Joamette Gil is on fire. Hot on the heels of Power & Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology, Power & Magic Press is back with a new anthology called Immortal Souls (The Next Queer Witch Comics Anthology). The response to Gil’s previous call for submissions was overwhelming, and not every piece could be included in the original anthology. But Gil has made room for them in this new anthology, now on Kickstarter. “They’re part of a special batch whose stories came just shy of inclusion in volume one,” explains Gil. “There was a unifying reason they weren’t accepted: their stories all had a strong theme of death, the afterlife, and spirit-based magic running through out. These stories are excellent while leaning darker, so I decided to create IMMORTAL SOULS as a space for them.” As such, Gil’s coven of creators has expanded to include Amber Huff, Ani Mackie, Ayanni C. Hanna, Clara Em, Francis Quintero, Lira Kraunik, Melanie Tingdahl, Nyka, Patdag, Sonia Liao, Sunny Ôchumuk, and Yeon Kyung Cha.
Gil has learned a lot from running her first successful Kickstarter, including, “The ins and outs of USPS, how freight is delivered, which print shop in town is the best, who sells the most affordable shipping supplies, etc. I think the hardest-learned lesson from last time was… timing. Always give yourself much more time to complete something than you think is necessary. That’s what I would tell myself if I had a time machine.” For IMMORTAL SOULS, the KS has a much longer stretch before fulfillment is promised (March 2018); creators had several more months to work on their stories than the previous group did, and deadlines were not immutable but definitely less so than before.
When I interviewed Gil last year, I asked her how an anthology like this could have helped to shape her life if it had been available in her youth. For Immortal Souls, I decided to put the same question to its contributors. Here’s what some of them have to say:
I liked another girl for the first time when I was eleven. I didn’t even realize back then I liked her like that, I just spent a lot of time looking at her and thinking ‘wow, she’s so pretty,’ and tried to be her best friend and got mad when other kids played with her without me around. When I liked a boy the same way, however, I did know it wasn’t just as friends right away. Because that’s what the world tells you: if you feel giddy and get stomach butterflies, you like a person, as long as they’re of the opposite gender (and there’s only two of those, of course).
I loved comics. I learned a lot of things through them. If a book with lots of stories about girls loving each other in a natural way had landed in my hands, I would have probably realized sooner why I felt like crying when Silvia told me she liked someone. And when I realized, I might not have felt so ashamed and scared about it.
I’m a 35 year old woman and my father still doesn’t know I’m bisexual. I’ve introduced him to my boyfriends, but never to my girlfriends, even if I’ve had more meaningful and longer relationships with women than men. When I told my mother about Melissa, whom I had been in love with for over three years, she simply said ‘never tell your father.’
If books and other media had shown me it was normal, I might be different now. Braver. If books and media had told my parents it’s a normal thing, then I wouldn’t probably live with one foot permanently inside the closet.
I know now it’s normal. If I ever have nieces or nephews, I will tell them it’s normal. They won’t go through this. They will have books and movies that will tell them ‘hey, look, nothing wrong here, just be yourself, it’s as normal as being straight’. And that’s why it’s so important to me to write and draw stories like this, they matter so so much, we’re helping reshape society a little. A book like this one matters. It would have helped me, and it will help others.
Sunny Ôchumuk — ‘Mahk Jchi’
If a Power and Magic Press anthology had been available to me in my youth, I think it would have helped me come into my own a lot sooner. In my early childhood, I can remember clinging to characters like Captain Janeway in Star Trek Voyager and Hermione Granger in Harry Potter. I clung to them in a similar way I grab for food when I’m hungry. Complicated roles for women were just not around or not enough in my life, much less women of color.
Later, as an adult, I can distinctly remember tearing at the first episode Martha Jones appears in Doctor Who. I also cried during the first episode of Legend of Korra and continued to cry as she developed over the four seasons. I cried watching Moana declare her name and her purpose in the song “I am Moana”. I’m still crying over these things because they’re not common. It’s all these brown women who have agency with complicated character arcs. Mako Mori’s storyline in Pacific Rim also made me tear up. Because of this, I’m a big fan of the Mako Mori Test for any of my stories.
Similarly, in my teenage years, I clung to anime and manga for all their queer and trans-ish characters like Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club and Noriko from Fushigi Yugi. I yearned for even an ounce of it and ate up all of it in sight.
Had stories like the ones that from Power & Magic Press been in my life sooner, I might have had examples to discuss the things I was feeling instead of stumbling around in my early adult years like I did. There’s something about crafting a lifestyle with examples that feel less lonely.
Clara Emiliana — ‘Heirloom’
It feels like it’s only been very recently (as of two years ago or so) that I felt empowered to talk about myself and even so much as allude to characters with my cultural background in the work I produce. If I had a book like this when I was younger, it definitely would have started a lot earlier. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen Dominicans on TV, but even more rare is an honest depiction, free some stereotypes. The few Dominicans I was seeing on TV didn’t resemble anyone or anything I was familiar with. Growing up it was completely unheard of, to me, that a Dominican person would be making comics or that, any of the comics (or media on sale for that matter) would be “for me.”
Living in the states none of the media I saw growing up related to me, my family members, or our traditions. Even the way people interacted tended to be different. It became clear that I was meant to relate to the lives of others (mostly white families on TV), but my being able to enjoy it just felt… incidental. Purely coincidental. Not something meant for me.
This anthology goes out of its way to include people of color, and gender non conforming people of color at that! Wow! Even now, that’s still rare to encounter!! Having something like this when I was younger would most definitely have been a huge epiphany that would probably have helped shape how I am now much much sooner.
Melanie Tingdahl — Artist, ‘Requiem’
Having access to an anthology like this as a child would have encouraged me to make more comics. Growing up, my overall exposure to comics was limited to superheroes, Archie, Disney, or newspaper strips. As a child, I thought a career in comics would be amazing but fell under the impression that those were my only options. I remember making my own comics in a notebook I had, telling stories about cute animal friends saving each other from natural disasters. At one point I got a book that talked a lot about how being a cartoonist meant having to follow very specific rules in order to be successful, and I took it to heart. I threw my notebook away.
There was also a period of time in my life I was afraid to be myself. I didn’t want people to know my mother was Korean; I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to be cruel, as some had been before. POCs in the media through the 80s & 90s were only put on screen as stereotypes. The last thing I wanted was to be treated as anything other than normal, which was basically impossible while living in places that severely lacked diversity.
I wish I had been given access to anthologies like Power & Magic through those years I gave up on the idea of making comics, or through the years where shame of my heritage could have been shaped into pride. It would have kept me from feeling like I was some sort of freak that wanted too much from an industry that didn’t seem willing or able to provide for me. It could have made me better as a creator today, because maybe I would have seen the stories I wanted to tell as a goal, not just a pipe dream.
The Kickstarter for Immortal Souls: (The Next Queer Witch Comics Anthology) runs until August 10, 2017, but Gil isn’t stopping there. POWER & MAGIC Volume 2 is next on her to-do list.
“Submissions for that will open in 2018. Before the year is out, we will also be announcing our new series devoted to comics by non-binary creators. I’ve seen the future, and the future is busy!”