• Interview with The Royal Artist-Creator of Gender Roles!

    Dec 08, 2020

We sat down with The Royal Artist, creator of Gender Roles, to learn more about the series and how it all came to be!

Claire: Hello! Thank you for talking to me today! How are you doing?

The Royal Artist: I’m alright, just trying to live I guess! 

Claire: I think that’s THE mood for 2020. Let’s talk Gender Roles! The series was first published on Tapas back in summer 2018. In your Q&A episode, you said you were inspired by what you would want as a reader. But what motivated you to actually begin creating this comic?

TRA: Well, to be completely honest...I was bored! I was a teenager, in the summer, with nothing to do. But there are a lot of reasons that motivated me to create this particular story. I wanted something that advocated non-gender conformity. I thought to myself “What kind of guy would I like to see?” There were so many comics out there dominated by heterosexuality and with macho men whereas I prefer more feminine types. So many were written by men for women yet didn’t actually understand what women want. And, as someone from Gen Z, I wanted to create a love story that I could relate to and something my generation would enjoy. 

Claire: The series and title centers on Anthony, who is beautiful and wears clothing that would stereotypically be for women. What does it mean to you to create and represent a main character who so confidently defies expectations? 

TRA: Anthony is someone I aspire to be, someone whose confidence I want to have. Marie is where I was and Anthony is where I want to be as a person. I also enjoy expressing myself through fashion but growing up I wasn’t very confident and would get remarks like “what are you wearing?” So, I wore clothes that were more ‘straight’ but tried to make them a little different at the same time. Now, though, I just really hope I can become someone as confident and expressive as Anthony! 

Claire: Moreover, Marie is bisexual. Bisexuals often feel invisible, even in queer spaces, but Gender Roles handles the reality of biphobia with honesty and poise. I just wanted to honor how well you did that. 

TRA: I really wanted Marie to represent bisexuality in a real, casual way. I didn’t want it to be this huge deal that she was bi. Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma for bisexual women who date men. With this story, I wanted there to be clear evidence that you are still bisexual even if you’re in a “straight” relationship. Obviously, Marie did have a relationship with another woman but I didn’t want that to be a big thing, to be her “reason” for being a part of the queer community. 

Claire: Personally, I’m a big fan of Episode 24, Finding Happiness, when Marie begins to realize that her past is not her future. It’s all about healing! What went through your head while creating this episode? 

TRA: Honestly, a lot was going in my life when I created this episode. I had just gotten out of a relationship and was starting to go to therapy. Then quarantine hit and it was a lot, everything was just so emotionally draining. I started talking to my friends and it dawned on me that I was in a state of running away, of being scared of new things. It had all affected me and that was why I told my mom I needed to go to therapy, I needed to get help. I realized that Marie was going through similar things, that we were sharing struggles. As I was writing her I kept thinking that I didn’t want her to move on for anyone, that she needed to do it for herself. I knew that I needed to take care of myself, just like Marie. And she’s doing it for herself, no one else. Because at the end of it all, you only have yourself. 

Claire: So that was one of my favorite scenes, but what’s your favorite? 

TRA: My favorite scene to draw was when Marie and Anthony started dating and they were dancing together. I had been listening to Howl’s Moving Castle and it inspired this really nice and intimate moment. 

Claire: What does it mean to you to be publishing Gender Roles professionally? That’s a huge step for any artistic career!

TRA: It’s one of the greatest things that happened to me early on in life. Actually, at the time everything was going well and when I told my parents, friends, and even my fairly conservative grandparents I was surprised to hear how much they all loved it! 

Claire: Creating a webcomic is a lengthy process! There’s scripting, sketching, etc… What’s your favorite and least favorite part of that process?

TRA: My least favorite part is planning and sketching everything. My favorite is lining it because then everything looks neat and nice! But it’s also hard overall to balance everything I have going on; school, social life, and then keeping up with updates. It can be a lot!

Claire: Do you have any tips for juggling everything?

TRA: I don’t know if I’m the most qualified person to ask about juggling… I don’t really do it too well. For me, any time I have free time I just do it. Any chance you have to create, take it. Carry a sketchbook around, take pictures, just take advantage of whatever time you have. 

Claire: Is there anything you’d like to share with your readers? What about new readers? 

TRA: Please don’t look for deeper meaning! I’m really not that deep, I don’t think. I’m still young and learning things so everything I write is based on my own experiences. Gender Roles is a casual love story for queer people made by a queer person. But, I do appreciate when people find good meaning in my work. It really motivates me. 

TRA: And for new readers—I am sorry about my old art, I was young! Although someone said they missed the old art style and I was like “...Are you sure??” Also, get through the first few chapters, watch some Ads for Ink, and then get to the good stuff (I hope). And never expect an artist to just give you something. Creating content is a full-time job so it shouldn’t be free! So please, support artists as best as you can!

Claire: Any final thoughts you’d like to share? 

TRA: A lot of people think Gender Roles is very intricately made but the truth is… I’m just pulling a lot of this out of my ass! I wing it―that’s it, that’s my art process. Maybe I’m lucky and have a knack for creating webcomics but...omg I can’t believe I said that, haha I’m sorry! But just remember that you don’t have to make something deep or meaningful for it to be special!

Claire: Thank you so much for your time! We’re all looking forward to the future of Gender Roles!