Hey y’all! Robin Covington here, and I am so excited to kick off my first post with the finest of the finest gals here at FROLIC. I’m going to be here every month letting you peek into the nerdiness of my soul through my obsession with comics, graphic novels, podcasts, books, movies, TV shows, and gadgets. Yes, gadgets!!!
Because, you know… nerds are sexy.
Summer is a time for days by the beach or the pool, vacations, catching fireflies, grilling yummy goodness, and road trips. Yep, road trips.
Cross-country. Cross-state. Cross-continent. Cross-county. There’s nothing that screams summer like hopping in your vehicle of choice, filling a bag with snacks and cold drinks, plugging in your phone and blaring your playlist so loudly that other drivers give you the envious (you KNOW they’re jealous) side-eye.
The only thing I love better than an actual road trip is a book about a road trip… or a graphic novel/web-comic about a road trip. My favorite is the web-comic, The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal.
(In fact, I loved it so much as a webcomic that I splurged on my very own paperback omnibus edition. It is sooooooo pretty.)
This title may downplay it but this web-comic is truly epic. The author and artist, E.K. Weaver, not only brings these adorkable and super-hot-AF dudes to life but she spends entire panels placing her drawings against photo-realistic backgrounds that take your breath away. I often revert to one her freebie desktop wallpapers as the scene on my computer screen. They are that stunning.
The story is full of all of my nerdy catnip. Amal breaks off his arranged marriage by coming out to his family and then goes on a drown-my-sorrows bender in a bar and gets picked up by the dread-locked-rasta-drifter-who-sings-Paul-Simon-constantly, TJ. The next morning (in one of my fave plot devices of did-we-or-did-we-not-bonk?) TJ offers to pay the expenses if Amal will let him tag-along on the 3500 mile cross-country trip from California to Rhode Island. And 3500 miles is PLENTY OF TIME for things to get deliciously and sexily complicated. Yes, please!
Amal is hot, ripped with anime hair and a silver skunk stripe in the front. He’s conflicted but true to himself, a good son and brother but embittered by the fact that his sexual preference has resulted in him being cast aside. He’s also a Harry Potter nerd and banters with the best of them – clearly winning the ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny. And you don’t want to miss the marijuana-induced Back to the Future quote-off. He wins the battle of the dorkiness, hands down.
TJ is a free spirit with a past he doesn’t want to discuss and is clearly on the run from somebody. He sings Paul Simon, smokes cigarettes and pot freely and with no apologies and he attempts to live in the moment because his past bothers him. He’s sexy and seductive and utterly smitten by Amal’s courage on coming-out and his new-found liberty.
The developing friendship and the eventual sexy-times are believable and hot. Amal is noisy and active in the bed and TJ is an expert in the stealth orgasm (he’s used to being quiet for unspoken and intriguing reasons) but it’s the feels that get you in the gut. If you’re looking for the romance and the absolute sex-positivity of a relationship between two queer men, this web-comic has it.
This web-comic has so much more going for it than a fun, road trip read. E.K. Weaver doesn’t shy away from real world issues including how finances can alter lives for the worse and the better. Amal has given up the financial support of his family and is hit with anxiety about how he’s going to pay to finish his education. And TJ hints at how he’s had to trade sexual favors for food and shelter in his past, an in-your-face spotlight at what some homeless LGBTQIA+ kids have to do to survive. Also, the intersectionality of Amal being a gay, Indian-American man is threaded throughout. His confessions of his feelings as a member of a multi-type marginalized man in modern times is poignant and makes him come alive on the page.
So, why does this make my nerdy bits perk up with happiness? Because web-comics (just like comics and graphic novels) are so much more than superheroes and superpowers. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. You don’t even want to get me started on the duality of Captain America and Tony Stark!) But this one epitomizes all that a webcomic that was independently published can do: namely, give a glimpse of a marginalized duo and their inner feelings and dreams to an audience of young and young-at-heart who need to see themselves on the page in breath-taking, multi-color, detailed glory.
So, that’s my first glimpse into what fills my nerdy soul with joy. I’ll be back next month!
Created by E.K. Weaver, TJ AND AMAL ran as a web-comic from 2009 to 2014 before being collected into a graphic novel. The graphic novel won several awards, including the 2015 Lambda Award for Best LGBTQ+ Graphic Novel and the 2016 Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album Previously Published, as well as a nomination for the 2016 Eisner for Best Graphic Album: Reprint. You can read it online or buy ebook and paper copies here and here.
(Illustration ©E.K. Weaver)