

Smith’s article is one of many articles on drag performance in this special issue of P-Form. The Randolph Street Gallery ran the zine from 1986 to 1999 and covered the performance art scene in Chicago. (Note: Blakk also ran for mayor of Chicago in 1991.) P-Form regularly highlights the work of queer and feminist artists. In the case of this issue, the majority of the articles are written by the artists themselves, who describe their performance practice as well as the difficulty of surviving and sustaining life as a queer performer.

JJBPIn an article entitled “Every Breathing Moment,” Michael Palmer describes the institutional violence enacted against trans bodies. Palmer writes about endless visits to doctors who challenged his identity as a trans man and refused to provide top surgery. He writes that “listening” to doctors or family would have meant turning toward death. Palmer describes breathing as a radical act—an assertion of life in institutional spaces that negate trans lives.

P-Form also provides reviews of other artistic forms, including painting cinema. In accordance with the drag performance theme, this 1991 issue includes a brief review of Jennie Livingston’s documentary Paris is Burning, which had been released the previous year. The review reads like a collage of interviews and pull-quotes, featuring press statements made by Livingston as well as iconic lines from drag performers such as Dorian Corey and Venus Extravaganza. “The balls used to be about what you could create,” says Corey, “Now they’re about what you could acquire.” Corey notes that theft was not uncommon among the economically struggling performers on the ball circuit. The statement is a strong illustration of how the Harlem ball circuit served as a space of queer of color fabulosity that also gestured toward the precarity of queer life. Performance is a means of sustaining queer life, and it depends on radical forms of resistance to institutional oppression.


1 Goodman, Elyssa. “The Drag Queen Who Ran For President in 1992.” Them, 20 Apr. 2018, https://www.them.us/story/joan-jett-blakk-drag-queen-president. Accessed 13 June 2019.


Jacob Carter graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2019 with a master’s degree in English. He is interested in queer cinema and performance art and plans to apply for a PhD in performance studies later this year. He has previously presented his research at the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and the Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference.

Queer Space Communism 2019

qsc

As we enter into “Pride Month” here’s our annual reminder that corporate rainbow capitalism won’t save us, but queer space communism just might.  To that end, here are 10 things that you can do to help foster rad queer communities into the future:

  1. Skip the rainbow tat from big box stores and chains and support indy queer artists and producers.
  2. Have lesbian potlucks on the regular, and invite non-lesbian queers too.  But tell the TERFs and SWERFs to fuck right the fuck off, and give them no space at the table.
  3. Start edible garden collectives.  Growing veggies and fruits can be intimidating, but, like visiting a bath house for the first time, if you do it with buddies it’s more fun.
  4. Create spaces and events without “allies” and straight folks.  We don’t have to always invite or accommodate them, and we NEVER need their approval or to be “respectable.”
  5. Talk and write about queer sex.  Be explicit.  Discuss pleasure, and desire, and health.  Especially with younger folks and older folks.  Don’t make assumptions about who or how.
  6. Throw queer dance parties!  Also throw queer dance parties with a variety of muisical genres and themes and at different times of day and night.  Make space for the metalheads and disco divas and hip-hop homos and everyone else.
  7. Preserve our hestories through story telling, oral hestory recording, artifact collecting, and letter writing.  Help commit our lives to physical objects so that there is a fossil record.
  8. Teach and learn both hard and soft skills.  Host or attend workshops on bike repair, cooking, community first aid, budgeting and personal finance, sewing, arts/music/writing and so on.
  9. Make queer digital media and host or platform it yourselves.  Become unchained from YouTube, Facebook, Blogger and iTunes.  Work together to skillshare technical knowledge, including recording, editing, sound and visual production skills, but also how to build webservers and host different types of content on your own.
  10. Make and read queer zines.

