Most comic-book creators, gay or straight, start out as huge fans of superheroes and comics.
Out comic-book artist Bill Roundy was not one of them.
“I had read ‘New Mutants’ for six months when I was 13 until I realized, oh, this is dumb,” he said.
Luckily for fans of his work, life would give him a second chance to appreciate the art form.
“I didn’t actually become a big comic-book guy until my late 20s. I was a reporter for the Washington Blade in D.C.,” he said. “I was working on an article on gay characters in comic books to tie in with the annual GLAAD Awards. I had to go out and buy the issues that were nominated that year and I was like, hey, some of these are pretty good. I wound up going back every month and picking up the new issues. And while I was there, the comic-book clerk was like, ‘Hey, have you tried this one?’ And it snowballed from there.”
Roundy quickly progressed from a casual reader of comics, at best, to a fully converted fan.
“I hadn’t really thought of it as a serious medium,” he said. “But when I started picking it up, I found most of it was actually pretty good. I don’t want to dismiss the adolescent pleasure of the good fight scene. A good fight scene is really difficult to draw. When it’s done well and you’ve got an entertaining storyline with ninjas and pirates, that has sort of its own pleasures. I started reading things like Scott McCloud’s ‘Understanding Comics’ and between that and ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,’ I was like, ‘Ooh, I want to make comics.”
Roundy started writing and drawing his own series in 2003 aptly titled, “The Amazing Adventures of Bill,” based on his life as a struggling artist living in Brooklyn and the romantic misadventures that came with it. He recently released an anthology of the comic’s first five years.
Roundy is also set to appear as a featured artist at the inaugural Philadelphia Alternative Comic-Con, which celebrates comic books that step outside the mainstream of superhero comics, Sept. 13. While his funny and frank depictions of his life have definitely won him some fans, he said putting his business out there on the street has both drawbacks and benefits.
“One of the things that I have learned is not to draw a comic about your first date because the other person will eventually find themselves,” he said. “I try not to write about the start of the relationship until it’s well underway or it’s clear that it’s over. On the plus side, I’ve done a couple of transgender romance comics and I’ve dated a couple of trans men and written comics about that. Other trans men have read those and I have gotten a date or two from that.”
Roundy doesn’t just pen autobiographical comics; he also writes and draws gay romance comics featuring pirates, mad scientists and superheroes. He said he’s now working on a project that isn’t all about him.
“I’m working on a fiction graphic novel,” he said. “I originally started a journal comic as a way to practice drawing and let my friends know what I was up to. But it has developed a life of its own. I’m planning to contißnue it and I enjoy doing it, but now it’s not three times a week, it’s once a week. I’m spending some time creating fictional works that aren’t all about me. As much as I love me, there’s only so much you can write about your own life.”
Catch Roundy at Philadelphia Alternative Comic-Con from noon-6 p.m. Sept. 13 at the 941 Theater, 941 N. Front St. For more information, visit www.billroundy.com or call (917) 514-0651.