Published by drag queen Linda Simpson [aka Les Simpson], My Comrade was an underground gay culture zine that set itself apart from the deluge of Xeroxed zines popping up in New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Through parody of both mainstream tabloid magazines and the self-serious gay press, a campy and ironic sensibility, and radical Left sympathies and slogans, My Comrade captured the zeitgeist of the gay downtown scene. Publishing 10 issues between 1987 and 1994, My Comrade documents the last years of gay culture before marriage equality and representation at elite levels of American society became the primary drivers of gay politics and aesthetic production. My Comrade was briefly revived from 2004 to 2006.
The original run of the magazine showcased nightlife personalities and community members through imaginative photo spreads, interviews, columns, and more. Drag queens including RuPaul, Lady Bunny, Mona Foot, Lipsynka, and others frequently appear. Simpson’s downtown scene centered around the Pyramid Club, and My Comrade features heavy coverage of Pyramid parties and performers. After a few issues, My Comrade expanded into a larger and more professional looking magazine format. During that time, the magazine also began running double issues: My Comrade, largely focused on gay men and drag queens; and Sister!, dedicated to the lesbian community. Sister! had similar design and content with photo essays, interviews, and spreads but covered specifically lesbians and lesbian spaces. Although Sister! only lasted a few issues, its representation and involvement of the lesbian community is notable; the lesbian community was often overlooked in other gay nightlife publications and documentation of the time.
My Comrade serves as a particularly honest and special document of New York nightlife and gay culture in the 1980s-1990s. Many of the queens, performers, and writers featured in these issues have gone on to gain mainstream celebrity and worldwide success, while others have continued to work in the New York underground. Currently, Simpson regularly hosts historical photography slideshow presentations titled “The Drag Explosion”, in which Simpson displays photos from their archive of drag queens and partygoers, including many outtakes or published photos from My Comrade. Simpson’s work charts the groundbreaking era in drag history, as New York’s underground scene transformed into a pop-culture phenomenon.
The My Comrade Archive collects each issue published of the magazine as well as the original materials used in the production and promotion of the magazine. Most notably, the archive includes the original collaged boards for the production of each issue of the original run of the magazine. Also included are vintage silver gelatin prints and color photo prints with contact sheets, slides, and negatives shot for the magazine as well as outtakes and related photos, ephemera and promotional materials such as flyers and handbills for My Comrade release parties, and press clippings documenting the impact of My Comrade, during and after its publication.