Looking for Love in All The South Places

OMJIt’s probably an incurable disease of the soul that I flew all the way out to Wisconsin from Florida only to spend hours looking through the QZAP archive for the place I’d just left. Pouring over Queer Zine Explosion, Larry-Bob’s painstakingly detailed queer answer to factsheet 5, I noted anything I saw with an address south of Delaware and east of Oklahoma, more or less, with particular attention to the seaboard states which make up the South I’ve always lived in. As one of the members of Gainesville’s Civic Media Center zine collective, I work with the Travis Fristoe zine library, documenting and preserving the personal, punk, political, art which came to the CMC from around the country but especially Gainesville, Florida and the south. Though the Fristoe collection contains work by queer creators, it was not an explicit collection mandate at the collection’s inception, so I was excited to see what Southern zines QZAP was home to, and what queer Southern zines made their way to national circulation.

My favorite Southern zine I found at QZAP was One Mint Julep, the solo zine by Hugh McElroy, who made up one-half of Picklejar, a queer, Southern, kid liberation zine by high school friends in Washington, D.C. When his collaborator went up North for college, Hugh stayed in D.C., and he continued to write about what queerness and Southernness meant to him. Hugh fiercly articulates what many queer Southerners know- that the South is too often dismissed for its supposed backwardsness, despite the often radical community and coalition building work done here. Hugh is frustrated with his peers in D.C. who hide or change their accents and refuse to claim a Southern identity, and that frustration comes through in OMJ’s various meditations on community, dating, home, and family in D.C.

The all-but-last page of One Mint Julep is one of those pages where you have to show somebody, because it hits you exactly where you live. Hugh has drawn, in scratchy pen, maybe ballpoint, a bird-headed, winged creature on tall, leaf-capped, vine-like legs, rising up from the gabled roof an old plank house, surrounded by bats, moon (sun?) behind it like a knock-off halo, fighting a tiny winged creature. Slices of typed text across the page, layering it with this beautiful, joking, angry, little poem about being from the South, some of which goes “i live in a swamp/ kudzu ate my car last night…. I sip sweet mint julep/ to keep me cool and to/ fire me up” and breaking finally into a half-paragraph of exploding frustration saying exactly what i want to say: the North isn’t any better, and we’ve got to stay here and fight, because the South is ours. I took a picture and sent it to my friend, a sweet queer Florida boy who once, when I said I grew up in the south, gave me a Look of withering dismissal and said “you’re from North Carolina.” He loved it, too.


Fi Taylor was a 2018 QZAP Scholar-in-Residence.  They are currently working as a union organizer and community librarian at the Civic Media Center in Gainesville, FL.

Queer Terrorist / Queer Tapette #4

QueerTerrorist4Queer Terrorist/Queer Tapette #4 is a bisexual punk manifesto that calls BS on the biphobia rampant in lesbian and gay communities. Created in Montréal, Quebec in 1993, Queer Tapette writes queerness into mainstream pop culture while simultaneously critiquing lesbian and gay culture for their sexual exclusivity. The zine opens with a short story that slams the fake radical politics of mainstream lesbians, alluding to how the sense of conformity found in lesbian spaces mirrors that of dominant heteronormative society. Drawing on references to 1990s lesbian popular culture, the story ends on a humorous note that immediately hooks the reader: [they are] “going to bed listening to Melissa Ethridge and masturbating to an image of a snotty franco girl”. This combination of humor and scathing political criticism is present throughout the zine, a tone that both informs and entertains the reader as they immersed in the world of Queer Tapette.

When the reader flips to the next page, they are met with massive text that reads FAG HAGS FIGHT BACK!!!. What follows is a three page collage-style spread that explores the many reasons why the zinester is “fed up with the treatment [they] receive in gay male, lesbian, and straight societies”. Continuing with the tone established in the first few pages of the zine, this section is particularly aggressive in its rightful accusations of biphobia from both the straight and lesbian/gay communities. Invoking a coalitional politics, the zinester calls for alliances between bisexual people and ‘fag hags’, arguing that these two identities were the “newest, hippest funnest coalition ever to emerge”. This article addresses the fact that bisexuality is itself a marginalized identity within the more broader group of ‘sexual minorities’, and as such requires unique and special attention be payed to the needs and desires of bisexual people.

