You come across some surprising characters when you read the webcomic Girls With Slingshots (GWS): talking plants; goopy cats; a nefarious meat-loving, whip-wielding, vengeful friend ironically named Candy. The real joy though is the affable exploration of sexual diversity in the plot.
On the surface, Girls With Slingshots could be labelled a casual slice-of-life, but what a life it would be! The adventures circle around the wacky whirl-wind lives of the two female protagonists, Hazel and Jamie, who are just trying to get through life with enough booze, B.O.B’s (Battery Operated Boyfriends) and love. The thing is, the two B’s are easy enough to snatch up — but how do you find love in this crazy world?
Danielle Corsetto, the mastermind behind Girls With Slingshots, put just over ten years into exploring the subject through her characters. You’ll find lesbians, gays, asexuals, bisexuals, polyamorous relationships and fans of the BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Sadism and Masochism) lifestyle all searching for their idea of love and sexy fun.
“Early on, I was worried that I had maybe created too many queer characters in Girls With Slingshots, but it feels pretty normal to me,” Danielle, 35, told the IPF. “My high school best friend is gay, my then-boyfriend and I were both toying with bisexuality, and growing up in the nineties like we did, there was a lot of taboo and controversy still surrounding these topics.
“I don’t like taboos; I would rather ask questions loudly and let everyone hear the answer or at least wonder about it.”
Taking Girls With Slingshots to the web
With sexual taboos on her mind and misgivings about trying to create comics without an audience and deadlines – what she calls “accountability partners” – Danielle revived her favourite characters from a high school project comic and took the story to the internet. Based in the United States, she began posting Girls With Slingshots in 2004, just after graduating from college.
“Webcomics were barely a thing back then, so I just assumed it would be a fun way to get my name out and force myself to engage in my favourite hobby: making comics.”
She continued: “I had no idea how to work with a publisher, but websites were practically free and I could do it myself from home, so it was my ideal platform.”
Danielle also found the web an attractive platform because she didn’t have to convince publishers her work fit a specific audience. She explained that the ideas behind Girls With Slingshots didn’t fit mainstream expectations of superheroes and overcoming traditional hurtles, but it also didn’t delve enough into the subtle or sophisticated humour of indie comics.
Originally, Danielle did intend to sell a comic to newspapers. The newspaper-friendly pitches to syndicates featured a guy talking to his houseplant Garfield-style.
“And it really could have been written off as having too much LGBT for most publishers [but] amusingly, I think it wasn’t gay enough to be in an LGBT-specific publication!”
“Luckily, I got bored of the idea, but my subconscious must’ve latched onto the houseplant concept when I introduced the foul-mouthed, womanizing cactus McPedro to Girls With Slingshots.”
A personal journey
Outside of original ideas evolving into new characters, aspects of Girls With Slingshots were inspired by the news, close friends, politics and Danielle’s personal experiences.
Jamie, described as “the other half of the main character duo, a self-labeled ‘whateversexual’ with an asexual girlfriend”, would act as the foil to Hazel’s heterosexual, monogamous relationships and sexual expectations.
“I was coming to terms with my own sexuality while I was working on Girls With Slingshots, and Jamie became the vessel for all of my self-reflection and wonder.”
The different views of the two protagonists allowed for the questions and concerns of queer and non-queer individuals to rise to the surface and be discussed. A dance of conflict and reconciliation in the safe setting of Girls With Slingshots was the result.
“Jamie’s inquisitive, gentle exploration of her sexuality acted as a pillow for my stumbling trek through all the LGBT terms to figure out where I fit. Watching her enter this new world with the judgment-free acceptance of a child made it easier for me to follow her lead.”
The online reaction
Ten years ago LGBTQ+ issues were largely being whispered from tight closets. The discussion was only getting started. It was either a big issue or not approached at all.
Danielle allowed the discussion on alternative definitions of love to flow freely through Girls With Slingshots characters. To her delight, the internet reacted positively to the characters’ diverse preferences — even the lesser accepted ones like asexuality, bisexuality, poly relationships and BDSM.
“I remember, five strips in, when I introduced Darren, I received a concerned e-mail from an old religious friend who feared that I would drive away readers by letting a gay drag queen hang around with the other characters. Even then, when I was younger and so quick to doubt myself, I rolled my eyes and kept moving the strip in the direction I’d chosen for it. It felt right.”
“People have been wonderful. I’ve received so many e-mails from readers who started reading Girls With Slingshots while oblivious to the unique struggles that come with being outside the heterosexual or vanilla world. So many of them thanked me for giving them a new perspective.
“Maybe some people read the strip and hated the sexual fluidity displayed by some of my characters, but if they did, I never heard a peep from them.”
Expanding your experience
Although the internet has only been around since the early 1980s, and webcomics since the late eighties, Danielle hopes this freedom will inspire future LGBTQ+ artists and writers to put their work out in the open.
“The Internet has really given us something special with all the open talk about gender and sex issues, and the LGBTQ+ characters who can finally show their faces proudly .”
She continued: “There are so many people who either are queer, or want to know about queer lives, and they’re ready to read what you want to write. Share it with them!”
Danielle’s webcomic recommendations for further sexy exploration: Questionable Content, Something Positive, On A Sunbeam, Oh Joy Sex Toy, DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary and the work of Jess Fink.