Nowadays with mainstream media evolving faster than ever, representation is something a lot of creators want to improve on. In recent years, we’ve seen same-sex relationships portrayed, people of color making their voices heard, and transgender characters introduced.
Looking at it all, many improvements have been made, but to Joamette Gil, something was still missing. As a non-binary content creator, Joamette noticed an extreme lack of representation toward her own identity. This observation soon manifested the idea of a comic anthology: Heartwood: Non-binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Gil about the book and the process of creating the first non-binary comic collection.
Heartwood’s Tales & Adventures
Created with the help of non-binary contributors, Heartwood is a fantasy comic anthology about facing adventures the forest holds. Many tales have been told about what the wilderness may hold. For the first time, we follow non-binary characters who spin their stories and show us how magical the forest is.
Dedicated to those who don’t have a voice, to those who have grown in the underbrush of others, and to those who truly want an adventure to learn more about themselves. The comics weaved together in this anthology will lead us back into the fantasies of the forest and out again.
From An Idea To A Reality
Making a comic anthology with a focus no one has explored before appeared to be a task for Joamette. Out of multiple, much more popular subjects to make an anthology of, the task of representing non-binary people was her goal. I asked Gil about her motivation to take on such a task. “A few different things inspired me,” she replied.
“There is, of course, the fact that I am non-binary […] and I don’t see myself anywhere in mainstream fiction. There are so few examples of non-binary people to look up to as role models or even just as confirmation that we exist.”
She goes on to explain how the world tells other non-binary folks that they don’t exist. Other times, simply group them with women, equating them to “basically women.” During her submissions call for her anthology, POWER & MAGIC: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology, multiple non-binary artists wanted to apply. The anthology had a “woman-aligned people of color” requirement.
“It made total sense that folks were looking to be an exception. There were no spaces that explicitly wanted non-binary people […],”
she continued, saying after that moment, she decided to organize something specifically for non-binary creators.
Difficulties Along The Way
Publishing a book is no easy task but for Joamette, publishing was not a large concern. In 2016, Joamette founded POWER & MAGIC Press, an independent publishing company dedicated to supporting queer creators and creators of color. She has never done anything quite like this before, but with every book published, there are things to be learned from it.
Due to her motivation to represent minorities through these books, she has brought to light artists that might have gone unnoticed otherwise. “It continually confirms that we are enough, no matter how few of us the mainstream is willing to hire.”
The number one difficult task while creating Heartwood, she said, was arranging twenty-nine different schedules from all her contributors. Despite this, she worked hard to arrange schedules best fit for everyone individually without impeding on their personal lives.
Having these many contributors was also a way to challenge herself. She worked with nearly double the amount of people she normally worked with for an anthology. In the end, it worked out for her and everyone involved.
What It Means To Be A Contributor
I reached out to a couple artists who participated in this anthology to ask what it means to be part of Heartwood’s team.
“I am incredibly honored to be alongside so many wonderful artists in this amazing anthology, artists that I, myself look up to,”
Diigii Daguna replied. They went on to explain how being a non-binary person of color and given this opportunity to show their work was a dream.
“It really means a lot to be able to portray non-binary characters the same way we see ourselves.”
Another contributor to this anthology, Sunmi, elaborated how creating comics helped them become more comfortable with themselves and their gender.
“I am so excited to be a part of this project that highlights a wide range of non-binary experiences and stories […],”
they went on. They proceeded to explain how creating such comics gave them a feeling of power and the chance to share ideas with those who read their content.
Raven “raveyrai” White replied as well, stating how joyful and honored they were to be part of Heartwood’s team of creators.
“I strive to create what I wish I had seen while growing up, knowing it may also resonate with those that feel the same way,”
she stated. They went on to explain how she is grateful for this experience.
“This book is the book I would’ve wanted when I was a teen,” Cori Walters stated. Sie continued to explain how being involved with all these different contributors on the non-binary spectrum felt powerful.
“[…] by our powers combined, we’re getting closer to representing the breadth of experience that exists in non-binary identity in real life[…].”
Support Heartwood: Non-binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy
Heartwood’s Kickstarter to make this non-binary anthology a published book is 78% funded with 20 days to go. Click here to support them and grab your copy of Heartwood: Non-binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy.
Click here to see other comic series we’ve reviewed. Finally, I will leave you with something to think on after reading this article. If left alone to follow an adventure, how would the forest change you?