The webcomics Passage and Quarter Spring navigate themes of identity and found family in compelling and contemplative ways. In this interview, Gabi Wolf, the creator of those two titles and more, talks about their personal reflections and influences behind their wondrous work.
Since first discovering Gabi’s work, I’ve been immersed in their captivating worlds and impressed by their storytelling. Passage and Quarter Spring (18+), included in my webcomic roundup and MerMay lists, show the power of found family, a cherished trope among LGBTQ+ people. The characters in Gabi’s webcomics discover healing and belonging with people (human or not) unrelated by blood. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Gabi, who shares how their real life experiences has influenced their work.
The Geekiary: Thank you for being here! Let’s start by introducing yourself!
Gabi: Of course, thank you for having me! I’m Gabi, an anxious nonbinary demisexual, Black biracial individual who absolutely loves creating fantasy webcomics and art! Which is a mouthful, but I think sums up everything nicely.
TG: I absolutely adore your webcomics Passage and Quarter Spring. Your vivid worldbuilding and characters draw me in. I’m interested in your creative process. How have these ideas come about for you?
Gabi: I usually draw from real life experiences, and just stretch them to be a little more fantastic. I find that fantasy is a great genre for dealing with hard issues while also having a distance that doesn’t make them too overwhelming to process. Passage was inspired by my personal desire for freedom. I just wanted Passage to be a great adventure! I wanted Hadi to be just your regular guy, who makes a decision out of love and finds himself in situations he’s not prepared for.
I think a lot of times people always overthink their choices in life, they want to be prepared, they want to have everything planned out, but sometimes you just have to go! I personally struggle with overthinking but have learned to take a leap of faith on occasion. I’ve found that usually when you finally take that leap, even if you’re unprepared, situations and people line up in such a way that you get the help you need, just when you need it. That’s Hadi’s story, that’s Passage, a big leap of faith.
Along the way, I just added more and more elements of fantasy to it. Hadi is going to travel a whole continent, so I needed a map, and then I thought about what sort of people he would encounter and this whole world just built itself around him. I really wanted to include mermaids in this world, and originally Ghaleon didn’t have legs. Hadi was going to follow a river and Ghaleon would swim alongside him, but that really didn’t work out, so I gave him legs. Ghaleon then became a figure greatly influenced by my dad’s military career and the struggle of following orders when you morally don’t agree with them. Again the choice has to be made, the leap of faith has to be taken. Do what you feel is right or just keep following orders.
As for Quarter Spring, there was no story to start with, just character designs. I created Pax as a way to deal with my own struggles when it came to my gender identity. Rowan’s a redesign of an old character I used to sketch in college. They didn’t have a story until I went on a trip to visit a very dear friend that was stationed in Alaska. The amount of time we spent in nature and all the sketches I did out in the forests, and the photos my wife took, became the setting for Quarter Spring. Then it just became a love affair with nature, and I knew I would have to leave all this beauty behind and go back to the city.
So that became Pax’s and Rowan’s story, a secret little love affair and the knowledge that eventually it would have to end unless something drastic happened. Again, I drew on real life and looked at my parents’ relationship. My mother left everything she knew to follow my dad to a country she had never been to, and I knew Rowan would do the same for Pax.
TG: Your work includes themes of found family, belonging, and identity. Passage explores mixed racial and cultural heritage and what defines a family. In Quarter Spring, Rowan (a fae) turns 25, which marks a milestone among fae: he has to decide whether to live in the human or fae world. Your execution of those themes is well-nuanced, and I’d love to know your thoughts on them.
Gabi: I guess these are obvious themes that are very dear to my heart. I come from both a racially- and culturally-mixed family. My mother is white and German, and met my dad, a Black man from the American South, while he was stationed in Germany. Even my own relationship is diverse. Me, having spent most of my childhood in Germany and coming to America after my dad was permanently stationed here, and my wife, an immigrant from the Philippines that came here as a young teenager. Sadly I didn’t see a lot of mixed families portrayed in the media growing up, and I definitely didn’t see queer family units! I vowed that my comics and art would always reflect the people I love!
