Kay Honda talks with Tee Franklin, the last time we chatted with Tee Franklin was at Five Points Festival 2017; so, this was a delight to catch Franklin at NYCC 2017. Franklin talks Bingo Love, Moonlight, and how she tackles representation!

Tee Franklin: [inaudible 00:00:02] 1963 [inaudible 00:00:05] fell in love with each other but it’s not allowed during my [inaudible 00:00:12]. So, being the fact that [inaudible 00:00:21] an easy thing to just say, that I’m just gonna get up and go, this is the woman I love. So, they decided to get married, have kids, end up having grandkids — the normal thing that you’re supposed to do.

And, 50 years later they randomly find each other [inaudible 00:00:44], and they thought that it was fate, so they decided to, you know, divorce their husbands. It’s a drama, you know, you can’t just say hey, I want out of the marriage, I love another woman, you know, it’s a lot of drama and secrets that come out.

They eventually get married and they live happily ever after. So, [inaudible 00:01:15] at all able to [inaudible 00:01:20] you know, a senior citizen, I really, gay grannies, queer grannies, who wants to read about that? You know, it’s not in comics but, apparently [inaudible 00:01:41] I reached out to her and [inaudible 00:02:03] —

She is from Canada and [inaudible 00:02:21] not sure. She is, [inaudible 00:02:26] but don’t quote me. She is a woman of color, put it that way, I don’t wanna mess up her [inaudible 00:02:35]. So, she was really important to me at making [inaudible 00:02:40]. I guess, comics are the land of straight, white men, that has, you know, straight white women –in your comics and sometimes people are just tired of reading bland.

You’ve got queer, gay grannies, you got the AARP folks up in here. You know, it’s really important to me to show that the youth knows that it is possible to have your happily ever after. Because we know that [inaudible 00:03:27]. It was happily ever after, they said basically til death do us part and why can’t that be queer grannies?

Black, queer grannies are not, you know, it’s a possibility, it’s there, it was really important for me to show that they [inaudible 00:03:50]. That it’s there, it’s an option; it’s never too late to find the one that you love and don’t give up. [inaudible 00:04:04] tired of living a lie, [inaudible 00:04:05] ten years and when I [inaudible 00:04:21] someone else, it was important for me to just be me.

Tee Franklin

I lived that lie, you know, you see my shirt, the bible says Adam and Eve and I did both. I am bisexual, this is who I am, and I’ve come out to my children, I have a 23-year-old, a 17 and a 14-year-old. So, they were very accepting. [inaudible 00:04:50] was like, “Yeah, I already knew that.” But, I was careful, you know it is what it is.

So, when I’m embedded in my head that you have to have strength and you have to have [inaudible 00:05:23], and it’s like, all right, I gotta get married, I gotta deal with a husband, and it’s crap and you gotta deal with it.

This is just something that we’re, I don’t know, we’re programmed [inaudible 00:05:38] This is normal, and I did the normal, and it was just not, it just was, it could have ended really, really badly. So, I just needed to get out. [inaudible 00:05:57] I used Kickstarter, and I received so many messages, this is my grandma’s story, my [inaudible 00:06:05]. People obviously, especially if they’re older, they obviously [inaudible 00:06:19] know that they can’t-do anything about it, so, this book is for them. [inaudible 00:06:29]

Audience 1: So, this is a very personal story, that’s why it’s important to tell it [inaudible 00:06:35].

Tee Franklin: Yeah, I actually got the inspiration from watching a commercial. It was these two black women, sitting on a brownstone, it’s a New York commercial, I think it was for a [inaudible 00:06:47] commercial. And there was older black women sitting on a Brownstone’s steps, and they get up [inaudible 00:06:59], and there was this older gentleman walking the opposite way, and they were just looking, giggling and looking back at him.

It was this little flirting thing, I don’t know what that had to do with [inaudible 00:07:09] but, [inaudible 00:07:11]. And, when I saw it, I said, “Why can’t that be a woman?” I was like, this would be cool if this was, oh, this would be cool! And then that just literally was how I decided to come up with Bingo Love.

You know, I would describe it as the Academy Award-winning Moonlight [inaudible 00:07:35] how the book is. You wanted the elevator pitch, that is the elevator pitch. Yes?

Audience 2: So, I [inaudible 00:07:50] because I’ve got the keychains and stickers and postcards and all that jazz. How did [inaudible 00:08:00] bookstores, so this is like, this is huge.

