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Transphoria: An Interview with Kat Calamia and Phil & Daniel Flaco


COMIC BOOK YETI: Hello everybody and welcome to today’s episode of the Cryptid Creator Corner. I’m Byron O’Neal, your host for today’s comics creator chat and to continue our celebration of Pride Month here on the show I’m joined by a trio of talented editors; Daniel Flaco, Kat Calamia, and Phil Falco, who have launched an amazing new project called Transphoria on Kickstarter. Transphoria is a 90-page graphic novel with nineteen brand-new stories about trans and nonbinary experiences of gender euphoria covering genres including slice of life, thriller, comedy, sci-fi, romance…you are getting the kitchen sink here folks. Daniel, Kat, and Phil, welcome to the show.


I’m just going to start off by saying thank you. My best friend is trans and every time I try

to type Transphoria prepping for this interview, it keeps trying to autocorrect to

"transphobia" and given the state of things in the press in the US about now concerning

anything trans, some uplifting stories couldn’t be more timely in my mind. Let’s get

everybody on the positivity train for a minute at least 'cause it can be ugly out there.


Transphoria smashed its funding goal in the first 24 hours. Full disclosure, I’m a backer too so the drum I keep beating on that is if you want more diversity in comics, you have to buy it - I put my money where my mouth is. Congratulations, that’s got to be satisfying and takea little of the pressure off and tells me queer content is in demand. Yay!


Let’s start at the beginning. You were all part of the editorial team on Bi Visibility: Still Bi.

What made Transphoria the next logical step for you?


PHIL FALCO: Everything started with Bi Visibility! Kat and I would spend so much time talking about queerness that eventually she said she wanted to create our first anthology - Bi Visibility - to give often-underrepresented (especially at the time) bisexual creators the chance to tell their stories. The first volume was a huge success, so we returned the following year with our second volume, Bi Visibility: Still Bi, this time adding Dan to the editorial team with Kat and myself.


It’s become a Lifeline Comics tradition to release one anthology per year with open submissions (meaning creators at any level can submit, either individually or as a full team). After Hairology in 2023, Dan came to us to suggest Transphoria as our anthology for 2024. In the same way that Kat and I had wanted to give bisexual creators the chance to tell their stories, Dan wanted to tell his own story and to create a positive and meaningful collection of trans and nonbinary comics. Kat and I instantly loved the idea, and the rest is history!


CBY: Daniel, I want to focus on you for a minute as the editorial lead. I’ve been seeking out trans stories myself and trying to highlight trans creators and their work. Shameless podcast promotion: go listen to my recent interview with Theo Parish about Homebody. I want to carve out a moment if you are up for it, because I’m sure you are more fluent than me, what are a few trans stories listeners should have on their radar?


DANIEL FALCO: There are a lot out there – plenty even I still have to catch up on. My reading varies with medium, with genre, so there’s a lot out there. First, since we’re talking comics, I want to highlight Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe. It’s pretty well known in the trans graphic novel space now, but I always want to give it the attention it deserves because of all the pushback it receives from people trying to enforce censorship by banning it from schools. It's really endearing and thoughtful, and I always want to recommend it. Also in the graphic novel world is Fine: A Comic About Gender by Rhea Ewing. Not only do they discuss their own thoughts and journey through transitioning, but they also interviewed a wide range of people of different experiences, identities, and cultures. I really appreciated the care put into this book and the different stories it tells. Obviously I’m a fan of anthologies, so the amount of experiences fit into Fine while still connecting to an overall theme really stuck with me.


I also wanted to highlight a couple of non-graphic novels. I recently got into Cosmic Poutine’s Webtoon “Lonely Prince Club.” It’s a hilarious and very well-drawn fantasy story with a lot of fun and queers characters. Then, for fans of prose, Dead Collections by Isaac Fellman centers a trans vampire archivist in a modern urban fantasy world. Of course I always love a trans, gender-exploration story, but I also appreciate how it handles being a vampire story; plus, the protagonist is an archivist nerd with TV show obsessions and it was a great blend of genres with a fun tone. And for a couple of final shoutouts, I’m at heart a history nerd and want to give two great recommendations for people interesting in trans and gender non-conformist history– Female Husbands by Jen Manion unpacks female-to-male figures from the eighteenth century onward, and Neil McKenna’s Fanny and Stella delves into an interesting legal case that involved the titular middle-class ‘men’-turned-actresses in the 1880s. Both give fascinating presentations about how gender interacts with our world, and I think there’s a lot of value in reading the stories in our history.


CBY: One of the things that strikes me is how often they focus on trauma. The reasoning is

obvious. I’m personally glad we are putting positive experiences front and center. Why is that so important?


