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“Matchmaker” is a charming exploration of queer community and anxiety in the pandemic era

Last updated on June 26, 2024

by Monika Estrella Negra

Cam Marshall’s Matchmaker has charmed many readers, including myself. Through navigating life, romance, Covid-19, and chosen family, Cam has managed to tap into many anxieties of our community–and how to survive and thrive in the world with friendship and love.

Since Covid-19, the world of comics has changed significantly, bringing marginalized communities’ work to the forefront. With this visibility, alliances have been formed and a new type of comic, graphic novel, webtoon have evolved to include a breadth of experiences. Matchmaker is an excellent example of this renaissance, and Marshall has tapped into a nuanced relatability that is often hard to obtain in a primarily digital and chronically online culture.

BoC had the opportunity to interview Cam Marshall about Matchmaker, on sale now from Silver Sprocket.

The cover of Matchmaker by Cam Marshall, art by Cam Marshall, shows the three main characters of the comic cuddling and blushing.

What was the reason for creating this comic?

It came from a lot of places, but mostly I was just very creatively burnt out for a really long time. I wanted to be making something! I’d spent a really long time trying to perfect so many projects that seemed impossible to ever get started, and eventually I just decided to make some rough little comics to make my friends laugh while I took breaks from my real projects. I didn’t have any plans when I started drawing and posting them, it really was one strip at a time. Obviously I had way more fun doing that than anything else though, and it immediately became the only thing I wanted to work on. 

Once I’d stumbled into starting a webcomic (at that point I was just posting it on twitter) I decided I wanted to keep making it and have it be an old fashioned webcomic where the reader could just hang out with some funny characters. My friends really enjoyed it, and I had so much fun making it!

How does your own lived experience seep into the comic?

How doesn’t it?! I love this question because I could talk about it forever. It was a very personal project for me, and I’d say pretty much every character represents me in some way. It’s obviously all fiction, but I’m also a young adult, broke, and sometimes miserable. But I’m also in love with my partner and my friends, so it all gets mixed in there.

Some of the more realistic parts of the comic are very much pulled from my experiences, like Kimmy going through a tough medication change, or Mason’s covid anxieties. There’s other stuff, like Mason’s strained relationship with his parents, that I have no experience with. My family has always been supportive and loving, so that stuff comes from the countless queer friends I’ve known who’ve been through that. Other things, like Kimmy’s gender expression, are more complicated. I don’t present similarly to Kimmy at all in real life, but those feelings do come from me too. Playing around with my own gender through a bunch of little drawings was really fun. I still do that, and working out identity through funny drawings is probably something I’ll do forever.

I like when my friends read the comic and they notice little things that kind of happened to us. They’re like: “HEY!” and it really makes me laugh. It was fun to tell things like that in a fictional context, where the strangers reading don’t know what’s from life and what’s completely unrelated, if I did a good job those things won’t stand out and just add a little flavor!

In Chapter One, we run into the complexities of living in the time of Covid-19. Whether it were anxieties about roommates or creating “pods”, it was a shared experience for many! What were some of the challenges you faced in being creative and productive during the pandemic?

Oh, there were so many… I feel like I’m still facing those challenges every day. How do you do anything in a time like this? I was so productive before 2020, it’s kind of hard to look back on and consider. I worked in animation for 2 years starting at the same time as the pandemic did. That’s a field that’s obsessed with productivity, and the whole time I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water. Especially early on when it was so unsafe to see friends or family, it felt really dark to just be ground into dust to make cartoons while so much of what made life great before was missing. I moved in with my partner not too long before starting Matchmaker, and covid got pretty bad around that time. Those early strips were kind of a mix of two feelings: “I miss my friends” and “I love my partner.”

I did comics full time for about a year after that while looking for work, and that was so different. I caught covid around that time, and my energy has been in the gutter ever since. I work retail now and with my comic work I try to go really easy on myself. I take so much time to rest and read and watch stuff… I think of it as charging up to make good comics and it works for me. Managing energy and trying to get anything done has felt impossible ever since 2020, but I’m glad to have found something that works for now, I think that’s all you can hope for!

Six panels of a black and white page from Matchmaker by Cam Marshall show the two main characters macaroni while they discuss being queer.

Name some of your biggest influences!

Rumiko Takahashi!!! I started reading Maison Ikkoku about a month before I started Matchmaker and that had a huge impact on me. I felt like my eyes were opening in real time to how fun and silly comics could be… I wanted to make that type of slice-of-life gag comic about characters more similar to me! Mason was kind of named after that series which is extremely nerdy.

