Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the mission of Prism Comics and the positive impact that it has had on comic book creators and readers?
Elizabeth Beier: Prism Comics is the leading non-profit, all-volunteer organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual and LGBTQIA-friendly comic books, comics professionals, readers and educators. Prism Comics travels the country to conventions to sell work by queer cartoonists.
Ted Abenheim: Now more than ever, it’s important for LGBTQ+ comics creators to have a voice. Prism provides a community for LGBTQ+ comics professionals, readers and allies to tell their stories with the goal of fostering greater diversity and understanding. I’ve been thrilled to see more and more families, educators and librarians come to our booths over the last few years looking for books for young people and books representing the diversity of the queer alphabet. That didn’t happen as much a few years ago. So, change is happening.
BD: Since 2003, Prism Comics has served as a forum for promoting LGBTQ awareness and also provided new opportunities to creators. What are some of the various programs and opportunities facilitated by the organization that are currently available?
EB: Prism Comics offers the Queer Press Grant to an up-and-coming queer cartoonist each year, to help offset production or distribution costs of the artist’s work. Submissions for the Queer Press Grant are open now and close on March 1. The winner is announced each spring at a Prism panel WonderCon Anaheim in Southern California.
Besides the Queer Press Grant, another way artists can be involved is by selling books through or tabling with Prism Comics at conventions.
BD: What are the biggest hurdles that Prism Comics faces when providing education and creative advancement to the community?
EB: As a small nonprofit run by volunteers, there are times when it is financially or logistically difficult to be at every convention we want to be at to represent Prism and queer artists. Luckily, we have devoted volunteers, as well as the official Prism board, who are enthusiastic about traveling and making sure there is safe queer space at conventions.
BD: You recently announced the launch of the annual Queer Press Grant. Elizabeth, as the Chairperson of the Queer Press Grant Committee (and also a former winner!), what can you tell us about the intent of the grant, and what is the process for creators (and their projects) to be considered?
EB: The Queer Press Grant is an award of $2,000 for an up-and-coming cartoonist who is producing meaningful queer comics. The primary things the judges weigh are the quality of the artwork and writing, and the way in which the work speaks to the diverse queer community. The stories can be science fiction, historical, slice of life, or any other genre… we are just interested in finding and helping cartoonists who are telling interesting queer stories in a compelling way. Other factors in judging include financial need of the applicant and the professionalism of the application.
A hard thing about chairing the grant is that every year so many amazing cartoonists apply, but we can only give the grant to one person (two if there is a tie in the judge’s points.) I sincerely think and hope that collecting all the existing art into one presentation, writing a business proposal for the book, and crafting a cover letter about what the work is meant to do in the world — will benefit each cartoonist who goes through the process, even if they don’t win in a particular year.
BD: What can you tell us about the impact that the Queer Press Grant has had for previous participants, as well as for the individuals who are able to participate in the jury process?
EB: Previous winners have said that in addition to some extra finances to print and sell their comics, the grant has helped their work become more recognized. A press release goes out on behalf of the winner, and articles about the winner and their work help connect the cartoonist to new readers. The grant can expand the cartoonists’ network, boost their confidence, and help them tell a story about why their work is important to the world.
One perk of winning the Queer Press Grant is that you are then invited to judge the following year(s), and it is interesting to apply and then see the process from the other side!
BD: How can other individuals get involved with Prism Comics throughout the year, and what are a few ways that community members can truly make a difference?
TA: We couldn’t do what we do without volunteers. We love volunteers and are looking for people to help us at comic conventions; help us social network; contribute articles and posts to our website; help with accounting and databases and more. Anyone interested in becoming part of the Prism Family please contact Ted Abenheim, President of Prism Comics at ted (at) prismcomics (dot) org.
BD: Are there any other programs or activities that you are currently working on that you would like to share with our readers?
TA: In addition to the Queer Press Grant, Prism is currently coordinating the Third Annual Prism Awards in association with The Cartoon Art Museum and The Queer Comics Expo. The Prism Awards and recognize excellence and representation in LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+ comics and are given to comics in six categories from small press and web to mainstream publishers. Submission for the 2019 Prism Awards ends Friday, February 15.
And this year, Prism is exhibiting at Long Beach Comic Expo, WonderCon Anaheim, The Queer Press Expo, the Queers & Comics Conference in New York, Comic-Con International San Diego and more.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about Prism Comics and the 2019 Queer Press Grant?
TA: People can follow us through our website – prismcomics.org – and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
EB: I encourage all readers who are working on a queer cartooning project to apply, and also please let your friends know that the grant is open to take submissions now. The link to apply for the grant and information about all the material needed is here. If you have further questions, please email me at beier.elizabeth (at) gmail (dot) com.