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Meet the queer illustrator who likes to draw big boys

Meet the queer illustrator who likes to draw big boys

Art for illustrator DJ Kirkland

A San Francisco-based comic book artist is building a following with his diverse range of cartoon characters.

DJ Kirkland, 31, was born and raised in North Carolina but has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past six years.

DJ Kirkland
DJ Kirkland (Photo: @OhHeyDJ | Instagram)

‘I knew I wanted to be a professional comic book artist and illustrator when I was around 8 years old,’ he tells GSN.

‘I was watching Sailor Moon and I pointed to the television and I said “I want to do that!” At the time, I think my mother thought that by “that”, it meant be a beautiful Japanese teenage girl with blonde hair in buns wearing a tiny blue skirt and red boots fighting the forces of evil with love, sparkles and friendship!

‘I mean, I still want to be Sailor Moon but what I meant was, make cartoons.’

Bat Girl and Sailor Moon by DJ Kirkland
Fan art image: DJ Kirkland

His early love for Sailor Moon led to a love for the manga-style of illustration, and creating his own range of characters. He says he draws full-time but also has part-time work ‘to help keep the rent paid and lights on.’

When he’s not drawing or working, you’ll find him at comic conventions around the US, accompanied by his ‘super supportive fiancé’, Brandon. The two got engaged in August.

Brandon and DJ
Brandon and DJ (Image: DJ Kirkland)

‘He goes with me to every convention he can to help me out with promoting and selling art and all kinds of nerdy stuff.’

Currently, Kirkland is working on a five-issue series for OniPress called Black Mage (written by Daniel Barnes). His work also graces the cover of trade paperback Tomboy, published by Action Labs, and “Rick and Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It” issue 2.

A typical DJ Kirkland 'big boy'
A typical DJ Kirkland ‘big boy’ (Image” DJ Kirkland)

Plus size 

Many of his characters are plus size. What attracted him to creating larger figures?

‘The short and sweet answer is representation,’ he says.

‘Like a lot of people around my age group, I scroll through Tumblr on a regular basis. As I’m scrolling, I see a lot of fantastic illustrations of big, conventionally attractive guys but rarely are they chubby men, let alone men of color.

An image of a big boy by DJ Kirkland
‘My big boys are essentially modeling outfits I own or want to own’ (Image: @OhHeyDJ | Instagram)

‘So I thought to myself, “if I’m not going to illustrate them, who will?” Also, big guys are hot so why not draw what I’m attracted to?’

The same approach to diversity extends to sexuality.

‘All the men I draw, unless a client specifically says otherwise, are all queer.

More big guys from DJ Kirkland
‘All the men I draw, unless a client specifically says otherwise, are all queer,’ says Kirkland

‘My work tends to skew pretty tame but I’ve been wanting to get into drawing more erotic stuff. These days I don’t have a lot of free time since I have a few projects going on plus the part-time job but I have a list of erotic things I want to draw. When things slow down a bit, I want to get into doing some more NSFW work.’

An example of Kirkland's comic book work
An example of Kirkland’s comic book work (Image: DJ Kirkland)

As for 2018, Kirkland is already booked to appear at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, Washington in March, and is hoping to also be at C2E2 in Chicago, Illinois – with more appearances to be confirmed. Follow him on Twitter (@OhHeyDJ) and Instagram (@OhHeyDJ) to keep up with his latest work.

Reaper and Soldier, by DJ Kirkland
Fan art by DJ Kirkland