“You bastard!” shouted Brad.
“Easy, dude… It’s just a game!” laughed Leroy, grabbing his drink bottle from the side of the court.
“I just wish that I could beat you occasionally!” laughed Brad, picking up his towel to wipe the sweat from the back of his neck. “I can’t even seem to score a point today.”
“You do seem a bit distracted…” acknowledged Leroy. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, it’s fine, I guess…” shrugged Brad. “Come on, let’s go get a shower. I’m going to have to be back in class soon.”
“What do you mean, you guess?” asked Leroy, following Brad through to the locker-room of the racquetball court. “What’s going on?”
“Well, it’s just that Blake’s lost his job…” explained Brad, as they started peeling off their sweaty t-shirts, stripping down for a post-match shower.
“Fuck, that’s a bit of a kick in the nuts…” acknowledged Leroy. “What happened?”
“They told him that they were down-sizing… Paid him a week’s notice, and that was it…” shrugged Brad. “He never liked working there anyway, so maybe it’s the push he needed to go and figure out what he really wants to do.”
“So, it’s a good thing?” asked Leroy, hanging his towel on one of the nearby hooks and turning on the shower to let the water run hot.
“I’m just a bit worried about the money side of things…” admitted Brad. “If he doesn’t get another job soon, I’m just not sure how we’re going to pay the bills. Obviously my salary is nowhere near enough to support us both.”
“Fair point…” acknowledged Leroy, soaping himself up — the white suds of the soap contrasting sharply against his dark skin. “Has Blake started looking for work?”
“He says he has…” shrugged Brad. “But he doesn’t seem to be making much progress. I’ve been thinking that maybe we should try renting out our spare room for a while, just to bring in some extra cash.”
“Really?” asked Leroy. “Like, a lodger or something?”
“I guess so…” nodded Brad. “Although, I haven’t really thought it through. I’m not even sure where we’d advertise for one. I guess there must be websites or something.”
“I’ve got an idea…” said Leroy. “You know how I work with that charity… Big Brother Little Brother…”
“You talk about it all the time…” smiled Brad. “Obviously I know about your work with Big Brother Little Brother…”
“Well, sometimes we’ve got some of the older kids who we need to try and find accommodation for…” explained Leroy. “Once they’ve left school, we have to try and help them get a job, sort out somewhere to stay, and try and get their lives on track.”
“Where are you going with this?” asked Brad, turning the shower off and grabbing his towel to start drying off.
“Why don’t I see if there’s any of the older kids who are looking for somewhere to stay?” suggested Leroy.
“We need to make some money to pay the bills…” protested Brad. “I’m in no position to be handing out a free room to a homeless teenager.”
“That’s my point…” insisted Leroy. “The charity would pay the bill. They’d pay the rent on the room as part of helping the kid find his feet and get started in the workforce. This way, you’d be doing a good deed and bringing some cash in to help make ends meet.”
“Oh, that does sound like a pretty good option…” considered Brad. “Let me talk it over with Blake tonight and I’ll let you know tomorrow. Wouldn’t they need to screen us or something? Don’t they need to check that we’d be a good influence on whichever kid comes to stay with us?”
“Usually there’s some kind of screening process…” confirmed Leroy, pulling on his clothes as they both started getting dressed. “But I’ll be able to vouch for you, so we’ll be able to fast-track the whole thing.”
“It would be weird to have some young guy in the house…” mused Brad. “I’d feel a bit responsible for him… Like we’d have to set a good example or something.”
“It’s not like you’d have to babysit him or anything…” laughed Leroy. “Whoever they place with you is going to be old enough to do whatever he likes, but the charity just wants someone who can provide a stable and supportive environment.”
“Cool, I think we could manage that…” decided Brad. “Actually, it might be good for us. You know how I keep dropping hints to Blake about maybe getting married, or starting a family or something… Maybe having a younger guy around the house for a while might trigger a few paternal instincts in him.”
“He’s still not interested in getting married?” asked Leroy.
“I think it’s a bit of a lost cause, to be honest…” admitted Brad. “Any time I make any sort of suggestion about it he puts me on blast for being a victim of the heteronormative construct…”
“That’s a bit of a boner-killer…” grinned Leroy.
“Don’t get me started!” groaned Brad. “We haven’t had sex once since he got fired. I’m fucking climbing the walls!”
“I thought you chubbed up pretty quickly in the showers…” teased Leroy.
“You’re not wrong…” confirmed Brad. “I’m on a hair trigger at the moment… the slightest things sets me off. It’s been getting a bit awkward in class, to be honest.”
“You know, I’m always ready and willing if you need a hand to blow off some steam?” suggested Leroy, his eyes locking with Brad’s.
“Fuck… right now there’s nothing I’d like better…” nodded Brad. “But you know that Blake and I have agreed to be monogamous. I don’t want to screw up everything we’ve got just because I couldn’t keep my dick in my pants.”
“I get that…” nodded Leroy. “But, you know I’m always here for you, buddy, and that offer is still on the table if you ever need me to step up to the plate.”
Can I call you Uncle?
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“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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