Tabula Idem: A Queer Tarot Comic Anthology
Editors: Iris Jay & Hye M.
Tabula Idem is an anthology book edited by Iris Jay and Hye M. Based on the Major Arcana tarot deck, they gathered 27 queer contributors to tell 22 queer stories based and inspired on those cards. At first I was very skeptical about the project, because I can make nothing of tarot. But then I read the campaign article on Kickstarter and all the information available on their website and learned what the project really is about.
You have most certainly heard of Tarot Cards, the mystical deck with cards such as The Hanged Man, The Fool, The Tower or Death. When you think of those cards you may have a certain picture in your head. Some characteristic features of the characters, a typical look and maybe you even imagine some surroundings. Take The Fool for example. I always think of a man dancing in a ridiculous costume in front of a mean king. So you don’t have to believe or work with the Major Arcana tarot deck to discover that these are merely glimpses into other worlds. I never really thought about it this way and I find it very intriguing to read stories, which are inspired by it. Think about it this way: these worlds were constructed by certain people in a certain time with a certain mindset. What was their intention, over 500 years ago? As you read through the book, you will get short descriptions of every single card, before the related story begins. As you can see in the picture, the circle gets one more entry with every story you read. As a result you get a overview of all stories in form of their very own card design. Is there a bigger picture to it? Maybe, but what does tarot mean for the editors of the anthology?
IRIS JAY: “I actually got into tarot seriously from doing a jokey satirical zine about it a while back, but if you have to make good jokes about something you have to do a lot of research into it, and I accidentally became legitimately captivated by it. Which is like how anyone gets into anything nowadays, ironically enjoying it first. These days I personally use tarot as a way to organize my thoughts and kind of sift through the noise to try and glean some sense of a pattern.”
HYE M.: “Tarot’s a medium whose entire nature revolves around interpretation through established symbols, and I see a lot of personal relevance in that not only from my own life, but as a graphic designer and queer person too. My whole artistic goal is personal communication, and in a medium where a death card might bring bad omens to some, but be refreshing and assuring to others? That means a lot to a person’s whose art field revolves around language through composition, especially where it allows me to dip into a more magical sense of the world, and take comfort in self-assured answers from my identity and experiences.”
Tabula Idem offers different perspectives of the Major Arcana cards: the queer perspective. Every contributor offers his or her own interpretation. The simple question is: What do you see inside the cards? What do they tell you? More on the interpretations later, for now I want to focus on the creators. When you visit the Kickstarter page of the project be sure and click on the links, offered at the contributors section. This way you can visit the homepages of every single one of them and learn more about them. I did that and spent nearly one and a half hour, clicking through different art sections and web-comics. Nearly every creator offers at least one web-comic. It is an incredibly rich source of creativity. I am looking forward to tip my toes into some of them. The artworks alone are beautiful and I am looking forward to reading their stories. But how do you gather such a vast list of creators? The editors Iris Jay and Hye M. did a survey on their website and a bit more:
“We had a mixture of open submissions running for about a month, and a general email advertisement to artists with subjects we’ve seen included magical properties in their works who might enjoy doing artwork based around tarot! From the cumulative pitches, we tried to pull from a diverse pool of artists, too– we wanted the book to be as stylistically diverse as it is thematically consistent. There are some names in it you may have heard of before, and maybe some you haven’t heart of yet, but definitely should. Each contributor’s style ended up matching to their pitched card incredibly well, and the anthology has a sense of unity and traveling between each story due to it.”
Now that we have covered some background, lets get to the comic itself. Fortunately I received a review copy of the comic, which included every 22 stories (the bonus material was not enclosed, though). Of course the stories are all short stories and therefore offer just little insight in the lives of our protagonists. Most of the time I wished I could read more of those interesting and diverse characters. Be it a love story between a designer and her, soon to become girlfriend, favourite baker or the encounter between a young man and a merman. They are lovely written and inspiring. They tell the kind of story, most of us would like to be a part of. To meet the the significant other by coincidence and just know that it is right. You are supposed to be together. Nothing complicated with apps and dates and stuff like that. Sometimes one look is enough and you just know. Maybe that is a naiv view on our world, but I am convinced that it is possible. Tabula Idem tells those stories and more. They are about love, friendship and everything in between.
They are told not just through different points of view, but also through different genres and artworks. One story doesn’t even need any words and is made of abstract art. If you decide to support them, take your time to read through those stories. Enjoy every panel.
Nevertheless, there is one downside to it. There is no tragedy, no death and no high stakes. Don’t get me wrong. The stories included are rich and full of love, but I would have welcomed some change of perspective. Especially when you think of the cards Death and The Devil. They could have been used to tell a different story. A story, where there is no happy end or inspiring metaphor. Show me some brutal, honest and uncompromising truths instead. It doesn’t have to be horror or something like that. The creators offer such diverse interpretation of love, I would have liked entirely new perspectives as well.
Support It! You get a PDF version of the book at a rational price point. If you think about your typical TPBs and compare it to the content you get here – what are you waiting for? I also want to point out, that every possible dollar, is going to the creators themselves and I think this is a great opportunity to show them your support. I don’t want to repeat the good things you will get out of this book. Instead I want to leave you with two things in mind. First, when you read the description of the cards and the following stories, maybe you won’t just get some entertainment, but also learn something about yourself and get inspired to write your own little adventure (I certainly did). And last but not least, I asked the editors what there essential comics are and which had the most impact on them:
IRIS JAY: “Finder, by Carla Speed McNeil. Everyone should read it, it’s a series I could read over and over endlessly and learn something new each time. Usagi Yojimbo, by the untouchable Stan Sakai. Dave McKean’s Cages has been back on top of my mind lately, same with Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto. I’m a big fan of Zachary Braun’s Nature of Nature’s Art; it’s the kind of webcomic that’s quietly been doing its own thing since forever that nobody really seems to talk about, but it’s fantastic. I’d list more webcomic recommendations, but I mean really it’d be easier to just list our contributors!”
HYE M.: “An aspect of comics that gets me to call them essentials are ‘how many times can I re-read them and see or read something I hadn’t noticed before!’ From more mainstream publishers, series like The Wicked and The Divine, Saga, and The Autumnlands are in my must-haves due to their impeccable worldbuilding, striking art, and characterization going hand-in-hand in the most satisfying way possible. In the webcomics realm, The Last Halloween, O Human Star, Mare Internum, Eth’s Skin, Never Satisfied, Agents of the Realm, and Skin Deep have those three aspects in spades, and our contributors with webcomics of their own are nothing short of stellar and are absolutely worth checking out!”