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Queer comic artist/dancer Rosalarian makes what women really want
by Sarah Toce

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Femme comic-book artist/burlesque dancer Megan Rose Gedris is as unique as the artistic name given to her as a child.

"The name 'Rosalarian' is a nickname my dad gave me forever ago," she said. "He would always call me by my middle name, Rose, and he was messing around making nonsense out of it, and he started calling me Rosalarian. It sounded like a flowery space woman's name, which I thought fit me well."

Indeed. Rosalarian's work involves "a lot of fantasy, but not so much the elves and wizards kind. Dream worlds, outer space adventures, sexual fantasies," she said. "I like whimsy. Real life is dark and gritty enough. I want mermaids and superpowers. I want bright colors and larger-than-life personalities. I like mixing media and mixing genres and I tend to use multiple art styles in a single story. I've used cut paper, watercolor, even clay puppets to tell stories. Otherwise I get bored."

The out artist considers herself femme, but is new to the queer label.

"I'm a very femme woman, and proud of it," she said. "Feminism is very important to me. I'm kinda of new to identifying as queer. I identified as a lesbian for most of my life, but I was incorrect. Queer fits me better. To me, queer isn't just about who I like, but how I like them, and how I express that. That's why I'm not bi or pan."

Rosalarian's realization freed her in a way she didn't quite expect.

"Since coming to this realization, I've felt comfortable and free in a way I didn't before," she said. "It's nice. This makes sense. I still sometimes use the word 'lesbian' because I'm in a relationship with another woman and the world perceives me as a lesbian. I sometimes use bi when trying to talk to people who don't understand what queer means. I'm not offended by those labels, they just aren't the most correct. I've also found that the LGBT community and the queer community are two different things, and the queer community is where I fit in."

Finding where she fit in also inspired the direction of her art.

"I started making comics about queers and women because I wanted to read interesting stories about people like myself, and couldn't find very many," she said. "I started making the stuff in the late '90s. Up until this point, I think the only comic I read that had a female main character was Luann from the newspaper.

"When I got a little older and came into my sexuality, the rare comics I could find with lesbians didn't resonate with me. [Alison Bechdel's] Dykes to Watch Out For is iconic, but not relatable for a 15-year-old. The manga boom of the late '90s/early '00s brought a lot of women and queer characters to American comics readers like myself, and it did help me realize that I could make stories like that, too."

Rosalarian began looking at the statistics of women in comics and said she discovered a massive disconnect.

"We're still incredibly underrepresented in mainstream comics," she said. "Really, Marvel? Less than 16 percent of your creators are women? You find that acceptable? When I was younger, I assumed I would spend my whole life making comics just for myself and my friends, because I never saw a woman's name on the cover of a comic book. Manga had a lot of female representation, but I wasn't Japanese, and it seemed like I had a .001 percent chance of ever making a career out of comics."

Then a global shift occurred that would change the course of her self-perceived limited trajectory.

"The internet changed everything," she said. "Without gatekeepers and old guys in suits to tell me the kind of person I am and the kind of comics I make don't sell, I could get out there and make and sell comics. I honestly expected the bulk of any backlash against me to be for my sexuality, but it's primarily misogynistic vitriol that I get. A lot of guys are really upset that I don't have enough strong male role models in my comics. There was a time when those guys made me so frustrated, I almost quit making comics. I'm glad I stuck around, but it was really rough before I grew an extra thick skin."

Rosalarian said she has two boilerplate standards: She does not write about herself and she will not date a fan—ever.

"I don't put too much of my own love life into my comics, which is why I never date fans," she said. "I've had a few try, but they come into things with a very skewed idea of who I am and what I'm like. Especially as I gain more notoriety, I really relish keeping personal things like romance private."

Queer characters are beginning to pop up in a new form of art—the webcomic.

"Nowadays, webcomics are so incredibly queer. Every webcomic has at least a couple queer characters, it seems, by creators queer and straight alike," Rosalarian said. "I keep making queer characters because we're still far from the bottom of that barrel of content. But what it really comes down to is the fact that I write about the kind of people I know, and all these women and queer people I know are very interesting people, with depth that often goes unexplored in stories, where we're reduced to nothing but our sexuality or gender. Straight white cisgender men are not the default."

When asked about her life's greatest adventure thus far, Rosalarian didn't mention comics.

"My greatest adventure in life has been touring all over the country with a burlesque show," she said. "I went from a timid homebody who was afraid of most things to someone constantly traveling and trying new things with a lot less fear. I got to see so many things and meet so many people. I almost died in the desert and I almost died in an ice storm. I learned how to be uncomfortable and dirty and tired without that driving me crazy. I learned how to be the glitter femme woman I always wanted to be, but never knew how. I met people who would become close friends. I met the people who would convince me to move to Chicago and take on new challenges in this city."

Speaking of Chicago, "I love the pizza at Boiler Room," she said. "I feel kinda bad for hating deep dish so much, but it's not pizza, it's a casserole, I'm sorry. Chicago hot dogs are the best hot dogs, but this pizza, I can't stand behind. Give me thin crust with a side of beer and a shot of Jameson. When it's not pizza, it's Stan's Donuts. A warm blueberry fritter was the first thing that made me stop feeling so homesick when I first moved here. And then I love just walking around in Humboldt Park. It's big enough to be interesting, but not so big I get lost."

Rosalarian is now a part of a site full of pornographic comics all created by women and non-binary people, with women and non-binary people as the site's main demographic.

"I've been with the site since its beginning, after my friend Gina Biggs said she was starting the site and asked if I would be interested," she said. "I had never publicly stated how much I love dirty comics, but I'm glad she somehow knew it was my destiny. I'm so proud to be part of this. I think 90 percent of sex happens before and after genitals enter into it. It's all about the situations, the characters, the settings. The story is important. It builds tension. And the story is basically like any story you'd see on TV, only instead of fading to black when the foreplay ends, we keep going.

"In my experience, this type of pornography especially resonates with women. Just look at fan fiction. It's mainly written by women, filling in steamy sex scenes that traditional media doesn't depict, taking these three-dimensional characters and reading between the lines. And I love that this site is aimed at women and non-binary people. There's long been a myth that women aren't interested in porn, or even sex in general. We're very interested in that stuff, we just tend to like it in a different way, and it's important to be part of the process of creation. It's been great making it, and it opened the door to making comics my full-time gig."

One of her first solo burlesque acts was based on her first porn comic about a mermaid wanting a vagina. Now she is preparing to tour stateside through the end of the year.

"When I first started doing burlesque, I was with a touring show and did about 75 performances a year around the country," she said. "As an independent performer, I'm scaling back a bit, and I've also been focusing on comics a little bit more in the past year, going to conventions around the country. But I still make it out and perform whenever and wherever I can. The holidays will be a slower time for comics, and busy time for burlesque, and I'll be around the Midwest shaking what my mother gave me."

Catch up with Rosalarian at .

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