What I’m Reading: “Flocks”, by L. Nichols (queer Christian autobio comics)

"I am the people. We are the people. But no matter how hard I tried, I never heard 'me' when they said 'we.' I think they knew I was different."

I’ve mentioned before that I read a lot of webcomics, and that in the best of them I find more to relate to in the queer experiences they depict than I do in most prose fiction.  (And maybe also that the format lets me take works which make me feel strong emotions piecemeal, slowing me down enough that I can process them without getting overwhelmed.)

Flocks by L. Nichols—which its website describes simply as “An autobiographical story about L’s experience as a queer Christian”—is a particularly pointed example of that.

A lot of L.’s experience of being Christian and queer in a place hostile to the latter was my experience too, and we used college to escape in the same way.  The grinding sense that I was wrong, that I didn’t belong, that I was being punished by God, was something I lived with for a long time, and has made any kind of adult relationship with the church very, very hard.

For me the redemptive arc is that that is no longer my day-to-day, and I’m in a place now with people who are welcoming to who I am.  The comic is still ongoing (posts about once a month), but it seems L. found much the same.

What I’m Reading, Canadian Graphic Novelists Edition

I can’t remember when I first encountered Marian Churchland‘s work — I think a friend maybe linked me to her posts about The Crossing, an unimplemented MMORPG idea she sketched out (quite literally) in a series of posts on her blog?  Her writing and drawing and sartorial sense appealed to me, so I started following her, and when I found out, months later, that she had written a graphic novel, I knew I wanted to read it.  (Artists, bad at self-promotion what?)

Beast is a retelling of the “Beauty and the Beast” story, of course, but our Beauty is a cranky down-on-her-luck sculptor and our Beast is an enigmatic centuries-old man who seems to be made out of swirling shadows.  It’s also about the relationship between artist and patron, artist and muse, and the question of what the artist will sacrifice for her art.

The story is gorgeously told — all fluid linework in her distinctive understated style, and the book uses the color of that linework to indicate time of day in a way that I found effective and subtle.  (If I ever finish…  but I get ahead of myself.)

I identified a lot with the main character’s habits, which the author depicts with loving (and I presume somewhat autobiographical) care — boiling water in a kettle on the stove, leaving cups of tea to cool in odd places and forgetting them, working mostly at night, making and needing few connections with other people.  An ascetic, obsessive lifestyle; one that I fall into sometimes when I don’t have other things to pull me out.  One that I miss, sometimes.

I loved how the story grounded its fantastic in the mundane, how it neither questioned the fantasy nor bothered to explain it.  It didn’t need to.  Each heightened the effect of the other.

It’s a book I want to come back to in a week, a month, a year, to see how it changes, the more I write.  To see if it grows on me.