'Ménage à 3' (2016)

Gisèle Lagacé is a Canadian comics writer and artist. She gained her first fame with web comics, creating 'Cool Cat Studio' (2000-2001, 2007-2008), 'Penny and Aggie' (2004-2010) and her long-running signature work 'Ménage à 3' (2008-...). The latter ranks as one of the most popular and critically praised web comics series of all time. She is also active in printed comics, working on the 'Archie Comics' and 'Jem and the Holograms' series. One of the titles she illustrated was 'Archie Meets Ramones' (2016). A running theme in her work are bisexual relationships and a free-spirited eroticism, though her work could be described as a cross between soap opera and sex comedy.

Early life and musical career
Gisèle Lagacé was born in 1970 in New Brunswick, Canada. She studied visual arts at the Université Moncton and graphic design at La Cité Collégiale in Ottawa, where she graduated. Among her graphic influences are Dan DeCarlo, Jim Davis and Albert Uderzo. She is also inspired by manga artists like Rumiko Takahashi and Yumiko Igarashi, whose stylistic influence might be the most notable in her work. Lagacé also enjoys music by The Pixies, The Ramones, Kiss and Cheap Trick while working. Early in her career she wrote music and played bass in the rock group Barbarella, whose members were all women. As a graphic artist she designed logos and advertisements for the Avenue Design Group in Ottawa.


'Cool Cat Studio'

Cool Cat Studio
In 2000 Lagacé created the webcomic 'Cool Cat Studio' (2000-2001, 2007-2008), which gained popularity online. Set in an office where various co-workers intermingle with one another, the series eventually became more romantic and occasionally erotic in its narratives. Real-life events also influenced storylines. The episode 'Friends in High Places' showed the creators' personal take on the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Lagacé's artwork also went through a notable evolution. Early episodes tended to look clumsily drawn, but gradually Lagacé mastered her pencil more. In interviews she said she merely started and as soon as she received positive feedback she continued drawing for about a year, after which T. Campbell became her co-writer. In 2001 she won the Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards for Best Art and a year later the Kimberly Yale Award for Best New Talent. Despite the success the comic strip was discontinued for six years, because Lagacé had to combine the comic with a full-time job. It had a brief revival between 2007 and 2008. Later episodes tended to take a more outlandish route, with appearances of extra-terrestrial aliens who abduct some of the characters, which polarized some long-time readers. Keenspot Entertainment released three issues of 'Cool Cat Studio' in print in 2001-2002.

Penny and Aggie
It took two years before Lagacé returned to the comics scene. Campbell and Lagacé created the webcomic 'Penny and Aggie' (2004-2010), a semi-pastiche of the 'Betty and Veronica' stories in Archie Comics. The series is set in high school, where the bitchy Penny and socially conscious Aggie are bitter rivals. Most storylines feature the girls and their large circle of friends trying to ridicule, tease and bully one another. At the same time there is also a certain tongue-in-cheek irony to their animosity, since some people in the opposite groups seem kind of attracted to another. 'Penny and Aggie' also gained infamy for its dream sequences. Characters often fantasize about themselves and their battles. Some episodes even take place in complete alternate universes. 'Penny and Aggie' easily found an audience and appraisal. In 2007 the series won the Web Cartoonists' Choice Award for 'Outstanding Romantic Comic'. At a certain point Lagacé left the series to her assistent Jason Waltrip. On 26 September 2010 the final episode went online. Alias Enterprises published three print comic books of 'Penny and Aggie' in 2005.

In 2011 a spin-off of 'Penny and Aggie' was created, named 'QuiltBag' (2011-2012), which centered on the college life of side characters Sara Kim and Lisa Winklemeyer. While Lagacé was not involved in the production, Campbell wrote the series, and gave the artwork to Jason Waltrip, who worked in a more simplified and thicker-lined style than 'Penny and Aggie'. Contrary to its predecessor 'QuiltBag' was also in colour. The web comic ran little more than a year, because Campbell felt many of the topics (gender issues, neurodivergence, addiction) required more knowledge about these subjects, which he didn't possess. The creators also felt the comic strip in general was a bit too sub-par to continue.


First episode of 'Ménage à 3'.

Ménage à 3
By 2007 Lagacé's web comics had enough success to quit her day-time job as a graphic designer. She teamed up with another writer, David Lumsdon, to create 'Ménage à 3' (2008). This webcomic gained popularity and praise and is, as of 2019, the artist's longest-running work. The series is set in college and follows the sexual hunts of Gary, a 29-year old virgin who shares his apartment with two girls, Zii and DiDi, who try to help him find the right girl. Over the course of the series many supporting characters made their debut.

Sticky Dilly Buns
On 7 January 2013 the series gained a spin-off, 'Sticky Dilly Buns' (2013-2019), about the character Dillon. Created with Shouri (pseudonym of María Victoria Robado) under the collective pseudonym "Dahling!" (a reference to TV celebrity Zsa Zsa Gabor) it follows the romantic adventures of side character Dillon O'Brien, a very flamboyant gay person, and his next-door neighbour Jerzy. Other storylines revolve around former porn actress Amber Larose who allows her younger sister Ruby to move into her apartment. Amber is a single woman who tries to get to know new partners, despite her porn past. The fact that Ruby lives in with her makes this more difficult than before, particularly since Ruby is quite a difficult character of her own. Apart from being a prude, she is also quite snarky. Since early 2019 'Sticky Dilly Buns' has been discontinued because the creators have too much other projects.


