Archie Bongiovanni

If you’re not already following Archie Bongiovanni, you’re missing out. The Minneapolis-based comics artist specializes in delightfully queer webcomics, zines, and graphic novels. Their first graphic novel, A QUICK & EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS helps educate readers about nonbinary identities. Specifically, the comic playfully engages readers of all identities in a discussion about they/them pronouns. Now, Bongiovanni has compiled a complete collection of their (mostly) fictional and (always) extraordinarily fun comic series GREASE BATS.

ComicsVerse is grateful to Bongiovanni for taking the time to talk to us about their new graphic novel from BOOM! Studios. We are thrilled to get a chance to learn more about this sweet, salty, and altogether wonderful collection of comics.

[Editor’s Note: Portions of this interview have been lightly edited for clarity].

GREASE BATS
GREASE BATS by Archie Bongiovanni. Image from BOOM! Studios.

What is GREASE BATS?

ComicsVerse (CV): GREASE BATS has been a monthly series on Autostraddle.com for several years, following the lives of beloved besties and roommates Andy and Scout. Can you tell our readers a little more about what they can expect?

Archie Bongiovanni (AB): It’s been such a joy to create and explore these characters over the years! I think there’s something really special about being able to read this collection as a book. Instead of clicking through a website or waiting a month before a new comic comes out, you can see all their antics and adventures in one sitting. It really lets you connect to the story in a more intimate and deeper level.

I’ve described GREASE BATS as SEX AND THE CITY–But Gay And Actually Good. There’s a whole range of characters, and I try to take on small and large issues facing (and within) our community. GREASE BATS is about the loss of queer spaces, transphobia and unaccepting family members while also about the anxiety of running into an ex at the bar, perfecting a chair dance routine, as well as the age-old question: are you a top, bottom or switch? There’s also the ever-present concern over romance, crushing, and Tinder-swiping.

Issues aside, I think the characters are just damn charming. Gwen is a flirtatious femme who will ruin you (in a good way) while drinking cosmopolitans unironically. Taylor is in grad school–which is not a personality but can sure feel like it sometimes. Ari is a pessimist who is constantly being drawn into everyone’s emotional turmoil (they secretly like it). There will be at least one character readers will connect with, and it feels really refreshing to see yourself reflected back in something fun every once in awhile.

Rise of a Zinester

CV: I’m lucky enough to have several of your zines as well as a copy of your first graphic novel A QUICK & EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS. How did you first get into comics?

AB: I’ve always loved reading comics. When I was a teen, I’d draw comics throughout all my art classes. When I first started college, all I did was draw comics until I finally left my university and got a degree in comic art (not a financial choice I would recommend to others).

I loved self-publishing my work. There was an instant gratification and joy in seeing my work in a zine. It was also cheap and affordable to produce, and I loved that folks only needed a couple bucks to own some of my work. It was through zines that I ever got a career in comics: a zine-version of A QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS I made YEARS ago ended up on the desk of an editor at Oni.

Fiction vs. Nonfiction

CV: A QUICK & EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS came out last year. The instructional comic guides readers through how to use nonbinary gender pronouns they/them in situations like family gatherings and the workplace. GREASE BATS also engages with a wide array of queer identities and experiences. Was it different dealing with queer themes in a nonfiction piece like A QUICK & EASY GUIDE, as opposed to in a fiction piece like GREASE BATS?

AB: Yessssss! In A QUICK & EASY GUIDE, I had to be careful. Everyone puts different meanings and understandings to the words and language we use to describe ourselves. I felt a lot of pressure to represent everyone all at the same time (hint: it’s impossible). With GREASE BATS, I can be a lot more free. These characters are messy and imperfect and that’s part of the fun. They make mistakes and aren’t always good representation (which in some ways makes them accurate representation).

A QUICK & EASY GUIDE TO THE/THEM PRONOUNS
A QUICK & EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson. Image from Oni Press.

Honesty in Comics

CV: Are any of the GREASE BAT stories based on real life experiences?

AB: Oh y’know, just ALL OF THEM. Literally.

CV: In both GREASE BATS and A QUICK & EASY GUIDE TO THEY/THEM PRONOUNS, you maintain a clear voice and sharp honesty. Do you think that the medium of comics helps you maintain this honesty? Do you gravitate towards any other media?

AB: I use comics as a way to explore how I’m feeling. If there’s something on my mind (I slept with an ex, Can you use Tinder to find new friends, Why are all these str8 people at my gay bar?) I use comics and characters to push through my emotions. It’s a way for me to step back and see the pros and cons of what’s happening in my life while I simultaneously feel removed from all of it because it’s the characters making these mistakes, not me.

Subject Matter of GREASE BATS

CV: GREASE BATS is an eclectic collection of strips. Your characters discuss everything from gender feels to Halloween to cultural appropriation. How do you decide on a given subject when you start each comic?

AB: I almost always pick something that’s been going on in my life. My pals want to go camping, so I draw a comic about how I fucking hate camping. A local queer bar closes down, I’ll write a strip about that. If it’s something that hasn’t directly happened to me, it’s something that’s affecting my friends or my community in some way. I listen to what other folks are going through, what is happening in their lives, and use that as a jumping off point as well. It’s pretty easy to write the comic because in some ways the characters write themselves. How Andy is going to react at a bachelorette party is very different than how Scout is going to react at a bachelorette party.

The Art and Inspiration of Archie Bongiovanni

CV: Your artistic style is wonderfully evocative and expressive. Andy is especially prone to exaggerated facial expressions, which I love! What’s your artistic process like?

AB: I don’t do a lot of prep before starting a comic. I’ll spend a day writing it before penciling and inking the comic. I DO make Andy’s expressions while I’m drawing which is why there’s no videos of me drawing. Because I look wild.

CV: Who or what are some of your creative influences?

AB: SO MANY. There’s so many fun queer cartoonists out there, and they are all a Twitter-search away! I’m influenced a lot by zines. I often peruse QZAP.Org to read older queer zines. I’ve also been LOVING the Leather Archives & Museum Instagram lately!

What’s After GREASE BATS?

CV: Now that we have such a glorious collection of GREASE BAT adventures, what’s next?

AB: GREAT QUESTION! I’ll have a comic-writing announcement soon but I can’t announce it quite yet. OTHERWISE: If you are an agent, please hit me up. I am ready to pitch my next original graphic novel plz and thank you.

Thanks again to Archie Bongiovanni for giving the world wonderful queer comics and for the tremendous interview! GREASE BATS will be available this July from BOOM! Studios.  

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