By Alex Wilson
Stumbling through the isles of c2e2 I came across Chad Sell, an artist who draws drag queens from the popular television program RuPaul’s Drag Race. Most comic book fans wouldn’t classify RuPaul’s Drag Race, as something they feel falls within the realm of “geek” but I assure you this isn’t true.
A few months ago my friend pushed the idea of watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on me and after a few weeks of trying to dodge the show I finally caved, consoling myself by thinking about the possibility of new perspectives.
At first I felt confused and bewildered. This isn’t a world I had ever been in before or ever experienced so I turned to my friend many times asking him to explain the slang used in the show such as “shade” (to throw shade or subtle insults) and “fishy” (feminine looking.) After a few episodes of pure confusion I actually started to understand what was happening and, to my surprised, somewhat enjoyed the show with all it’s quarks and comedic moments.
I had a chance to chat with Sell about his work with drag queens and this world I had a tenuous grasp on.
I had been watching the Drag Race since the beginning but it had never occurred to me to draw the queens but in the third season as soon as this queen, Raja, walked in, she was wearing this like crazy mask with one big Cyclopes eye, just looked crazy and fabulous and sexy and I was ‘Oh, I want to go to the drawing board and draw her right now,’ and I did. Those first few drawing were super simple. I was doing them in a style I had never done before, this very simple colorful cartoony style, and I really liked it and I posted it online and I tweeted Raja and she shared it with all of her fans and was super awesome and I was like ‘this was my first brush with a, you know, semi niche queer rock star’ and I was hooked so I made it a weekly illustration series since then.
The week by week fan I do is still my own weird thing but I have done official work with World of Wonder and Logo and I did the graphics for the official RuPaul’s Drag Race iPhone game and all sorts of crazy stuff like that. So I make a living by doing commission illustration work largely that I get from my notoriety from drawing drag queens and from selling prints and books and that sort of stuff.
This world may not appear to fit into what most would consider “geeky” but Sell feels a different way, discussing why he identifies with the world of drag queens so much.
I’m a life long comics nerd and it’s really not that far removed from superheroes. A lot of these queens are dudes who have dawned this crazy outfit, wig, and make up and, you know, play a character and they’re playing a larger than life version of femininity and I love that. The show specifically encourages the queens to wear something outrageously different week by week and do crazy things.
I find it very visually inspiring. These queens’ faces are already painted on so it doesn’t seem that strange to draw them. The biggest compliment I get, when the queens meet me, several of them have told me that I draw them how they think they look, which is very flattering.
Some of the drag queens are more interesting in just passing as a sexy woman and I don’t draw them because it’s just not interesting to me.
Alex Wilson dropped out of cub scouts at an early age after he refused to sell popcorn for “the man.” Since then his life has entered into a downward spiral. He lives in the sinful world of comic books, folk punk, and seedy tattoo shops. You can find him bare knuckle boxing to pay his rent or tweeting about Teen Wolf on his Twitter, @mralexwilson.