The runner-up was Bob Kusiak‘s Blur The Lines, a webcomic concerning the exploits of a hilarious bearish duo. Of course, the top honor went to cartoonist Tony Breed, whose extraordinary strip Hitched follows the lives of a monogamous and married gay couple, Finn and Charlie.
After taking in your positive response to Breed’s work, we decided to reach out to the artist and chat about his characters, gratuitous toon nudity and same-sex marriage as a whole. It’s one of our better interviews, so we sincerely recommend checking this out!
Oh, and if you’re anywhere near the San Francisco area? Be sure to take a trip to the Alternative Press Expo on Saturday, October 16. You’ll be able to meet Tony face-to-face and pick up a signed book in the process. Wouldn’t that be lovely?
To check out our interview with Tony Breed, follow the JUMP:
As far as I understand, you’re married to a man in real life. How much of the Hitched comic strip mirrors your actual relationship?
It’s not too far from my real life. I’ve tried to make Finn and Charlie their own characters, and not just stand-ins for me and my husband, and I think I’ve done that — but still a lot of the situations are inspired by real life.
Finn and Charlie’s San Francisco wedding was inspired by my own San Francisco wedding in 2008 — down to the superhero-costumed officiant and ceremony in front of City Hall. Except in real life it wasn’t a random bartender dressed as Mr. Fantastic, it was my old friend (and fellow cartoonist) Justin Hall, dressed as the Green Lantern. See? Totally different.
What about the other characters? Is there a real life counterpart to Candy, Jim, Kevin, etc?
Jim was initially inspired by a specific person I used to work with, who did actually invite me to dinner once he found out I was gay. Candy is more like a stand-in for all of my female friends.
There isn’t exactly a real Kevin, either. Finn and Charlie’s lifestyle — monogamous and married — reflect my own lifestyle, but I know that’s not how everyone lives. Which is fine! Free to be you and me! Anyway, I present Kevin as a counterpoint to Finn and Charlie.
The only character who has absolutely no analog in real life is Corey. When I created him, I didn’t know any gay teenagers (though since then a good friend’s daughter has come out).
In exchange for donations to CHIRP, you’ve been offering uncensored prints of Finn’s naked dream. You know we’ve got to ask–what can we expect to see under that parking meter? Is Finn packing a lot down there?
Well, it’s not something out of Tom of Finland. I did, after all, have to hide it behind a fairly small parking meter.
Your fans (us included) seem to love gratuitous nudity. Have you ever had requests for a full-on sex scene between Finn and Charlie?
I haven’t actually had any requests like that yet. It is something I’ve thought about, and I don’t think I want to do it — not with these characters anyway. I’m very conscious of the fact that as an artist you can get too interested in drawing sexy things and you forget to focus on the stories.
Also, drawing sex well is not easy. It can end up looking very wooden (not in a good way, ha ha). If you’re looking for gay comic erotica, there’s a lot of good stuff out there — I recommend looking into the work of Justin Hall, Jon Macy, Dale Lazarov, and Steve MacIsaac.
It’s probably creepy that we’re asking about the sex lives of two-dimensional personas, eh? Is there ever a point where drawings can be more erotic than reality?
One of the things about comics is that the stylized, simplified drawings are easier for us to identify with. With photos and film, you are aware that you’re looking at other people, like a voyeur; with comics, you really put yourself into the characters. Plus, with drawings, what you don’t draw is as important as what you do draw — the reader will fill in what they want to see. You don’t get that with reality.
And I don’t think it’s creepy — it means you’re thinking of my characters as real people. As the creator, that’s what I want!
Let’s tone it down for a second. What’s the importance of showcasing committed gay couples in the media?
There are still people out there who are afraid of gay couples. I don’t really understand it — I look at my life, and I think, people are really threatened by this? Seriously? So with this strip I want to show that the issues couples deal with are universal, whether they are gay or straight.
Of course, I’m probably not changing anyone’s minds with this comic. I doubt there’s anyone reading it who’s not already like-minded. But there’s another readership I hope I’m reaching: young people.
When I was a teenager I bought a book of gay comics, which were really eye-opening. (It took some nerve to take it up to the counter, plop down my cash, and buy it — but it did help that, hey, it was just comics.) Among the comics was one of Tim Barela’s Leonard & Larry stories. Of all the stories in the book, that one meant the most to me, because Barela was showing me a life that I could live and be happy with. It was incredibly important to me, and I want to do that same thing for the next generation.
Some folks are against same-sex marriage, as they don’t feel we should conform to heterosexual norms. Your response to that sentiment is…
I think we should all live the way we want to. And I think the wide variety of lifestyles in the gay community is fantastic. Our symbol is the rainbow flag because we have so many different elements.
I suppose it also depends on what you mean by “heterosexual norms”. You know those parties where all the women end up chatting in the kitchen, and all the men are in the den watching football? Most of my friends are straight, and I am never at parties like that. At our parties, the men and women are in the same room having the same conversations.
How much does your strip draw from current events and culture? For example, would Finn and Charlie ever confront the issue of teen bullying?
I’ve tackled some current events, notably unemployment and the recession. In order for me to tackle a topic, I have to have at least a rough story line in mind, and I have to know how to make it funny. I just don’t know how to make teen bullying funny, and I don’t know where I’d take it as a story. But if I do figure it out, you’ll see it in the strips.
Any final words for current or future fans of Hitched?
Yes! I have a new book out, called I Love You, You Big Weirdo, which will be available very soon at the Hitched store. I also have a t-shirt for sale, featuring a naked, running Finn, which you can buy at the site as well. And of course you can read the comic every week at hitchedcomic.com.
And for those in the Bay Area, I’ll be at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco next weekend — you can find me signing books at the Prism Comics booth from 1 to 2pm on Saturday, October 16. The books and t-shirts will be available there all weekend, even when I’m not there.