what have i been putting in my brain???
this is a page where i describe media and art of various categories that i've been reading/watching/looking at/etc. this can be stuff that influences my art practice, things i look at for fun, or stuff i've been engaging with to try and learn about the world around me. this is a page i'll add to whenever i find something that sticks with me. ranges from "childhood influences" to "currently reading". formatting and lengths of reviews will vary widely, sorry not sorry!
last updated june 23rd 2022
comics and graphic novels
Drop-Out and Fresh Meat by gray Folie (2015-2017, 2018-2021)
I'm packaging both of these webcomics together because of the overlap in themes and characters, but they can be read separately. Content Warning for suicide and medical abuse for both of these comics and the discussion of them below.
The first webcomic, Drop-Out, follows girlfriends Sugar Kysley and Lola (no last name given) on their final roadtrip together -- headed to the Grand Canyon to commit suicide in the same way Sugar's younger cousin Angel did the year prior. I started reading Drop-Out in 2016 (I believe page 52) when I was a suicidal, therapy-dodging, very-closeted teenager and I latched on hard to this comic about suicidal furries. I think I even posted "gay furries get me hyped to die (positive)" on a locked private tumblr blog, in conjunction with Night in the Wood's furry-adjacent characters' terrible rural small-town lives affirming how shit my own (suburban, normal-sized city) life felt at the time. Reading Sugar say "i'm tired. they said, 'wait'. i waited. it hasn't gotten better", reading Lola say "no reason not to [kill myself]", watching the both of them joke and discuss and sigh over cishet non-intersex people making their lives worse, i really felt, as the kids say, "seen" by this webcomic. Deep in my paranoia and depression and antipsychiatry leanings, I saw someone else saying the things I was told I was crazy for thinking.
The second comic, Fresh Meat, follows 17 year old Kimberly Yu in her first suicide attempt and subsequent involuntary psychiatric hold, and how she attempts to survive it. I started reading it as I graduated highschool and went into university, and I was the same age as Kim for the first few months of the comic, still dealing with a lot of the issues that made me latch onto Drop-Out. To me, Fresh Meat is a deconstruction the idea that psychiatric wards, however horrible they are, are there for "the patient's own good", and was one of the first pieces of media I read that treated them with the critical eye they deserve. The therapists fish for answers they want, the nurses in no uncertain terms violate the personhood of most characters, and even the patients have spats between eachother. As I got a bit older, my brain levelled out a bit, and the comic went on, my psychiatry-hating went from fevered and terrified to a more principled opposition, and as someone who (luckily) has skirted around psychiatric institutionalization, I credit this comic among (amogus) one of the many reasons for my growth in this topic.
Support the creator on patreon here; I included a mention of their work in my undergrad thesis so promoting them is the least I can do while I don't have a credit card to let me use Patreon with.
Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley (2003)
Lost at Sea, Bryan Lee O'Malley's first original graphic novel before his hit Scott Pilgrim series, is about the main character's coming of age in, you guessed it, a road trip. Raleigh is a socially anxious, reserved 18 year old with no friends and a thread of magical thinking convincing her that her soul was stolen by a cat. It's where I got my name from; I read Lost at Sea shortly after getting obsessed with O'Malley's work through Scott Pilgrim, and as a similarly isolated, antisocial, slightly delusional teenager, I latched on hard. In hindsight, the reasons I related to Raleigh so hard point to some of my early unnoticed gender dysphoria [I will update with specific quotes when I find my copy of the book again]. Lost at Sea was one of the earliest influencers of the kinds of graphic novels I wanted to make -- instrospective, character-focused, black and white, self-contained stories. Of course I've grown to want to make other types of stories as well, but it was Lost at Sea, not Scott Pilgrim, that put me on the path to cartooning.
Calvin and Hobbbes by Bill Watterson (1985-1995)
Speaking of cartooning, if Lost at Sea put me on the path to wanting to do longerform graphic novels, then Calvin and Hobbes put me on the path to doing comics as a medium in the first place. When I was a kid, my dad gave me a stack of his old Calvin and Hobbes books, and I did a report on Bill Watterson all the way back in elementary school. A lot of the jokes were before my time, before I knew what capitalism and other ~adult~ stuff was, so I ended up growing to like the comics even more as I got older. Watterson has a very sharp, even wry sense of humour at times, the kind that would get me to come back to the book to try and decipher what Watterson "really" meant when he said certain things (I was a weird kid). Also, Watterson is very much "get the bag and then shut up and fuck off" goals that I aspire to despire knowing I'll never have that sort of temperment.
nonfiction books and papers
Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left by Emily K. Hobson (2016)
i started this book in 2020, and read maybe a third of it each year in between semesters at school. in my labour studies classes, i was curious about coalitions between unions and lgbtq/queer organizing, and this book goes over the intersections, crossover, and differences between socialist organizing and lgbtq/queer organizing between the 60s and today. topics covered include collective defence, street organizing, queer organizing in the Nicaraguan Sandinista revolution, the overlap of anti-war and HIV/AIDS activism, and liberal VS radical activism. very dense but well-researched book, it was a lot of new information for me at once.