Of course, coming from this sort of background identity was a big struggle for me. I would have people trying to convince me that my mother wasn’t really my mom. Or that I should show interest in certain things because of my appearance or perceived gender. The older I got the more I found myself outside of every perceivable binary. Not black enough or white enough, neither gay nor straight, neither male or female. So I use my stories selfishly to explore some of my own struggles with identity, and I hope other people get some value out of it too.
I was lucky enough that most of the rejection I felt came from outside my home. My parents allowed me to explore my identity in all its forms without restrictions. I wasn’t really raised with strict gender roles and was allowed to play with boys and girls alike. I think being an immigrant child my parents were just happy I was making friends in a new environment. My parents luckily were never surprised or disrespectful towards my queerness, and I genuinely always felt accepted by them. Which I know is a blessing not shared by everyone in the LGBTQ community, especially in my age group. I wanted my stories to share that feeling of belonging. So people know there is always a place for them, no matter who you are, and that they are worthy of being loved unconditionally.
However, I was not without a toxic family, and there are some family members that I had to leave behind. I found that when I mentioned that I don’t talk to certain close family members, I would always be scolded. There is a lot of emphasis on, ‘but they’re your blood’ without any regard to the actual abuse or trauma that family members inflicted on you. I wanted my stories to explore that dynamic. Your ability to choose your family outside of your ‘blood’. Blood isn’t the glue that holds a family together, it’s love, and that can be found among many different people in many different forms.
TG: What are your favorite books, movies, TV shows, etc.? Anything that inspired your work?
Gabi: I don’t know that anything directly inspired my current works. At least not that I’m conscious of, but we are always being influenced by something or another!
I always have a hard time coming up with a list of things I enjoy, because I consume so much media in so many different forms. I don’t watch a lot of TV and am more of a movie goer. Some of my favorite movies are The Last Unicorn, Watership Down (1978 version), Princess Mononoke, Black Panther, Moana, and Pan’s Labyrinth. From the few TV shows I do watch I really enjoyed The Haunting of Bly Manor, Stranger Things, and the new She-Ra. I’m also an old school Trekkie because of my dad.
As for books, I read a lot, and always want to talk about books! I’m also a big advocate for diverse books! A few of my favorite books (which are all queer) are The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall, a very funny queer fantasy version of Sherlock Holmes, and I highly recommend Alexis Hall’s other works! The House by the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune, which is an absolutely wonderful story about found family, finding yourself and your voice to help others! I’ve also recently read An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, which has so much queer representation and made me cry so many times. The one book that I love with no queer main characters is Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, a bittersweet story but still so good.
TG: Are you planning or working on anything new?
Gabi: Sadly, my mind works in such a way that I’m always planning or working on something new! I have a whole roster of original characters and a lot of them have stories they want to tell. I usually share these ideas with my supporters on Patreon, who get access to new comics, like my webcomic Shrine of Omega and other mini comics first. The one new work that I plan on sharing publicly soonish is a novelisation of my very first and currently discontinued webcomic Grimoire Atheneum. Other than that, I’m just continuing my work on Passage and Quarter Spring!
Webcomics that Gabi Recommends:
Devour by phoenixrenaissance: (18+) A very emotional fantasy comic that follows a werewolf and his human lover as they try to navigate a world that wants to see werewolves completely wiped out. I’m a sucker for stories that have traveling in them, and these two are sadly always on the move, not just running from hunters but their past and emotions as well.
Solanaceae by Darkchibishadow: If regular slice of life comics don’t have enough magic for you, give this comic a read! It’s fun, cute and deals with everyday issues such as family and love with a magical background. The art and characters will really suck you in, occasionally even taking you on a rollercoaster of emotions as you find out more about each one of them.
The Broken Ones by Kaetana: Magic, adventure, and a group of misfits banning together? What’s not you love? This is another epic adventure story that takes place in a vibrant world and has characters you’ll instantly fall in love with! Or love to hate in some cases!
I’m not your Princess by SilveryRam: I enjoy the magical girl trope very much and anything that flips that on its head is good in my book. The humor in this comic is great and there’s just enough mystery to make you wonder what’s really going on.
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives! You can find more about Black creators and their works on The Geekiary here.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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