This Tuesday, Februrary 27th, Dark Horse Comics’ The Secret Loves of Geeks, the publisher’s followup to The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, will hit bookstores everywhere, featuring stories of loss and love from a wide range of creators, all connecting to geek culture and fandom in some form or fashion. We spoke with the anthology’s editor Hope Nicholson and writer/artist Terry Blas about their contributions to building the collection.

One moving and affecting piece in a book brimming with emotionally resonant pieces is creator Ivan Salazar’s personal essay “The Walter Mercado Effect,” which focuses on his first moment of queer realization as well as how queer representation was often sidelined in his experience as growing up Latinx. Mr. Salazar spoke with me recently about the genesis behind “The Walter Mercado Effect,” the process behind sharing his personal stories in the essay, and what takeaways he’d like readers to glean from his tale.

FreakSugar: For folks who are picking up the compilation, what can you tell us about your story, “The Walter Mercado Effect”?

Ivan Salazar: The story starts out as a queer realization moment centered around watching Interview with a Vampire for the first time when I was twelve. And even when I started writing this story I thought that’s what the whole story was going to be about. But once I started digging through the past I unearthed some really relevant memories of growing up Latinx and how queer representation was often ignored or glossed over which lead to some realizations of why it took nearly two decades to accept queerness within myself.

FS: Your contribution is bold, bald, and beautiful. How did you become involved with contributing to The Secret Loves of Geeks?

IS: It was really through the generosity of the book’s editor Hope Nicholson. We’d been good friends for a few years and during our conversations I mentioned my desire to write and she gave me a shot by asking me to pitch for The Secret Loves of Geeks. I sent her a few pitches not really thinking it would make the cut but then she gave me a deadline and a word count and I was off to the races. Pretty thankful to Hope for the opportunity and for her great edits – part of how strong this story turned out was because of her willingness to tear it apart, ha.

FS: Lovers of pop culture often look to our favorite works for inspiration and guidance. They stir a whole host of feelings in us, so it’s no surprise that extends to examining sexuality. Why do you think pop culture has such an impactful effect?

IS: I feel like pop culture usually tries to get to some big truths about the human condition or at least that’s when it’s at its best. By inviting us to inhabit so many POVs we can insert ourselves temporarily into narratives that speak to us or are ones we wish to inhabit. For me watching the Interview with a Vampire and the scene mentioned in my story where Tom Cruise turns Brad Pitt into the titular Vampire, it was the first time I had seen such a visceral kind of intimacy between two men. And imagining myself in a similar kind of embrace, I wondered what my reaction would be – I felt desire. As you mentioned we look to our favorite stories to find inspiration and guidance – so why not also look to them to find that which fuels our hearts.

FS: As I said, you’re very honest and forthright in your experiences and feelings in “The Walter Mercado Effect.” Is there a process you go through when deciding to be so expressive with your feelings and ascertaining which parts you want to share and which to keep private?

IS: For this story I was constantly checking in with myself. Writing out bits of my past, taking a read once I finished and then ask myself how comfortable I was with what I was sharing. More often than not I was ok. I also think the further I dug into some of the more intimate details the more I could make sense of my past realizing how and why certain feelings around queer identity were suppressed or ignored. There are definitely some more private details I could’ve divulged but what I did include was to make sure I cut to the bone of the matter – to get to as close as the truth as I could carve it out of me.

FS: “The Mercado Effect” delves into deep thought and introspection about figuring out who a person is. Do you have any takeaways you’d like readers to have upon finishing the story?

IS: Yes! First drafts are always rough and in dire need of help!

For real though – I think a major take away from finishing this story is that figuring yourself out is an ongoing, ever evolving, process. What you think you know about yourself can always change – it might even be changing now! Your past and upbringing up definitely inform your present but ultimately, it’s you that decides who you’ll become. I do think there’s a pressure of figuring it all out this very second but be kind to yourself and don’t force it – even small steps move you forward.

The Secret Loves of Geeks from Dark Horse is available in bookstores everywhere February 27, 2018.

From the official anthology description:

The follow-up to the smash-hit The Secret Loves of Geek Girls,this brand new anthology features comic and prose stories from cartoonists and professional geeks about their most intimate, heartbreaking, and inspiring tales of love, sex, and dating. This volume includes creators of diverse genders, orientations, and cultural backgrounds.

Featuring work by Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale), Gerard Way (Umbrella Academy), Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind), Dana Simpson (Phoebe and Her Unicorn), Gabby Rivera (America), Hope Larson, (Batgirl), Cecil Castellucci (Soupy Leaves Home), Valentine De Landro (Bitch Planet), Marley Zarcone (Shade), Sfe R. Monster (Beyond: A queer comics anthology), Amy Chu (Wonder Woman), cover art by Becky Cloonan (Demo), and more!


Terry Blas on Dealing with Breakups in “Bear With”

Hope Nicholson on Love & Life in The Secret Loves of Geeks