Why Michael Derry’s unabashed comic strip "Troy" absolutely sizzles
By Greg Archer
June 22, 2007
If Dynasty were gay and had sex with Queer As Folk then wandered into bed with Sex and the City and had Will & Grace as a nightcap, it might wake up in the morning looking something like “Troy”. We can thank artist Michael Derry for that. The up-and-coming gay cartoonist is a titan with a drawing pen, and so far his head-tuning comic strip, “Troy”, has been generating the kind of buzz that launches film careers. (In time, expect that “strip” to come to life, too.) The strip won a WeHo Award back in 2003 and has been enjoying good service at 365gay.com. After wowing U.S. readers, it went on to make a dent overseas too, in South Africa and Turkey, and you may soon see it regularly on the pages of The Bottom Line.
Originally from Rockford, Illinois, Derry dove into the L.A. scene-acting and bartending-more than a decade ago, and after soaking up West Hollywood culture he gave birth to “Troy” in Bent magazine in 1998. It chronicles everyman Troy and his friends-Rigo, Ray, Derrick, Jorge and new Troy Toy Nick-as they go deep into all places comedic (and sexual). Witty, biting and often deliciously savage, “Troy” comments on gay life and somehow accentuates the positive with universal themes-fitting in among them-as its protagonist searches for life’s deeper meaning. We caught up with the hunky cartoonist to learn more about his revered comic strip and how it’s made his life more animated.
THE BOTTOMLINE: “TROY” IS A BIG HIT. ANY AMAZING EPIPHANIES FROM THE CURRENT SURGE OF SUCCESS?
MICHAEL DERRY: Not to take everything so seriously; that it’s not so life and death. People come and go and you learn to not take everybody at their word. I don’t know if that sounds bitter or not, but it’s like those clichés where, you know, ‘Everybody is so fake.’ But it’s kind of true. Everybody to some extent is. I have to joke about myself sometimes, but I have had to learn to not get upset about it and figure out who my real friends are. I have a friend that said we have hug-and-kiss-friends. People you see out and about, oh, ‘Hi, how are you?’ Hug and kiss-and then they are gone. I guess it’s realizing who your hug-and-kiss-friends are and who your real friends are. And… not taking everything so personally.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT CREATING THIS TYPE OF WORK?
Just being able to have my own voice and say what I feel and not have people say, ‘Oh, you can’t do that.’ It’s all me-the characters are all me, parts of me. And a lot of it is based partially on this friend or that friend. It’s kind of like this weird alternate universe journal of my life. I have an outlet for my own hopes and frustration. And that other people get it is very cool. Other people “get me,” and that’s the coolest part.
IT SEEMS LIKE THE UNDERLYING CONTEXT BEHIND TROY, THE CHARACTERS, IS THIS SEARCHING FOR CONNECTION AND MEANING.
Yeah, that was sort of the thing in the strip where he sort of died and went to heaven. He’s always been searching how to fit in, and then he does fit in and suddenly [has] his current boyfriend-his life was perfect. I was, OK, what now? And so he tried to find meaning. It was before the 2004 election and there was all this religious gay bashing bullshit and I was so sick of hearing all this stuff-how gays were evil and blah blah blah. So I thought about that literally and had Troy be jealous of this little bitch of a tramp, and he literally choked to death on his own jealousy. He was having lunch with Nick and choked. He goes to heaven and God tells him the answer but when he come back he forgets it all. So he’s trying to remember what the big answer is to the big question.
THE TAGLINE OF YOUR STRIP IS "LOVE, SEX, POLITICS, RELIGION AND KILLER ABS."
LET’S TACKLE THOSE TOPICS. TALK TO US ABOUT THE ‘L’ WORD.
I have always been pretty lucky because I have been in a couple of long-term relationships. I am a romantic at heart. I can be really jealous but it doesn’t last. I like being in a relationship. Dating is so frustrating. I get emotionally involved a lot sooner than most guys. It’s really hard for me to just date. I hate it. I don’t like small talk. I don’t like dumb bullshit. The whole circuit thing-I can’t stand it. I mean everybody looks great, but I am looking at my watch and it’s 6 am and I’m like, “Are we ever going to leave? How many Mariah Carey remixes do we have to listen to?” It’s 9 am, I don’t care where the next after-party is. But it’s hard not to fall into that trap.
WHAT ABOUT SEX?
I like it. I have it as much as possible.
It’s frustrating because religion has taken over American politics and it seems like real people don’t’ have a voice any more. Republicans, to me, have gone way overboard and [are] catering to too many corporations. I just hope that it will slowly return to what I think America should be about, that there should be a separation of church and state. And I guess I am really sick of gay crap in politics. Democrats are not against gay marriage but they want to call it civil unions and I am like, “Why? Because gay marriage isn’t popular yet?” They don’t’ seem to be saying anything different than what Dick Cheney says. Policy-wise, I am more of a liberal and that show up in the strip.
KILLER ABS? WILL WE GAY MEN EVER NOT HAVE TO WORK FOR THAT?
No pecs, no sex… you know what they say.SO, WHAT’S IN STORE FOR TROY IN THE FUTURE?
You know, I make it up as I go along. I never expected Troy to have a long-term boyfriend but when I came up with Nick, everybody sort of liked him so I kept him around. He and Nick have been together for a while now. Rigo suddenly realized he was in love with Troy. And when I first introduced Rigo, Troy had this big crush on him, but Rigo didn’t pay any kind of attention to Troy. So, after the time came for Troy to become assimilated, Rigo and Troy had a drunken night together, so it’s a matter of how can they still be friends now.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESING THING YOU HAVE BEEN LEARNING ABOUT YOURSELF LATELY?
I am focusing on communicating better. I do art direction in other places as well, but sometimes when you are talking about visual art, you get pictures in you head and it’s hard to explain to other people what you want. It’s really difficult to say how you are feeling and not having it come out right, I guess. Is this coming out all right?
YOU’RE DOING FINE HONEY, JUST FINE.
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