Cartoonist Tory Hoke creates “Meddling Auntie” comics to break the ice between tweens and those who love them on sensitive subjects. “Meddling Auntie” is the concerned aunt that all kids need when they’re growing up. Hoke gives kids someone who isn’t a parent to provide some perspective, in an unconventional format. After previous issues on Drugs, Bullies, and Perverts, in April, Hoke released “Meddling Auntie Presents: Puberty.” In the cartoon, Hoke addresses both the gender issues and same sex attractions that might manifest themselves at puberty and how to handle it. A straight ally, Hoke collaborated with popular editor, writer and podcaster Kristine Chester for perspective in the LGBT community. I sat down with Hoke to discuss “Meddling Auntie” and her creative process, as well as her advice for aspiring female comics.
What was the inspiration behind “Meddling Auntie?”
Tory Hoke: When my niece turned eleven, I was out of ideas for what to get her–what would be interesting and personal and not something she had a dozen of already. So I asked myself, what could I really, really have used at that age? The answer was information–what I wish someone had told me. So I gathered words of wisdom from friends, put funny pictures on it to soften some harsh truths, and gave it to her as a comic.
Things sort of spiraled from there.
Why did you decide to include gender and LGBT acceptance into “Meddling Auntie Presents: Puberty?”
TH: Ah! Great question. The first couple of comics were very much “this is just my personal experience.” But when I made one about “Perverts”–identifying and dealing with sexual abuse–the feedback from readers showed me that “personal experience” isn’t enough, not when I’m putting something in front of the public.
Puberty is a godawful time of pain and conflict plus crazy-making pressure to pretend everything’s okay. If any kid picks up this comic–a comic that claims to get it, claims to be for them–and doesn’t see themself in it, then that’s a big failure. That’s a terrible failure at a terrible time.
So for “Puberty” I put out a call for help, for more brains and more ideas, and Kristine Chester answered.
Tell me about your collaboration with Kristine Chester. Why did you decide to reach out to her? How did she help?
TH: Kristine’s guidance, her insight, and her perspective–as a younger woman, a trans* woman, and a woman who got even less school sex ed than I did–was absolutely vital. There was so much she wished someone had told her–about puberty’s physical changes, the social changes, what’s possible, what’s normal, all of it. Without her, I don’t think the comic would have happened.
We worked by email, mostly: I sent a script, she sent notes, I sent comic pages, she sent more notes. Our exchanges were a lot of her saying, “Here’s something to maybe consider,” and my answering, “Holy crap, of course!”
Is “Meddling Auntie Presents: Puberty” inspired by your own difficult time with puberty?
TH: Oh yes! And, then as now, a lot of my problems were self-inflicted. I was immature for my age, often thoughtless, sometimes cruel. I think maybe underneath the comic, there’s an idea of, “Look. You’re going to have enough of a hard time. But a lot of the hard time isn’t your fault. Let me let you off the hook.”
What advice would you give to aspiring female comics?
TH: Keep going! Keep making, keep writing, keep drawing. Surround yourself with people who believe in what you’re doing. Seek criticism, take what you like, and leave the rest. Tell the stories that need to be told. Feel free to promote your work, but feel free to let it stand on its own, too. Everything you do is practice for every other thing you’ll do, and there’s no way to guess where the future will take you.