One night about eight months ago, Joamette Gil had an epiphany. Her skills as a writer, cartoonist, and illustrator, her Afro-Cuban roots, her interdisciplinary degree in social justice and psychology, and perhaps more than a little magic came together to form the idea that would become Power & Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology. Initially, the “witch” part was missing from the equation until the moment Gil sent out the call for submissions. The pieces were set in motion, and the result is taking shape:
“Magic. Wisdom. Community. Misbehavior. For many people around the world, the witch is a symbol of feminine strength and complexity. POWER & MAGIC collects fifteen original comics about queer witches of color as they master their abilities, discover their traditions, and navigate love as beings with incredible power. Featuring the work of seventeen women, demigirls, and bigender creators of color, this queer witch comics anthology is as rich an experience as womanhood itself.”
With a Kickstarter that is steadily creeping above its $33,000 goal, the success hasn’t quite sunk in for Gil just yet. She is indeed grateful and relieved and excited for what this means, both for this project, and the future of her publishing company, Power & Magic Press and is looking to make the most out this last day of crowdfunding, which, I am very pleased to say, involves sharing some insights with us here at WWAC.
“Witch” is such a variable word for so many people. How, whether for creators who may be real life practitioners or creators who are using the archetype as a metaphor, does the witch unite this entire anthology? (With thanks to WWAC Lifestyle Editor Ginnis Tonnik for this question!)
Our creators all relate to the word in different ways, and it definitely comes through in their stories. “Santa Divina Niña” by Juliette G.M.M. Lopez and “Te Perdi” by Maria Llorens and Devaki Neogi are alike in that they both draw upon real world ritual traditions and focus on the protagonist’s relationship to those traditions. Then there are stories like “Convolvere” by Jemma Salume and “Your Heart Is An Apple” by Nivedita Sekar that distill the witch into the more universal symbol of a woman with great influence. The one thing they all have in common (and why they were all chosen) is that every story deals with some facet of power: inner power, structural power, the source of one’s magic, learning that power can save as well as harm, and so on. “Witch,” whether real or metaphorical, is an identity based on a relationship with power.
You have an interest in witches and Wicca that, you’ve mentioned in other interviews, is part of your upbringing, though you may not have recognized that at the time. Yet, when initially coming up with this anthology, witches were not part of the focus. What inspired the introduction of that element and how has it shaped the process thus far?
I’m not super involved in Wicca these days, but when I was, it helped me appreciate my mother’s Santeria practice and see it in a new light. Before my 2-3 years as an aspiring teen witch, I never thought too deeply about my family’s spirituality at all. The fallibility of memory makes these things tricky, but it’s likely I didn’t even think of Santeria as a religion or as spiritual. It was just our story, as matter-of-fact as the fact that we spoke Spanish at home or the fact that I was much lighter skinned than my mother. The sky is blue, water is wet, Elegua’s altar goes behind the front door, Yemaya is my mother and that of all living things, whistling in the house is disrespectful to the orishas, etc. Now, as an agnostic adult, I still hold Santeria sacred as a facet of who I am–a crucial element of my story.
Witches in general took hold of my imagination well before any of those revelations, though, primarily through stories like Cardcaptor Sakura, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and Harry Potter. Like many femmes of my generation, I fantasized about being a magical girl as a kid. I was reminded of that in January during #WitchsonaWeek, a week-long art challenge during which creators draw themselves re-imagined as witches. Witchcraft is a very real form of spirituality (with many traditions falling under it depending on your perspective), but the idea of having magic powers has a universal appeal that transcends individual beliefs. The near-constant flow of witchsona after witchsona on my Twitter timeline while I was preparing the call for submissions knocked that sense into me just in time, haha.
Have a chat with your younger self: If such an anthology had been available to you in your youth, in what ways do you think it might have helped shape you?
Oh, wow. That’s a great question. I think it would have shaped me in two keys ways.
First, it would have gotten me to start drawing comics sooner. It wasn’t until much later in life that I had access to comics with names like “Juliette G. de M. Medina Lopez” or “Naomi Franquiz” attached; comics with Spanglish in them; comics about Santeria (yeah, P&M’s got that covered). Even though I got my start as a comics reader through manhwa and manga that I could relate to as a girl, I still didn’t have access to content (nor to creators) that I could connect to the specificity of me.
I probably would have realized I was queer sooner, too! Despite every clue I can point to in hindsight, I didn’t come out as queer to myself until I was 20 years old. Not every story in Power & Magic has a romantic element, but the majority do. The closest thing I had growing up to a demo of it being perfectly fine to love another woman was Michiru and Haruka from Sailor Moon, whose romance was censored in-script but less so in their dynamic.
Seventeen women, demigirls, and bigender creators of color are pouring their hearts and souls into this anthology. I understand that you had many responses to your call for people interested in this project, but there’s only so much room. How difficult was the selection process? Would you consider future anthologies that might incorporate work from some of the other applicants?
The selection process was extremely difficult. There were several phases of narrowing it down before the final 15 stories were selected, each phase more difficult than the last. Ultimately, I rejected many perfectly publishable and exciting stories so that I could prioritize higher pay over higher page-count, which was a key part of this project for me. When one of our teams was unable to stay on, the creators I contacted to fill the vacancy were from that pool of applicants. That said, of course I would love to publish any one of those applicants in the future!
The clock is ticking on the POWER & MAGIC Kickstarter, with today being the final day to help this project continue to exceed its goals. Be sure to keep an eye on the progress at the POWER & MAGIC Press website for more details and future project plans.