THIS GENDER NONCONFORMING ARTIST RELEASED A BLACK HISTORY MONTH COMIC ON INSTAGRAM

Ethan Parker, a 33-year-old gender nonconforming artist, partnered up with social justice non-profit The California Endowment to create a unique webcomic in honor of Black History Month.

The comic, which was released panel by panel on Instagram, focused on police brutality. More specifically, protests following the murder of an unarmed black man at the hands of cops. Since 2014, after the shooting of 18-year-old Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought national attention to this issue. Parker’s Black History Month comic gives a personal look at how the Black Lives Matter movement has affected young African Americans in their ongoing fight for justice.

Parker’s backstory

Parker began creating as a visual diarist in 2014 following a bout with mental health issues.

‘My intention was to process my experiences, feelings, and thoughts through journal-style comics as a means of self-administered art therapy. Because mental healthcare in the US is not accessible or affordable to me,’ Parker tells GSN.

‘Before 2014 I hadn’t ever created a comic, but very much enjoyed reading graphic novels, manga, and online comics. My eldest brother was a bit of a comic collector. But growing up I was never allowed to indulge in browsing his stash. Partly because my brother was very protective over his comics. But also because comics were considered “for boys,”’ Parker recalls.

‘My household was quite gendered growing up in 1980s and 90s suburban America. So it was a challenge to explore visual media that didn’t center around My Little Pony, Minnie Mouse Club books, and Disney princesses. Not that any of that media was in any way bad, it just didn’t speak to me. But then again neither did the likes of shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, or superhero comics. I always enjoyed drawing as a youth, but mainly would make doodles in the margins of my notebooks.’

Manga influence

‘But it was around summer 1997 that my uncle’s husband returned from a trip to Hong Kong with a gift for me: a Card Captor Sakura wall scroll. I’d never seen art like that before, not for girls and certainly not for boys. Turns out the creators of the series was an all-female group of Japanese mangaka called CLAMP. That was it; I was ensnared by the artwork and the way they told stories! I absorbed every manga I could by CLAMP and tried my hardest to imitate the artists’ works.’

‘Eventually I was introduced to more Eastern comic art. That led me to discover the joys of webcomics as my access to anything not domestic was the internet. I enjoyed reading more than I did drawing, although I would always indulge in drawing my favorite characters in my sketchbooks. During my high school years it was unfortunately very uncool to like anime and manga. So I wasn’t the most popular kid. That coupled with my art teachers’ insistence that cartooning and comicking wasn’t “real art,” I was very discouraged from continuing with my practice. By 2003 I’d stopped drawing altogether. So I spent the next decade pretty much abstaining from creating until I found myself in a very dark place 11 years later.’

Black History Month comic

Parker describes their Black History Month comic, especially the way it’s being released, as a ‘tasting menu of sorts.’

This ‘tasting menu’ gives readers ‘a small portion of insight that lingers on their mental pallets just long enough to form curiosity before consuming the next bit of the story.’

‘From an artistic standpoint, it’s very demanding physically and mentally,’ Parker explains. ‘I’ve been working around 25-30 hours a week on the comic in conjunction with my full-time day job. But overall it’s been a pleasant experience, and it may be something I do again in the future.’

Creative and Personal struggles

However, Parker isn’t too fond of creating comics like the one they did for Black History Month.

‘Creating is a very intimate process, especially considering how I began my foray into making comics,’ they explain.

‘I spend countless hours pouring over my works. So when the subject matter is quite heavy, it has a way of settling into my bones. It takes its toll. Staring for hours at the faces of my people in pain, my community grieving, the anger, the heartbreak, restlessness, exhaustion… it seeps into me.’

‘From an artistic standpoint, it’s very demanding physically and mentally,’ Parker explains. ‘I’ve been working around 25-30 hours a week on the comic in conjunction with my full-time day job. But overall it’s been a pleasant experience, and it may be something I do again in the future.’

Creative and Personal struggles

However, Parker isn’t too fond of creating comics like the one they did for Black History Month.

‘Creating is a very intimate process, especially considering how I began my foray into making comics,’ they explain.

‘I spend countless hours pouring over my works. So when the subject matter is quite heavy, it has a way of settling into my bones. It takes its toll. Staring for hours at the faces of my people in pain, my community grieving, the anger, the heartbreak, restlessness, exhaustion… it seeps into me.’

SOURCE: GAY STAR NEWS

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