Three Cheers for Online Community With Amy T. Falcone, Queer Webcomic Artist

Welcome to the thirty-ninth installment of  Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy new tech column. Not everything we cover will be queer per se, but it will be about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology.

Header by Rory Midhani

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How many of us obsessively watched Penny Arcade‘s web series reality show, Strip Search? I did. And if you did too, you might be familiar with Amy T. Falcone and her awesome biocomic, Cardigan Weather. We loved it so much that we featured it on Autostraddle not too long ago. I’m specifically in love with “No Big Deal,” a series of Cardigan Weather updates that explains how Falcone feels about love and relationships through her explanations on said topic to her younger self.

Falcone has a new comic forthcoming called Clique Refresh, and it’s “a love letter to internet friends and what it means to feel most at home online.” The comic revolves around Ellie and a group of internet friends she made playing a WoW-esque game called Ether Ruin. Check out Falcone’s Kickstarter (CliqueStarter!) video where she explains it all:

I cannot wait for this comic. This kind of narrative is near and dear to my heart for two reasons:

First – surprise! I was not a popular kid. Sure, in elementary school I was pretty well-liked because I was a beast at playing pretend (see this other post where I admit to convincing a few friends that I came from the planet Saturn). But when vampires, fairies, knights and princesses went out of vogue as we all hit middle school, I went out of vogue too and I found myself a little adrift. Until I learned that there was a world where knights and princesses were still totally in style. That world was Ultima Online. Yeah, yeah, maybe some of you are laughing, but I guarantee that even more of you are chuckling with nostalgia. I see you, level 38 druid. I see you.

Yeah, I had a guild – we went adventuring. It was my responsibility to provide everyone with virtual horses or other crazy creatures to ride (wasn’t there this crazy lizard thing that you could tame as your valiant steed?). And I never met those guild members offline, never not once. Didn’t know what they looked like, but dammit if they didn’t help me get through middle school relatively unscathed by the jabs and taunts of my IRL schoolmates – my peers picked up on my difference. It was something they couldn’t quite put their finger on (read: gay gay gay gay) but that didn’t stop them from the verbal torture that is bullying.

Second – many of us have built this queer Autostraddle community in a digital space. Many of us have taken this community offline. In fact, as you read this, I’m hanging out IRL with some of my nearest and dearest friends, all of whom I met via Autostraddle. Some of us aren’t fortunate enough to have a huge community of like-minded queers at home, and for us this website is really all about feeling at home online and having A TON of internet friends at our disposal, whether we’re talking about really serious race and class issues or throwing out names for our dream Doctor Who casting choice.

The cast of Clique Refresh, by Amy T. Falcone

The cast of Clique Refresh, by Amy T. Falcone

I am so pumped for Falcone’s new comic because this is such a shared experience for those of us who grew up online. The experience of having a group of friends on the internet is becoming more and more prevalent, but there’s not a lot in the way of art, storytelling and narrative that reflects this new way of existing that is totally unique to our generation and after. So I caught up with Falcone to ask her a couple quick questions (she’s super busy with her CliqueStarter so I kept it short and sweet!).


 

The thesis for this comic seems to be an exploration of how we build community in a digital world, and your kickstarter video implied that you’ve got some personal experience with this. Where did you find your internet friends? Do you still have them? Has your relationship with those internet friends ever manifested itself offline?

In the past I met my friends on various forums and video games. More recently I have a very close knit group of online friends who video chat together nearly every night. All of us are cartoonists, and will be able to meet a few times a year at conventions. Even if that wasn’t the case, however, I’d bee happy with just our video chats. They’re like any other friends at this point, just people I want to spend time with.

You speak a little bit about the stigma of online friends – how did you experience that? Do you think that’s changed with the mainstreaming of online RPGs?

I think Facebook has actually helped more than people realize. It has now become totally acceptable to keep up with people over massive distances without the intention of meeting up offline. Of course, WoW becoming a household name has been an incredible leap forward for the digitally inclined, as both adults and youths have begun forming tight bonds with guild mates and the like. In my experience, it has been a slow change to our culture that has culminated in a more accepting environment.