Next up, McTheif the Crime Cat makes an appearance to give advice on how to ethically shoplift. The anti-capitalist comic serves as both a recruitment tool and a how-to guide for potential shoplifters, succinctly explaining why shoplifting only harms big business and capitalists and NOT other poor queers. Plenty of yummy bisexual smut is sprinkled throughout the remainder of the zine, squished in between several pages of a super-queer, super sexy 90210 collage/comic, a passionate criticism of gay and lesbian organizations who only advocate for the ‘civil rights’ of their own kind, and several comics and newspaper clippings celebrating the many badass and sexy drag queens that are left behind by exclusionary lesbian and gay politics.

Anti-gay military policy is the subject of one of the last entries in issue #4 of Queer Tapette, closing out the zine much as it began – with an explicitly political message aimed at lesbian and gay activists:

“Stop whining to me about how you want let into the military, you clone faggots and dead-head lesbians. What are you fighting for – the right to police nationalist borders of Amerikkka, the right to be ‘openly gay’ as you kill other people, the right to effect genocide across the world?”

The radical politics of Queer Tapette rejects the homonormativity perpetuated and desired by mainstream lesbians and gays, and refuses to conform to their liberal agenda of maintaining capitalist and militarized North American culture. This political message is enhanced and diversified by the dark humor and overtly sexual comics and short stories that characterize Queer Tapette as a punk bisexual manifesto.


Sarah Cooke is a current intern at QZAP.  They are a grad student at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in library science and women’s and gender studies. Sarah can usually be found covering the world in stickers and glitter with their accomplice, Matilda the cat.

From The Punked Out Files #3

FTPOF3We’re starting off 2018 with the release of the third issue of From The Punked Out Files of the Queer Zine Archive Project.  This issue combines the research of two summers of zinester-scholar-artist-librarians-in-residence at QAZP.  It’s 56 pages of writing, thinking and analysis about queer sex zines, queer diy comics, POC zines, zine events, solar eclipses, road trips and frozen custard.

From the introduction:

If nothing else, this zine reflects one of the things that we excel at at QZAP, which is building community and friendship networks through queer zines. The vast majority of folks who do research and play in the archive start out as friendly strangers. After a week of reading, writing, chatting, cooking shared meals, watching Daria reruns, rocking out to queercore and eating frozen custard they become part of our collective logical family of smarty pants. And we love it that way.

This issue features work from Kai Linke, Dianne Lauerta, Alana Kumbier, Rachel Miller, Maggie Galvan, Jennifer Hecker and QZAP co-fournder Chris Wilde.  Please conside picking up a copy and supporting QZAP and all the awesome research that comes out of our residency project.

Zine Tech: Pamphlet Stitch

Zines are as easy to make as you want them to be, but there’s something special about a hand-sewn book. I believe intensely in the embodied experience of reading – that the triangulation between our gaze, the physical plane of the book, and our bodies is part of the meaning-making activity of consuming texts. How much moreso, then, should the making of books be a physical act? And this is especially true of zines, those most personal of books. While stapling a zine together is efficient and cost effective, hand-sewing your zines can add a personal touch. That there can be a real risk of injury only adds to the thrill. We all bleed for our art, some more literally than others.

p stitchPamphlet stitch is an old technology, and is one of the simplest non-adhesive bindings. It doesn’t require special tools (though I’ll recommend some below), and can be done as a solo project or in a team, with each person taking a step to divide the labor. I see bookbinding as a deeply feminist praxis. In early America, binderies were one of the few places outside the home where it was “respectable” for single women to find work. These jobs were also pathways to literacy for these young women, enabling them to learn to read and do sums, as well as providing for themselves and often their families. Reviving and reclaiming the book arts, then, is a feminist act. Queering the book arts extends this logic, and provides a new space for expression with this old tech.

So why “technology”? When I’m teaching this, I teach a technology instead of a project. The projects come from what you do with it, the only limits are your ideas. I’ve had former students show me what they’ve done with the tech, and their innovations far outpace my creativity – from albums to wedding invitations to event programs, sewn with ribbon, on all sorts of paper. I have a degree of mastery of the technology, but the artistry is up to you!

