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.


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

n her book Belonging: A Culture of Place, bell hooks writes about returning home to rural Kentucky after a long academic career in New York City. In one chapter she discusses porches, the ubiquitous womb-like structures attached to the front and back of any rural home, writing: “A perfect porch is a place where the soul can rest.” In the same way, perfect comics can give openly and sincerely to the reader a place to rest their soul. This is Fake’s most powerful talent and his work’s best quality.

– LA Review of Books

Fake (Gaylord Phoenix) presents a striking, occasionally scatological collection of his short comics and drawings from recent years, culled from various zines and underground publications. Employing concise imagery and minimal text, and through symbology and analogy, Fake examines sex and gender with generous amounts of sly, irreverent humor. In the three-part “Foie Gras,” Fake substitutes images of food and food preparation for sexual acts and genitalia, while in “LA Silence,” a trip to a wellness center brings up post–gender-confirmation surgery issues in an unsettling fashion. In the one-page “Anal Sex for Perverts,” a drawing of a shell with a pink opening carries the caption: “Before I ask say yes.” Other more cryptic pieces require some work from readers to puzzle out, but that’s just part of the fun of Fake’s oeuvre: his comics maintain a playfully naughty mystery. (Appropriately, the book is dedicated in part to “the Queerdos out there.”) Fake deconstructs gender and human anatomy, sex and desire, then puts them back together again, on his own messy, artful terms. This provocative graphic collection pushes boundaries, and then breaks them open.

– Publishers Weekly

The Evanston, Illinois, native, who now lives in the California High Desert just outside of Joshua Tree, has something of a double career. He is probably best known as a force in the alternative comics scene, with Gaylord Phoenix, his 2011 book about a nonbinary humanoid on a journey of self-discovery, winning the Ignatz Award for outstanding graphic novel. At the same time, he is an up-and-comer in the art world whose work not only was included in “Surface/Depth” but also will be featured in the Des Moines Art Center’s 2019 show “For Today I Am a Boy: Contemporary Queer Abstraction.” …While Fake does not seem interested in conveying definite meanings in them, he does explore particular themes and motifs, as titles like Center Part or Neutralities might indicate… …Even in the less direct works, however, Fake’s overall intent seems clear: to conjure a vibrant space where freedom of gender expression can reign.

– Art in America

Fake’s work has always dealt with the malleability and interpenetrability of gender, and Memory Palaces, with its focus on queer spaces, is no exception. The bright colors and intricate line work make his images appear computer generated, suggesting the traditionally male sphere of video games. At the same time, the meticulous detail and patterning evoke traditionally female crafts such as quilting. The result isn’t ungendered so much as a celebration of how gender can be a part of community in multiple and dazzling ways. Memory Palaces turns the landscape of Chicago into a dream of wonder and love, where everyone is welcome.

– Chicago Reader

Edie Fake does not only construct queer spaces in his artwork, he creates them for those of us who need them—on our bookshelves, in the gallery, at Quimby’s. This is why it was heartbreaking when Fake announced he is moving away at the end of the summer. However, Fake has become embedded into the city’s architecture. Riding on the bus down Belmont, I spotted an ornate entranceway that reminds me of his work. Walking down Lincoln, I came across a brick pattern used in the book. Unlike many of Chicago’s buildings, Fake’s presence cannot be erased from Chicago’s memory. He asks us not only to honor and remember our queer history, but to use it as inspiration for constructing queer spaces in the present.

– Lambda Literary

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

Best Alternative Comics Artist Behind the Counter at an Alternative Comics Mecca:
As far as I’m concerned, Edie Fake’s crisp, ecstatic clip-art-style graphics are the most compelling reason not to give up on comics as an art form. His haunting zine Gaylord Phoenix offers a magical, polymorphous vision of love, desire, and loss closely related to his transgender identity.

– 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

Near the start of Edie Fake’s newest comic collection there are a series of instructional cooking illustrations: a chicken being bound, a ball of dough being pounded, a pastry being twisted and then cut. Sentences like “Fuck me like this” hover over the drawings in hot pink all-caps. And so the tone is set for a collection that’s mischievous and playful; at times very naughty and unhinged, and at other times raw, personal, and poignant.

– AIGA Eye on Design

Through his stories and zines of beings in search of identity and form (though the subject of some of the pieces included can’t be nailed down so simply), comic artist, zine maker, and painter Edie Fake’s stories focus on communicating experience and feeling rather than linear narratives and passages of time. Now, for the first time, over a decade’s worth of Fake’s underground zines have been collected in this new book, Little Stranger, a compendium of unique visual explorations of non-binary bodies and queer community, as well as abstract feelings and experiences much more difficult to sum up in words… …a unique, visceral reading experience unlike any other comic, graphic novel, or zine I’ve ever read.

– The Outline

Edie Fake, meanwhile, takes a more surreal and at times, a horrific route to articulate his concerns over gender and sexuality. The short stories and drawings that make up Little Stranger often take contorted paths, but the emotions underlying them are very real and raw… …Fake’s work can often be cryptic and disturbing, but his attempts to articulate his anxiety, desire and even happiness about being transgender rings through loud and clear.

– The Smart Set

Obviously there’s a lot to be gleaned about Fake’s own perspectives on issues of gender fluidity and identity here (he’s trans himself, as one would probably intuit from the book’s contents even if they went in knowing nothing about him), and his generally playful attitude toward what’s broadly defined as “kink” is easily-discernible throughout, but some “grand statement” on either the trans experience or sexual liberation isn’t something that falls within Little Stranger’s remit. Rather, it’s an exorcism of one cartoonist’s subconscious that features recurring obsessions, ideas, concerns — and, yes, nightmares — presented from a number of different perspectives and communicated in a number of distinctly different ways. I’m still wrapping my head around much of it, and think that I will be for quite some time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize it for the utterly unique, visceral, challenging, necessary work that it clearly is.

– Four-Color Apocalypse

If you’re familiar with Edie’s work you probably already do and do not know what to expect, as he manages to shock and amaze me every time out, at least a few times. It’s no different with this collection, and once again I’m going to try to encapsulate what cannot be… capsulated. That can’t be right. Stories in here deal with an alphabet snake and its quest for a body, its trip to the convenience store, some of the sexiest food prep you ever will see, more food prep but this time with a sense of existential panic, the pumpkin’s revenge fantasies, gender fluidity in said pumpkin, what you might see if you peek through a window while someone has their pants down, fucking with venereal leeches, trying to get blood from tiny veins and using it in serving sizes, and sexy cow milking. Also about a dozen other stories, if not more, and the descriptions I already gave you are almost certainly wrong at points. Yep, this is another case where you’ll have to buy it for yourself to see what I messed up. Luckily reading this will most likely make you a better person, so it’s worth the money from your end. Unless nudity and sex scares you, in which case get thee to a church as soon as possible and away from this book. For the rest of us, there’s plenty here to enjoy.

– Optical Sloth

Edie Fake draws on Chicago Imagism, the Hairy Who, and diverse forms of outsider abstraction to create intricate, enchanting drawings that suggest early video games spliced together with carnival funhouses that the artist conceives as queer spaces. Fake made waves in 2015 as a member of a group known as the USC7, resigning from the school in protest to corporatization measures. He is also a respected graphic novelist, winning awards for his Gaylord Phoenix collection, which follows the danger-fraught journeys of its namesake, “a creature willing to sacrifice anything for love and self-knowledge.”

– The Standard

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.

– Meathaus

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



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