Terry Blas is the illustrator and writer behind the ongoing web series Briar Hollow. His work has appeared on comic book covers for Bravest Warriors, Regular Show, The Amazing World of Gumball, Adventure Time, and Rick and Morty. His latest project with Oni Press is an original graphic novel, a murder mystery set at a fat camp, called Morbid Obesity, which he co-wrote. His auto-bio mini comic, You Say Latino, was featured on NPR, OPB, Vox.com and Cosmo.com. He was kind enough to sit down with Geeks OUT for a little chat about his creative life.
Geeks OUT: Welcome, Terry! Thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with us.
Terry Blas: Of course! I love Geeks Out and I’m always happy to chat! Let’s do this!
GO: Many of our readers were first introduced to you at Flame Con, where you had a booth and were on several of the panels. How was the experience for you?
TB: It was completely wonderful. There’s something special about a convention that has an LGBT focus. Everyone around you is having fun and feeling like they are around others who just “get them”. Flame Con is well organized, fun and has awesome panels. I also got to meet so many other LGBT artists, writers and friends I’ve admired for so long, like Sophie Campbell, Amy Reeder, Max Wittert, Aedan Roberts, MJ Erickson, Ian Carlos Crawford and many others. Seeing good friends you know who are also there exhibiting is also fun. It’s nice supporting each other. The best was spending time with Meg Daunting who I’m lucky enough to be working on a project with.
GO: A little over a month ago, you published a wonderful guest piece about how the worlds of Willy Wonka and RuPaul intersected in your life. Did writing that article scratch an itch for you that illustration doesn’t? And are we going to see more in the future?
TB: Absolutely. In addition to illustration and drawing comics, I’m also a writer. Most of what I write is comics, but I like writing essays and articles too. I mean, I’ll write more if people would be interested in reading something I write! I don’t know, I can babble. I tend to babble.
GO: Earlier this year your comic You Say Latino brought you a lot of recognition. How was it for you to have major news outlets like NPR and the Huffington Post sharing your work?
TB: I guess the best word I can think of is: overwhelming. In good ways and bad. I mean, I was making what I thought was this little mini comic that just explored some simplified definitions to some complex terms. Suddenly I’m on NPR talking about Donald Trump’s comments about Mexicans and how in ten years a quarter of the United States will be Latino. It was nuts. It also taught me that any time you discuss identity it’s gonna be tricky. Nobody else likes to be told how to identify. I was just trying to talk about my life and how I identify.
GO: Speaking of identity, how would you say your queerness affects your writing or your art?
TB: My queerness affects my art greatly. Growing up, I drew a lot of girls. Disney Princesses, Superhero ladies etc. I was terrified that if I drew a sexy dude then my secret would be exposed. Even now I still have issues with it. But today it affects me mostly in my subject matter. I love drawing Drag Queens, gay storylines in my comics, and gay icons. I try to just draw what inspires me.
GO: Aside from that mini-comic, you have an upcoming project called Morbid Obesity, which is a murder mystery tale set in a fat camp. What inspired you to write this very unique story (and when will fans be able to get ahold of it)?
TB: A couple things inspired me really. First, I always loved the movie Heavyweights and wondered why there were absolutely no girls at this fat camp. Second, there was an MTV documentary that I was obsessed with called Fat Camp which was really well done. It showed me that there was just as much drama and romance and backstabbing at Fat Camp as there was in any other location. So I thought, “Wow, this has everything! Is there anything it doesn’t have?” And my mind just went to, well, a murder!—So I started with that. I co-wrote the book with Molly Muldoon who is super knowledgeable regarding murder mysteries and really helped sort out the end of the book and what certain characters would and wouldn’t do. The art is being done by an incredible artist. One of my favorites, Matthew Seely.
GO: Aside from writing and illustrating professionally, you have recently taken on several daunting tasks for yourself: an Inktober challenge where you are focusing on Latinx people and...wait for it...a documentary?! Please tell us the impetus behind these varied and important projects.
TB: Well Inktober is a project where artists draw an ink drawing every day for the whole month. This year I wanted to draw 31 Latino(a)(x) people that inspire me and who I admire. So far I’ve drawn Frida Kahlo, Guillermo del Toro, Alicia Machado, Gael Garcia Bernal, Celia Cruz, Cantinflas, Anjelah Johnson, Aubrey Plaza, Oscar Isaac and Gina Rodriguez. I still have 21 to do, so check out my instagram @terryblas if you want to see them all. I’m also selling them as well if anyone wants one!
But as for the documentary, it’s a project I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. So when I met Jonathon Levi Powell online and found out we have a similar upbringing I proposed we do this and we got the ball rolling from there. It’s called Latter Day Glory and it’s Jonathan and I exploring and examining our pasts as Mormon raised, gay, ex-missionaries and what our lives are like now. Along the way we will interview and chat with other LGBT ex Mormons and highlight their experiences as well. It’s the perfect time to confront some of these things, especially with the growing number of LGBT suicides among LDS teens and the new anti-gay policies that were added to the Mormon handbook last year. Obviously you can check out the website, the indiegogo where you can help crowd fund the film, the documentary.org page (for a tax-deductible donation), and definitely check out the facebook page where updates will be posted.
GO: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today; it’s been great to chat again. But, before you go, tell the children where they can get original artwork, read webcomics, and get updates about your projects.
TB: My website is: http://terryblas.com/ where you can find all of my illustrations, Drag art, and comics. I also have a link to my store there! For updates and see what I’m currently doing, check out my twitter and instagram, both @terryblas!