Instead of writing out the steps (which don’t mean much without a visual) here’s a video I made for the Denver Craft Ninjas a few years ago that demonstrates the technique:
https://youtu.be/fLnoHYnrlbE
 
Tools:
You’ll see examples of all of these in the video. You can find them at most craft stores. If you’re big box store shopping, buy your needles, cutting mats, and rotary cutters in the fabric section rather than the scrapbooking section – the tools tend to be significantly cheaper when packaged for quilters than when packaged for scrapbookers, even if it’s basically the same item!

  • Bone Folders: helps crease paper and make crisp folds. I’ve used Sharpies as a handy substitute.
  • Self Healing Mats: protects surfaces and your sharps tools.
  • Awls: make holes in things. (Wear closed-toe shoes when binding! Awls like to roll.)
  • Tapestry Needles: these blunt needles won’t snag your paper and are a little easier to thread (they have fat eyes).
  • Thread: available in most craft stores. I like acid free linen thread for most of my projects, but I’ve seen folks use embroidery floss, ribbon, or even finer threads for smaller books.
  • Rotary Cutters & Straight Edges: these help you get nice sharp cuts, and help even out edges if you sew a little crooked. The tech is fairly forgiving, so you can just snick off ragged edges if you need to.
  • Paper: your imagination is the limit here: if it folds and you can stick holes in it, you can sew it. Acid free is good if you want something to last and not damage other paper goods.

If you make something with pamphlet stitch, I’d love to see it. Tweet a pic to @hauntologist!


Spencer Keralis is a scholar of the past, present, and future of the book who lives and works in Texas. Follow him on Twitter @hauntologist for opinions, RTs, and pictures of his cats. https://twitter.com/hauntologist

What’s Up, Doc?

“Are you queer? Do check-ups give you chills? Do nurses make you nervous? Yeah, us too. Put on your hospital gown, take a deep breath, and we’ll try to get through this together…”

Awkward at the Doctor, a 2010 zine from Eugene, OR, voices some all-too-familiar experiences of doctor anxiety and awkwardness because of heteronormative doctors making assumptions. In 2017, this zine is more relevant than ever! With the election of cheeto-fascist, the increasing agenda against affordable healthcare and increasing criminalization of reproductive healthcare, it’s more important than ever to hold our doctors accountable for providing inclusive and accessible healthcare.

AATDAATD tells how hard it can be to go to the doctor as a queer person, and includes a few different stories of bad times in the exam room. Kari Odden discusses her difficult experience learning safe sex practices as a bisexual woman. She shares what she wishes she’d have been told, to “use a condom on your toys!…Use a dental dam! Cause guess what– women can get and spread STIs, too– even HIV…Wash yo hands!…You should still get tested!” Instead, her doctor did not offer her any comprehensive sexual health advice that was relevant to her. Negative experiences like these, while common, should not be tolerated.

Another entry outlines Lance Heisler’s experience as a queer man with a presumptuous doctor whose assumptions of Lance’s straightness degrade the quality of care Lance receives. Lance makes sure to note just how common awkward doctor experiences are for queers, and he stands in solidarity with queer individuals who may be reading the zine: “I should mention now that this story is specifically meant for all those lesbians, gays, queers, and trans persons out there that know what type of stories I’m talking about.” This statement of solidarity lays groundwork for positive sharing of stories without judgement, and with understanding.

The last page of the zine is a whole page of resources!!!! These include Sexual Assault Support Services, Transgendercare.com, Sex Ed For The Real World, and many other websites or orgs that help with queer health. The time is ripe to take our health into our own hands, and hold our doctors accountable! If you have a shitty, anti-queer doc, write them a bad yelp review. We gotta demand fair treatment, and Awkward at the Doctor explains why. Enjoy the read, and be sure to check out the resources at the end.


Ella Williams, originally from Boston, MA, is a third year student at Grinnell College majoring in Gender&Visual Praxis. She’s a queer cis-lady who spends her time making music/touringunder the moniker Squirrel Flower, researching feminist art history, and trying to abolish capitalism.

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