Towards a Queerer Labor Movement: The Politics and Potential of LGBT-Labor Coalitions by Raechel Tiffe (2013)
as mentioned above, i did some research on the intersections of lgbtq organizing and union organizing, and this PhD thesis paper was essentially a longer, more well-researched version of my undergrad research paper where my thesis was "unions and lgbtq organizers are both more sucessful in their goals when they work together and consider their issues intrisincly linked instead of separate". i also really the "story bank" idea that the author outlines when describing a union drive for better healthcare, where transgender workers explained how healthcare was very important to them. the author also writes about how a large part of her research was participating in union drives and organizing, trying to place herself as someone learning from trans workers and working with them as opposed to studying them like ants in a terrarium.
Developing the Cartooning Mind: The History, Theory, Benefit and Practice of Comic Books in Visual Arts Education by Cathy G. Johnson (2017)
Cathy G. Johnson is one of the many artist who i enjoy looking at online but don't own much (paid-for) stuff from, mostly due to lacking a way to pay for stuff online. luckily, her thesis was available online for a time. as an art educator, johnson argues that comics are useful tools for teaching children by building both their visual and text literacy in tandem. johnson also comments on how graphic novels, often used for memoirs, help children develop empathy for other people and provides an avenue for marginalized children to see themselves on the page.
Just One of the Guys? How Transmen Make Gender Visible at Work by Kristen Schilt (2006)
i stumbled upon this paper while searching for a source of a claim someone i followed constantly made, which was that "trans men earn more when they come out as trans, and are even paid more than cis women". this claim didn't seem factual to me -- statistics show that trans men tend to earn 70 cents to a cis man's dollar, which puts them below cis women, who earn about 80 cents to a cis man's dollar (this is assuming all else is equal, as i'm aware race and class play a lot into this). this paper is a report from a series of interviews the author conducted with working trans men about how their workplace experiences differed before coming out versus after coming out. the paper claims that trans men have "outsider-within knowledge", which means that, due to having experienced working both as a man and as a woman, trans men are better able to see gendered biases in the workplace.
this paper stuck with me, because even though i knew the hard facts of how much trans men are paid versus cis women, i did not expect some of the conclusions of the paper, notably that trans men tend to gain more social status when they come out as men. however, that status is tempered by two main things: first, race has a large influence on gaining "positive" social status, as white trans men are white men and trans men of colour are men of colour, and both groups are treated as such. second, the gaining of this social status is largely dependent on how "normative"/"passable" for cis the man in question is, and stealth trans men (trans men who are assumed to be cis men) by far benefit the most. i learned something new from this paper, and even learned i was wrong about some things.
Lord of the Last Heartbeat by May Peterson (2019)
Mio, a castrato sorcerer of voice and tool of his mother's political schemes, beseeches the dark and enigmatic werebear-vampire Lord Rhodry to put an end to his mother's plans -- by putting an end to him. Instead, Lord Rhodry whisks him away to his haunted, icy estate. The pair grow closer and attraction blooms, but the mysteries of Lord Rhodry's past and the pull of Mio's family threatens to tear them apart.
Lord of the Last Heartbeat is a M/M* romance-fantasy-mystery novel and the first installment of May Peterson's The Sacred Dark series. My two favourite features of this book are the setting and the prose; the setting is a fantasy mix of Renaissance-era Italy with a backdrop of Western Europe, where magic is known but feared and outlawed and the operahouses sing long into the night, and the prose is lush and ripe to accompany the wine, sorcery, and sex. The introduction of Lord Rhodry planted an image so vivid in my head that I had to stop and draw it. Some reviews aren't a big fan of the prose, so it's probably just a taste thing, but I really enjoyed it. The romance excited me, and not gonna lie part of that was because I was very into the idea of being a magical twink who is the metamour of a strong supernatural shapeshifting Lord. For me however, and it seems like most reviews agree, the weakest part of the book was the last 100 pages that focus on Lord Rhodry's past mysteries. I'm not sure if it's because they weren't set up the best or I was just more interested in the romance, but I cared more about Mio and Rhodry in the present than whatever was going on with the mansion. That being said, if you go into this book for the romance, I doubt you will be disappointed.