From its inception, Doc and Raider has been one of those strips that defies easy category. It’s a realistic love story, a political commentary, a social satire, and a musical vaudeville all at the same time. And while it may be primarily about a couple of gay guys from Canada, it has grown and developed into nothing short of an epic, with a cast that cuts across all strata of society.
Doc and Raider started back in 1987 as a small, single-panel cartoon whose initial appearance was in a LGBT publication in Vancover. Unfortunately, the paper folded after the boys’ first appearance, but they were quickly snapped up by others across Canada — and subsequently in Europe, New Zealand, Japan, and the Middle East… but always viewing things from a distinctly Canadian point of view. Tackling such issues as HIV/AIDS and gay bashing as well as leather contests and life with cats, Doc and Raider has rarely been a strip to shy away from an issue and looks for humour and drama in the all the best places, whether political or pop-cultural or just about anything else. Now well past its 5,000th online appearance, the boys and their friends have stories and stories (and stories) to tell.
So who are these guys?
François “Doc” Ambrose is a now-successful writer from Québec who currently specializes in bad romance novels and fixing the scripts of problematic Broadway shows. Formerly a rancher/farmer in Saskatchewan, Raymond “Raider” Deere is a construction worker and also holds down a part time job with a hardware store, as well as taking in the occasional Broadway lead (yep, seriously) when Doc needs him to. Like everyone, they have their friends and relations, many of whom show up in here from time to time. In no particular order:
— Elliot Carter, Raider’s best friend of long time standing: back in the day before finding their respective mates, Raider and Elliot actually made a porn loop, about pizza delivery and motorcycle repair. A producer of “adult entertainment” (under the name Elliot Fielding), he has now emigrated to Canada to be with Gilles, Doc’s twin brother, a former Catholic priest who now works as a counselor in Québec City. They’ve now adopted a child, Raymond-François. Elliot’s filmic output has now expanded to include more indie films and three summer blockbusters based on men in spandex.
And then there’s:
— Mik O’Hooley, Raider’s close friend. He was Raider’s sparring partner at the gym where they worked out when the boys lived in the States, and the friendship has continued despite being cross-border. A field construction manager, he’s married to Kai Yeo, who’s taken over managing Elliot’s business. They’re involved in a polyamory relationship with Al Hernandez, a former state trooper from Arizona. Mik’s current sparring partner (and former slight fling on the side) is David, who keeps his aspirations to be a painter severely in check. For his part, David is figuring out the lay of the land with his own current boyfriend, a straight guy named Frank, a former ad exec who fell on hard times until he landed a job directing films at Kai’s studio.
— Eddie Bartholomew III, filthy rich and not one bit embarrassed by it (He’s currently the fifth richest man in the world, but those rankings tend to change from time to time.). Was prone to rent boys but now, in a move that took him by surprise as much as anyone else, married to André Taburin (né Andreu Pafiscu), who acts as Eddie’s conscience from time to time. They split their time between Eddie’s ducal lands in Scotland, André’s pied-à-terre in Paris, and a condo in London. There’s probably another one here and there, somewhere. André’s mother Edvige and her sister Sophia run a small restaurant in Palermo.
— Aiko, formerly a transsexual waiter at Doc and Ray’s favourite restaurant, now fully transitioned thanks to… well, a bit of supreme being whim. Still prone to the pithy and caustic. He operates a small bistro whose head cook is Connor, who really knows how to work his meat… if ya get what I’m sayin’. Connor occasionally hits the bars with his equally sexually-free Canadian-Korean friend Tag. For his part, Aiko happily lives with Lewis, an auto mechanic who… well, let’s just say his backstory is “complicated”.
— Jérôme, who is Raymond-François’s best friend and school mate. And as we’ve seen, destined later in life to be his husband. Jer is a leader-in-anticipation: now a bit tenuous with things, but you can see that he will, at some point, take charge in things. Very protective of R/F.
— Grady and Jean-Phillipe. The former works with Raider in construction after also leaving a rural way of life in Saskatchewan. His b/f Jean-Phillipe is a photographer by trade, and they’re both in that point of a relationship where they’re finally learning things about each other.
— the Heathers, two girls who may or may not be lesbians. Maybe. Even they’re not sure. But then they dont seem sure of much of anything.
The series also has occasional appearances by prominent figures in the news: even Jesus stops by every now and then to share His frustration with organized religion.
The boys have served as goodwill ambassadors for fundraisers for everything from hospices to LGBT film festivals; if you want to bring them or any of their myriad friends on, just drop me a line at sean(at)joey-aristophanes.com, and let’s see what we can do for you.