Illustrating Identity: Visual Language & Queer Stories

18sep1:00 pm2:00 pmIllustrating Identity: Visual Language & Queer StoriesGem Hall, Shira Spector, Selena Goulding, Moderator: Sami Alwani

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An image is worth 1,000 words, or so the saying goes. What does illustration bring to queer stories? There was a time where the only queer signifiers were subtle visual clues, and visual presentation is still a huge facet of people’s identities in the modern era. Join four modern illustrators as they discuss queer stories and storytelling, and how illustration serves to illuminate their work.

Moderated by Sami Alwani. Presented in partnership with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Books featured:

  • Green Glass Ghosts illustrated by Gem Hall (ebook / paperback)
  • Red Rock Baby Candy by Shira Spector (hardcover)
  • Work for a Million illustrated by Selena Goulding (ebook / paperback)
  • The Pleasure of the Text by Sami Alwani (paperback)

Green Glass Ghosts
Arsenal Pulp Press

At age nineteen in the year 2000, the queer narrator of Green Glass Ghosts steps off a bus on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver, a city where the faceless condo towers of the wealthy loom over the streets to of the east side where folks are just trying to get by, set against the deceptively beautiful backdrop of snow-capped mountains and sparkling ocean.

The haunting illustrations by Gem Hall conjure the moody, misty urban landscape and represent a deep collaboration with the author based on their shared experience of seeking safety, authenticity, and acceptance on the West Coast. Green Glass Ghosts is an evocation of that delicate, aching moment between youth and adulthood when we are trying, and often failing, to become the person we dream ourselves to be.

Red Rock Baby Candy
Fantagraphics Books

Shira Spector literally paints a vivid portrait of the most eventful 10 years of her life, encompassing her tenacious struggle to get pregnant, the emotional turmoil of her father’s cancer diagnosis and eventual death, and her recollections of past relationships with her parents and her partner. Set in a kaleidoscope of Montreal and Toronto, Red Rock Baby Candy unfolds as one of the most formally inventive comics in the history of the medium. It begins in subtle, tonal shades of black ink, introduces color slowly over the next 50 pages until it explodes into a glorious full color palette. The irreverent characters begin to bloom and to live life fully, resurrecting the dead in order to map the geography among infertility, sexuality, choice, and mortality. The drawing is visceral, symbolic, and naturalistic. The visual storytelling eschews traditional comics panels in favor of a series of unique page compositions that convey both a stream of consciousness and the tactile reality of life, both the subjective impressions of the author at each moment of her life and the objective series of events that shape her narrative. It is the most formally revolutionary visual storytelling since Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing is Monsters.

Work for a Million
McClelland & Stewart (Penguin Random House)

Tightly plotted and razor sharp, Work for a Million is hard-boiled detective noir stunningly rendered against a 1970s urban backdrop.

When Helen Keremos, Private Detective, is hired by a beautiful recording artist who has just won a million dollar lottery prize, her plan for a quiet life on the West Coast is quickly diverted. Helen is fiercely loyal, an independent woman whose magnetic personality and storied career make her the city’s premier private eye, suspicious of all stereotypes and not afraid to bend the rules. Rising star Sonia Deerfield has been receiving blackmail threats from an anonymous caller, and though she is surrounded by her keenly invested business team of “friends,” Helen wonders how trustworthy they really are. As the stakes get higher and attempts are made on their lives, the two women are drawn closer together through the twists and turns of the blackmailer’s dangerous pursuit–and their chemistry is no mystery.

The Pleasure of the Text
Conundrum Press

In The Pleasure of the Text, Sami Alwani weaves together themes of art induced dissociation, queer intergenerational polyamory, racial capitalism and esoteric mystical experiences into 20 slice of life comic stories that are equal parts comedy and tragedy. These stories question society and individual identity. A talking baby philosophizes away his own emotions. A half-man, half-dog cartoonist’s spirit burns too bright when he alienates the entire alternative comics industry, drunk on his own power. A friendly ghost survives COVID quarantine with the help of CBD pot cookies and essential oil diffusers. There’s something for everyone in this cheerful volume collecting all of award-winning Alwani’s previous work to date (Vice, Now) with plenty of never-before-seen material.


In Partnership with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival


(Saturday) 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm