Edie Fake was born in Chicagoland in 1980. He graduated from the RISD in 2002 and has since clocked time in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Baltimore. He was one of the first recipients of Printed Matter’s Awards for Artists and his collection of comics, Gaylord Phoenix, won the 2011 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel. In 2011 he helped found the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) and writes reviews for the blog Book By Its Cover. He currently lives in Chicago and works as a comics sommelier for Quimby’s.
IN THE EMPORIUM
Edie’s comics can be found in the Secret Acres Emporium here.
Edie Fake’s Gaylord Phoenix won Outstanding Graphic Novel at this year’s Small Press Expo, and with good reason. There’s nobody who designs comics like Fake designs comics. In Gaylord Phoenix, fey pop energy runs into lyrical patterning to create landscapes of volcanoes, fish, alligators, wizards, and severed body parts. Fake is a trans artist, and his graphic novel seamlessly bends gender, melding male quest narrative with female romance to create shimmering fantasies; the visual analog of shoegaze if shoegaze were queerer and more disturbing. From the moiré-patterned cover to the mysterious stenciled speech bubbles, everything about Gaylord Phoenix is ravishing.
- Noah Berlatsky, the Atlantic
Edie Fake’s punk ethos of reciprocity and collaboration extends into his work as a comic, tattoo, and performance artist. His arresting graphic work plays with the fluidity and elasticity of images, which sometimes literally interconnect, as in the continuous sidewalk seen in the foreground of his Memory Palaces series. The looping movement in these drawings exhibits an almost cinematic pacing.
- Thea Liberty Nichols, art21
Fake does all he can to throw away any preconceived notions of desire, allowing us to be released from the confines of what the hell we thought it meant to be queer, and into a phantasm to explore with open arms and open hearts…
Fake explains that “Gaylord’s exploits are in large part, about not being afraid: to be a sex freak, to have a freaky body, to want a freaky experience. I wanted very much to keep the story sex-positive and still talk about violence, rage and sadness, while maintaining a vision of overwhelming queer ecstasies.” These characters are freaky queers just like us, but more unabashedly so. They do not hide their meltdowns, their fears, or their confusions, but rather take these as opportunities to realize themselves, whether alone or with the help of others. Fake’s comics are stories of queer discovery.
There are so many points when devouring his work where you might find yourself unsure whether to be deeply frightened or just really turned on, but this is the point! Fake finds ways to blur the lines between what might ordinarily disturb us with what scares us with what makes us hot and bothered, and that is absolutely radical.
- Devyn Manibo, Bitch Magazine
- Bert Stabler, Chicago Reader
This is a pretty wild, psychedelic comic that seems equally concerned with art and story. The loose story is told mostly through the images and uses very little text. Gaylord Phoenix relies on fantasy, alternative reality, and dream logic to tell its tale. Edie Fake‘s tale is a quest that centers around a series of encounters, mostly sexual, between two beings with male bits and seems to be a journey for self knowledge and acceptance. Gaylord Phoenix has really cool art that is beautifully designed and merits close attention.
- League of Comics Librarians
Reading the comic Gaylord Phoenix (Secret Acres) is a little like watching a psychedelic silent movie, or dropping acid. Unlike talkies, or mainstream comics, or real life, this story is told more in pictures than in words. Like in silent films, words and dialog are static insertions between blooming, exploding images. And like tripping, the plot — what you the audience get out of the experience — has more to do with how you uniquely read the images you see, as opposed to following a predisposed script.
Gaylord Phoenix is a hairy Sasquatch kind of guy. He falls in love with a cute boy carrying a video camera. They film, they hug, they pork. Unfortunately, his monstrous crystal bloodlust takes over and he rips the poor kid to shreds. Not to fear, the boy is rescued and stitched up by multi-eyed subterranean dwellers. Now a somnambulist, he totters through a labyrinth whose alligator queen he ends up gatorbating. Crocosnogging. See, that’s the problem, trying to describe a silent movie or an acid trip wrecks it, makes a parody of it, becomes a clumsy boring paraphrase for experiential visual poetry.
Gaylord Phoenix isn’t happy about his bloodlust. In fact, the rest of the comic is his visual heroic journey towards redemption. It’s a path gay and transgender folks will recognize: one involving the pokes and proddings of science, thrills of sexual discovery, inner hallucinogenic voyages, and the quest to find one’s true self at any cost.
This is where Edie Fake’s artwork takes over. A tale told in two colors, readers will fantasize many more, as paisley swirls the page, as a dark magic of feathers transforms into oceans of tears, as sphinxes and ribbons festoon the court of the Gaylord risen up into the clouds. It’s not a plot you can articulate, but a poetry you will recognize.
There’s sex too, lots of it, and since Gaylord and friends sport genitals like nozzles or tubes the mere mortal question of “who’s on top?” becomes irrelevant…it might be both or neither. Like daydream sex, in these cartoons you can fly and fuck or be an alligator or both sexes at once, at no cost, or at a cost of your own determining.
It’s this determination of who you are and what your sex will be that is the real plot of this amazing graphic novel. “At last I hold my own,” Gaylord Phoenix declares at the book’s conclusion. “ And I partake of who I am.”
Reading this transformative book will make you shout “Me too!”
- Cathy Camper, Lamba Literary
Over the last few weeks I’ve looked at Gaylord Phoenix a lot in bed, on the verge of sleep and dreams, and occasionally while in transit from one place to another. Both experiences, if not ideal, seem right for entering the book’s universe. It is the kind of epic journey in which a reader — not to mention the characters — can get lost. Gaylord Phoenix is a love and lust story. It’s a quest through terrain that is strange yet also familiar, especially if you have access to your queerness or inner experience. It is funny, it is disturbing, it is gorgeous, it is mesmerizing…
That world—a world of many worlds— is one of the things that makes Gaylord Phoenix special. Fake’s hand-rendered cubes, pyramids, hexagons, Bridget Riley-like black-and-white vortexes (referred to in the ultra-spare, brilliant dialogue), wizard cone hats, mazes, temples, wood grains and vines, crocodile skins, fish scales, clouds and cave formations, and plumage accumulate detail and color over the course of the book. What might have been interpreted as technical improvement within Gaylord Phoenix‘s serial manifestations as a comic is revealed in the book to be material for a dramatic and visionary climax and denoument.
In the realm of comics and graphic novels, Gaylord Phoenix could be seen as a fantastic inverse of the sexual horror in Dash Shaw’s BodyWorld. It arrives at a time when various musicians and visual artists are also tapping into mystic and occult energy, though its singularity of vision reminds me of Jack Smith and Kenneth Anger channeled from archival celluloid strip to contemporary line drawings on the printed page. Ultimately, there is nothing like it.
- Johnny Ray Huston, San Franciso Bay Guardian
A psyched out trip to the mysterious land of secret grottos, gloom clouds, pyramidal cities and deep magic.
Much of the action in Fake’s comic is lifted right out of the ’60s underground; there’s lots of sex, lots of grotesque dismemberment, and a queasy tendency to link the two. So, on the surface, Gaylord Phoenix seems to have one foot in the male-gendered avant-garde and one in the male-gendered rape fantasies of the head shop.
In fact, when you read it closely, Phoenix starts to look a lot less like any sort of male-gendered project and a lot more like that most stereotypically female of genres, fantasy romance. The plot centers on the title character, Gaylord Phoenix, who, against a backdrop of otherworldly landscapes, magical creatures, and ominous portents, seeks love and self-knowledge. Like many a romance heroine, Phoenix is possessed of buried powers and is, moreover, subject to fits of amnesia — thus exterior quest and interior journey are bound together by mystery, and the book is ultimately about the magic of becoming a woman. Or a man. Or something.
- The Comics Journal
I’d long ago given up hope there’d be a gay feminist artist as talented as Edie Fake, and yet Edie Fake is here.
- Pixel Vision
To describe Gaylord Phoenix is nearly impossible, but to read it is to experience it. The work is light on dialogue, and what little there is seems like small talk for another world (“You forgot all your loose morsels” and “Do you admire my vortex?”); the emphasis here is on the detailed drawings. You could take a quick look at Fake’s scrawls and dismiss them as a budding art student’s notebook-paper doodles, until you watch them grow into intricate shapes possessing an odd, abstract beauty, separated loosely into color-coded sections.
