Tomorrow, Februrary 27th, Dark Horse Comics’ The Secret Loves of Geeks, editor Hope Nicholson’s followup to The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, hits bookstores everywhere, containing stories related to love, loss, and geekdom from a range of creators from across the comic book field and beyond. Over the past two weeks, we’ve spoken with the anthology’s editor Hope Nicholson, writer/artist Terry Blas, and creator Ivan Salazar about their contributions to bringing the collection to life.

Another creator who assists in making The Secret Loves of Geeks sing is Vita Ayala, whose “Dear 1st Love” focuses on their past loves and how those experiences affected each of Ayala’s subsequent relationships with love. Vita spoke with me about the conceit of “Dear 1st Love,” how the idea behind the piece evolved, and the takeaway they want readers to garner from the letter.

FreakSugar: For folks who are picking up the compilation, what’s the conceit of your contribution, “Dear 1st Love”?

Vita Ayala: “Dear 1st Love” is a love letter to many (but not all) of the people I have been in love with, but especially the first girl I loved, and the latest (who is now my wife). It is a thank you to my first love, and an exploration of how you move from your first love into all the others you will have, and how each love teaches you how to love better.

FS: The mix of prose and art for the piece is joyful and affecting. How did you become involved in the project?

VA: Thank you! I was asked by Hope to do a prose story for the anthology. I ended up feeling that the way it was being told would be served well by having a visual/art component, and reached out to my good friend, Jessi Jordon, who did the art (lineart, colors).

FS: You sign the end of the piece with “V,” which I’m assuming means this is autobiographical in nature. Was this something you’ve wanted to get out for a long time in prose form?

VA: I didn’t know how much I wanted to write it until I started. As soon as I said yes to the project, the idea smacked me between the eyes, and would not be quiet. I couldn’t think of any other story or any other way to tell it, and when I tried to make it fit into other forms, it would not cooperate, haha. I have always wondered what happened to that girl, and I always wanted to tell her – hey, you have always been in my thoughts and a part of me, thank you for everything.

FS: Following up on that, is there a different headspace you need to be in when writing something this personal than, say, a piece of fiction?

VA: Yes, I think so. I found myself much more self-conscious and vulnerable, even when just scribbling the outline into my notebook. I tried to hide – from myself and from whomever would be reading the piece -and ultimately, I had to find a place, mentally, where I was okay being open before I could actually work. When I write fiction, I am not afraid or shy. Writing this I had to learn how to be okay with being seen.

FS: The art is sweet and has a pureness to it. How did you and Jessi decide on what you want the look of the letter to be?

VA: When I was writing the piece, I was almost transported back into being the 6-year-old I was when I first met my first love. The way it shaped up to me felt almost like a fairytale, or a children’s story. Talking with [artist] Jessi Jordan, she immediately was on the same page. I gave her information about the real people that inspired each passage, and she honestly did the heavy lifting on the presentation – both concept wise and execution wise.

FS: It’s refreshing to see a story directed to past love that is positive and sees the good that some former lovers have left on our lives. What made you decide to go in that direction in addressing that idea?

VA: When I remember her, as when I remember anyone that is no longer a part of my day to day life, there is a bitter-sweetness to my memories. This was a thank you to her, and to the others I have loved. I didn’t want to let the negative creep into that, because I wanted to talk about how loving these people shaped my idea of love and how I strive to give love in return.

FS: “Dear 1st Love” is framed as a letter to past love, but it also acts as a letter to the readers. What kind of takeaway would you like readers to have after finishing the piece?

VA: I guess I want to have people come away from this with the sense that, even if things didn’t work out with a relationship, the good things that you shared with the person or people you loved are not gone.  I think we tend to remember the bad and forget the good a lot more often than the reverse, and I wanted to say that, it is okay to have loved the people in your life. Having done so helps you love better, and it is okay to miss the good things, and to use them to become a better person.

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!


Ivan Salazar on Queer Representation in “The Walter Mercado Effect”

Terry Blas on Dealing with Breakups in “Bear With”

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