A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Tee Franklin when we both attended a Gail Simone comics signing. I had no idea who she was at the time, but when Gail greeted her with an excited exclamation, I figured they might know each other through the comics business. (As it turns out, they did both work on the Love is Love anthology, which raised money to support victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.) After learning who she was, I also found out that Tee was definitely doing some important work for comics: she is the author of the delightful-sounding graphic novella Bingo Love.
I took home a postcard advertising the story and looked it up right away when I got home — and immediately decided this was something I needed to get my hands on. To let Tee describe it:
Bingo Love is an 80 page graphic novella that revolves around Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray, two thirteen year old Black girls who, in no time, become the best of friends. As their relationship grows, they discover their deep love for one another, but the timing couldn’t be worse. Two girls in love are bound to be star-crossed in 1963, and their families forbid them from seeing each other again.
Not only do the young women have to endure the pain of separation, but they’re also both married off to men they don’t love. They seem destined to live apart, permanently cut off from one another, but fate — and bingo — have another plan for them. Nearly fifty years later, Hazel and Mari once again see each other across a bingo hall, and all their feelings come flooding back.(x)
So you can see why I might be hooked.
Queer stories set in fantastical settings are obviously important to me, but there’s also something very special about queer stories featuring happy endings set in the real world. It’s why I love the Dates series of comic anthologies from Margins Publishing, and I was so excited to see it here. Having Tee Franklin’s voice as a queer Black creator adds a crucial authenticity to the project, and I can’t wait to see what her and illustrator Jenn St. Onge (who’s done art and covers for Jem and the Misfits, Steven Universe, Faith, Rick and Morty, Josie and the Pussycats, and several other series) create for us.
I was also delighted to see the outpouring of support for this series from the established comics community, with well-known writers like Gail, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Al Ewing, Kieron Gillen, G. Willow Wilson, Scott Snyder, and Marguerite Bennett all pitching in and offering their time as a reward for higher backer tiers (in the form of portfolio reviews, script critiques, etc). While it’s still so hard to get queer Black representation in comics – Marvel only just canceled their Black Panther spinoff series World of Wakanda a few weeks ago, and it was the only series I can think of that put a Black queer perspective at the forefront of the story – this support makes it clear that this failure is the fault of the industry failing QPOC, not of creators.
All that said, I’m a bit late to the game writing about Bingo Love; the graphic novella’s Kickstarter is long over (proud to say I backed it before it closed!). That doesn’t mean your chances to get a copy of Bingo Love with a variant cover from the featured artist of your choice are gone, though. The novella is available for preorder through Backerkit for just a few more days, and has raised an additional $5,000+ on top of its totally stretch-goal-busting $57k Kickstarter funding in orders after the campaign closed. (And you can also get a digital version or a set of adorable Hazel and Mari stickers through Backerkit as well!) This is a project that’s so worth supporting, and if you agree, you can always hit up Tee on Twitter to let her know.
Hear more from Lady Saika on Character Reveal, the podcast she cohosts with BrothaDom!