Behind the Ink: Taneka Stotts and Genué Revuelta
When we discuss inclusion in comics, it’s helpful to remember two basic truths: 1.) speaking boldly is imperative for holding major publishers accountable, but also 2.) independent creators have been leading the charge and creating inclusive content for years. Take independent creators Taneka Stotts and Genué Revuelta as two of my favorite examples.
Together they form TANK-en-GEN, a writer and artist duo from the Pacific Northwest. Taneka and Genué’s collective work is stunningly colorful and unapologetically queer while exploring the spectrum of gender expression. The creative partners and close friends work together to build gorgeous worlds that are both steeped in fantasy and anchored in the familiar communities that many marginalized readers claim. Their ability to successfully produce stems from a stellar working relationship and close-knit friendship.
“We met through a mutual acquaintance,” Taneka recounts. “And that started what became our super-duper friendship because after that, me and Gen met up and we just started hanging out with one another … We were the only creators of color that we knew within a certain vicinity of people.”
Their friendship continued to blossom through a shared love of art and paralleling experiences with West Coast living (both are from California). After a while, they moved in together. Not every friendship can strike a healthy balance between the business and the personal, but the pair absolutely make it work. For Genué, the keys are simple: getting along and having the ability to be open with each other.
“I’m not super open about my personal life to a lot of people, but with Neeka I can be pretty open about everything and we understand each other pretty dang well. And that works perfectly when it comes to working on stuff.”
“It’s not just our critique sessions that we can have with one another, but it’s more or less just the fact that we actually get along as human beings,” Taneka adds. She emphasizes honesty as the vital component of their winning dynamic. “You can’t go through it with, like, a fake attitude; you have to be very real. I’m really happy because a lot of people and their partnerships don’t seem to last very long.”
While that may be true of other short-lived team-ups, Stotts and Revuelta show no signs of stopping anytime soon. Their popular web comic Love Circuits will soon be released in book form. It is a vibrant, mercilessly fun vehicle for characters and concepts unlike anything we get to see in mainstream comics.
“Love Circuits is the story of Yvonne King, who is an Afro-Latina in Nuevo Miami celebrating her 25th birthday,” Stotts explains. “She gets really, really drunk and tells her best friend, Frankie, something that she shouldn’t have. While thinking turning 25 might have its surprises, she didn’t expect a refurbished heartbreaker robot by the name of Lucos to be one of them.”
Revuelta has a shorter, just as effective tagline: “Robots and romance in Miami.”
And there is a clear presence of both robots and impending romance, even during the story’s early stages. Lucos manages to make an instant impression; in his quest to serve her, he upturns Yvonne’s life in a matter of moments. That there is even a space that includes a Lucos and an Yvonne King is not only refreshing, but draws attention to the need for changes in sci-fi storytelling. Genué agrees as she echoes frustrations that so many sci-fi fans of color experience with the genre.
“That’s always a conversation I have with a lot of my friends who are like, ‘Why don’t you like fantasy or sci-fi?’ Just look at it for one second, please. There are dragons and there are trolls and there are giants. Where are all the brown people, though?”
Love Circuits combats this issue in a seriously lovely way. While so much of sci-fi excludes people of color or disabled folks, Yvonne is a thriving Afro-Latina with a cool mechanical leg and a futuristic service dog. Even as a robot, Lucos feels new in such a subtle, yet profound way. Taneka perfectly explains why.
“We also grew up with robot TV shows and they were always about the perfect female that was built and made for the nerdy guy. It was always a Weird Science kind of moment and we wanted to go anti-Weird Science.”
Major comic book publishers could stand to absorb a few lessons from Teneka, Genué, and other independent creators. There is a stubborn, long-standing void within comics that still leaves many of its readers feeling unseen. Thankfully, there are a plethora of creators ready to provide content that reflects both a humanity and future that includes everyone. If high profile comics publishers wish to keep up, they could take some advice from Taneka. To start: hire actual creators of color.
“Stop editing everything within a white scope narrative and understand that we can edit and narrate our own stories with our own voices…We’ve been changing the game on our own, in our own ways. So they need to bring something entirely new to the table. It’s not just going to be table scraps anymore if they want what we’re packaging.”
Genué adds: “We can pretty much do everything on our own. I honestly think comic companies should be worried about that, that most artists now more than ever before can do absolutely everything on their own. So that’s just going to leave them in the dust, eventually.”
And between their Patreon and a small network of production specialists, Stotts and Revuelta are providing quality art on their own. As many of their fans watch them flourish, they may be wondering what’s next.
Taneka hints that Love Circuits will address climate change and how it has shaped Nuevo Miami. Readers can also expect to see more of Javier, Yvonne’s adorably considerate ex-boyfriend (whaddup, Javonne shippers!).
“Neeka came down the other day and told me the rest of the plot of the story and I was like, ‘How dare you keep this from me?!’” Genué teases with a laugh. “It was so good! I can’t wait.”
Taneka is currently working on Kingmaker! with Agents of the Realm creator Mildred Louis and Last Bell with Ria Martinez. As for Genué, she is currently collecting some of her art to release in a number of zines. In addition, she’s in the middle of crafting an awesome pin set. As a team, they’re continuing to flesh out the Love Circuits universe with a number of shorts. Taneka also hints to an “inevitable” YA story titled No Gods Allowed. The future promises much more from two creators who are working hard to expand the notion of whose stories are worthwhile.
“We are here and we are very much so happy and excited to be part of this new elevation and where it’s going,” says Stotts. “And this elevation really likes us, too.”