‘Gumballs,’ the First Published Comics Memoir By a Trans Cartoonist, Combines Humor and Autobiography

‘Gumballs,’ the First Published Comics Memoir By a Trans Cartoonist, Combines Humor and Autobiography

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It’s no secret we love queer comics. Comic books are an amazing artform that lends themselves well to autobiographical narratives. And we’re super excited for an upcoming collection called Gumballs by Erin Nations. Published by Top Shelf Comix, Erin Nations’ Gumballs is the first published memoir comics by an out transgender cartoonist, which is an important achievement on its own, but Gumballs has also been a critical hit.

Erin Nations, creator of ‘Gumballs.’ (Photo by Dawn Michelle, Courtesy of Erin Nations)

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Top Shelf publishers Chris Staros and Leigh Walton said:

We actually launched Gumballs as a comic book series (very unusual for Top Shelf), and it’s racked up glowing reviews and word-of-mouth love for its unpretentious, wide-ranging take on humanity. A lot of Erin’s comics are autobiographical — he’s not only transgender, he’s part of a set of triplets — so readers will love his firsthand take on issues like single-gender bathrooms and childhood birthday presents. But they’re also interspersed with whimsical character studies and workaday observations, forming a well-rounded portrait of a fascinating creative mind.

“Male Privilege” from Gumballs #3 (Courtesy Erin Nations/Top Shelf)

Gumballs creator Erin Nations lives in Portland, Oregon and has been publishing his own ‘zines since 2014, though Gumballs is his first mainstream comics work. As Stavros and Walton mentioned, Nations is one-third of a set of triplets, which often comes up in his comics as well.

His first comic, Twins-Triplet was about that, and he’s also contributed to Vision QuestOriginal Plumbing and Stay Gold.  (He’s also got a great “Transgender Trailblazers Tee,” featuring heroes like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, Alexander John Goodrum and Kate Bornstein.)

“Questions” from Gumballs #3 (Courtesy Erin Nations/Top Shelf)

Nations’ work has been compared to such comics luminaries as Dan Clowes (creator of Eightball and Ghost World), Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve) and Alex Robinson (Box Office Poison).

He’s gotten praise from Publisher’s Weekly, who said, “Nations is a standout, portraying his experience with humor and honesty and with distinctive, whimsical art.”

Comicosity said, “Gumballs consistently delivered warmth, optimism in the face of challenge, and one of the finest printed publications around…. A gem in a really tough year for being yourself.”

Erin Nations’ Gumballs paperback, collecting issues #1-4 with new content, comes out May 29, 2018. Individual issues of Gumballs are still available.


Featured image from Gumballs #1 by Erin Nations

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