NYCC ’17: Bingo Love Announced At Image Comics With Tee Franklin

by Hannah Means Shannon

At a special press event at the opening of New York Comic Con today, Image Comics revealed information about upcoming books and gave press a chance to talk to creators about these reveals.

Tee Franklin joined us to talk about Image Comics publishing the formerly Kickstarted project Bingo Love. It was a highly successful Kickstarter, much more than she expected.

It’s about “two little black girls” who found each other through Church bingo and fell in love. Since it is 1963, and the girls’ families have tried to force them apart, they have a lot to face. They decide to get married, have kids, and merge into society.

50 years later they find each other again, and decide to divorce their husbands in this drama.

There are many secrets that come out, and they decide to travel the world together, afterwards living “happily ever after”. The characters are plus-sized, one has dark skin, and they are essentially “grannies”, so she has been surprised that a publisher wanted to pick it up.

Jen St. Onge is the artist on the book, and Joy San is a woman of color from Canada working on the book. It was important to Franklin to have an “inclusive team” and not just straight white men or even straight white women. Comics can be “bland” and it’s time to “season it up”.

It’s important to her to show that youth know that it’s possible to have your “happily ever after”, she said. Why can’t that be “black queer grannies”, Franklin asked. She wants to share the message that “it’s hard living a lie”, and she’s had experiences with abusive marriage situations. When she decided to move on, and say “enough”, it was important to her to live her truth now as a bisexual. She’s come out to her children, who have been very accepting. She has felt that constraint in the past, and for her, this helps address the “embedded” ideas that you have to be straight, get married, and have kids. This is programmed as “normal”, and for her, it could have ended really badly for her.

She knows how it feels, and having this Kickstarter, getting messages from readers who related their family experiences, was very meaningful for Franklin. “This book is for them”, she said.

Asked if the personal element made her want to create the project, Franklin said a “commercial” inspired her, where she saw two “older black women” sitting on some steps, then doing a speed walk, giggling and “flirting” with an older man. When she saw it, she asked, “Why can’t that be a woman” who they were flirting with.

Asked how Image Comics got involved in the project, Franklin said she was working alongside Donny Cates and signing copies of Love is Love on Free Comic Book Day. Cates said he’d contact Eric Stephenson about the book, and Stephenson got in touch. She was so excited she was trying to control her reaction to the offer.

After the success of the campaign, and now the fact that the book will be in bookstores in mind-blowing for her. It’s a story that she knows people can relate to “all over the world”.

Asked if the book is set in New York, Franklin said the book is set in Patterson, New Jersey, and across other towns in New Jersey.

The book will be coming out on Valentine’s Day, a Wednesday, in 2018. It will be the “same book” but will have a “brand new cover”, which they are still working out.

It’s important in doing a “black comic” to present hair in a way that’s appropriate, and Jen St. Onge really worked on that as an important aspect, watching Youtube videos and more, Franklin said. It’s a very “family oriented” black comic in a similar way that Soul Food is a film that resonates for a black person, Franklin said. You just don’t find that in comics, she said, so she’s feeling very “blessed” that it’s being picked up by Image.

Asked about the plot of the story, Franklin said it ranges from 1962 to 2038. You’ll see different eras of their lives.

Asked about how she got into comics, Franklin said that she had a backup story as a 4 page horror comic in Nailbiter. She didn’t want to be just associated with horror, so she did an all-ages fantasy story. Then she was involved in Love is Love. She appreciates working in comics because of how fast things can be released and reach people. She’s already known in comics, so this was a good avenue.

The reason that she initially used Kickstarter is that she felt publishers would say “no”. The cover shows two older women holding hands in their underwear and their skin shows stretch marks, Franklin said. She wanted to go directly to the public, and let them say “yes”, or rather “hell, yes”.

It’s a “good wholesome family book” in many ways, too, she said.

It will be an 88 page graphic novel.

Preview books are at C1 in Artists Alley at the show if you’d like to stop by and see!