I admire its vortex, whatever it means, whatever it is.
- Rod Lott, Bookgasm
Edie Fake has been slowly releasing his mini-comic Gaylord Phoenix in tantalizing bits for the past seven years. Indie comics publisher Secret Acres has finally collected all of the issues (including a previously unpublished closing chapter) and bundled them together into what amounts to a queer graphic epic.
The text is sparse, and absent are many conventions of the comic form: speech bubbles, panels, sequential storytelling. Instead, Fake has created his own visual language, utterly foreign yet immediately decipherable. Across gorgeous full-page illustrations, the titular Gaylord Phoenix soars over pyramids and paisley landscapes, and dives headfirst into crystal caverns and feasts at a smorgasbord of surreal homoerotic exploits. Simultaneously, the strangely emotional creature experiences the ups and downs of soul-searching and identity-making in a complex world riddled with ambiguity. Magic, sex, mythology and violence are all fractured and recombined through Fake’s psychedelic lens. We’re talking flying diamonds, wizards with linked beards, cloud napping, tubular genitalia and one seductive emperor crocodile.
- Zach Dodson, Time Out Chicago
Nowadays, most queer comics I read can be said to fall into three categories: real-life stories—autobiographical or not, superheroes and erotic/porn. But then, it could be argued that most comics fall in these categories (yes, I know, that’s reductive). My point is that when I come across something that explodes those categories, I’m instantly hooked. And when the said something manages to be both extremely weird and completely relatable, I remain hooked. Such is the effect that Edie Fake‘s Gaylord Phoenix has had on me.
The book begins with the eponymous character, a masculine, features-less creature, who’s wounded by a crystal creature. He calls for help by growing a tubular nose–and also grows a tubular cock. And then it gets really weird: he meets a young man, they make love, but the crystal wound transforms Gaylord Phoenix into a monster who seemingly kills his lover. But it’s only the beginning: both Gaylord and the young man will know various adventures in strange lands that will lead them to know themselves a little better. And it all makes sense.
There’s something primordial in Edie Fake’s art, a combination of cave-paintings, almost shamanistic symbols and complex imagery, full of intricate drawings. Associated with the lack of features of his main character and the minimal text and dialogue, this creates a dreamlike, timeless ambiance to the story that borders on the mythological.
This 256-page book was created over a number of years, and it shows. As we advance, the art gets more and more sophisticated, and patterns straight out of the textile arts and crafts enrich the visual experience of the reader. It’s almost overwhelming, as a slightly too warm sea can be. But also just as pleasurable.
What made the author’s powerful imagery so enjoyable for me was the way he writes the conflicts, inner and otherwise, that his characters have to face: the two main characters have clearly recognizable human feelings and needs, and that anchors a book that could have easily become a vanity project designed to showcase the artist’s skills. But Gaylord Phoenix is so much more: both strongly narrative and full of visual fireworks, it is a book that will stay with me for a long time.
- François Peneaud, The Gay Comics List
Edie Fake’s first graphic novel, Gaylord Phoenix (Secret Acres) was eight years in the making. An erotic and sometimes violent psychedelic spirit quest, the book compiles the adventures of its central birdman who travels far and wide in search of self-knowledge and passion. It’s a two-colored interior, with a rich vocabulary of symbols and innuendo, from magical dwarfs to crystal splinters and tubular genitalia. The drawings are lush and decadent yet they resonate with a kind of personal touch too. When I put the book down I felt like I had been left with a piece of cartoon chalk—what will no doubt come in handy at such times in the future when I find something blocking my path (you know, because cartoon chalk draws doors through walls). This book is liberating and joyous and why not—for shouldn’t life be the same? Pain and vulnerability can lead to insight.
