PW Talks with Rob Kirby

Kirby muses on love in midlife and gay marriage in his graphic memoir, Marry Me a Little (Graphic Mundi, Feb.).

People tell stories less often about falling in love—and sustaining it— in midlife. What does this book do to open up love later in life?

They say the more personal you make something the more universal it is. I wrote what I experienced as I experienced it, and put in a good word for relationships beginning and deepening with age, but didn’t really have an agenda.

You mostly sidestep the angst of coming out that is centered in so much queer media. Why?

I’m old officially now and have been out since I was 18 or 19 years old. I have this deep privilege of having been able to take my sexual identity relatively for granted. When I tell my stories, like my comic strip Curbside Boys, I love coming from a place where queerness is just normalized. It bridges being radical and assimilationist—in some ways I am assimilationist because I’m just not a big radical, badass queer. I was in a bit of a bubble, a gay white male bubble. In 2016, with Trump’s election, I got this rude awakening of all the unpleasant things I was blinding myself to, both for people like me and people not like me.

Would you have the same kind of wedding today?

I think we’d still make it about having close friends with us and a celebratory meal at a great restaurant afterwards. We’re foodies. Dressing up a little bit and eating out made it feel special but was still manageable. I could not deal with a huge event, no way. We’re low-key people.

Your style in this book includes rubbings of color in most panels. Can you talk a bit about this choice?

The colors convey emotion and bring in atmosphere. People respond to color. The two dominant colors are blue and red. It adds a political tinge to everything. The rubbings also have a kind of dreamlike feel to them—a memoir is memories, right? And memory can be hazy.

You’ve worked on this book a long time, and now LGBTQ peoples’ right to marry is under fresh attack. What does it mean to publish it today?

I started drawing the book in mid-2017 but got sidetracked. I think the story I had to tell wasn’t quite done yet—I had to let it simmer. With personal stories, you need time to get better context. And obviously, it’s even more relevant today. I had an abstract idea these setbacks would come, but I had thought they’d be further down the road. Anti-queer people are relentless, they never stop trying to undermine us. I’m still ambivalent about the institution of marriage, but I think everybody should have the right to get married. It’s simple justice.

A version of this article appeared in the 12/05/2022 issue of Publishers Weekly under the headline: A Low-Key Radical Wedding