Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and this year I have something to look forward to. Image’s BINGO LOVE OGN, by writer Tee Franklin (NAILBITER #27 THE OUTFIT, LOVE IS LOVE), is coming out that day. The OGN tells the story of two women who are simply meant to be, even if it’s nearly forty years after they first meet.

In a sea of heteronormative, white romance, BINGO LOVE is as refreshing as it is bittersweet. Not only are the two main characters, Hazel and Mari, women of color but they’re also over 60 for most of the story. Their love story begins in 1963, not the best time to come out as queer women. But after many years, their paths converge again in a church bingo hall.

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Oh My He(Art)

Jenn St-Onge (JEM & THE MISFITS) always knocks it out of the park with her comic work, but she captures BINGO LOVE’S warm yet complicated scenes. The comic is full of lovely scenery, unique character designs, and meaningful composition.  I love when a comic deviates from the standard panel setup. And each page of BINGO LOVE feels fresh.

BINGO LOVE
Courtesy of Image Comics

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St-Onge’s style is definitely adorable and stylistic, but the illustrations also capture intense, negative emotions. Expressions can be tough to get right, but they’re essential to conveying the gravity of certain situations. For example, Hazel and Mari’s subtle body language shows how they feel about each other well before they can vocalize it.

BINGO LOVE
Courtesy of Image Comics

There are also plenty of beautiful full-page illustrations that highlight pivotal moments in Hazel and Mari’s relationship. These scenes are some of my favorite examples of St-Onge’s work because they’re just so personal. Whether a simple kiss on the cheek or a kiss in front of Hazel’s bewildered daughter, these illustrations highlight just how important the relationship is without using words.

Representing Queer Women of Color

Queer, black, old, and female are unfortunately not intersections we see that often in comics — or any media for that matter. As a queer black woman herself, Tee Franklin is well-equipped to depict Hazel and Mari’s lives accurately. Note every queer woman of color’s experience is identical, but it’s always great to see creators in control of such depictions in media.

BINGO LOVE
Courtesy of Image Comics

Hazel and Mari’s love is the core of the graphic novel, but the story doesn’t shy away from harsh realities. The difference between BINGO LOVE and the countless movies, books, and shows that equate queerness with a life of tragedy is that this graphic novel actually rewards its characters. Yes, Hazel and Mari had to wait half a lifetime to be together, and many obstacles still lie in their paths as adults, but it feels authentic. We get to see all the late-night texts and passionate kisses, just like the millions of heteronormative romances that seem to blend together. BINGO LOVE balances sweet, fluffy romance with essential messages and complex feelings.

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BINGO LOVE also captures the complexities of coming out. Coming out is different for everyone, but the idea that it’s an ongoing process is captured so well. Hazel isn’t done coming out when her family knows she kissed Mari as a young woman. From her husband to her daughter, each person in Hazel’s life reacts differently. And it’s crucial to see narratives that show how lengthy the process can be, no matter how “well” it goes.

Memories in Motion

The pacing of the story is one of my favorite aspects. It moves seamlessly through time as Hazel recounts the most important moments in her life involving Mari. From her school girl crush to her reunion with Mari in a packed bingo hall, the progression of time feels organic. Memories may jump great distances, but they’re linear enough that it doesn’t get confusing.

Courtesy of Image Comics

On the one hand, the lifetime of memories shows how intertwined Mari and Hazel are, even when they’re apart. But it’s also key to see Hazel’s life develop without Mari around. She loves her family, yet it’s easy to see how she’s unfulfilled in many ways. The barefoot wife who takes care of the home while her husband provides is a concept Hazel eventually critiques. And for an older woman who grew up in a close-minded environment, Hazel sure knows her vocabulary when it comes to feminist and queer subjects.

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BINGO LOVE Opens Doors

When assembling the creative team for BINGO LOVE, Tee Franklin wanted to make it as inclusive as possible. Creating diverse comics is important, but it’s just as important to give marginalized creators the ability to tell their own stories. If representation doesn’t extend to the physical world, then what’s the point?

BINGO LOVE is a perfect example of how fantastic and meaningful comics can be. Popular media hasn’t been kind to queer women, let alone queer women of color. But with stories like this, we get closer to evening out the playing field. Young people aren’t the only ones who fall in love either.

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BINGO LOVE Final Thoughts

Overall, BINGO LOVE is a beautiful story made by amazing and diverse people. It’s easy to sense the love that went into creating this graphic novel, and it would be great to see more stories like this. So if you’re looking for a Valentine’s gift, maybe skip the flowers and head to your local comic shop instead.

Get BINGO LOVE in-stores and online February 14th!

BINGO LOVE by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, and Joy San
Art
Characterization
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Summary
BINGO LOVE is a bittersweet scrapbook of memories that showcases Tee Franklin's nuanced storytelling alongside Jenn St-Onge's dynamic and colorful illustrations. This story is a must-read for anyone pining for more well-written queer love stories featuring women of color.
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One Comment

  1. […] (thanks to Alitha Martinez) yet simultaneously horrifying. Since this is the series that followed BINGO LOVE, Tee tells us a bit about what it’s like to switch mindsets, from romance to horror, so […]

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