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Interview with Joel Craig

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Divine is delighted to welcome Joel Craig to our website. He is the creative mind behind the newly released LGBT graphic novel dubbed “Journey into Gaytopia.”

Joel Craig is a nurse by day but actor and writer by night and lives with his musician husband, Donovan Holden. They have been married twice with the second time finally being legal. In addition to Journey to Gaytopia, Joel has also written Welcome To Nursing HELLo, a Graphic Memoir. Joel is also an actor, having appeared in the films, Sideshow and Sordid Lives as well as the web series, Whats My Intention? which he co-wrote. 

Before we start the interview, let’s tell you more about this artist and his work. Gaytopia also comes at the right time filling a much-needed void in the gay Sci Fi graphic novel genre.  It delves into fictional subjects with no special super powers that anyone (especially in LA) can relate to, providing a unique and original insight into his own ideal world, namely Gaytopia, in a graphic design style reminiscent of the early days of The Simpsons and Family Guy cartoons.

 We caught up with Joel to ask him some quirky questions.

What is your most essential appliance?

A wine opener.

 What would be your dream sandwich?

A deep dish pizza sandwich

 If you could ask your future self one question what would it be?

What would you have done differently? (That way I could change it in my present life so things will be better in my later life.

 Which historical Figure would you love to see in 21st century life?

Harvey Milk

 Do you live by any motto or philosophy?

Break the rules when the rules don’t make sense. And Quentin Crisp’s comment, “Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level.”

 Which fictional character do you wish was real?

Jeannie from the TV show, I Dream of Jeannie and that’s because she has a good heart and it’s funny how she doesn’t know how the world works. Maybe also Archie Bunker. No wait. Nevermind. We already have a real Archie Bunker in that orange haired politician.

Right, silly session over, let’s get down to business.

 Joel, you wear a lot of hats. You’re a nurse in the day job, a writer, and an actor. You’re a husband to Donavan, who is a musician. What’s the secret to managing all this?

 It’s tough. Because I don’t get to do everything I want to at once. Donovan knows about this too. He just put out his second CD,  Accepting All Prayers and he has the same struggle. For him his main focus is just music. But I try acting and writing together by promoting my web series I co-wrote with C. Stephen Foster, What’s My Intention, when I talk about my writing and also in the work itself. I mention the web series in Journey To Gaytopia itself. So I guess that’s a little trick to doing both at the same time.

We understand you’re a huge Star Wars fiend- ermm,fan. We must ask- do you speak Klingon? If you don’t, is it something on your wish list? Tell us more about the love you have for this film franchise. What is it you like about it?

I don’t speak Klingon but I speak Wookie.  As a child I understood Star Wars (the 1977 movies). They were very simple. You knew who the good guys were and who the bad guys were and the Star Wars world was very real to me. I would watch Star Trek and I didn’t care for the back grounds. It looked like it was a film set. But Tatooine was a real desert. The Death Star was this massive place with a lot of Storm Troopers and big guns. Star Trek was too intellectual for me. But I am watching the new Star Trek Discovery. That has two gay characters.

But Star Wars The Phantom Menace, that was a menace alright. I had no idea who the bad guys really were. I didn’t understand the Trade Federation (and still don’t). I hated Jar Jar Binks. (My friend C. Stephen Foster [and character in Journey To Gaytopia] will kill me because he would read the book, The World According To Jar Jar Binks, if there was one. Or maybe he is writing one right now. Who knows. But he already wrote a really good acting book called, Awakening The Actor Within [available on Amazon]).

But who could not like Carrie Fisher. I have pictures of her on walls in my house and have her books. Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were sexy with Han Solo a little bit more sexy and I’m glad I got to see him more in The Indiana Jones Films.

We’ve always been fascinated about the journey of a graphic novel from concept to publication. We imagine there’s a whole team involved to get the novel to market. Can you explain the different roles people play to make it happen?

I don’t think there is a lot of difference between publishing a graphic novel and a fiction novel. In my case, there was just me. I drew the images out on paper. I’m not a very good artist so I use a light box to trace some of the good images I was actually able to draw and then change up the character poses a bit. Then I scan the images into Photoshop and color them and save them as JPGs. Then I put the images together into a PDF book and upload it to CreateSpace, my self publisher. Once ready I push a button and the book is uploaded onto Amazon. Then there is the job of publicity and marketing. Usually for a cartoonist who is established there are different teams to handle different areas such as a different artist to design a book cover and marketing. But with me, I’m my one man band. Except this time I have a really good publicist, Mona Elyalfi.

Journey to Gaytopia is the story of a kidnapping – Madonna being kidnapped by Faye Dunaway’s evil sister, Mae Dunaway, and being whisked off to another planet. You and your friend Stephen then set off to rescue her. It’s been described as diva snark, highly amusing and entertaining and something gay geeks everywhere will love. Tell us more about how this book came to be and where the inspiration came from.

In this book my dreams come true. I am a working actor and get to travel to another planet.  And the people who mean the world to me are there and it’s great to get to spend time with because in the real world everyone is too busy. Except for my husband, Donovan, who I’m lucky to see every single day.  But also I put the same characters who are in the web series I created with Stephen Foster called, “What’s My Intention” that can be seen on Youtube. That is about a group of acting students taught by this aging alcoholic actress teacher played by the brilliant Kathy Taylor [who is Cat in Gaytopia]. And Kathy Taylor is also a writer, who has written The Muslim Romance Trilogy under the pseudonym, Juliet Montague. But, I guess you could say there is a running theme through a lot of my work of artists struggling in a world of commerce.

(Oh, and have you contacted Madonna to tell her about this? We’re sure she’d love it 😊)

I haven’t. Do you know her phone number? I tag her on Facebook but she has like 18 million likes. She may not even read her FB page. I’m trying to tag her brother, Christopher.

We understand that one of the reasons for the creation of this novel, was to create a world where being gay is not an issue and gays can contribute their work to the universe and make it a better place. Is it your hope is that this comic sends the message that everyone is entitled to be who they want to be?

Absolutely. I also want straight people to take some of our ideas and incorporate them into their lives. Ideas such as accepting each other not just which sex you want to get in bed with but whether you are from a different culture, country, or religion. The gay community is not perfect. I’m sure the gay men and gay women have their conflicts and the bisexual people and everyone of the groups of the LGBTQ have conflicts and there is always going to be gripes but overall, I think there is more acceptance, all around, than maybe thirty or forty years ago. I think that is because people are more educated about each other. In my opinion, people learn that other groups are more than just their stereotype. I love finding humor in gay stereotypes but the world is finding out more about us and that we are also parents, politicians, teachers, and artists.

Tell us more about your acting ambitions. We’ve seen the Bad Boys in Leather video (whew!) and wondered what else you had up your sleeve for the future?

I liked filming Bad Boys, Black Leather.  Those guys were fantastic. Two things. First, turn my graphic novel into an animated series. Do you know any animators? Second, get cast in a science fiction tv or web series, hopefully one where I can take off my shirt and/or swim in a sexy swim suit.

And lastly, what’s next? Do you envisage Journey to Gaytopia becoming a series, or are you working on another graphic novel at the moment?

I definitely want to put out more graphic novels to continue the story line. Also, I’d like to do a reworking of the original Wizard of Oz series books as stick figures, kind of in the style of the book, Stickman Odyssey.

Joel, thanks so much for being a great sport and answering our questions today. We hope that the future is bright for you, and that you reach all your goals!

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