Chicks On Anime
GloBL and Gay Comics

by B. Dong, C. Brienza, S. Pocock, Nov 25th 2008

About the contributors:

Bamboo is the managing editor for ANN, and writes the column Shelf Life.
Casey is a freelance journalist, and also writes reviews for ANN.
Sara is an animator who's also released her own independent short film.

This week's special guest is Tina Anderson, a professional GloBL author. She joined us for a chat about gay comics and GloBL.

As a side note, Chicks on Anime will be taking a break next week so we can all spend some time with our families. We'll be back in two weeks.


Bamboo: To start off with, could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Tina: My name is Tina Anderson, and people pay me to write stuff. Dirty stuff. Mostly, gay comics.
Bamboo: How did you get into all of this? Can you retrace your path, for all those girls out there who want your job?
Tina: I started out in fan doujinshi. I've been a fan of BL from Japan since the late 90s. I started writing for fandoms, and from there, I formed a circle in 2003 called Studio Plug'n Play. We made print doujinshi for trading with creators in Japan.
Casey: Tell us how you made the leap from doujin to pro.
Tina: My first pro gig came from Class Comics, which is a gay comics publisher in Canada. He saw the Trigun work and hired us to make a comic based on one of their signature characters.
Sara: Has writing professionally had an effect on your fandom at all?
Tina: Writing pro has cost me fandom actually. When you make the transition you lose touch with the fandom to a degree. You're less tolerant of new creators, and after a time you just end up keeping a distance.
Casey: You say that you're a fan of BL but that you write gay comics. Can you talk a bit about the difference between BL and gay comics?
Tina: I think there is a difference, but sadly it gets covered up by the fact that publishers stateside are fond of the umbrella term “yaoi” for all things male/male in comics. Gay comics are written for men by men. This doesn't mean they have more muscle, less emotion, and large private areas. It just means that their target audience is male, and the romance in the comics and manga are written with a male reader in mind.
Bamboo: Yet women can write gay comics also?
Tina: Of course. There are women in Japan drawing for Uragekidan, which is an anthology marketed as BL for men.
Bamboo: Okay. I just wanted to clarify, since you said they were written for men, by men.
Tina: BL is different because BL has never been about reflecting “gay reality” in any way shape or form. However, in America—“romance” manga fans who are gay naturally gravitate toward the genre, because for a time, that's all that was being published. As this changes, I think we'll see more realistic BL for both genders—being published.
Sara: What drew you to BL when you were first starting out as a fan?
Tina: I can't answer for all women, I can only answer for myself. BL and GloBL allows women—and in Japan, girls—to enjoy erotic works without having to think about their gender's place in the mix. I know one of the things that holds me back from enjoying pornography is that it's eroticism told from a male perspective, and I just can't feel aroused by seeing another women at the center of a bukakke fountain. By eliminating my gender from the equation, I can enjoy the hotness of a bukakke fountain, which is hot—when you think about it.
Sara: The mass appeal of BL among its female fans always kind of fascinated me. On a surface level, I can see the appeal of two cute guys making out, but when you start asking different people what draws them to it, the range of answers and reasons is pretty diverse.
Tina: Every woman is different Sara. For women, sex requires the brain—when asking women about what makes them hot when it comes to erotica, you're going to have a huge cross-section of answers.
Bamboo: Casey has brought up before that yaoi has its appeals because the two people are equals— which is something that you don't readily see in a heterosexual erotic tale. What are your thoughts?
Casey: As hypothetical equals.
Bamboo: I've always thought that was a little puzzling, because even in a yaoi relationship, you still have a guy who's the submissive.
Casey: But he chooses to be submissive.
Bamboo: Does he, though? I've read yaoi where the submissive guy gets locked in a closet until he learns that he actually secretly enjoys it.
Tina: That's a good point, because I've always seen the relationship dynamics in BL, especially old school BL, as very uneven. But by having two men illustrated in such a relationship, a girl doesn't have to think about the imbalance not being in her favor.
Sara: I haven't had ton of exposure to BL, but from the examples I have seen, the relationships have been surprisingly... like traditional gender roles, but with two men, if that makes sense.
Tina: BL isn't about reality though. I think that's why many non-BL fans gets hung up on.
Casey: If he “secretly' enjoys it, then he's choosing, is he not? Never mind that I find the whole “secretly enjoying being tortured” thingie kind of gross, no matter the genders involved.
