Sina Grace is the comic author and illustrator behind autobiographical books like Self-Obsessed and Marvel’s standalone Iceman series. A few years ago, he reached a point of disillusionment with the American dream, discovering that getting all the money and possessions you wanted isn’t as fulfilling as family, health and love.
Isolated and literally wasting away, Grace set in motion some changes that would eventually bring him happiness in ways he never even knew he wanted — including the position of writer on Marvel’s queer Iceman storyline.
Sina was my guest on a recent episode of The Sewers of Paris, a podcast where I interview gay men about the entertainment that changed their lives.
For Sina Grace, the entertainment that changed his life was the show Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. “It built my moral compass,” he says, though he resisted the show initially. (He was a bit of a snob about the show not being faithful to the original film.)
He started watching Buffy between Seasons 3 and 4 and quickly got obsessed. He was going through the typical teen drama of high school, but also some pretty staggering tragedy: One friend was stabbed and killed, another fell to their death. Grace identified with Buffy putting the weight of the world on her shoulders and trying to make others around her feel better.
“It was exposure to incredibly intense things at a young age,” he says, recalling the drug and alcohol abuse around him. “I didn’t need monster metaphors, I knew kids being very literal monsters.”
As a teen, he escaped into comics. But initially he imitated what he saw other artists drawing: conventionally sexy women in action sequences. “You didn’t see a diversity of voices in the last seven or eight years,” he says, so there weren’t many self-reflective queer stories being told.
For a long time, he held himself back from drawing what he wanted. But in college he started producing more autobiographical work, rather than hiding behind the trappings of masculinity that were so easy to imitate. “What if I do exactly what I want?” he asked himself.
So Sina Grace wrote a book called Not My Bag, all about his job at a department store. “It was so gothic and insane,” he says, not thinking there was a lot of audience interest in a memoir. But his publisher loved it, and Grace felt encouraged to produce more.
But he had a few reservations at first. “There was a stigma of getting ghettoized as a gay voice,” he says. Grace had to force himself to overcome anxiety that he’d never work in any other genre.
Following that book, Grace wrote another called Self-Obsessed.
“It’s me trying to figure myself out on paper,” he says. In the process of writing that, he realized that he was in love with his best friend — a relationship that until then had been amorphous and undefined. It was only through being honest with himself and about himself that he was able to see that a friendship was actually so much more.
Today, Sina Grace is wrapping up the story of Bobby Drake, more well-known as the frozen member of the X-Men, Iceman. Unfortunately the standalone title was recently canceled by Marvel, and its 11th issue will be its last. Grace has been writing Bobby as a tense, inward-looking young man who prefers joking around to opening up and being vulnerable. It’s a story that works perfectly for the character, and one Sina Grace is in a perfect position to tell.