Despite the epic proportions of this one body of work (and here is a great interview about GP specifically) Fake has worked on other projects as well, participating in performances, working as a tattoo artist and developing an alternative history of Chicago. I wanted to ask Fake more about his work and how it flows together in an effort, I suppose, to explore his underlying and hybrid ideology. In some ways I surprised myself—I asked a lot of questions about tattoos. I’m curious about what tattoos mean in our culture, (perhaps especially because I’m spending the month in Providence and tattoos are really and truly all over the place). How are tattoos different from drawings? And where do those paths cross. Edie Fake seemed like a good person to talk to.
- Caroline Picard, Bad at Sports: Contemporary Art Talk
Hex, hex, hex. Lust, lust, lust. Edie Fake’s newest book published by we-do-what-we-want publisher Secret Acres is something I didn’t even know I wanted in comics. Was I prepared? No. Did I need my luggage packed? No, I just leave this earth and traveled with the Phoenix, washing my body and clothes out if I remembered while swimming through a haze of love, harm and hurt.
After lusting for and loving on a human, the Phoenix accidentally kills the object of his affections. The Phoenix finds itself in many different environments: wacky ocean, on top of clouds and inside mountains of long ago where sea scientists and sexy deities respectively help the Phoenix achieve self-awareness. Fake’s commentary on how we must categorize ourselves, label our own boxes gives way to a beautiful lack of any label.
On this search for love and memories, the Phoenix runs into the man once again, who is now also a Phoenix. Luckily, he is forgiving and understands the pain of not understanding what someone wants.
The book weighs heavily on sex as a theme but without being actually sexy or even exploitative with the leaves, bubbles and other such design-friendly fluid that comes out of apertures. What it may do in the reader is inspire an appreciation for sex as a creative outlet. As cookie-cutter plastic porn is so readily available, Fake’s work can encourage the reader to look inside yourself and explore that which is unique to you.
While it could behoove your understanding to hear more about Fake’s personal life and sexual tribulations, read it once before listening to Robin McConnell’s in-depth interview and then give it another whirl. The abstract storytelling of sexuality is both mind-blowing and beautiful in the two color coral and deep green printing (which looks a lot like black when scanned, unfortunately).
And I cannot help but want to see Edie Fake collaborate with other golden-fleece themed cartoonists by creating a huge physical map with the Hypercastle of Mark Phensel (aka William Cardini), mindscapes of Theo Ellsworth or the Salt Mines of Dane Martin.
Pick up Edie Fake’s Gaylord Phoenix today!
-Jen Vaughn, The Center for Cartoon Studies’ Schulz Library Blog
Top 50 Books of 2010
12. Gaylord Phoenix, by Edie Fake (Secret Acres). Fake takes inspiration from a number of different sources for an exhilarating and frequently bewildering Hero’s Journey. Fake draws heavily from mythology, from the origin of his titular hero to the nature of the trials and tribulations he faces on the the road to self-actualization. The early portion of the book (as well as much of the figurework) seems to owe a lot to Fort Thunder-era comics, with Mat Brinkman’s brand of environment-explorations, lumpy character design and crystalline decorative touches all in effect. Fake changes styles from chapter to chapter, opting for more psychedelic effects later in the book, as well going to color to represent an ascent to a higher plane. The Gaylord Phoenix was once an ordinary explorer who was bitten by a “crystal claw”, transforming into his magical self but finding himself saddled with a blood-lust curse. That curse manifested when he met his soul-mate; after a scene of amazingly-depicted sex (where their penises are detachable tubes that look much like annelids), GP savagely attacks his lover. That begins his journey of redemption and reclamation of his memories, traveling from realm to realm and either fighting or screwing the various beings he encounters (and sometimes both). At its heart, this book is as much about gender identity as it is about sexual identity, as GP has to shed many false skins to get at the essential truth of its gender duality and see him/herself through his/her own eyes–instead of the eyes of others. This book is strange, spectacular and ultimately uplifting, even as it masks its ideas in mythological tropes and eye-popping visual effects. Fake is able to control the reader’s experience thanks to the simplicity of his character design combined with the complexity of his page composition and decorative touches. While aspects of the book feel familiar, they are melted down and forged into a unique aesthetic experience.
- Rob Clough, High-Low