By Steve Urena
Seattle based comics publisher North West Press is scheduled to release an anthology exploring and celebrating the world beyond “gay” and “straight”, showcasing characters that are bi-sexual, pansexual, omnisexual, and just about everything in-between.
The project will debut at San Diego Comic Con in July and will feature work from Agnes Czaja, Kate Leth, Randall Kirby, Sam Saturday, and many more talents. Zan Christensen, the publisher of North West Press shed some light on this exciting new project.
IR: Tell us about your independent project and the process behind it?
Zan Christensen: I’m editing an anthology of comics work about bisexuality called “Anything That Loves”. The project grew out of my belief that the common unwillingness of both straight and gay people to accept bisexual people leads directly to homophobic attitudes. People who have some same-sex attraction or affinity should be able to express that without feeling like they have to choose being “gay” or “straight”. I think a lot of people end up living lives as “straight” and feeling frustrated, and that comes out as homophobic hostility, including the notion that “it’s a choice”. I wanted to talk about sexuality as a more fluid, complicated thing, and try to stop putting people in such constricting boxes that can’t contain all that they are.
ZC: We have been so delighted with peoples’ response to it! We made our minimum funding goal in a few days, and are now working toward making some of our stretch goals: paying the contributors more money and funding future Northwest Press projects. We are coming up on our second stretch goal of $20,000 now.
IR:What have been your influences in creating comics and what made you want to do so in the first place?
ZC: I got interested in comics by reading the Marvel and DC comics of the mid-80s and it became a kind of obsession for me. This was back when you could buy a small stack of books for $20, and I would routinely be spending an upwards of $60 in a monthly visit to the comic book shop. I was always attracted to books about outsiders, like the X-Men, and to powerful heroines like Wonder Woman. I’ve always loved comics for its immediacy and imagination.
ZC: The work that I publish now is a lot less “fantastic” than the stuff I grew up reading; as an adult, I want to read stories about the complexities of human life and get a more character-driven story. I hope that people will learn something they didn’t know before, and see the world through someone else’s eyes.
IR: What other projects have you been working on and what kind of stuff would you like to do in comics?
ZC: Artist Mark Brill and I are working on the third installment of our erotic vigilante series “The Mark of Aeacus”, co-published with Vancouver-based Class Comics, and I’m really excited as we make our way to the fourth and last issue of the book. I wrote my first short story piece for a prose anthology called “The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy!” edited by Tom Cardamone, which will be out later in the spring. Another prose project, an urban fantasy novel called “Legacy” that I’ve been working on for a few years, is being polished and prepped for release hopefully later this year. Northwest Press has three more releases besides “Anything That Loves” scheduled, including “Al Qaeda’s Super Secret Weapon” (an erotic political satire), the aforementioned “Lavender Menace”, and Robert Kirby’s huge anthology of new work from 33 queer comics artists, called “QU33R”.
ZC: I really like a lot of webcomics right now. Some standouts are E.K. Weaver’s “The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal” and Alex Woolfson’s “Artifice”. And, of course, the stuff that Northwest Press is publishing, like Rick Worley’s “A Waste of Time”, Leia Weathington’s “The Legend of Bold Riley”, and Dylan Edwards’ “Transposes”; these are all comics that I discovered because I became a fan of their self-published ‘zines.I often fall behind in my “mainstream” comics buying (which I buy digitally), but I still like picking up Wonder Woman and some of my old favorites.
IR: What are your plans for the future?
ZC: After three years of doing it as a side job, this is the first year that I’m relying on Northwest Press as my primary income, so I’m hoping to keep the momentum up and have some big hits. Northwest Press will be appearing at two dozen conventions and events this year, something I really enjoy doing, and I’m looking forward to making our first appearance at the Small Press Expo outside of DC.
ZC: “Anything That Loves” will make its debut at Comic-Con in San Diego, and will be available online and in comics stores shortly after.
IR: What is your method of writing/creating how do you come up with your content?
ZC: To be honest, I’ve been neglecting my writing lately as I focus on building the publishing career up, but when I write, often I start with an idea that comes to me when something I read or watch doesn’t go the way I wished it would. Wanting minor characters to be major ones and get their stories expanded, or for complicated issues not to be glossed over, or trying to look at supernatural or superheroic themes through a real-world lens.
Then I obsess over that idea and write pitches, stories and scripts, and try to find a collaborator to work with. Then I harass them until they draw it!
IR: Anything else you would like to add?
ZC: I came to the comics industry ten years ago, through volunteering with a nonprofit called Prism Comics, which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender comics creators. Though I haven’t been as active a volunteer, lately, I think I’m keeping that spirit of goodwill and trying to earn a living while also doing the right thing. In the messages my books convey, in how I deal with creators, and in the events and organizations I support.
So far, being the good guy seems to be paying off, and I encourage everyone out there to try it!