My friend Tim Fish — co-creator of the frighteningly topical Weimar Republic queer romance Liebestrasse — just launched a new free web comic called Please Say It! Rather than exploring a burgeoning on the backdrop of an inevitably encroaching genocide, Please Say It! focuses on something even more horrifying: high school in the late 1980s.
Matt is an outgoing but closeted army brat whose family moves from Texas to a small town in New Hampshire. There, he lays eyes on Trevor, another closeted teen who would much rather just keep his head down to survive until he can escape after graduation. Matt doggedly pursues a friendship with the reluctant Trevor, as he also tries to establish himself as a vivacious personality new school — a clear disruption to Trevor's plans of blend-in-and-don't-get-noticed. It's a sweet, simple story of two people who share something an intensely personal bond, but are both too scared to actually say it (hence the title). And of course, things get more complicated — especially when the flamboyant musical theatre star Peter starts flirting with both of them.
Please Say It! had begun its life as a pitch for an "It Gets Better"-themed anthology, a little over a decade ago. But Tim decided more recently to revisit the characters and story, in light of current events and the increased on the LGBTQ+ community. Here's what he had to say about the genesis of the story (via his Patreon):
To prepare for summer school at Oxford, I reviewed a decade worth of sketchbooks, looking for ideas I still liked but had never developed. I was prepared for any assignment thrown my way! One of the "fresher" ideas I has stemmed from disturbing news.
A number of parental rights (aka "don't say gay") laws were popping up. I don't fully understand the rationale, but I do think the motivation is misguided at best. If you disagree, I will gladly sit down with you and explain my perspective.
By the time I got back from Oxford, even more anti-LGBTQ+ stuff had gone down:
• the Nebraska student newspaper shut down over preferred pronouns
• the Christian school in Florida asked its LGBTQ+ students to leave
• the town in Michigan that voted to defund its town library as the library refused to drop three LGBTQ+ themed graphic novels
Whatever the motivation, the message to LGBTQ+ youth is clear: you're not wanted. You're not welcome. At least, I'm sure that is what is felt.
There is nothing new or special about Please Say It! It's simply a quiet story to add another positive narrative to the mix. It's not all sweetness and apple pie, of course, a good story has conflict! To me, it was important to launch it quickly, and for free. A story about the past for the right now. Content with a message, for younger readers who may not have the means to pay. It's not perfect, just my way of offering some hope and encouragement.
I hope you stick with the story.
As of this writing, there are 9 chapters of Please Say It! available to read for free via WebToons, with new ones being added every week; as I understand it, Tim has 26 chapters outlined, though he could extend the story, if there are enough interested readers.
Please Say It! [Tim Fish / WebToons]