Amy T. Falcone as cartooned by Amy T. Falcone

Amy T. Falcone as cartooned by Amy T. Falcone

We really fell in love with “No Big Deal” when it went up on Cardigan Weather. Your new comic isn’t about your life, but will it feature this kind of queer take on love and relationships? Are there any queer characters in Clique Refresh? Or is that spoilers?

Sure, Clique Refresh isn’t a journal comic but I use a lot of my personal experiences to inform the story. Fans of my work will find familiar themes in the new comic that won’t be too far off from Cardigan Weather. I won’t say who is or isn’t queer in Clique Refresh, as it might give away too much!

The creation of online community is a topic near and dear to those of us at Autostraddle – I think it’s because not everyone has queer communities/friends where they live, and some of us turn to online spaces to find our LGBT friends. I know you grew up in a very small town – did you have that experience? If so, tell us a bit about it.

Growing up in a tiny village didn’t help me find a LGBT friendly group, that’s for sure. I think I’ve always gravitated towards online communities, and I’ve definitely made close friends with other queer individuals in those communities. When it comes down to it, friends are there to support each other in a myriad of ways. I was lucky to always have a few close friends I could rely on for support that understood some of the issues I went through being queer. That level of understanding has always been very calming for me.

Tell us a little about your queer experience in the comic world – has your identity affected perceptions of you at all or affected the way you were viewed on Strip Search?

The funny thing is, coming into the comic world I always felt on guard, like I was just waiting to be discriminated against or judged. The truth of the matter is, I was absolutely accepted, just as I am, on Strip Search and in the comics community. I’m sure some people have their own prejudices, but it hasn’t affected my experience in the slightest. I couldn’t be more pleased and relieved to find myself in this community at this time.

Tell us a little bit about team AmErika. We LOVE Erika Moen too! How does it feel to basically be shipped with her? I know from Strip Search you were a DAR reader.

Erika Moen is one of the most honest and endearing creators I know. I have always wanted to connect with my readers the way she does. Sure, I ship it too but I’m more than ecstatic to have formed a real friendship with her.

The name of this column is Queer Your Tech with Fun…how do you queer your tech with fun? How do the characters in Clique Refresh queer their tech with fun?

It’s all about connectivity. With all the different apps like Snapchat, Vine, or Voxer it has never been easier for me to make silly messages just for my friends. I think my sense of humor can be very flirty at times, and a lot of my interactions over phone apps tend to be big games of flirt-chicken with my close friends. I especially like taking goofy, not-so-sexy-face photos and sending them along as if they were part of a serious conversation. My characters are always going to be a little like me, and Clique Refresh is no different. They are all tech goofs in their own way.


Clique Refresh characters while they're in the game "Ether Ruin," by Amy T. Falcone

Clique Refresh characters while they’re in the game “Ether Ruin,” by Amy T. Falcone

You can donate to Amy T. Falcone’s Kickstarter and help make Clique Refresh spectacular/funded.

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Freelance writer and fiction author, Geekery Editor for Autostraddle.com and Fiction Editor for qu.ee/r Magazine. Keep up with her at her website.

Ali has written 263 articles for us.

2 Comments

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    I read this before heading out to GaymerX and cried a bit. For the longest time, the only queer people I knew were my friends on a MUD called Aetolia. Aetolia was the safe space in which I realized that I wasn’t broken, that I wasn’t a freak, that I wasn’t unlovable or incapable of love. Some of my best and most enduring friends I met either through that or other online RPG stuff. (I run a mean Changeling: The Lost campaign, y’all.)

    So, yeah, totally backing this.

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    I ADORE that the guy character’s in-game avatar is female/feminine. There’s some gender-bending queerness right there! <3

    I think that's an amazing part of the online community experience that Amy is touching on, is the ability to express yourself and depict yourself however your gender feels to you with more ease than IRL. Brilliant!

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