I still read a lot of manga… I think Delicious in Dungeon is the big one I would have to shout out as being a constant inspiration for me. I think Ryoko Kui is the best. I’ve learned so much just from reading her work and seeing the artbooks she puts out.

I also live with my partner, Ellison Estephan who makes a comic called Godflesh. We make very different things, but watching them work and seeing the amazing work they’re doing every day is a constant inspiration for me. They always make me want to keep creating no matter how bad of a slump I’m in. Their stories are so intricate and beautiful, and they’re incredibly talented comic artist! There are also just so many artists I follow online who influence my work every day. Winona Paradise, Alec Robbins, Adam de Souza, Kimberly Wang, Jona Li, Caroline Cash… I could go on forever but I need to stop, sorry!!!

Chosen family is a huge part of our communities. Do you feel that there is a similar structure between queer and trans comic artists?

Oh for sure. I feel like I’m pretty new to actually meeting people through comics…It wasn’t until I started posting Matchmaker that I started meeting more comic artists online and such. Immediately the love and support was there, and the warmth I felt from that community was breathtaking. The book was released right around SPX, and I got the chance to travel there. That was so special, and I got to meet so many of those friends I’d made, and make so many more. I really felt welcomed into that community and I felt so supported. 

I feel like queer comics are special because I think lots of the audience for them is each other. Sometimes I joke that comic artists are always just handing the same 5 dollars back and forth on patreon, and I think that’s a little bit true! But I’ve only recently started contributing to the work that’s out there, so I know as a reader too that those networks are how you find cool stuff. An artist you already like shares something they love that you’ve never heard of before. It’s so special. 

I don’t know if this answers your question, because I’m still finding my footing and making friends in comics, but it’s a really specific and incredible niche filled with so much kindness. I don’t think making independent comics would be viable for any of us if everyone wasn’t looking out for and taking care of each other.

Five panels of a black and white page from Matchmaker by Cam Marshall show Marlowe thinking about Kimmy and how much she likes them while being a sweaty mess.

What plans do you have for your next project?

I’m currently working on a comic called Ethernet Cable Girlfriend. It’s about a girl named Carmen who finds out her girlfriend Delly is an android! It’s silly but I’m proud of it.

I had a lot of anxiety after Matchmaker came out to try to do something good next… It felt like I had one type of comic I could do and I already did it! I’ve spent some time experimenting with a bunch of small ideas, but this one seems to be sticking. I don’t know what it’ll turn into, maybe a book length project like Matchmaker? Maybe just a few one-off zines? I’m not sure and I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself! 

It’s been fun to continue the trajectory I was on with slice-of-life romance, while also working with a new scifi element that opens up more fun possibilities. I’d like for my next thing to be an even further departure! Mostly I plan to just draw whatever seems fun to draw. I’m excited to see where this journey takes me, and if I’m lucky people will like the new stuff I make too!

If readers want to learn more about you and your comic work, where can they find you online?

I’m littlegoodfrog on pretty much every website that exists! I use twitter, instagram, cohost, bluesky… whatever! Who knows what social media will be the popular one by the time this interview even goes up. I’m also working on a website that I’ll hopefully keep up to date with links to my stuff. Thank you for checking out and enjoying my work!

A self portrait by artist Cam Marshall shows them smiling with their eyes closed. They are wearing glasses and have brown hair and light skin.

Cam Marshall is a cartoonist from Vancouver Island, currently located in Burnaby, BC. They make messy queer comics with the main goal of making their friends laugh. Cam’s work is heavily inspired by shoujo slice-of-life manga, which is one of the greatest inventions in human history.

Monika Estrella Negra (she/her) is a freelance journalist, filmmaker and curator of all things radical in media. Her first short titled “Flesh” is about a Black femme serial killer navigating the Chicago DIY punk scene (of which was included in the ‘Horror Noire’ syllabus). She has directed three additional shorts, ‘They Will Know You By Your Fruit’, ‘Succubus’, and the in production ‘Bitten, A Tragedy’. A writer, a nomadic priestess, spiritual gangster and all around rabblerouser – Monika has written essays for Syfy Fangrrls, Black Girl Nerds, Grimm Magazine, Black Girls Create, Black Youth Project, Wear Your Voice Magazine, Rue Morgue, Fangoria and is the author of a zine series (Tales From My Crypt). In addition, she is the creator of Audre’s Revenge Film and Black and Brown Punk Show Chicago, a GRRL Haus Cinema Resident Filmmaker (2019) and is aspiring to become a Meme Lord. Hailing from the Midwest, she now resides in Philadelphia.

Learn more about Monika on her Authory site or her film site Audre’s Revenge and find her on Twitter at @negramonika1