UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 09 Winter 18 Library
KC Councilor
Creative Writing

KC Councilor’s Between You and Me: Transitional Comics

KC Councilor
(Photo: Cate Barry)

The title of KC Councilor’s (College ‘03) new book, Between You and Me: Transitional Comics, has a double meaning. The first relates to his transition from a writer, who doesn’t draw, into a cartoonist. The second transition is, in his own words, “from a butch lesbian to a transgender dude.” Councilor’s transition to comic writer began in Susan Fraiman’s Contemporary Women’s Literature course at UVA. “I remember reading Lynda Barry’s One! Hundred! Demons! and thinking that I could not believe I was reading a comic book in a college class,” he said. A decade later, Barry became not just an inspiration for Councilor, but also a mentor. It was an interesting move to make for a writer who had not drawn since childhood. But when it comes to the drawing side of cartooning, Barry is very much from the school of ‘No experience? No problem!’ “Lynda’s philosophy is that we stop drawing as soon as we realize that there are other kids who are ‘good at drawing’ and become self-conscious, so many of us stop drawing when we are 8 or 9 years old. I learned in studying with Lynda that there is really no such thing as a bad drawing. When you think about it, some of the most beloved comic strips are really simple characters who are basically line drawings.” 

The new medium was revelatory for its new practitioner. “Comics are one of the most effective ways to portray really complex information really fast,” he said. “There can be a little shift in expression that you can see visually, but that can be really hard to capture in words. People respond to these stories in more and different ways than they ever would to words on a page.” For Councilor, it was not only how readers responded to his work, but also what the work meant to him that began to matter most. “As you can probably imagine, being a transgender person in the world is often awkward, at best. Drawing comics has made me want to be in the world rather than avoid it. My experiences make for great comics. I started actually getting disappointed if an interaction was NOT awkward or confusing. Turning painful experiences into comics, or fiction writing, allows me to author them rather than to be owned by them.” 

(Photo: By KC Councilor)

Councilor recently turned his art toward reflecting another painful experience – the loss of an important UVA mentor. He was looking up an address for Sydney Blair (MFA ‘86), one of his most cherished professors at UVA, and instead learned of her tragic passing. “She was one of the most caring and thoughtful teachers I have ever had. I kept all of the feedback she ever sent me on my pieces. They are handwritten letters, written with such care and kindness.” Councilor, who recently joined the Communication, Media, and Screen Studies department at Southern Connecticut State University, has a real understanding of how rare and important Blair’s gifts were. “Now that I am teaching college students, I know how much work that type of feedback takes. There are no short cuts.” He credits Blair with giving him the courage to head to Wisconsin and study with Barry, which set him on the artistic journey he finds himself on today. “Sydney really set the stage for my comics work. I doubt that I would have had the guts to take Lynda's class without having done some creative writing in college. Sydney always made me want to keep writing, in no small part because of the loving attention she gave my stories, and all of our stories. That's the best thing a teacher can leave you with—the imperative to keep going and the belief that it matters what you have to say.”

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