Interview with Matt Miner

Matt Miner is a lot of things. He's an activist, a vegan, an animal rescuer, a music lover, a bisexual, a happily married man, a comic writer, and the kind of progressive that's all about punching Nazis in the face. His passion for animals, music, and Nazi punching is featured prominently in his comics.

Joe Corallo: What is some of your work that the Geeks OUT community might know or want to know?

MM:Work that folks in the Geeks OUT community might know would be my "zombie punk rockers vs Westboro Baptist Church" series Toe Tag Riot, the animal rescuing sagas in Liberator and Critical Hit, and my current new project with GWAR, that's out June 7 in comic stores everywhere. Writing Gwar is quite a change as I'm stepping into a world that already exists and has some dark corners that I'm avoiding, choosing instead to celebrate the things about Gwar that I adore—like never taking life too seriously but always taking the time to lampoon and challenge the evils of the world.

JC: I'd like to elaborate on your comic Toe Tag Riot. Two of the band members are queer women, one of whom is disabled. Did you go into this book with the idea that you wanted certain representation and why was it important to have queer representation in this story?

MM: It was hinted at that Paulie was queer too—a whole book of queer zombie punks killing homophobes and racists! Well except for Dickie. Dickie is super hetero and lovably clueless, the token cis het dude in the book, I guess. It's not like I said "OK, this book needs X-amount of queer people and X-amount of disabled people and women and people of color" but it just kind of fell into place the way it did and made sense. I came up in the punk rock, alternative rock, and metal scenes through the 80s and 90s, and I just tried to represent reality and have real, relatable, characters with the kinds of diverse backgrounds that I know exist in that world. The truth is that the lacking representation of queer characters in comics is a problem and it made sense for Toe Tag Riot to have an actually diverse cast and not use it as a publicity stunt like so many other books do. We saved the publicity stunt stuff for pranking Westboro Baptist Church, who originally championed Toe Tag Riot because they didn't quite understand they were the villains and didn't quite get how LGBTQ positive the book is.

JC: Not only are there LGBT characters in Toe Tag Riot, but the bad guys are bigots. What made an anti-LGBT group, The Westboro Baptist Church, the perfect villain for this series?

MM: When I think about the groups who just turn my stomach, Westboro is right there at the very top. Nobody else publicly spews hate and vile bigotry quite like them—though Toe Tag Riot was created before the rise of Donald Trump and the alt-right, who would all probably be top of the list if it ever got a sequel.

JC: Toe Tag Riot has a lot of horror elements to it. You're a horror buff yourself. Some of the earliest depictions of queer people in movies was in the horror genre. What are some of your early or best examples of seeing queer visibility in horror?

MM: Thinking back, I can really only remember very one-sided depictions of queer people in horror films. As per usual, same-sex female couples are fetishized while their male counterparts are considered gross or taboo. Let's start in the 70s and off the top of my head we have movies like The Blood Spattered Bride with a great lesbian characters, and later also with the 80s classic The Hunger, but when I think of 70s and 80s grindhouse horror films with gay dudes, they're usually ugly stereotypes and there for comic relief. Hey, let's laugh at the homos, right? Or as we see often in the 80s with films like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Lost Boys you have kind of an ambiguous homoerotic thing going on where there are winks and nods to the audience, but things are never explicitly stated. More recently, I'm seeing better representation in things like The Walking Dead, and Black Mirror, though the "San Junipero" episode, which I consider the best hour of TV made in memory, is probably the only episode of that show that wouldn't rank as "horror" under anyone's definition.

JC: Bisexual representation has been a topic of discussion for years. Everything from problematic depictions to erasure. From your point of view, how has bi visibility evolved, and what work still needs to be done?

MM: I honestly think it just needs a lot more work. We all need to work harder and put more bisexual characters into the things we create, myself included. It was always intended that Paulie would have his sexuality explored more in depth in Toe Tag Riot volume 2, but we didn't get to a place where there even was a Toe Tag Riot volume 2. It's a harsh lesson for me to learn, and I should have included more specificity in the first series. It was a line I was walking in not wanting to make his sexuality a defining point of his character, or his story, but also not wanting it to be a throwaway line in the book and I'm afraid I let him down in that regard, but at least he got to eat Shirley Phelps's guts as she bled out.

In comics, especially indie comics, you see some bisexual characters where their sexuality isn't fraught with problematic depictions, but in more mainstream popular media you still see the same tired clichés, where bisexual folks are "just experimenting" or they're promiscuous, or they're "doing it for attention," etc. I strongly believe that sexuality is on a spectrum and most of us fall somewhere along that spectrum, and assuming that's true, then where the hell are the realistically-depicted bisexual people on TV and in movies?

JC: What advice do you have for anyone who may be trying to write a bisexual character in their story?

MM: I would say what I would say for someone wanting to write any character with a marginalized voice, and that's to talk to people who are the thing you want to write, if you're not that thing yourself. Avoid stereotypes, avoid making a person's sexuality or gender identity the defining point of their character, don't tell the stories that revolve around their sexuality-based struggles, and definitely don't write LGBTQ characters with an idea that you're going to use them as a publicity stunt—that shit is so obvious and gross. And then, once you're done writing your thing and before publishing your thing, double check with those people you talked to before writing your thing, just to make sure you didn't screw up along the way.

JC: Your latest project is a Gwar miniseries over at Dynamite Entertainment, Gwar: Orgasmaggedon. Gwar themselves are a band that has not shied away from phallic imagery and implied homoeroticism. What do you love about them and what about them could someone from the Geeks OUT community love too?

MM: What I have loved about Gwar from age 16 to now is that they never take themselves seriously. But if you look under all the rubber dicks and spikes and chains and bare asses and blood spray, you'll find a pack of great musicians, talented artists, and good people who have some pretty great politics. Like with anything, there are things I love about Gwar and things that just aren't for me. But what's great is that in writing this comic I'm able to champion those good things that I love so hard, and I hope people dig it. You wanna see Richard Spencer get his junk ripped off then his eyeballs popped out and stuffed down the front of his pants so he can watch himself bleed out? Then this comic is for you. It's fun and funny, I promise. Just remember not to take it, or yourself, too seriously, and I promise you'll have a good time with the book.

Gwar: Orgasmaggedon #1 is available at comic shops everywhere June 7