I feel like over the course of the last eight years I have been slowly breaking out of my cocoon. Little by little, I chipped away at the prison that conservative Christianity put me in. I didn’t come out until I was 39. I was raised in a home where you didn’t question the Bible and you were expected to fear God and the Bible, but I had questions and I wasn’t going to settle. The only problem was I knew inside I was different; but how do you have that conversation with your conservative family?
I was always told homosexuals were going to hell and God hates them. The notion of hell was shoved down our throats as a way to keep the masses in a submissive state. It was later in life that I realized that the only hell that exists is the one we carry around with us created by shame. It is where conservative Christianity puts people who do not drink the Kool-Aid. They want to change you because they believe you are flawed, so they bully you, or send you to “pray the gay away” therapy, because you are different.
From my early years into my thirties, I was always living a double life: straight to my friends but gay behind closed doors. Finally, that took a toll on me. After the passing of my parents, I left my small town and moved to the big city and right in with the man of my dreams. Yes, we pretty much showed up with a moving truck on the first date.
People from our community said it wouldn’t last because they thought it was a rebound for both of us. Well, I am 45 now and have been with that amazing man for over six years. We are married and quite happy with life.
In that six years, there has been tremendous growth in our relationship and in our own personal lives. One of the outcomes of all this growth has been our own sexual exploration and that has led us to discover amazing new things about one another. We no longer believe the lies spewed by conservative Christianity regarding life and sex. We are finally living life as our true selves!
Finally discovering who I really was opened my mind to being more creative. I started growing in my photography and writing through online blogs. Little by little I was chipping away at the cocoon. I started to become interested in male photography and was approached by an adult entertainer to do some pictures for him. I was thrilled to go down that road and get the experience. That experience taught me a lot about where my passion is. I started booking a few guys to do photo shoots with. However, deep down I felt like there was more to discover.
That is when I met Gareth. Through messaging each other, we came up with the idea of writing a gay erotic novel together. It was another chance for me to further break out of my cocoon.
This sex-filled gay erotic book “Can I call you Uncle?” represents the continuing steps on my new journey to find out who I am meant to be. The book is breaking down years of imprisonment that my true soul had endured at the hands of people who wanted me to conform. I have finally broken out of the cocoon and I am excited where my new wings will take me.
We want to hear your opinion
“In a fictional universe I would wield magic”
I caught up with artist Stefano Junior to talk art, illustration, and super-powers.
When did you start to explore your passion for illustration and art?
I’ve been drawing as far back as I can remember. According to my parents, I drew a very convincing female figure from my imagination at about three or four years old. From then on, when I wasn’t at school, watching cartoons, or voraciously reading comic books, I’d be drawing. My parents eventually enrolled me in a fine arts weekend program at a local college — I studied there for several years while going through grammar and middle school.
What is it about superheroes that appeals to you?
In hindsight, apart from the obvious colourful allure of superhero adventures, it was the transformative nature that is the basis of most superhero narratives. As a child, in suburban 80s America, with my penchant for the arts, girls toys, and a foreign name, I was bullied extensively — superheroes provided a means to escape, I could imagine that I might one day extricate myself from that oppression.
Books like Chris Claremont’s X-Men, which were ripe with soap-opera-like drama, reassured me that my ‘latent’ powers weren’t things to be ashamed of. Roger Stern’s run on Superman affirmed my beliefs that though people could be cruel and misguided, it didn’t mean that I should have to sacrifice my ethics and sense of what’s right. George Pérez’s Wonder Woman — that she was an immigrant appealed to me as a first-generation Italian, and she never lost her compassion for even her greatest foes.
Growing up with older sisters and a strong Italian matriarch may have influenced me gravitating to female heroes. But there was also the allure of the outrageous 80s feminine glamour of heroes like She-Ra, or the many fantastic mutant women of the X-universe who all played such pivotal roles in the series while donning fantastic costumes created by amazing artists like Paul Smith, Arthur Adams, and Marc Silvestri.
I love your drawings of Sorceror Stefano — is that an alter ego?
I’ve been developing an illustrated version of myself over the years. I’m currently studying cartooning at the School of Visual Arts — comic legend Phil Jimenez was one of my instructors my sophomore year. Our mid-term assignment was to create a fictionalised life drawing of ourselves in a turnaround. So I photographed myself, and further developed the design of my Sorcerer self. As an artist, the process of creation feels like sorcery, so were I to exist in a fictional universe, I would definitely wield magic. I’d also like to be physically invulnerable.
Who are some of your art heroes or inspirations?
My inspirations are pretty vast. From the art world it includes Bernini, Gabriel Rosetti, and Waterhouse. From comics it includes Esteban Maroto, Garcia Lopez, Marc Silvestri, Brian Bolland, George Perez, Phil Jimenez, Adam Hughes, Colleen Doran, Art Adams, and especially Alan Davis — both for the aesthetic beauty and elegance of his art, and as a draughtsman and storyteller.
If you could do a life drawing of a male super-hero, who would you choose?
Henry Cavill as Superman.
Your moustache game is pretty strong — what does your moustache say about you?
At its most base, it’s a homage to the machismo of the 1980s — particularly my hero, Tom Selleck as Magnum PI. He’s the epitome of masculine idealisation.
I grow it and shave it constantly — it’s spawned its own cartoon of my creation. You can follow the exploits of me and my moustache — Mr. Mustardo — on Instagram. It’s absolutely vain, but it allows for me to be humorous in a single panel cartoon form that deviates from the more representative work and superhero storytelling that I’ve primarily been focused on.
What are some of your goals and ambitions for the months ahead?
I hope to further develop an original comic that I started in the Fall, that centres around a complex heroine and a magical discovery. Plus there’s some newer humorous cartoons that Id like to serialise online somehow — one that follows the exploits of a majordomo in an early 20th century hotel, another that follows a boy through multiple mediums and circumstances that end badly.
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