1. Why is it called The Arthurian Smut Cycle?
I wanted a title that felt at home with the old Arthurian tales, most of which are simply named after a character or two (Culhwch and Olwen; Tristan; Erec and Enide; Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart; Perceval, le Conte du Graal; Le Morte Darthur; Morien; and the Lancelot-Graal Cycle.) These names are not terribly exciting, but I’m a traditionalist. This suits me and my work more than picking something flashy or mystic or grandiose.
But more importantly, it fits the mission of ASC. I didn’t want to represent the work as a “new take” on old myth, because, while envisioning all these characters as queer may be something that hasn’t been done yet (or often at least), there’s nothing new about queerness itself. Gay people have always existed. We belong in history, in myth. ASC is extremely traditional in the way it’s told and the way it exists as a comic. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here, only suggest that the wheel is gay, and having sex with other wheels.
So we have “The Arthurian Smut Cycle”, what I imagine a historian might call a collection of Arthurian works that feature smut.
2. Hey, have you read/seen [insert some Arthurian media]?
In relation to the sheer amount of Arthurian media out there, I have consumed very little of it, so the answer is usually no. I probably won’t read or watch it if it’s modern, since I’m already muddled with so many old sources it’s a bit overwhelming. And besides, most of my reading time is spent doing research for ASC. (Yes I tried Mists of Avalon and The Once And Future King and they weren’t really my cup of tea—hence deciding to do my own version of King Arthur &co. since nothing already out there satisfies me)
As to what I have seen and read:
My first exposure to Arthuriana was Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Arthur Trilogy in middle school, which is so divinely researched and paints one of the most vivid pictures of the Middle Ages I’ve ever come across. It’s YA and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in Arthurian myth. Besides this, I’ve read a lot of the old shit and you’ll find it listed over on the Bibliography page.
I also remember seeing what feels like a huge amount of those 90s medieval time-travel movies when I was a kid. Like the one with Whoopi Goldberg in it as Sir Boss. Recently I sat through the really bad 1998 Merlin miniseries with my friend Elby for a laugh. Did you know Merlin invented shorts?
3. When does ASC take place?
The Middle Ages presented in ASC is not, and cannot, truly be the real Middle Ages, so the dates I use for it are pseudo-dates for this pseudo-history. Most of what appears in the comic is from the 14th century, with a bit of picking from the 15th (mainly gothic plate armour, which won’t appear for a while) and single tiny drop of very obscure stuff form the 16th century.
For hard dates: Arthur is born in 1308 (late November on the Julian calendar, early December on our modern calendar) and becomes king in 1327. Chapter two starts in the late summer of 1325.
4. What’s your source material and inspiration?
I’m using Malory’s Le Morte Darthur as my “canon” source. The plot in places is heavily altered, however, and some characters are shuffled around, combined, etc, and there’s some fill in from different stories, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Morien. You can think of Le Morte Darthur as the skeleton, which I sometimes break to make gayer.
On the artistic side of things, Beardsley’s illustrations for Le Morte Darthur are something I always keep in mind in the back of my head, though stylistically they’re more suited for ASC once it reaches the plot about the Holy Grail. Overall, I tend to imagine ASC being done in the intensely detailed style of Sakamoto Sinichi’s manga Innocent. As a comic, manga is what resonates with me more than anything western, and, of course, ASC was originally conceived as being more along the lines of yaoi than a sexy historical drama that I do way too much research for.
5. Was King Arthur real? Was he really gay?
If there was a historical Arthur, as a king or a war general, he existed in the 6th century. The myths of this man could be many different people combined. There’s no really hard evidence for a single King Arthur, gay or otherwise.
6. Was chivalric culture really as gay as you make it out to be?
Calling it “gay” is tricky, but it was certainly a segment of society that highly valued and encouraged male-male relationships. The combination of lack of privacy and communal living of the Middle Ages as well fosters these male-male relationships into very close levels of intimacy. Not to mention, strong bonds between fellow knights would only strengthen them as a fighting force. Many knights remained bachelors until their 30s, content to live in service with fellow knights. In the creation of a knight, as well, vows were exchanged between the vassal and his lord whilst holding hands and giving each other a kiss for their contract (it is a separate contract from marriage, but you can see the parallel.) Chivalric culture is not unquestionably “gay”, but it does create an environment for male-male relationships to thrive in. ASC takes this and pushes it as far as possible.
If you’re interested in reading further about this, I highly recommend Homoeroticism and Chivalry: Discourses of Male Same-Sex Desire in the 14th Century by Richard E. Zeikowitz.
I will very likely be writing more about this at later date for patrons, as well as addressing and spelling out medieval notions of sex, gender and sexuality.
7. Why isn’t Merlin old?
You’ll just have to wait and see.
8. When will [certain character] show up?
Eventually. Though, since there are an immense amount of characters in this tradition, some of them will be cut. The big names are all going to be there, though. Gwenhwyfar, Morgan le Fay, Gawain, Lancelot, Percival, Galahad, the Lady of the Lake, Mordred. The only things I’m skipping (that I can think of right now) are the knights Balan and Balin (their story is so boring, sorry) and Sir Tristan’s arc with Isolde. There may be mentions of these characters, but I don’t have the time to fit them in and do their individual arcs.
Once Arthur is established as king and married, the story is really going to open up and explore different knights and smaller side stories, I imagine. There’s a lot of Arthur and Merlin plot to chew through yet.
9. Who has the best ass out of all the knights?
10. Why don’t you update more/why are the updates so small sometimes?
Well, this isn’t my full time job. It’s a side hobby that doesn’t pay for itself. I also do absolutely everything myself, by hand. I don’t have assistants doing shading for me or people cleaning and proofreading and typesetting for me. I’m just one mentally ill person somehow managing to juggle this with freelance work and remembering to eat.
Sometimes, however, the updates are small—about 10 pages—because it fits the pacing. An update that size take a little over two weeks, but might be followed by an update that’s 15-20 pages, which can take 4-6 weeks to finish.