The Secret Language of Comics

An Evening with Maia Kobabe

At first I wasn’t too sure I’d have time to attend the Maia Kobabe workshop event because I had an assignment to finish and turn in only about an hour after the event, but I ended up watching and listening on the side as I worked and I’m kind of glad I decided to.

Before the event, only being aware that it was an event in which they would discuss the process of making their graphic memoir Gender Queer, I had the assumption that I would not have much to relate to or wouldn’t fully comprehend any struggles—given that I’m a straight cis woman. However, I was surprised when, although I can’t relate or 100% comprehend the emotional process, there was a lot on the “technical” process of writing their memoir that I felt connected with Maia. They mentioned using a wacom tablet and I was instantaneously taken back to my “artist phase” in which I saved up to buy a small wacom intuos tablet because I wanted to get into digital art in like the 7th grade. My biggest shocks, however, came upon Maia saying they get inspiration from fanart, fanfiction and music, from which a large portion was Kpop. Back in middle school when I was a full-time One Direction fan, I definitely read quite a few fanfictions—it was a crazy time, at one point I even tried writing my own but gave up after 2 chapters—so hearing Maia, as a professional author—compared to fanfiction authors which from my experience are usually teens—mention fanfiction it was so odd, yet it felt relatable. Same thing when they mentioned fanfiction; these works created by fans have always seemed to me to be only presented within fan communities on social media—being presented in anyway or mentioned to the “normal” audience groups is not taken well because of the stigma around internet stan culture—so for Maia to openly talk about how writing fanfiction has helped and inspired them made me happy in a way. At the moment in which Maia talked about the music that inspires them, I felt the biggest connection of them all when I saw lots of EXO’s music spread throughout their music gallery since they’re one of the Kpop groups I listen to a lot. When they mentioned they’ve done Kpop fanart, it made me wonder what if I have probably already come across their work without knowing so?

Overall, I enjoyed listening in on the Maia Kobabe event, I got to learn about a new author and add a new book to my future reading list hehe.

Workshop with Maia Kobabe

Maia Kobabe is the author of “Gender Queer: A Memoir.” In this workshop, she talks about the process of creating her work. When Maia first found inspiration and motivation for drawing comics, it was from drawing fan arts and listening to K-POP music. Her first book was “The Theif’s Tale.” She worked on it for 5 years right after she graduated her college. However, it was not popular and Maia said that it was because she did not talk about her identity. After her first series of books, she started drawing little gender-related memories in Waldorf Lesson Books. She created 60 4×4 comics in just 2 weeks. At that time, she was curious if people like her work about gender identity, but she was concerned a lot because she was not yet ready for coming out. However, after she impulsively uploaded the comics on her social media and came out to the wider audience, lots of people were interested in her work and showed her powerful and emotional reactions.
Some books helped her to get a voice and tone of “Gender Queer: A Memoir.” For example, Maia learned about herself and how to talk about sex and sexual health by reading “Oh Joy, Sex Toy.” Also, the embarrassing and private stories that she jotted down in her high school diaries became the main outline of her book. One of the longest processes that she had was designing a cover of the book. She did not want to make half male and half female, since she wanted to express her identity as non-binary. Also, she wanted to show little Maia reflecting adult Maia.
While listening to Maia’s story of creating “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” it was awesome that many people could identify their gender and learn about themselves by reading her book. Also, it was so wonderful to see the development and process.

Extra Credit: Maia Kobabe, Author of “Gender Queer: A Memoir”

Charis Books — the South’s oldest independent feminist bookstore, which is located here in Decatur — will be hosting a virtual event with Maia Kobabe on April 8 at 5:30pm (so, starting 5 minutes before our class ends that day) that I hope many of you will attend.

Maia Kobabe is a graduate of the first ever class in the MFA in Comics program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Eir first full length book, Gender Queer: A Memoir, came out from Lion Forge Comics/Oni Press in May 2019. Gender Queer was a winner of an Alex Award and Stonewall Book Award in 2020 and nominated for an Ignatz Award as well as the Best Graphic Novels for Teens List from YALSA in 2019.
During the event, Maia Kobabe will discuss the physical and emotional process of creating eir groundbreaking graphic memoir Gender Queer. Q&A to follow.
Tesla Cariani is teaching a class in the English department on LGBTQ+ graphic novels and she was able to sponsor this talk with a grant from Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence.
I will offer extra credit to anyone who attends and writes a post on their site about their thoughts on the event.