Trangela Lansbury Gets Down with Superheroes

Categories: Art, Comics, Drag, LGBT
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I first saw Trangela Lansbury as a gold-bearded Siren glittering across the stage at El Rio. Then there she was again at a California College of the Arts exhibit as a traditional Frida Kahlo, elegantly carrying her shining facial hair into flashing cameras while also showcasing her homoerotic drawings at the Batman on Robin show in the Mission.

Trangela, aka Diego Gomez, is a Bay Area native and as an artist he combines performance, illustration, design, painting, lingerie, and now theater -- he was cast for Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma, a Cockettes revival musical starting March 28 at the Hypnodrome. Heavily influenced by artists such as Jim Lee and Alphonse Mucha, he combines fantasy art, comics, and raw homoeroticism with a hint of trashy, genderbending imagery.

We spoke to Gomez about gaying up Batman, drag, and, as he notes on his Facebook page, the mad skills and verbosity that "could cut a bitch like a Lee Press-On Nail."

When did you start making comics?

I was always drawing since I was a little kid. I was born here, grew up in Daly City, then moved to the Tenderloin. I have a Bachelor's in graphic design from the Art Institute but now I'm taking a lingerie class at City College.

Who are some of your influences?

Right now my room is still covered in the posters that I had since I was 10 years old. X-Men artist Jim Lee was one of my first influences ever. Also, when I was in college I went to this gallery on Geary Street showcasing art nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha. It was the first time I saw his work in large scale; I was truly impressed and he immediately became my favorite.

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How do you choose your medium?

Usually I start out with a pencil sketch or a note for an idea that I'll write down and then add to it. Sometimes I'll turn it into a painting, sketch, costume. See what fits. I also started turning some of the paintings into kites, for example.It differs. Right now I am both illustrating and writing a comic but I also at times scan some drawings and put them in a book later.

How does the queering of it all happen?

It's kind of by accident. I naturally make things look queer, it doesn't even hit me that they look queer in the beginning and then I either take a step back and look at it and think "Oh, that's kinda gay" or someone tells me "Oh, wow, that's really gay" and I don't even think about it. That's just kind of how I think. My work is getting more and more queer, gay, and, particularly, more explicitly sexual. Like the Batman drawings I showcased recently at Mission Comics and Art for example -- instead of being called "Batman and Robin" it was called "Batman on Robin," all homoerotic subtext on Batman and Robin stories.

Do you think you follow a specific aesthetic then?

Just to combine everything possibly for it (whatever it is: painting, performance, sketch) to be super glittery and over the top. It's not even androgyny, more like what they call genderfuck.  For instance, you know The Cockettes? Right now I'm doing the musical of the Cockettes called Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma which is basically like Hollywood starlets in dream land and it does this genderfucking perfectly.

What's the influence of your art in your performances and vice versa?

People tell me that the way I paint my face is very much like I draw. So there it is: I do try to present myself as close as I can to the way I draw my characters. Some of the things I draw are easy to embody but some of them are also kind of ridiculous, over the top. Because I don't really do a "fishy", natural, like I'm trying to look like a woman performance, or convince anyone of anything other than to laugh or be pulled in by whatever the performance is.

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Dan Nicoletta

Do you ever fantasize about characters in your drawings?

I fantasize about them while I'm in drag because I'm becoming them but I don't draw every picture thinking I'm going to put myself into that world. Some people have told me that they have fantasized about my characters, but I don't, I kinda disconnect from them a little. I'm not really sure why, I feel very disconnected from a lot of things. Like, for instance, when I was drawing this image for the "Batman on Robin" show which is basically an autobiographical story of me and my ex-boyfriend when we went to Mount Davison; a lot of the stories of this show are autobiographical, but with costumes put on top of whatever the situation. In this particular drawing there is a sexual situation going on in one of the scenes and the character that is me seemed really lost in thought instead of in the action that was going on and I was like "Wow, I kinda was." I kinda have to remind myself to get into whatever I'm doing. I feel like one day I'm just gonna blow away like a balloon.

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Comic book collaboration

How has your work changed over the years?

Nowadays I try to put more of a story into it. It used to be much more visual and did not necessarily have any meaning behind it. But now I just don't want to lip-sync a song and I just don't want to draw a portrait with a blank expression. Now I create a story-line.

Why did you name yourself after Murder, She Wrote's Angela Lansbury? 
Part of the reason is I feel like I look like her. It's not that I exactly look like her, and it's not that when I get in drag I all of the sudden look like her, but it's a part of my face that I think looks like her face. I also remember back in high school being super-lonely and while other boys related to the Golden Girls I loved Murder, She Wrote -- which is where Angela Lansbury is from -- but nobody other than me really liked her. When I mentioned to these boys I loved her they just said "Ew, we don't like that show, we like the old ladies." 

Do you remember your first performance?

Yeah, it was at Truck on 15th and Folsom. I performed there with my friend. I was talking about performing for about 2 years. Now I was 27 and really wanted to do it. Finally this friend of mine just said: let's just perform next week, we'll ask the people at Truck if we can do it and if they let us we'll do it. At first we planned on doing the thousand hands dance that looks like one person with so many hands. We thought it was gonna be easy. 

We were all totally different sizes, heights and body types so it didn't look right. So we didn't do that. The theme was Cowboys and Indians. So instead we did a really offensive Native American one, our faces were all painted white, it was a song called "Sipping 40s" by Gravy Train, which is just about drinking beer. We were basically a hot mess on stage. But we'd finally done it and it was fun and it was great to do it and not think that you cannot do something. Or think that you can do it but never actually carry it out. And now that is my scene. I feel like I do not belong to a Latin group or an American group but that I belong to a club group.

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From Batman on Robin show.

The Cockettes revival musical Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma runs March 28-April 11. 

Also, watch Transgela's latest project RuPaul's Drag Racism on YouTube, where she reviews each episode of "RuPaul's Drag Race." Visit her blog here.


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