Tee Franklin: Listen. Like, [inaudible 00:08:13] three times a day, and I was [inaudible 00:08:16] So, I get this email, and it’s Eric Stevenson, I was like, [inaudible 00:08:40]. And, [inaudible 00:08:45] this looked good. I didn’t want it to sound like, “Oh my god, yes, speaking!” You know, I didn’t want to do that, I was like, you know, bring it down a few notches, Tee, chill out.

Tee Franklin Interview at Five Points Festival 2017!

When Eric mentioned that Bingo Love would be the right tone, it was like, [inaudible 00:09:07] Oh shit!” I can’t run and everything but in my head, I was running and everything, it was really exciting. And, so the fact that it can be, you know, for me getting through as much as I did and getting to 19, almost 2,000 backers on my own, and for this to be now [inaudible 00:09:33] and comic shops and all over the world.

It’s like, holy crap, people gonna read my book and it’s just, I’m happy because there’s all, it’s not just something that happen [inaudible 00:09:55]. People are gonna relate to the story all over the world. So, [inaudible 00:09:59] image, so-

Audience 2: Is it set in [inaudible 00:10:05]?

Tee Franklin: It is set in Patterson, New Jersey. I lived in Patterson for a good amount of time, and my family is in Patterson, so it’s set in Patterson, then we migrate to different towns in Jersey. Yes?

Audience 3: [inaudible 00:10:23] and will it be the first that you [inaudible 00:10:27]?

Tee Franklin: Jen, this book, the Image book will be out, I have, it’s a preview for the Kickstarter. I announced it on February 14th this year. I’ve been only doing the Kickstarter for about a month, so Image book will be released on Valentines Day. It just so happens to be on the day.

Audience 3: Valentines Day, oh my god, I’m so nervous.

Tee Franklin: [inaudible 00:10:59] It will be the same book, it’s gonna be a brand new cover, I do not know, [inaudible 00:11:09] to find the write artist to do this cover [inaudible 00:11:16]. Yeah, it’s really cool. We can, it is really important when [inaudible 00:11:31] black comic, and you have your characters [inaudible 00:11:35], it is really important. And in some comics, a black woman has these little squiggly lines, that she has a circle on her head, and the squiggly lines in the back and like, what is it attached to?

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It’s really important, you can do a ‘fro because that’s the easiest thing to do, but if you take your time and do research, you can have different, various different hairstyles [inaudible 00:12:07]. And Jen, she —

— hey, does this look right? What should I do?” She watched YouTube videos to learn how to create good hair for a black, young girl and a black woman.

So, actually, there is, in the book a page of Hazel, who’s now a grandma, doing her granddaughter’s hair. And that’s really important, because there’s a lot of stereotypical stuff in comics, really, and I didn’t want that in my book.

You guys seen Soul Food, you remember that movie Soul Food? It’s that, it’s family oriented, and you have so many things that is not in comics. And…like, for instance, you’re gonna see people doing the Electric Slide in the book. It is so, it’s like really cool, it’s important. And it’s something that, if you are a black person, and you’re gonna say, “oh my god, I have this in my living room, oh my god, we did that when do you remember when?” It’s going to be so relatable, and you don’t find that in comics, at all. So, I’m really happy [inaudible 00:13:35]. Yes?

Audience 4: Will it give us a flashback to when they weren’t together, as well as showing them in bed?

Tee Franklin: Wouldn’t you like to know? I can’t tell you everything. But yes, we start in 1963, and we go all the way to 2038, so, we’re, yeah.

Audience 4: Cool.

Tee Franklin: You’re gonna see them when they’re younger, and going through high school, and the transition from not being [inaudible 00:14:11] because remember, she doesn’t want to be in this marriage, so, it’s [inaudible 00:14:18].

Audience 5: Some of the themes and ideas seem very similar to San Junipero, the Black Bird and is that an inspiration or are these [inaudible 00:14:28]?

Tee Franklin: No, it wasn’t, it’s funny because I’m disabled, I don’t get out of the house, and it has to be, the moment I get out of the house, it’s just doctors office and going to food shopping. Me sitting in a chair, inside of a room with [inaudible 00:14:46], is just not an option for me. By the time the book was already written, I was able to see the movie, that was on On-Demand. I’m watching [inaudible 00:14:59], so I’m watching the movie, and I’m like, oh my god, they could be, I wonder if they’re related?