Tina: They like a little reality with their romance or smut, whereas BL tends to be about throwing any and all real connotations out the window. Fans never rationalize because there's no reason to. Rape? No, that's not rape...that's just seme/uke imbalance. Of course, the uke has to be manipulated into it, because sex for the sake of sex is wrong... right? Like I said, you have to consider the culture that's producing the work.
Bamboo: So in a way, it's almost like taking a heterosexual role—and watching someone else live it. Like unleashing the burden upon two men... if that makes sense.
Tina: It does for me. As I said, I can't speak for all women. There are many lesbian fans of BL who might love the genre for their own reasons. That's just mine.
Sara: But regardless, I wonder why such formulaic relationships show up, it seems, in any romantic pairing, regardless of gender. You always seem to have a confident aggressor and more submissive, sometimes self-loathing (i.e. stereotypical "woman") role. If you're freed of gender roles, why not shake things up a little more?
Casey: Unfortunately, I suspect that it's a failure of imagination more than it is a failure of will.
Tina: I must be honest though, I gravitated away from BL ages ago. I read mostly GloBL or “gay manga,” which in Japan is called ML, or what many western fans insist on calling 'bara'.
Sara: Is that the kind with the big beefy hairy men?
Casey: For the most part, yes.
Tina: I think GloBL can and does shake things up a bit more, but mostly the indie stuff. Sadly, much of the GloBL that's coming out from some publishers just mimics the Japanese style of story, and it falls flat sometimes. The bigger man style is common in gay manga, yes. Not all of them are beefy though. Many men like that muscle look—damn, look at all the gay fans that still flock to Superhero comics in the US. Spandex is flattering sometimes.
Sara: That's interesting. I'm a person who's drawn to more realistic, nuanced depictions of relationships, and it seems to directly conflict with the escapist portrayals that a lot of BL fans seem to crave.
Tina: I hear ya, Sara. Many of my friends are die-hard lovers of the impossibly beautiful man. They can't get enough of it, whereas I really can't stand it. Ok, that's not entirely true. I have an original German manga coming out this summer, and it's drawn in that style. But it's not my usual thing.
Casey: If you're looking for nuanced depictions of gay relationships, Sara, BL manga generally isn't the place to find them. It's like trying to find a love story worthy of Shakespeare in a Harlequin romance novel.
Tina: Another sad truth is, if you're looking for realistic gay relationships in "bara," you can forget that as well. Bara is about high romance and smut, it's just for male readers.
Casey: I don't know how much Tina feels like griping about her own career, but a part of the problem Tina is encountering in the U.S. plagues creators in Japan as well. As I said earlier, BL isn't the place to do a nuanced romance, but there really isn't much room in any other genre. It all looks the same because publishers won't print anything too different. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down and all that.
Sara: So can you give us a specific example of the kind of stories you write? I guess I'm still slightly fuzzy on what area of “gay” fandom your career is focused on.
Tina: Well, after Class Comics, I did some shorts for Yaoi Press. I did one called “Snow Demon,” which has since been turned into a serious of very good graphic novels by Yamila Abraham. I did a sexy short for them in their inaugural Yaoi Hentai anthology, and another short that has since gone out of print. After Yaoi Press, my first graphic novel was published by Iris Print—it was a historical called “Only Words.” Many critics saw the cover and balked at reviewing it because they felt it was gay Nazism and so they steered clear. To those who did review it, it was reviewed well. From there I wrote a BL mafia series for DramaQueen; I've since moved to the European market where BL is thriving and have two original German manga coming out next year.

To address what Casey said, yes, it's so hard submitting in the US when all the pubs really want to publish is the easy sell. If it has a plot, it must be impossibly beautiful—if it has no plot, it must have a happy ending and meet all the criteria for what makes licensed BL from Japan so popular. I'm not Japanese and I can't write by that template. I've tried, but I just can't.

Bamboo: If I'm allowed to make a comparison to the porn industry—it seems that the live-action porn industry only has m/m for male viewers—not so much for female viewers. I could see yaoi partially having as much popularity as it does because of the lack of a counterpart in the porn industry. So it's more... unique and fresh. Even the f/f porn is largely for men.
Tina: I thought BL was fresh, once upon a time, but then it got old. I think the fresh stuff now is men's love, ML, and GloBL.

In my opinion, all f/f porn is, though there's many a yuri fan who'd argue with me on that. Some say romance yuri is the only genre for women...while some contend that even f/f hentai is yuri. Not my scandal, I could care less about yuri.

Casey: You know, a lot of the BL magazines in Japan have advertisements and reviews of live-action gay porn inbetween the BL manga.
Bamboo: What's the readership like of those BL mags? In terms of gender?

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