Q&A: Tee Franklin Talks "Bingo Love," Self-Publishing, and More

Tee Franklin, a queer disabled black woman, founded Inclusive Press to publish her own comics and those of other marginalized creators.

Photo of Tee FranklinTee Franklin, a queer disabled black woman, founded Inclusive Press to publish her own comics and those of other marginalized creators. The author has since received widespread acclaim for the queer romance novella Bingo Love, illustrated by Jenn St-Onge and Joy San, which garnered $60,000 via Kickstarter and won the 2017 Queer Press Grant before being released by Image Comics (LJ 2/1/18; ow.ly/ylBu30k2TBd). We interviewed Franklin about her experiences with Kickstarter, self-publishing, and more.

LJ: What were your expectations when you started your Kickstarter campaign to fund Bingo Love?
Tee Franklin: I honestly expected to have to beg and plead with people to fund the Kickstarter. Never did I think that we were going to be funded in five days; that was just completely unheard of. As the numbers kept rising, I almost hit the cancel button and returned everyone’s pledges. I’m so glad I didn’t!

Bingo Love is creator-owned but published by Image Comics—what does that mean in terms of the practical tasks involved?
Bingo Love was self-published by me and my publishing company, Inclusive Press, via Kickstarter. Instead of bringing it to any of the major comics publishers, I decided to give it to the people and let them tell me yes or no. A few months after the Kickstarter ended, I was introduced to the head honcho at Image. Image believed in Bingo Love and wanted to publish the book and have it reach people and places that I couldn’t have reached on my own.... I’m forever grateful.

cover image of Bingo Love the graphic novel by Tee FranklinHazel and Mari’s story is one readers don’t typically encounter. Has its reception been what you’d hoped for?
Bingo Love (already in its third printing) has been accepted by many people. A story of two teens who fall in love and reunite in their mid-sixties doesn’t get told because “happily ever afters” for the LGBTQ community typically don’t exist in [mainstream] entertainment. And it’s because [readers] get to see these characters—black, queer women—grow old together, love each other...that [they] see themselves. This is why I believe the book has sold so well.

How did the creative team come together?
I found artist Jenn St-Onge and colorist Joy San via Twitter. Comics editor Erica Schultz and I had known each other for several years, and Erica knew letterer Cardinal Rae. I reached out and offered them all jobs; I’m so thrilled they said yes. They did such a fantastic job, they’re all extremely talented.

Is the artwork what you envisioned for the book, or did the artists’ style move you to consider another direction(s)?
I didn’t consider any other direction for Bingo Love. Jenn’s beautiful artwork, along with Joy’s colors, fit perfectly in the Bingo Love universe. Jenn took my script and created a masterpiece, bringing tears to the eyes of people as young as 11, all the way to an 80-year-old woman. This team knocked it all the way out of the park.

What can you tell us about your next project(s)?
I’m working on a horror miniseries that will be coming out through Image this year, and I have a few more comics in the pipeline to keep me busy for the next few years. I’ve also decided to dip my toe into the prose pool, so we’ll see what happens; hopefully I don’t drown.

What are the most important takeaways from your experiences in making Bingo Love?
Bingo Love has given people hope and that’s something that is needed.... I’ve even had Hazels and Maris thank me for telling their story. People have broken down in my arms and thanked me for what I’ve done—[both] straight and LGBTQ folks. It’s a relatable [story] about finding your true love. To the creators out there, especially marginalized creators, you don’t have to take no for an answer. Just get on out there and create. The only person who can stop you from creating something is you.

This Q&A originally appeared with LJ's special feature "Graphically Speaking." Follow these links for more of on 2018 graphic novels:

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