In the early 1980s Mills worked in the subscriptions department of In Touch for Men, an adult magazine targeted at the gay male community. John Calendo, editor at the time, encouraged Mills to write a regular comic strip, to add variety to the magazine's content. The result, "Poppers", began in April 1982. (The title referred to "poppers", alkyl nitrites which were commonly used in the gay community.) By the mid-80s the strip was also being published ( in translation ) in Gai Pied Hebdo, a French-language gay magazine, and in the Japanese magazine Barazoko. Reprints of the strip also appeared sporadically in Gay Comix under the editorship of Howard Cruse, Robert Triptow, and Andy Mangels.
When Mills moved to the classifieds department of Advocate Men, the "Poppers" strip followed him, and was published sporadically. By the beginning of the 1990s Mills' health was deteriorating, as he developed complications associated with HIV infection, and in his final few years he worked less and less. He did, however, attend ACT UP demonstrations in Los Angeles and design posters for the off-shoot organization Queer Nation, concerned with gay visibility. Mills died of his illness in January 1993, survived by his partner Sal Lucarello.
As well as writing "Poppers", Mills also created ad hoc cartoons, and wrote an eight page history of gays in comics for the first Meatmen anthology. His predominant contribution to gay cartooning, however, was the "Poppers" strip, which was notable at the time for being one of the first cartoon strips to develop gay characters at home both with their sexuality and their humanity. Where earlier comics had tended to the stereotypical - either the nelly queen or the muscleman - Mills was one of the first to present his characters with lives beyond the stereotypes. Though overshadowed by contemporaries, most notably Tim Barela and Howard Cruse, both of whom also worked with continuing characters in comic strip format, Mills made a substantial contribution to gay cartooning. In particular, the "Chelsea Boys" strip by Glen Hanson and Allan Neuwirth is influenced by Mills.
Meatmen: An Anthology of Gay Male Comics (Volume 1) by Winston Leyland (Editor), Jerry Mills (Designer)
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Leyland Publications; 2nd edition (December 1989)
Amazon: Meatmen: An Anthology of Gay Male Comics
Loaded with lots of erotic cartoons, take off of Star Wars and the Tom of Finland.
More Artists at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Art
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