'Sticky Dilly Buns'

Sandra On The Rocks
Another spin-off of 'Ménage à Trois' is 'Sandra On The Rocks' (2013), written by Dave Lumsdon and illustrated by Remy "Eisu" Mokhtar. It was originally a filler comic which took off in 27 December 2011, but eventually became a production of its own. It follows waitress Sandra Arden who, after a drunken accident, is transported to Brazil, where she becomes an assistant of Senna, a transgender model. She is eventually brought to Paris by fashion photographer Domenico Pedrazzini, where her misadventures continue...

Eerie Cuties
On 1 June 2009 Lagacé went on a horror route with the webcomic 'Eerie Cuties' (2009),  co-written by her and Dave Lumsdon. Colours are provided by Miguel Marques, while the manga-style artwork is by Shouri. 'Eerie Cuties' is set at the high school Charybdis Heights, where monsters, vampires and other horror creatures study. The storyline focuses on the sisters Layla and Nina Delacroix, who are both vampires, though Nina prefers chocolate and her doll, Blair, over blood. The bitchy Layla tries to force her sister to do more things in line with being a vampire. Among their friends are Chloe Love the succubus, Brooke Lynn the melusine, Kade Whiteclaw the catboy and Ace Wolfhart the werewolf. Much like Charles Addams' 'The Addams Family' it is comparable to a sitcom about macabre characters. The earliest stories were done as a newspaper colour strip, while the format later changed more to manga-style pages. This allowed the illustrator more room to tell an entire story. Compared with Lagacé's other webcomics, 'Eerie Cuties' aims at a younger audience and is rated PG-13. This doesn't prevent the series from having a lot of erotic innuendo and borderline risqué scenes.

The series' main antagonists are three witches, Melissa Hellrune, Jacqui Brightmoon and Cerise Darkshade, who later gained their own spin-off series, 'Magick Chicks'. Lagacé originally provided the artwork, while she and Dave Lumsdon wrote the narratives and Shouri inked. In February 2012 Cassandra Wedeking took over the artwork until May 2014, when Shouri took over. A second spin-off of 'Eerie Cuties' came about with 'Dangerously Chloe' (2012) , which centers on Chloe Love the succubus in her new school.

Style
Most of Lagacé's web comics are erotic in nature, though not pornographic. They tend to show nudity, but in a functional way as a comedic or dramatic storytelling device. This often led to to trouble with prudent American web providers who tend to outright ban entire episodes if they weren't censored in the appropriate places. Lagacé was often forced to not draw nipples on characters' bodies and tone down the homosexual and lesbian erotic scenes. One storyline where Zii and Didi in 'Ménage À Trois' are caught having sex made ad providers ban this story arc for about two months, which led to considerable money loss. On 27 July 2015 Gisèle and Lumsdon held a FAQ where they answered questions by fans and discussed this matter. In the 132th thread Lagacé said: "Americans are REALLY strict when it comes to the female nipple. I have no clue why that is. We could chop heads off and they wouldn't say a word, but a female nipple? BAN!! I'm not joking here." She also mentioned the hypocrisy that some of the ads on their webcomic pages were actually promoting porn ads, but apparently this wasn't as problematic as the nudity in her comics.


'Archie Meets Ramones'

Print comics
While Lagacé is best known as a web comics author, her work has appeared in regular print too. Since 2013 she has drawn some comics for the 'Archie Comics' line, built around the characters created by Bob Montana. Her most notable work was an odd cross-over, 'Archie Meets Ramones' (2016), where Archie and his friends meet the famous punk band The Ramones. Since all four original members of the band passed away earlier in the 21st century, it put the comic book series into a bizarre continuity. Lagacé also illustrated issue #24-26 of 'Jem and the Holograms' (2016-2017), a comic book revival of the 1980s animated TV series by IDW. In 2017 she and writer Roger Langridge made a 'Betty Boop' mini series for Dynamite Entertainment, based on the classic animated star created by Max and Dave Fleischer. Gisele Lagacé has furthermore contributed to the Dark Horse anthology 'The Secret Loves of Geek Girls' (2016) and provided cover artwork to Dynamite's 'Red Sonja' (2016) and 'Sheena, Queen of the Jungle' (2017). Since October 2018 she is the artist of the 'Exorsisters' series by Image Comics. Written by Ian Boothby, the two identical-but-not-quite-identical sisters Kate and Cate can be hired "for timely soul retrieval at a reasonable rate" and other hell-related issues.


'Jem and the Holograms' #25

Denial of entry into the USA
Gisèle Lagacé made headlines on 21 April 2017 when she was denied entry to the United States on the US-Canadian border. Police officers wondered what business she had in the U.S. and searched both her and her vehicle. She was even fingerprinted. They took issue with her artwork, which she had started on commission in Canada and planned to finish in the USA. For some strange reason the border agents felt there was something fishy about the fact that she would travel so far just to promote her comics. In the end she was allowed to continue her ride after long delay. The event followed in the wake of President Trump's controversial and abrupt restrictions on foreigners entering the United States in early 2018. Lagacé shared her full experience of this unpleasant event on Facebook the very same week. She received support from Marvel comics writers Tom Naylor and Charles Soule.

Much of her work is available in print as well as e-books through the PixieTrixComix store.


'Exorsisters' #1

www.giselelagace.com

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