Elías Rúni is a comic illustrator and artist from Reykjavik. They studied illustration and comics at various schools in Iceland and mainland Europe before creating artworks for Stundin newspaper, Amnesty International in Iceland, and Forlagið. Their newest project, Kvár, is a graduation project about being nonbinary.
“I created Kvár as a graduation project from Iceland University of the Arts. I had always wanted to make a comic book as a graduation project and I felt that a book about being non-binary was much needed in Icelandic,” says Elías.
“Through Instagram I’ve had responses from people all over the world who connect to the story and have thanked me for putting their feelings into words and images.”
“I also think that comics are a great medium to talk about [gender] because they give the opportunity to convey complex and personal matters in an accessible and intimate way.
The project was very challenging, both in terms of the short time I had to finish a whole book and also the subject being very close to my heart. I found it quite demanding to dig into what being nonbinary means and what it means to be a part of such a gendered society, how it affects each of us,” they say.
Luckily, Kvár has been well received and copies are available throughout Iceland in bookstores and libraries: “I’m very happy with the response to Kvár. So many school and public libraries all over the country have bought the book for their collection and it was my main goal with the book that the subject would be more accessible.”
When asked what kind of queer content they’d like to see more of, Elías says more, more, more is the answer. “I wish that there was more content being produced for and about the queer community. There’s gradually more and more content available, but we need much more,” they say. “When I began writing Kvár, I found it hard to believe that it was the first or second book about non-binary issues in Icelandic – and the selection at the city library in English was maybe five books. So we need all kinds of content; books, comics, podcasts, movies, TV series, you name it,” says Elías.
One of Elías’s other creations is I Am More Than My Chromosomes, a story about being defined by genetics, sex, and gender. “I first wrote I Am More Than My Chromosomes for the feminist publication Via útgáfa (formerly Flóra útgáfa),” says Elías. “They had an open call for articles related to self respect. The feelings I describe in the story weighed heavily on me and I felt I had to write about them, even though I had never talked about it before and found it quite terrifying,” they continue.
“So we need all kinds of content; books, comics, podcasts, movies, TV series, you name it.”
“The story was later translated and published on the American comics news site thenib.com and then included in their collection of queer comics, Be Gay Do Comics. Through Instagram I’ve had responses from people all over the world who connect to the story and have thanked me for putting their feelings into words and images. I think that is the most rewarding and beautiful part about writing stories, especially ones that have been kept in the closet for too long,” says Elías.
Kvár, available now
Be Gay Do Comics
This article is a part of “What’s On: Books, Podcasts, and Comics from Queer Creators. A collection of new content for you to devour”, by journalist Michael Ryan.
Also see: “Books like these are important for all kids”and Hosts of new podcast tell all