The wonderful thing about the queer (or LGBTQ if you prefer) comics world is that even as our representation shifts up and down in mainstream comics, the number of queer people making comics in different formats and various means seems increasingly vast and full of talented people. It’s with some embarrassment that I admit to not knowing of Greg Anderson Elysée’s work before a recent email exchange which led to this interview which Elysée and I hope you’ll enjoy reading!
Gay League: Anderson, you’ve been writing columns at the Outhousers for a while and you’ve written several comics projects which were successfully funded through Kickstarter. How did you feel when that first project made its goal?
Greg Anderson Elysée: Bro. You have no idea how both relieved and shocked I was. Shocked with the fact that the first one passed its goal in a couple of days and also with the fact that so many people responded to it. Relieved in the sense as running a Kickstarter is mentally taxing as hell.
GL: What made you want to be a comics writer?
Anderson Elysée: I’ve always been a fan of stories and art. I knew I wanted to be a writer back in kindergarten. I would make my own little picture books and give them to friends and family.
By middle school, I was getting obsessed with comics and trying to get better with art to become a creator but it wasn’t until I read Peter David’s Writing for Comics and reading works by Dwayne McDuffie, David Hine, and Christopher Priest that I knew for a fact that’s what I wanted to do. Its a perfect blend of words and artistic visual storytelling the continues to entertain and impress me more than any other medium.
GL: Looking at your previous work Is’nana the Were-Spider and your current project The Gentlemen, there seem to be some obvious themes or connections between them. One common element is the supernatural or fantasy. It was also a central theme in “I Dream of Home,” your short in the Puerto Rico Strong anthology published by Lion Forge. What attracts you to the supernatural and fantasy and their folk lore sibling from a writer’s point of view? (And on a personal level if this plays a part.)
Anderson Elysée: I think my attraction to supernatural and fantasy comes initially from my love for Greek mythology. Those stories are insane and very over the top but everyone accepts them. Greek myths definitely helped my reading development and interest for storytelling and that brought my love to other folklores and other cultural stories.
GL: You’ve also briefly mentioned an interest in stories of the Africana Diaspora. As all encompassing as it is, what concerns do you have in mind when trying to decide a story to write?
Anderson Elysée: Hmm. I think for me its wanting to get people interested in Black cultural stories. I don’t like that I had to introduce and educate myself on Black myths from various countries while European myths and fairytales are built into American education curriculums. And it makes me feel a way when other Black people I know have a hard time naming even five Black folklore/mythological or spiritual figures. So I want to change that narrative and showcase we have some great character and stories we can draw inspiration from.
GL: Your first story is about Is’Nana, the son of the Spider God Anansi, who had to learn to take responsibility for an accident he created. In it you explored the idea of memory or of being forgotten. In The Gentleman, your protagonist Oliver isn’t the son of a deity but shares some ancestral supernatural connection. Oliver also seems a bit reluctant, if that’s accurate to say. What can you tell me about Oliver?
Anderson Elysée: Oliver Solomon, aka The Gentleman, is actually connected to a deity. But its an ancient and evil deity known as the Void who is locked up in a vessel in Oliver’s heart. If Oliver dies, it opens up the gates to the Void, allowing it to come into our world and cause destruction to all live. This is a curse that had been passed down from generation to generation. A huge dilemma arises given that the more Oliver uses his special abilities, the more the lock is weakened and spreads through his body. This deeply affects his life and he struggles to keep his humanity. But it had hurt his relationships with people, more specifically his poly relationship with his former wife, Lucy, and their boyfriend, Ralph.
Things get interesting when Ralph comes back into Oliver’s life along with Espere, a mysterious woman who is the femme fetale of the story seeking help. She may have a connection to Oliver and the Void itself, so this is where the story starts off for us.
GL: Why is it important for Oliver to be bisexual?
Anderson Elysée: Well people aren’t too accustomed to reading a queer male as the hero to a genre/horror story. Props to writers like Simon Graves for tackling that with his books. But a Black queer man as the lead of a genre/horror story is something I don’t believe has been done before, or it’s not as common. And I’m tired of bi erasure and bisexuality being seen as the black sheep of the LGBTQ community.
I want to give something to marginalized bisexual people, especially Black, who just want to be seen as people and have the same rights to be represented without any sugar coating filters.
GL: Massimiliano Veltri is your artist on The Gentlemen. How did you two find each other? How lucky do you feel to have stunning color work by Marco Pagnotta?
Anderson Elysée: The team is all thanks to our editor, Marcel Dupree, who’s also the creator of the character. Marcel contacted me to develop a story for Gentleman given my work with Black characters and horror. Soon after he hooked me up with Massimiliano who’s art wow’d the hell out of me and continues to do so each time he sends us new pages. And he’s a blast to work with. I love building a rapport and friendship with people I work with. And Marco, maaaan. He brings a whole set of moods with his coloring. I’m impressed each time he delivers a new batch of colors and I am extremely proud of the creative team.
GL: Do you have plans to attend any cons this year?
Anderson Elysée: This weekend is the East Coast Black Age of Comics Con in Philadelphia. Prior to that is the Glyph Awards which I’m excited for as Is’nana was nominated in 5 categories. I have a signing at Bulletproof Comics on June 1st in Brooklyn, NY. June 30 will be Women in Comics which I’m supporting my sister, artist Blair Blossom. July 27th-29, BlerDCon in Arlington, VA. And MECCAcon2018 in Detroit, MI on September 15th. I’ll have a couple more scheduled as the year goes by.
GL: On a closing note, do you have any words of encouragement to people, especially POC, thinking about making comics?
Anderson Elysée: What experience can you use, especially your background, to tell a story you haven’t heard or have seen been done before? Practice your craft every day and let nobody discourage you from your vision. Be open to criticism and be open to growing as an individual. Among the millions of comic creators, what’s special about you and your work? Save ALL the money you can because you will be broke making comics. Be respectful and kind to everyone you meet. And make a contract even if you’re working with a close friend. And have fun.
GL: Thank you for a wonderful interview!
If you’re intrigued by Anderson’s replies and The Gentleman video below, please consider pledging to Kickstarter project!
Art by Massimiliano Veltri and Marco Pagnotta. Used with permission.