Irish comic book artist on reflecting queer identities in his latest work, Real Boy

"After lamenting the lack of queer Irish comics, I now make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ+ elements in my stories."

Two side-by-side panels from the Real Boy queer comic reading

Comic guru and GCN contributor David Ferguson has just published his new comic, ‘Real Boy’. To mark the occasion, David talks about his early comics and how he incorporates his queer identity into his work.

My comic Real Boy has me thinking about how being queer impacts my writing.

When I was younger, I never really thought about putting anything of myself into the stories I wrote. I would write about fantastical things in far-off places. Even when I wrote my first short comic that was published, it was a science fiction story that anyone could have written.

I’m still proud of it. Brian Burke did a great job on the art and lettering and was a great help to a writer who had no experience. The story was published in an anthology called Specimen in 2016.

My next published story came out quite ambiguous when I think about it. Limit Break Comics was looking for submissions for stories about Irish Folklore. I chose to do a story where a guy is anxious about his first date and asks Aengus Óg for advice.

The date’s identity remains a mystery so it could be a queer story. It is based on my first date with my husband so peoples’ conscious or unconscious bias may decide. It was published in Turning Roads in 2021.

Even my latest comic Real Boy didn’t start as queer. Originally, it was simply a story about living with depression. I think it was still a really good story and had elements that seem to be resonating with people who have talked to me about Real Boy.

The story evolved as I was working on it for various possible anthology series (none of which worked out, such is the way with these things), but it sat on my computer for years.

I think the changes were influenced by my writing for GCN, as I was exposed to more queer works to come up with new articles. This was a wonderful by-product of something that I enjoy doing.

Late last year, I took the plunge and asked one of my favourite artists and someone who has become a friend, Anna Fitzpatrick, if she had time to work on it (with me paying for her time and effort of course). Happily, she said yes.

Anna has done a wonderful job and added so much to it including an extra level of queerness with the art and colours. I’d also like to thank Paul Carroll and Aaron Fever for publishing it on Irish Comics Dot IE which is a great place to see some Irish comics.

Anyway, the moral of this story is, after seeing how it worked out, I now make a conscious effort to put some queerness into my stories. I think it actually improves my writing as it feels more genuine.

I’m reminded of the time I was lamenting the lack of queer Irish comics to my friend and one of my favourite writers, Michael Carroll. His response was “Well then you’d better write some.”

If you’d like to read David’s new comic, ‘Real Boy’, it is posted every Friday on Irish Comics Dot IE. You can check it out here.

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