Tee Franklin Hits the Jackpot with 'Queer Grannies' Romance Bingo Love

Tee “Vixen” Franklin’s Bingo Love hit the jackpot last March, when her Kickstarter to fund the graphic novel blew past its $19,999 goal in just five days and went on to raise a total of $57,148 -- with help from such well known creators as Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, Steve Orlando, Kelly Sue DeConnick and G. Willow Wilson.

And then, this past October at New York Comic Con, Image Comics announced it would publish Bingo Loves, bringing an even higher profile to the project, illustrated by Jenn St-Onge and colorist Joy San.

Bingo Love, which is scheduled for release on the apt date of Feb. 14, is Franklin’s first full-length work; her previous comics include the story “The Outfit” in Nailbiter #27 and a story illustrated by Carla Speed McNeill in the Love Is Love anthology. She is also well known in the comics world for her commentary and particularly for promoting the work of creators of color with the #BlackComicsMonth hashtag. So how did she go from Tweeter to creator? CBR talked with her at NYCC to find out.

CBR: How did you come up with Bingo Love?

Tee Franklin: I was watching a commercial and there were these two black women sitting on a brownstone steps, and they started to do a little sprint walking. There was a gentleman walking past in the opposite direction, and these two older black women looked back at him and they were in a little flirty, high school thing, and I was like, “Oh my god, this is so cute! I wonder, how about if that was a woman?” I went into never never land and zoned out and created this whole little back story for these two women who were doing some sprint walking, and it turned into Bingo Love.

I didn’t expect this to turn into what it did. Queer grannies aren't in comics -- it's not something you’re seeing on a cover. I knew I was taking a chance when I came up with this idea and when I did the Kickstarter, but I really didn't think it would explode like this at all.

Why do you think the Kickstarter did so well?

I think this is what people want. They are tired of the same comics all the time [that are] just bland. It's time to season your comics, throw in some LGBTQIA characters or marginalized voices with disabilities. There are so many different seasonings that can turn comics into something that people would like, because we all want to see ourselves represented in one way or another.

What sort of help did you get from other creators?

Oh my god! Kelly Sue [DeConnick], Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, Marguerite Bennett, G. Willow Wilson, they all donated tiers where they were going to do Skype sessions, and Al Ewing and Kieron Gillen donated script reviews. I had massive help from a ton of creators.

How did you get them to participate?

I think that has to do with a lot of the work I have done with Black Comics Month and the fact that I am so vocal about the lack of marginalized creators in comics. People knew me because I challenge and I speak out, and a lot of these creators agree with me. When they saw what the book was about, to them it was a no-brainer. Literally no one said, “I have to see around my schedule.” It was, “Yes, what do you want me to donate?” There was no hesitation from any of them.

How did you get to know them?

Twitter! [Laughs] Just a lot of Twitter, and reaching out to them and just being me and just talking about these things.

Bingo Love cover by Genevieve FT.

How did you learn how to make comics?

I don’t know how. [Laughs] My first comic I wrote was in the Elements anthology that won an Ignatz award at SPX. I didn't know how to write comics at all. Tanika Stotts gave me a format and she said, “Google ‘How to write a comics script.’” The Nailbiter story was the second one I ever wrote. Gail [Simone] edited the story, and she was like “Why don’t you do this and try this” and it just ended up being a crazy story, like sick and disgusting and twisted.

I'm pretty sure I still screw up writing comics, but I’m blessed to work with amazing teams that work with me and understand and help me along the way.

How did you first get involved with comics?

I have always read comics as a kid. I got married, I had kids, and that was the furthest thing from my mind. When I got my divorce, I was able to get me back, and one of the stories that brought me back into comics was a Justice League issue with Wonder Woman kissing Superman on the cover. Her lasso was wrapped around him, and I was like, “Oh my god, this is so cute and romantic!” I just wanted that story, but I don't read the cape comics. That’s not my thing.

When I went into my comic shop, The Joker's Child, I said, “I don’t really like superheroes. What else do you have?” They asked “What kind of movies and TV shows do you like?” “I like horror.” The guy pulled out Nailbiter and said “I think you would like this.” It was issue #4, and when I saw the cover, I was like, “Oh my god, sign me up!” That's how I got back into reading comics.

Then in 2013, I wanted to create a site because I always talk about comics and TV and things not being fair for people of color. I created Vixen Varsity, and that led me into interviewing creators, which turned into me being a comic writer, which I'm still freaking out over. So it’s sort of weird and a full circle for me.

How did you get Image to pick up Bingo Love?

I was signing at Escape Pod Comics on Free Comic Book Day with Donny Cates and Spike Trotman. Donny was so interested in Bingo Love, and he wanted to know where else is it going, and I said “I don't know.” I didn’t really have a plan for it. I was being courted by other publishers but I didn’t know where I wanted the book to go. I wanted to focus on getting the books out to the people on Kickstarter, because if it wasn’t for them, this book wouldn’t exist.

Donny said, “I’ll show it off to my friend Eric.” I’m like, “OK, whatever.” So I think it was later on that day or the next day, [Image Comics Publisher] Eric Stephenson was on my email saying, “I love Bingo Love and it would be a perfect for Image,” and I was like, “Holy shit! That Eric! Oh my god! Yes!”

What can Image offer that just doing a Kickstarter can’t do?

I know I can get it into comic stores myself if I was to do it, but that would take way more time and resources that I don't have -- in addition to having this book translated into several different languages and published all over the world in bookstores and comic shops. That I would not be able to do.

Will it be available digitally?

Yes. But everyone who has pledged to Bingo Love on Kickstarter, you are my main focus. That is something that was stipulated with Image and myself, that my Kickstarter people would be taken care of first. If it wasn’t for them I would not be having this talk with Eric.

Bingo Love is scheduled for release on Feb. 14 from Image Comics.

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