Smash Pages Q&A: Tee Franklin on ‘Bingo Love’

Following a successful Kickstarter, Franklin discusses how the graphic novel landed at Image Comics.

Last month Bingo Love came out from Image Comics. Written by first-time graphic novelist Tee Franklin and illustrated by Jenn St-Onge, it’s a realistic love story that jumps from 1963 to the present before ending in 2038. It tells the story of two women, Hazel and Mari, who meet when they’re young and are reunited decades later. It’s a story with a happy ending, which is not to say that the book is not also a fraught and complicated journey for the characters.

Franklin is known to many in the comics community for her journalism. She’s written short comics for various anthologies, but after a successful Kickstarter, the book looks to be one of the breakout comics of the year. The book has already gone into a second printing before it was ever published, and Image isn’t run by fools; Franklin announced her next project at Image Expo shortly after Bingo Love hit the shelves.

I like to ask people, especially when we’re talking about their first big project, how did you come to comics?

I started out in comics as a journalist – interviewing comic creators, writing reviews, covering events, etc. That in turn led me to noticing a lack of inclusion in comics and me being extremely vocal about this development. After making friends in the industry, they sort of pressured me to write comics and here we are.

What is Bingo Love?

Bingo Love is an all-ages LGBTQ romance graphic novel. It’s best described as Academy Award winning Moonlight meets Black Mirror’s San Junipero episode.

What made you interested in telling this love story between two older women?

You can create whatever you want in comics, yet there are no comics about Queer Black senior citizens. I wanted to change that, so I did.

Why did you decided to end up splitting most of the story between the present and the 1960’s?

The story is split between the past, present and future. I wanted this to be a full circle of how these two young Black children meet, the obstacles they faced, and how they eventually made it to live happily ever after with each other. It’s important to the youth to know that this is possible for them.

What is it about bingo?

I like bingo and still play bingo from time to time. Besides, Canasta Love doesn’t have a nice ring to it.

How did you connect with Jenn St-Onge and how did you two work together?

Jenn and I were supposed to work on a YA project earlier together, but our schedules didn’t sync up, but when I approached her about Bingo Love, she was free and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Jenn is a fantastic artist, with so much talent. She’s a rockstar! Every single time Jenn turned a page in, the water works in my eyes turned on. Add that to Joy San’s colors and each page was looking better than the last page they turned in.

I’m truly blessed to have Joy, Cardinal Rae, Erica Schultz and Jenn on the Bingo Love team.

Readers will also see that you have two other related comics, Bingo Love: Secrets and Bingo Love: Honeymoon. Do you want to say a little about these digital releases?

These stories were apart of the Bingo Love Kickstarter. Shawn Pryor (F.O.R.C.E.) and Marguerite Bennett (InSEXts) donated their time to write these stories for the 1,950 backers who helped bring Bingo Love to life, for free. Their stories are being drawn by D.J. Kirkland (Black Mage) and Asia Kendrick-Horton (Steven Universe: Too Cool for School).

How did you end up at Image Comics?

Donny Cates introduced me to his “buddy” Eric and it turned out to be Eric Stephenson who wanted Bingo Love at Image. A couple of emails later, it was a done deal. Bingo Love is on its second printing and it’s safe to say that Image was the correct home for Bingo Love.

The book is out and you’re doing a lot of events. How does it feel to see the book come out like this?

I just want to thank all the backers who supported the Bingo Love Kickstarter, if it wasn’t for all of you, this would not be happening! The team and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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