By Bree King (@agreeablepossum)
The Kickstarter for the anthology may be over, but keep your chin up fellow himbo enthusiast- GCers is here to provide you with some additional insight from the lovely Editors of Comrade Himbo! Whether you missed the campaign or are waiting for your pledge rewards, Ashley Gallagher and Jenny Mott have very interesting things to say about comics as a medium, the makeup of a Himbo, and the power of community organizing;
1) The mission statement for POMEpress highlights the importance of “comics and feelings,” can you touch on why the connection between the two is important to the type of stories POME sets out to tell?
Jenny: I mean, besides my personally having a lot of Feelings about Comics as media, comics and feelings go together pretty well beyond that. In most circumstances, visual media is going to be more accessible than written media, because there is no universal written language, because literacy isn’t a given; but, I think there’s something about the way comics sit between the visual and the written that lends itself well both to leading the reader through the emotions of a story with its images and to allowing for a deeper experience of those emotions by engaging the reader’s imagination. Like filmmaking, comics have a way of guiding the reader’s feelings through directorial choices—decisions made around perspectives, points of view, framing; but, for me at least, the process of reading a comic feels more inviting—more collaborative and more personal—than watching a movie because of the way comics rely on the reader to bring something of themselves to the experience. Comics ask you to look at a still frame of a person with a speech bubble and to imagine the lips moving, the body shifting, the eyes darting. Comics invite you to bring yourself and your experiences and your feelings to the process of reading, but in a way that is still visual and accessible, in a way that feels intuitive. So, when we’re sitting down to think about the kinds of stories we want to tell, just by starting from the point of “comics” we’re already thinking about accessibility and inclusivity, and about tapping into people’s feelings and the shared human experience. It’s not too much of a leap, then, to the projects we’ve done in the past—Group Chat, which is all about found family and the power of friendship; or Going Steady, which is about loving and supportive partnerships—or to something like Comrade Himbo, which is all about being earnest and well intentioned on behalf of your community. Having Big Feelings in Comics, for us, means celebrating the things that connect us to other people.
2) Comrade Himbo was an incredibly wholesome and uplifting read. Was capturing those feelings an intentional curation choice from the beginning, or something that emerged piece by piece?
Jenny: When we opened the call for submissions to Comrade Himbo back in September 2020, we were explicitly looking for uplifting and inspiring content that celebrated earnest and sincere hunks fighting for the good of their communities. Historically, POMEpress has always sought to celebrate the earnest and sincere. But especially coming out of Summer 2020, that was the kind of content we were craving—a reason to keep fighting or just to keep going, a hope or a vision for what a future could look like if all of us were earnest and sincere hunks who care about our communities—and I think it’s content we’re all collectively still craving! So, I’d say the wholesome and uplifting vibes were very much an intentional choice.
3) Did the process for creating Comrade Himbo differ greatly from POME’s past projects?
Jenny: Ah—yes and no. This is our fourth large-ish anthology project. And we’ve always worked on these remotely because a good chunk of our contributors are international or otherwise just don’t live in the same town as us. So, we’ve got a pretty solid system in place, production-wise. But, this was our first time trying to work on a project in the midst of a global pandemic. So, besides the inclusion of color illustrations, the main difference was a significantly more relaxed timeline. Usually, production runs October/November-February (with a chunk of time off for the holidays), and then we do the Kickstarters in March, get the books printed in April, and sell them at cons in May and June. But with so many cons still virtual this year, we didn’t have our usual hard deadline. The past year and a half has obviously been rough all around, so we were really happy to be able to build in more flexibility for our artists’ schedules in these Unprecedented Times.
4) As a fellow subscriber to leftist ideas, I’ve often felt that the material can forget how to have fun. The success of the Kickstarter also indicates that a more lighthearted approach to leftist ideas was an untapped market. Was that something the editorial team had predicted as well?
Jenny: I’m not sure if I’d say we predicted anything in a market-analysis kind of way, but we’re very much a team of goofball nerds with Big Feelings, who think that being kind and helping each other is just common sense. I think we’re always craving content that reflects this view, so it didn’t feel unreasonable to think that other people might be craving it too. That said, while we maintain that himbos can absolutely be smart, I think that part of the appeal of juxtaposing the Comrade with the Himbo is that leftist politics—despite the sometimes unfun/inaccessible literature—are generally pretty natural and intuitive once you accept empathy as a guiding principle. They don’t take a rocket scientist or a doctor of philosophy to figure out. So, this framing of Comrade-rie as something that is accessible to a Himbo kind of everyman felt like the perfect way to present that “empathy as a guiding principle” to other people. But also, the idea itself very much just started out as a joke in one of our recurring bits on the POMEmag site, Romance Roundtable, where the four of us read a Harlequin Romance Manga and goof about it for an hour. Tapping into the current respective Comrade and Himbo zeitgeists was mostly luck, honestly—I think we were just in the right place at the right time.
5) To me, the intersection of queerness in stories about direct action and labor organizing felt like bringing Pride back to its roots as a protest. Can you touch on what queerness means to you, as an organizing power?
Ashley: slides in wearing my big-ass “Ask Me About the Lavender Scare” button That’s a great question! I feel like there are a few complementary angles from which to consider queer organizing power. On the one hand, you have the historical and still ongoing struggles for human rights and for an improvement in material conditions for specifically queer and trans people: struggles against policing, for medical care, and for the right to simply exist without the fear of being killed simply for who you are or how you look. Then you also have examples of queer people organizing together with cis/hetero workers, like the ever-inspiring Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners movement. I think both of these organizing strategies are vitally important and necessarily intertwined. Queer and trans people exist in every culture, in every race, and our own struggles to survive and thrive can help us to connect with other struggles for justice that are not thought of as inherently LGBTQIA+ issues. When we flex the power of having each other’s backs, whether that’s marching together under all the Pride banners as an ever-evolving coalition of queer and trans communities, or organizing in solidarity with people who aren’t yet engaged in the queer and trans struggle, we learn the skills we need to build a better world together, strengthened—instead of divided—by our differences. Ultimately, I think the history and future of queer and trans power should be envisioned as a movement that knows how to make and win demands not because they are popular or respectable, but because they will make even the most marginalized among us more free.
6) Who is THE Himbo blueprint for you?
Jenny: LOL I think we each have a different Peak Himbo, but generally we can agree on Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove, Brendan Fraser’s George of the Jungle, and the cast of Magic Mike: XXL. Keanu, of course—King Himbo. The main thing, for me at least, is just having no capacity or desire for guile.
Find more of POMEmag’s past projects (Going Steady, Eternal Witchcraft, Group Chat) on their Gumroad. You can also support them on Patreon for; exclusive sneak peaks at upcoming projects, sketches, horoscopes and more!