DF: It’s not only important to highlight those positives, but it’s necessary! A lot of people–myself included–repressed and pushed down their feelings because of the narratives surrounding transitioning. So much of it centers fear-mongering and despair, but that’s just not all there is. My story for the anthology, HRT Tales, was inspired by this idea. I didn’t seek out hormone replacement therapy for a while because misinformation and scare tactics dominating the conversation about it. You’ll hear from transphobes all the time, “We can always tell,” and talking about inflated health risks, and the ever-present “You can’t change biology.” But transitioning, socially and medically, has been the greatest decision of my life. I’ve never been happier with myself than when I’m on testosterone and seeing the control I have over my body and my life. There are so many wonderful, positive experiences that come with being trans, and we really wanted Transphoria to encapsulate that. Not everyone’s experiences involve hormones or medically transitioning, and everyone comes from a different place, but we can all take control over our journeys and do what makes us feel right. 

When we were discussing what to name Transphoria, we were obviously thinking about “euphoria.” I had been concerned at first that it sounded too much like “dysphoria,” and I didn’t want it to be a saddening death knell of a title, you know? But I’m so glad we stuck with it, because seeing it everywhere, especially our logos and our covers, the joy of the euphoria really sticks out, and that’s what I hope the anthology pushes for.


CBY: How did solicitations work for this?


KAT CALAMIA: A few months back, we shared an open to all submission form on social media and to our previous supporters to allow new and veteran creators to potentially be a part of our anthology. (We try to do open submission anthologies at least once a year. It’s truly a passion of ours to bring the comic book community together no matter your pro-level.) 


We had a plethora of wonderful scripts and portfolios! Phil, Dan, and I took DAYS to comb through them. We wanted to pick a wide variety of genres and point of views for the anthology, and we’re very happy with the end product. 


Our mission is to pay ALL CREATORS! Writers, letterers, colorists, and pencilers all received a page rate with a work for hire model. You do not need to know a writer or artist to submit. We pair people up that way new creators can dip their toes into the comic world easily, and hopefully fall in love with the process and create more.


CBY: There are some familiar faces in the anthology. I know Brent Fisher of course, Ben

Kahn, and Chris Shehan. Having done a few of these now as editors, are you trying to

strike a balance between established indy industry folks and new blood?


PF: It’s one of our most important mission statements when we put together an anthology to have a mix of new and established creators. We want to provide an accessible way to new creators to get published work that they’re PAID FOR and for which they own their story. And we’re so proud of the fact that several creators have had their first published work in our anthologies and even launched their careers from them!


It’s also important to us to work with seasoned creators who have both an audience and have honed their craft from previous work. Fortunately, maintaining this balance has not been too difficult with our anthologies to date. We’ve been lucky to get a healthy mix of amazing submissions from new and established creators alike. And we’re so proud of the split in Transphoria and our other books between fresh blood and creators who have been part of the community for a while.


CBY: As I mentioned previously, this is wide open in terms of genres. It might be a leap on my part, but it would seem like that presentation is very purposeful to be able to normalize

the trans experience across a wide range of situations?


DF: Absolutely. As an anthology, it’s important to present a wide range of stories so that any reader can get a genre or story they want. The more autobiographical and slice of life stories are a must, and so beautiful and authentic in the way they capture different experiences. These usually involve coming out or coming to terms with your identity, and we definitely think our readers will love seeing these and seeing their own experiences and thoughts reflected in here. We also knew we wanted genre stories, like sci-fi and thriller and mystery. I think this stems from the desire for representation. Trans stories can exist in any genre, and there are endless thoughtful themes we can explore in any universe. We got a lot of great writers and great stories that integrate trans experiences into very classic and familiar genres, and we’re excited that trans readers can also be reflected in the fun universes, just as much in the more reflective and grounded autobio pieces.


CBY: One of the consistent things I hear from queer creators is that their primary motivation is to tell the stories they wish they had when they were younger. That’s really powerful to have so many people motivated to build an emotional support bridge of sorts for questioning and queer youth. In some ways, I feel like comics is taking a lead across

the various forms of entertainment media to do that, especially in the crowdfunding

space. You’ve already proved there’s a market for the content. Is this something you

feel like traditional publishers would still shy away from?


KC: It ebbs and flows. There are some wonderful queer stories that traditional publishers are creating. I’m happy to see books like Marvel & DC Pride exist, and to read big name superheroes like Black Cat exploring her bisexuality on an almost monthly basis. But we can always use more representation, and I do wish there were more queer characters on a monthly basis instead of just scattered in anthologies once a year. 


I miss the days of Paper Girls or Runaways coming out, but I also just feel like the releases of these types of books have changed. Maybe they’re on Substack or Marvel’s digital platform - there are a ton of queer OGNs coming out as well! The floppy sales are just different than they used to be, but that doesn’t mean these comics aren’t being made.


