For kids that found themselves visiting or going through the Hetrick Martin Institute during the late 1980's and 1990's his work on "Tales of the Closet" probably remains indelible from their minds. Here was a multi-issue comic book that portrayed gay youth and their lives in uncompromising and direct fashion which was made available to youth at the center for free and sold to visitor for a small donation.
My acquaintance with the Bronx native goes further back to my teen years in Syracuse, New York. At the time (the early to mid-1980's) Velez drew an ongoing comic strip for the Syracuse University student newspaper The Daily Orange which also dealt with coming out issues and homosexuality and certainly made a big impact in my life.
When I found out about Planet Bronx Productions a while back, I sent Ivan a quick message thanking him for the positive impact of his work in my life. Still, despite living in the same city, we have yet to meet. I hope to thank him personally on Saturday and, for the comic book lovers out there, I hope you can make it too.
- In somewhat related news, "Queer comics seized by Canada border services" (Xtra, June 7, 2007)