April 21, I opened the last, hardest box of old sketchbooks.
I found wondrous things. Love letters to my late beloved Rob Sawyer, even more New Mutants slash art of Rahne and Dani, a sketch of my friend Chris Claremont made in fall 1986. I even found the first portraits I ever drew, coming soon.
I have been archiving my 80s and 90s art since April 2019.
Self-portraits from the ’80s! The archiving project was very hard. So hard it dragged to a halt by mid-2020. I have only barely resurrected it the last couple months.
I had no idea I’d drawn Chris!
I don’t remember drawing this, but based on the sketchbook it was I’m estimating it was drawn in the Fall of ’86. Chris Claremont was a great comfort to me in the terrible Fall of 1986.
More drawings of Dani, from ’85 and ’86.
I was working so hard to draw the New Mutants as individuals, especially Rahne and Dani. Trying to give them distinct bodies, faces and characters, as co-creator Bob McLeod and defining artist Bill Sienkiewicz had.
And of course ’80s fashion!
Wow, ’80s fashion. It wasn’t all bad.
At the same time, I was trying to learn to draw superheroes!
I had to learn the standards and aesthetic of comics, and so much technical stuff. Perspective! I have so much respect for the young woman I was and how hard I worked for my dream.
Learning to draw expressions! And movement!
1985 was a long, long year of my life. I was at Parsons, in the Illustration Program, and also studying preferred anatomy texts of comic artists all the time. And I was a junkie, on weekends.
The New Mutants, the X-Men and the Teen Titans kept me going.
I was really, really depressed and profoundly traumatized, but also so goddam determined. All I cared about were comics, my friends, and getting high on the weekends.
And then my favorite character Danielle was attacked and threatened with sexual assault, in New Mutants 35!
Jesus! I was so angry, I wrote this letter to Chris in one of my sketchbooks. I was gonna send it to the New Mutants’ letter column. Ultimately, as I got drunker that night, I sent a telegram instead! I occasionally sent drunk telegrams, in the ’80s.
Finding this letter as a midlife, long-healing queer, I love that angry girl.
Although I am saddened at how ignorant I was. Today I know that American families who have a Native American great-grandmother are families who participated in harm, not “part American Indian”. I also didn’t know the term “survivor” back then, or identify as one yet.
I was really worried that there was gonna be a Dark Mirage storyline!
I’m sure there has been, by now! But there wasn’t, then. And oddly enough, I wound up finding a lot to like about the man who wrote the story, despite his long history of writing bad things happening to women. In 1986 I met Chris Claremont, and got together with Rob.
Joy seemed to burst through the carapace of struggle, for a time.
The passion I felt for comics and the career ahead conjoined with love and hope. I went to San Diego Comic Con on a cloud of youth, ambition and drugs. And then tragedy, trauma, all the things that happened in New York in the ’80s to junkies and queers, and descent into deep addiction.
So that when I finally broke into comics in ’93, I wound up working for DC, on Star Trek, and never did get to draw teenage superheroes.
There is a new generation of amazing people working in comics.
I almost never buy comics, but when there’s buzz about a New Mutants arc, I perk up my ears. Vita Ayala, a trans non-binary Afro-Puerto-Rican writer from NYC, has been doing fantastic New Mutants work. (Their twitter is here, website here!)
I saw the panel above shared online a couple months ago and ordered the issue (plus Ayala’s other NM work), but it only arrived in Berlin today.
That’s ok, today is soon enough to see this joy, this miracle.
A whole New Mutants comic about queer community, restorative justice, personal and community accountability, healing trauma, and women kissing women! The beautiful art is by DaniloBeyruth as Artist and Dan Brown as color artist. Dani and Rahne share a beautiful scene of honesty and connection and intimacy.
What an incredible experience, to see it all said out loud.
Well, written out loud, anyway! At last, at last! Illyana speaks on rage and trauma, telling your own story, and the most important things, connection and community. Xi’an gets together with a woman character I learned is Galura, a Filipina mutant who’s also canonically a lesbian!
Xi’an, Galura, Dani and Rahne confront a long-term agent of harm with tenets of restorative justice.
Rahne chooses to give forgiveness and Xi’an chooses not to. Plus the Proudstar brothers hug! Both Dani and Ororo express personal accountability and the intent to do better, and Ororo speaks about community accountability as well. What a wonderful voyage into the present and future of comics. So grateful to Vita Ayala for the work they’re doing!
Everything I hoped for as a young woman who loved these characters and this medium, and more. Can’t wait to see the next issue, and so glad I’m done opening boxes.