As I sat down to write this entry with my HUGE bowl of spaghetti, I was reminded of the biggest difference between San Francisco gay men and their West Hollywood counterparts: carbs. I'm exaggerating (somewhat), but here in SF, it's a bit of a pastime to accentuate the differences between eco-conscious NorCal and body-conscious SoCal.
One of the more popular films at the 2005 SF Underground Short Film Festival was the animated tale of a pretty sedate guy from San Francisco who moves to West Hollywood and becomes a coke-snorting, creatine-popping, circuit party queen. It was funny as hell, though everyone in the audience was well aware that men like that also exist in San Francisco . Just not as many!
All kidding aside, once you get past the superficial differences between SF and WeHo gay men, you can see the big similarities: the surrogate families we form due to complications with our birth families, our struggles reconciling organized religion with our sexuality, our common search for love… oh, and drama. Plenty of drama ;). "Troy: From 1 to 100," the collection of comic strips by Michael Derry, presents all of the above through the eyes of a guy from the Midwest and his coterie of close friends in West Hollywood.
This collection was one of my favorite finds from Comic Con. It was also great to meet Michael at the Prism Booth. I was aware of Troy prior to Comic Con, but I had only read a few strips, and out of sequence at that. So it was a real pleasure to read several years of work, all in one sitting. Here's the main cast, in Michael's own words:
...the quintessential "Mr. Nice Guy", is obviously the main character of the stories. An aspiring actor, Troy is actually quite shy and self-conscious and prone to neurotic outbursts. He hopes to one day meet the man of his dreams and run off and raise matching Jack Russell terriers. In the meantime, Troy will have to make due with the parade of less than perfect matches that walk into his life, and all over his heart.
...is a stud. Dark, muscular, and gorgeous, Rigo can, and frequently does, have anyone he wants. Working as a bartender in one of WeHo's hottest clubs, "Le Club", allows him easy access to the hottest pretty boys LA has to offer. Despite their obvious differences, Troy and Rigo are best of friends. Truth be told, Rigo considers Troy to his only "real" family. A fact that his pride would never let him admit to a skinny, clueless, little boy from the Midwest.
...a bit of a smartass, is Troy's oldest friend. He is the associate editor of LA's biggest and most popular gay newsmagazine/bar rag, "LA Boi." Ray is partnered with Derrick, aka Ms. Fatale. Upon hearing "Dubya's" plan to add an amendment to the Constitution to ban gay marriage, Ray becomes a bit of a political activist.
...is also West Hollywood's most famous, fierce, flawless, and fabulous drag personality, the one, the only, the icomparable Ms. Fatale. Fatale is so over the top, only the most impaired among the out crowd would mistake him for an actual woman. He believes he, as well as his breasts, should have a heightened sense of reality and he often wears enormous, cotton candy colored beehives.
...is the on-again, off-again, on-again love of Rigo's life. Initially put off by the fact that Jorge is a "box boy" ("Trust me Mija, they're all a bunch of hookers!"), Rigo and Jorge both fell hard and fast. Of all the men in Rigo's life, Jorge is the only one Rigo likes looking at more than himself.
...is Troy's incredibly hunky, yet dumb-as-a-stump, straight (or is he?) boyfriend. The two met during their show, "Naked Boys Behind Bars, Sing!", and after a bumpy start, Nick's girlfriend wanted to shoot an XXX video of the two of them, Troy set out to make it work. But can he be happy with a guy who, "God love him, really is dumb"?
The tagline of the strip reads, "Love, Sex, Politics, Religion, and Killer Abs." Yes, the cast all have above-average bodies (welcome to WeHo!), but don't make the mistake of assuming the series is shallow. It explores some pretty serious issues, just with a humorous, optimistic spin.
For example, take the issue of "Ex-gays," which one story arc of Troy is devoted to. As a former Southern Baptist born-again Christian, the topic hits close to home. I wasn't expecting the arc at all, but Michael did a great job with it. The antics of Troy and his friends had me laughing out loud at moments, wincing at others, and left me with the biggest smile since Comic Con at the conclusion. Derrick, dressed as an angel in drag almost stole the show in just two panels!
What I love most about Michael Derry's comic is that all of the characters are constantly growing. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But I've grown pretty attached to all of them, none more than Rigo (surprisingly). I won't spoil anything here, but Rigo's current subplot is the one I'm eagerly anticipating the most!