Tee Franklin is a cutting edge comic book creator. She was inspired when she saw “two beautiful black women” in an advertisement. It gave her an idea – she wanted to contribute to comics like no one else had, so she imagined these women as queer seniors and wrote love bingo (2018). The story is a delightful, down-to-earth celebration of youthful love and romance in old age. love bingooriginally funded by Kickstarter, is now in its third printing after being picked up by Image Comics.
Destitute people who happen to be fans of sequential art grow up not seeing themselves in the comics. “Diversity doesn’t sell” is a common adage. Tee Franklin is determined to change that. She’s a self-proclaimed “agitator,” known for portraying herself as a “black, queer, disabled, autistic” comic book writer. Tee Franklin resists being pigeonholed personally or creatively. It’s just one of the many things that make fans relish Franklin’s launch into the comic cosmos. Now she’s spicing up canonical work for DC Comics with lesbian love stories featuring Harley Quinn and soon to be penning a biracial new character design for Archie Comics.
Tee Franklin made his comic book debut with a four-page horror back-up strip titled “The Outfit,” in Joshua Williamson’s Nail Biter #27 Illustrated by Juan Ferreyra. nail biter is an anthology of stories about Buckaroo, Oregon, a town where serial killers are overrepresented in the population. Buckaroo is home to 16 of America’s most prolific murderers nicknamed the “Buckaroo Butchers”.
What Franklin does in 4 pages for nail biter testifies to his genius. In this deliciously macabre and cathartic thriller, a black woman, Mrs. Tremont, kills Becky, the white lover of her husband Ashton. Using knowledge from her medical degree, she flays her victim and then wears it as an outfit. Sending her husband an invitation from Becky’s phone, she wears the sewn white woman’s skin and greets Ashton saying “isn’t that what you wanted Ashton? Both of us? I’m your perfect girl now”. Comparing this hair-raising work with his later light novels proves Franklin’s limitless range.
Franklin went on to write other short stories, including “A Blazin” for the award-winning comic book anthology, Elements: Fire (2016). This book, edited by Taneka Stotts, collects comics created by people of color from around the world. Illustrated by M. Victoria Robado, Franklin’s short story features Ron A. Blaze, a hot sauce fanatic who drinks bottles of “A Blazin'” hot sauce. The comic is rendered in black, gray, and white ink with pops of bright red throughout.
Ron A. Blaze and his mother both sport shocking red hair. Ron thinks his family has the hottest wing sauce there is until his best friend shares some “hot mutant wings” from Deville Wings. The evil Deville sisters co-own the shop and put a little magic into their sauce that transforms Ron from a boy into a magical creature. Franklin also created the currently out of print joint juke with Alitha E. Martinez (Black Panther: World of Wakanda) about Mahalia, owner of a jazz club located in 1950s New Orleans. Mahalia uses supernatural forces to help people with illnesses and survivors of abuse.
A one-page story “Tears” (illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil) was published in 2016 in the NYT bestseller, Eisner Winning Love is love, edited by Sarah Gaydos. The piece is a vivid portrait of survivors texting after the Orlando Pulse shooting. Most text messages are simple phrases like “Turn off the news” and “I got you.” Franklin also wrote a 4-page “love letter” for black women called “Dearest Daughters” for Gorgeous Womanan anthology edited by Shelly Bond that celebrates beautiful women.
In 2018, as Tee Franklin’s career accelerated after writing love bingo, she spoke at a “Diversity in Graphic Novels” panel at BookCon in New York City. Franklin started the hashtag #NoRampNoPanel after experiencing a lack of preparation for guests with disabilities at the event. She has needed mobility accommodations since a car accident in 2014. An animator neglected to install a ramp for the author, then organizers and assistants froze when Franklin struggled to reach her place on the platform. Franklin gave a quick speech and then walked out, later posting a video explaining why she left the panel. While apologizing to fans who might be confused by her absence, Franklin added that she was “sorry, but not sorry.”
Unfortunately, this experience wasn’t new to Franklin, she dealt with similar issues at other events. Franklin voiced concerns familiar to disenfranchised people when she argued that it shouldn’t be up to people with disabilities to teach others to be kind and to meet people’s needs. Tee Franklin implores people to educate themselves; follow disability activists on social media and help people with disabilities in simple ways like opening doors or offering to carry things.
Talking about these topics can be emotionally difficult and draining, but Tee Franklin is constantly asserting himself and his fans are grateful to him. Many major publishers took notice and turned to Franklin, including Image Comics, DC Comics, and now Archie Comics. Franklin became the first black and queer writer to create content for storylines involving the queer romance between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy with Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Round. Franklin, a longtime fan of DC character Vixen (Mari McCabe) is now adding the Zambezi-born crimefighter to her portfolio with the one-shot It’s the season to be Freezin (2021).
One of Franklin’s neatest and perhaps most unexpected forays is Franklin’s work on Archie Comics’ new biracial and pansexual character: Eliza Han as a one-shot. Archi and his friends: love summer #1 (scheduled for June). More Franklin work is in store, she also promises a collaboration with Sebastian A. Jones for Stranger Comics, “where story and artistry are sacred and representation matters.”
Whether Tee Franklin writes for DC Comics or fringe publishers, his stories are always thought-provoking and incredibly engaging for all readers. His work is of monumental significance, but especially to the socio-economically powerless fans who can now see themselves portrayed in his comics. Everyone should check out Franklin’s work. The talents of various creators should also sell.