tagged concepts

Here’s an interview I did with a press after Queer Comics Expo at SOMArts. My interview ended up not being included, so I’m sharing it with you here!

• How did you get your start in comics? What was it about the medium that attracted you (as both a creator and a reader)? What is it about the medium that makes it an effective form of storytelling for you?

I approached comics as a medium of self-determination, healing, and critical thinking. I was initially attracted to comics due to its accessibility and the possibilities that the relationship between words and images opens up for my memories. I want to remember things differently. I want to challenge our practices of recognition from ground up. I want to explore other life-affirming ways we can be in relationship with one another. I dwell on the nonlinearity of the medium and enjoy creating multiple entry points for others to engage with my content—maybe through character design, drawings, visual storytelling aesthetics, emotional resonance, etc. I use humor to establish a sense of agency, to decenter dominant narratives (immigration, trans embodiment, queer of color identity politics, community activism, etc), and most importantly to render the space of margins as inhabitable and empowering. I’m using comics to build community in tangible ways—drawing people into participating in my struggle and also for me to participate in theirs. This is how I imagine the healing process and stage a paradigm shift.

• How would you describe your work? What do you hope people take away from it? What is your goal with your work?

I consider most of my comics some form of graphic memoir, because I use my emotional truth as a starting point of exploration and engagement. I use visual storytelling as a platform to think critically. Also, my work is very much manga-inspired, since I’m drawn to the nonlinear visual storytelling of manga. There are many instances where I disrupt the normative left-to-right reading order by breaking panel borders and forcing the reader to move their eyes around the page. For Memory of an Avalanche particularly, the storytelling style is a bit choppy and works like an emotional rollercoaster. That’s because I use the concept of impossibility as an organizing principle of the entire graphic memoir, as a way to articulate the inarticulable violence, which is the lived reality of those inhabiting multiple margins. I’m using this storytelling style to disrupt romanticized narratives of survival (e.g., marriage, citizenship, graduation, etc) and disorient the reader from what they’re usually comfortable with. I’m strategically (and literally) opening up the “in-between” space, the spatiotemporal location between “before” and “after,” and to resignify what markers of “survival” and “success” mean via both form and content.

• What role do you think events like QCE play in the larger comic industry? How was your experience tabling at the event (what was the reception like from people who saw your work there)? Is this your first time at QCE?

This was my first time at QCE, but I’ve participated in other similar events such as APAture, craft fairs, and community panels. It’s always been very life-affirming to experience people interacting with my work—to pick up the comics and flip through them. That’s very meaningful for me. I feel that people are generally very supportive of my work, which I’m absolutely grateful for. There’s always an element of surprise when showing my work to the public, of finding unexpected readers and accomplices. I really dig that, especially when people laugh and get my humor.

MEMORY OF AN AVALANCHE Q&A

Last month Aiden Gleisberg and Rebekah Edwards kindly invited me to present on Memory of an Avalanche in their Foundations in Critical Studies: Embodiment class at the California College of the Arts. I wanted to thank everybody for all the support and warm vibes! My wall is now full of fan letters and amazing sources of inspiration to keep drawing and pushing through :)

I wanted to share my responses to some of the questions from the class…

• WHY COMICS?
I found comics to be a good medium of connection due to its accessibility. I’m interested in the possibilities that the relationship between words and images opens up for this narrative. I want to create multiple entry points for others to engage with the content—maybe through character design, drawings, shojo manga aesthetics, emotional resonance, etc. I want to exploit humor to establish a sense of agency, to decenter dominant narratives (immigration, trans embodiment, queer of color identity politics, community activism, etc), and most importantly to render the space of margins as inhabitable and empowering. I’m using comics to build community in tangible ways and to draw people into participating in my struggle. This is how I imagine the healing process and initiate a paradigm shift.

• WHY GRAPHIC MEMOIR?
I’m using the illusion of truth often associated with the genre of graphic memoir to instigate discomfort and validate the existence of margins. However, while I’m categorizing my work as a graphic memoir for others to take this narrative seriously, at the same time I’m disrupting this very dichotomy of truth VS lies, questioning the significance of that distinction in processes of identity construction and relational practices. The content of my work challenges this truth-lie dichotomy by poking fun at the audience’s curiosity itself. If one is wondering whether or not any part of my narrative is true, they are, in the logic of the story, rendering themself a cultural authority—akin to the court clerk, the immigration officer, or the doctor who constantly questions the legitimacy of the protagonist’s identity and existence (i.e., “Is Bo a good or bad immigrant?”). So in a sense, I’m using the “graphic memoir” genre as a two-pronged approach—to normalize the existence of margins and to subvert the cultural conditions that create and maintain those very margins.

• MY STYLE
My work is very much manga-inspired. I’m drawn to the nonlinear modality of visual storytelling in manga. There are many instances where I disrupt the normative left-to-right reading order by breaking panel borders and forcing the reader to move their eyes around the page. That’s another way I’m enhancing this aspect of emotional truth. In terms of the drawing, I feel that comics is an art of abstraction. One rule I have for abstracting my characters is that they must in some way remain racially recognizable (or strategically unrecognizable) as well as legible in terms of gender embodiment. I spend a lot of time on background work, which is typical of most manga, since I want to build a world that’s comprehensible and relatable, to exaggerate the illusion of truth. In terms of the storytelling style, my comic is a bit choppy and works like an emotional rollercoaster. That’s because I use the concept of impossibility as an organizing principle of the entire graphic memoir, as a way to articulate the inarticulable violence, which is the lived reality of those inhabiting multiple margins. I’m using this storytelling style to disrupt romanticized narratives of survival (e.g., marriage, citizenship, graduation, etc) and disorient the reader from what they’re usually comfortable with. I’m strategically (and literally) opening up the “in-between” space, the spatiotemporal location between “before” and “after,” and to resignify what markers of “survival” and “success” mean via both form and content.