2 min

Cartoonists with big hearts

Artists get out pens and paper in support of marriage equality in Minnesota

For people who make and publish independent comics, the process is a labour of love. Bereft of big money, the medium – along with its DIY ethic – lends itself to self-expression and individual stories.
So when [MN]Love, a Minnesota non-profit campaigning for marriage equality, approached cartoonist and publisher Raighne Hogan to produce a comics anthology, he was eager to help and to enlist others to do the same.
“A lot of cartoonists were very excited by the idea, with many of them in the process of getting married themselves. [But] I really did not know what to expect, so anyone that signed up — well, that was thrilling,” Hogan says.
The project captured the attention of many queer cartoonists and allies. The result is Little Heart, a 170-page anthology centred on the theme of couples and love. At five-by-six inches it’s a small book, but Hogan hopes it will make a difference in the upcoming Minnesota referendum on marriage equality.
Minnesota, says Hogan, is a weird state with very liberal pockets, such as Minneapolis-St Paul, but also a strongly religious and conservative rural population, exemplified by the likes of Michele Bachmann. The result is a polarized and entrenched debate about marriage equality and gay rights that needs a big push to achieve change. 
But the debate in Minnesota resonates beyond its borders, and among the 30 contributions are comics by Canadians Emily Carroll and Kate Craig, Michael DeForge and Maurice Vellekoop and a foreword written by Chris Butcher, manager of The Beguiling comic store on Markham St in Toronto.
Vellekoop, a successful illustrator and pin-up artist since the early 1980s, was impressed by [MN]Love and the publisher, Hogan’s 2D Cloud. “There’s a lot of good stuff they’re doing there,” Vellekoop says. For [MN]Love, this includes personal letter-writing campaigns, individuals sharing what marriage means to them, and pledge drives to support marriage equality in the November referendum.
Vellekoop’s contribution shares the experience of marriage equality in Canada. In it, he describes gay marriage as being an experience with a range of outcomes and emotions like any other. Told in a documentary format with Vellekoop’s recognizably confident and smooth brush strokes, it’s a series of interviews with queer friends. The comic shows the multitude of outcomes – from love to divorce and the gamut of emotions in between – that are a part of each unique relationship.
Vellekoop is offering a unique experience in support of the project. As Little Heart is funded on Kickstarter, an online pre-order/support platform, a $300 pledge gets a date with the creator behind the newly released Gloria Badcock project (from Koyama Press).
For Butcher, Little Heart is about opportunity. As director of the popular and respected Toronto Comics Art Festival (TCAF), he was asked to contribute the foreword after he wrote a blog post that was critical of the Harper government’s stance on marriage equality. “For me, personally, equality is about opportunity and about queer couples being afforded the same opportunities under the law as straight ones, if there are going to be laws about such things,” he says.
Butcher adds that as more people get married and equality and opportunity become codified into law, respect grows and rights become difficult to take away.
Whether it’s a political campaign in Minnesota, documenting the experience in Canada or furthering respect and opportunity, the reasons for supporting Little Heart are as individual as relationships or the reasons people marry. There’s widespread support for this notion, too; the Kickstarter campaign reached its $8,500 funding goal on March 13, but pre-orders and rewards are available until March 16.
The labour of love that is Little Heart looks to debut at TCAF in early May; copies will be available at The Beguiling thereafter.