I just totally went into, like I could see the boys being related to my family, because the age, it can add up, that could be their grandson or something. And San Junipero is just, San Junipero was awesome and seeing that after the book was done was like, okay, I’m not alone in this, because other people realize that there’s an untapped market and I don’t understand why nobody’s using it but, you know, it’s an untapped market, I don’t care. Yes?

Audience 6: I’m curious as to why a comic, because do you read comics? And is it your first comic? Why choose comics [inaudible 00:15:53]?

Tee Franklin: Well, this is not my first comic. My first comic was actually in Image, Images Nail Biter Issue #27. That was my first comic, [inaudible 00:16:07] back up, [inaudible 00:16:08] was my artist, [inaudible 00:16:09] was my editor [inaudible 00:16:13], and it was a four-page hard comic and it sold out. And, [inaudible 00:16:21] I don’t like to be typecast, it’s this whole thing so, I went from horror, and I did a children’s, all ages fantasy, dragon comic, and it was in the award-winning Love is Love.

Comics is something that I love to do, and I mean, I could’ve wrote it for a movie, and I could’ve did it as a script but, it would’ve taken too long for anybody to see it if they were wanting to see it in the first place. And I’m already known in comics, so it was just something that, it just spoke to me. Now, if it turns into a movie or a series, I’m game!

Audience 6: Also sort of, [inaudible 00:17:10] that, what do see as the importance of, sort of, this in comics, because we don’t get a lot of comics [inaudible 00:17:17] less bland. I mean, to me it’s cool for whenever the stories that don’t have an obvious shocker and elderly comics, because it comics do anything, they should do that, too. So, how important is it for you, for this piece [inaudible 00:17:33]?

Tee Franklin: It’s beyond important because there are comic book readers, my daughter is reading comics, but they don’t see themselves in comics, and it’s just this genre. I love this genre, I’ve always loved this genre, it’s [inaudible 00:17:49]. It’s really important, with the comics are cool, to an extent, because you’re not, if you’re looking for one thing, you can find it.

Franklin: On Bringing A Different Vibe Into Comics

You know, major superheroes and you know, beating up the bad guys and whatever, same shit every month. That’s fine, that’s cool, but for me, that’s not what I want. I want, why can’t I turn something that could be a TV show and I can take this book, this big old book and I can, it can have the cliffhanger and the drama and the stuff that’s on the Oprah, Queen Sugar, on Oprah Winfrey’s network. I can do that and I can, this one book can spawn, it can be a flagship to various stories and just, go on. And, it can be the Bingo Love universe.

It can go wherever. There can be various stories, and if people want it, they’re going to buy it. Which is why I didn’t take the book and go to him at Dark Horse. I felt, personally, that they were going to say no if I would’ve brought it to them because it’s different. My cover has the two women holding hands in their skivvies, and they have stretch marks on them. These are 60 something-year-old women. If I was like, oh, look at her, she’s got stretch marks, her boobs are sagging.

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This is real life and I wanted the public to tell me no. I didn’t want a company to say, nah that’s okay, we’ll pass or just don’t answer at all. You go to the public, the public obviously said hell yeah and it happened. So, I can take this and build up, and it can go everywhere, why can’t, it doesn’t have to be TV show, it’s just a book. It’s like, be true or something. [inaudible 00:20:07] This book can go and have several books behind it, and it’s a good, wholesome, family book. Next question.

Audience 7: Since the story starts in ’63, is it more focused on the family and the backstory? Or did you fill it all with, sort of, the racial politics of the time?

Tee Franklin: No, we don’t, none of that is, that’s not what this book is about. It’s not. You can see in the book. You can tell that there’s a little bit of segregation going on. It’s in the school. So, you can see that there’s, but it does not focus, at all, on any of that. I didn’t want that in the book, I didn’t want to focus and go political, and go that route. Yeah. [inaudible 00:21:10] Anyone else have any questions?

Audience 8: Is it a mini-series or a graphical novel?

Tee Franklin: It’s a straight graphic novel, it’s 88 pages. Yeah, 88 pages. Afterwards, [inaudible 00:21:32]. Right, well it’s noon so, right on the dot. [crosstalk 00:21:39] Thank you. The preview books are at [inaudible 00:21:50]

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