"WILD BOYZ TOUR! Cute Boyz Alert!" These promotional phrases clue you into what comics publishers Fantagraphics and Koyama Press had in mind when they decided to send rising comics stars Michael DeForge, Simon Hanselmann, and Patrick Kyle on a month-long North American tour.
Simply put, it's the biggest media blitz I've seen from the world of independent comics, possibly ever. It started three weeks ago, at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, when Hanselmann donned a wedding dress and symbolically married the art form of comics in a ceremony officiated by DeForge. To cement the union, Fantagraphics founder Gary Groth kissed Hanselmann for a full (timed!) 30 seconds. The crowd cheered and the strange, performative comics tour was underway—strange, because comics are rarely associated with performative authors.
Who are the Wild Boyz? Hanselmann's best known for his hilarious, Vice magazine-syndicated series Megg, Mogg, and Owl and the brand-new Megahex, and DeForge for the incredibly designed Lose series (the tour marks the release of the sixth issue). Their tour companion, Patrick Kyle, is promoting his stand-alone graphic novel homage to Doctor Who, Distance Mover. DeForge and Hanselmann are also known for being Tumblr famous, and for mostly publishing their comics online. So it's appropriate, but also ingenious, that they've been essentially live-blogging their tour at nearly every stop on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.
The tour, by the way, is technically international: Hanselmann was flown in from Melbourne, Australia, and DeForge and Kyle are both from Toronto, Canada. They aren't road-tripping either. "None of us knows how to drive," DeForge admits, "so we're relying on friends and also the Greyhound system. This is the longest I've ever been on the road. I just wanna be alive at the end."
As their tour nears its end, the comics creators land in Portland for two dates, with a book release at Floating World Comics on Thursday, October 9, and a Gridlords-hosted audiovisual performance at the Independent Publishing Resource Center the following night: DeForge and Kyle play as a two-piece noise-punk band called Creep Highway, and Hanselmann plays synthesizer and sings as Girl Mountain.
"This is going to be grueling," says Hanselmann. "Patrick and Michael and I will all loathe each other by the end. I'm glad I live in a different country from them and can escape and never see them again."