Writer Tee Franklin was watching a commercial when inspiration struck. The commercial featured two older black women, who are walking down the street when they see a man watching them, and they start giggling and flirting with him from across the street. “I thought, what if that was a woman,” said Franklin, herself a bisexual, disabled woman of color and activist for the LGBTQ and disabled communities, and Bingo Love was born.
Bingo Love is a graphic novel following the lives of two black women spanning 75 years, starting when they meet in their youth at their church’s bingo night. Though they fall in love, the attitudes of 1963 Patterson, NJ make it impossible for them to pursue their relationship, and instead, they follow the more “normal” route of marrying men and having children. A chance meeting 50 years later, again at bingo, rekindles their feelings, and they decide to risk upending their lives to pursue the relationship. “The elevator pitch for this book is Moonlight meets San Junipero,” Franklin joked.
Writing this story was very personal and important to Franklin. “Comics are like bland chicken, lots of old white men. It’s time to season your comics”, Franklin said. This went further than just having characters of color in her book, she wanted creators of color as well; colorist Joy San is also a woman of color. She said it’s the little details that make a book feel true to the black experience, like drawing the black women with accurate hair. She said that St-Onge did a lot of research to make sure she was drawing everything correctly.
The story is also deeply personal for Franklin. After spending 10 years in an abusive marriage, Franklin realized that not only was she done with that situation, but she was also done being anything but authentically herself, which meant finally coming out to herself and her family as bisexual. Bingo Love reflects her belief that, “it’s never too late to find the one you love.”
Despite its setting through the turbulent years of the civil rights movement, Franklin stressed that she didn’t want to write a political story. She wanted to create a “wholesome, family book”, something the whole family could read. While you see hints of the political reality–for example, their school is segregated–she really wanted the focus to be on the family drama and love story.
Franklin began the book as a Kickstarter, which was wildly successful. The project was fully funded in 5 days and raised over $57,000 for the book from 1950 backers. The Image Comics version of the book will be the same, just with a new cover that Franklin is still looking for the perfect artist to create.
Bingo Love, will be in stores on Valentine’s Day 2018.