Hazel Newlevant may be a recent graduate from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, but she’s already an experienced cartoonist. The recipient of a 2012 Xeric Grant for her minicomic “Ci Vediamo,” last year Newlevant received a Queer Press Grant from Prism Comics, which she is using to self-publish her first book, “If This Be Sin.” Set to debut at the Small Press Expo in September, the project consists of three stories revolving around themes of queer women and music, two of which have been published already via her tumblr account. The stories range from the biographical to the fictional, from the 1920’s to the present.
For those who have seen her comics online, the three stories in “If This Be Sin” represent a noticeable leap in her skills as an artist and a writer. Newlevant, who seems to have found her voice as a storyteller, spoke with CBR News about art, work and life after graduation.
CBR News: Where did “If This Be Sin” come from? Because I had never heard of Gladys Bentley until I came across your comic.
Hazel Newlevant: That’s my hope, that people will go into it probably not knowing anything about her. It was actually my SVA thesis project. Every year, all of the illustration and cartooning students have a certain theme for their thesis. The theme was kings and queens. I thought it would be cool to do a drag king, because I’m really interested in queerness and gender performance. From there, I did research to see who are the most famous and influential — it also had to be biographical — so I researched who were the most influential drag kings. Gladys was sort of a proto-drag king and she had such a cool story.