“I always thought my goal was to become a comics writer, but the more I saw of the industry, the more I saw a real need for a publisher who focused on LGBT-inclusive comics, and it became a calling,” says Charles "Zan" Christensen.
In 2010, after years of volunteering for LGBTQ non-profit Prism Comics, Christensen launched Northwest Press, a comics publisher dedicated to celebrating work by LGBTQ creators. Soon, he was putting out titles like The Power Within, an anti-bullying superhero comic, and hosting a booth for LGBTQ comics creators at San Diego Comic-Con.
A turning point came in 2013, when Christensen launched a Kickstarter project for Anything that Loves, an anthology about bisexual identity. “[The project] challenged my preconceptions about identity and ultimately shaped the mission of Northwest Press,” he says. Not only did it become the press’s most popular comic ever, the volume also went on to win the 2014 Bisexual Book Award for Nonfiction.
“I've found that the things that work the best are usually the ones that I'm most personally passionate about,” he says. “It seems there's always a bunch of readers out there who've been waiting for exactly what you come up with.” Christensen is dedicated to keeping in touch with his readers, and to supporting other artists’ work, too. “I’ve met almost every creator I work with through volunteering with Prism Comics or working conventions like GeekGirlCon, Flame Con, and Bent Con, and I don't think that's a coincidence.”
Christensen recently teamed up with one of those artists — Elizabeth Beier — to publish a collected edition of her series Bisexual Trials and Errors, a graphic memoir about starting to date women after breaking up with a long-term boyfriend.
Beier echoes Christensen’s passion for creating and nurturing a strong community: “Make sure you show up for other creatives within your network,” she says. “My comics circle has shaped me by giving me mentors, art to inspire me, and peers to talk shop with.”