CBY: I ask this all the time in one form or another and as the straight white cis guy I always feel dumb. My pronouns are he/him and clueless. I feel like the landscape in comics is changing fairly rapidly in terms of queer representation. Do you all feel like that’s accurate?


KC: Comics in general are rapidly changing in our post-covid landscape. The direct market isn’t the only place for people to read stories, and I think Wednesday Warriors are starting to truly realize that as we are shining a brighter spotlight on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or webcomic platforms like WEBTOON (mediums that thrive on queer storytelling).


CBY: Does the calculus change specific to trans representation?


DF: I can absolutely guarantee there’s an audience for trans stories in any space, and I think plenty of spaces are becoming increasingly aware that trans representation is valuable, profitable, and important. Still, I think trans presences receive a different flavor, and maybe recently, even more intense, kind of pushback. Trans issues have gotten more politicized and the hostility is very apparent in some of these more mainstream spaces. Lifeline Comics exists in fantastic and inclusive circles, and those kinds of transphobic voices still found us as we were promoting this project. While there were plenty of hateful comments, we also got absolutely amazing outcries of support. The more representation there is, the better and the more normalized. We’re always going to see that pushback, but I think we’re moving in the right direction across all spaces.


CBY: Another thing I readily hear about is the need to write queer characters in such a way to appeal, be absorbed, by a straight audience. I feel this constantly as a disabled person reading disabled characters and that’s probably why the Jellyfish is my only 10/10 of 2024 because Boum is disabled and gets it. Drives me nuts but let’s not make this about me. It’s clearly not an issue with Transphoria but how pervasive do you feel like that is?


PF: Authenticity is super important. We’ve ALL read stories that reek of imitation (whether it’s a woman poorly written by a male writer, a queer character poorly written by a straight writer, or a trans character poorly written by a cis writer). Creators and publishers are being held more accountable for this in recent years, which is a great thing. Readers crave stories that are written by (or at the very least, informed by) authentic experiences.


This is why it was so important for us to have Dan leading the Editorial Team for Transphoria. His perspective has been our guiding force to ensure that - while the anthology has something for everyone and can appeal to cis and trans readers alike - our primary audience of trans readers feel seen and genuinely represented.


CBY: What are you proudest of about this project?


KC: We’re just so happy to be able to give a wide range of trans stories exploring different points of view and genres from the voices of upcoming and veteran creators!


CBY: There’s a bunch of extras too for the campaign. Pins, stickers, other comics. Tell me

about all the loot and how you’ve structured it.


PF: Every campaign, we accumulate new fun extras to offer to our backers. The obvious is our library of Lifeline Comics (everything from queer romance to superhero to horror to mystery), which always performs well on our different Kickstarters. We learned pretty early on that fans of one property are oftentimes very interested in checking out others! For example, queer folks LOVE horror. So our horror comic, HAUNTING, tends to perform very well as an add-on to our queer projects.


And while comics are our bread-and-butter, we have plenty of cool non-comic items. Enamel Pins have really become a second business for us. We first introduced a line of pins as a tie-in to our first anthology, Bi Visibility. And over time, our “pin empire” has grown to include tons of other queer identities AND iconography from our creator-owned comic series. All of our pins (a library of nearly forty designs right now) are available on Transphoria - including our new and super adorable Trans Axolotl pin that Transphoria backers get for free if they pledge $35+ on the campaign.


Outside of the comics and pins, we also like to offer stickers for backers who want smaller items. As well as mystery and collector’s boxes for backers who want either a SUPRISE or all of the cool new rewards on a given Kickstarter in a specially-designed box.


Every backer has different needs, wants, and interests. So we try to offer a wide variety!


CBY: Y’all have been pretty full tilt lately crowdfunding. It feels like The Witches of Oz just finished funding. Are you on a break or can we expect more in 2024?


KC: We’ve been aiming to have 1 to 2 campaigns a month with no plans on stopping anytime soon. So expect a lot of content from us!


CBY: Where can everyone find you online?


KC: @ComicUno on Twitter and YouTube is the best place to find me. I also recommend following our newsletter to keep up to date with all our projects. 


Phil: @PhilFalcoWrites on Twitter, Instagram, and pretty much everywhere else. And I echo Kat’s suggestion to check out our Lifeline Comics Substack! That’s where we make all our big announcements!


Dan: @literary_dandy on Twitter and Instagram, and @literary-dandy on Bluesky. I don’t take to social media naturally, so I’m trying to be better at it. Definitely go to Lifeline’s Substack for thoughtful and timely information!


CBY: This is Byron O’Neal and on behalf of all of us at Comic Book Yeti, thanks for tuning in

and Happy Pride Month. See you next time. Take care everybody.




 

The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.


All Transphoria characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Kat Calamia, Phil Falco, Daniel Falco or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.



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