Tell Shelley Anne: An Interview With Fiona Mallratte

| Jul 12, 2021
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Fiona Mallratte

Steve Lafler (aka Fiona Mallratte), has maintained his status as a loose cannon on the deck of Alt/Underground movement comics for decades. Ever the maverick marching to his own beat, Lafler enjoyed long runs of his improvised Dog Boy comic books as well as the jaunty, unhinged Buzzard anthology. From there the self-styled maestro settled into the BugHouse trilogy of graphic novels, a history of Bebop jazz realized with an all-insect cast. Subsequently, the artist decamped to Oaxaca, Mexico with his family for a decade, where he started a country punk band, Radio Insecto. He released a graphic novella 1956 Book One: Sweet Sweet Little Ramona in 2020, a fictional look at his dad’s career in the garment district and jazz clubs of New York City as a young man. [Ramona is currently being serialized on TGForum.] Death Plays a Mean Harmonica is Lafler’s fictional report (in graphic novel form) on the sublime city of Oaxaca in graphic novel form. In 2002, he published a limited-edition comic book entitled The $99 Drag Makeover in a run of 200 with a screen printed cover as “Fiona Mallratte.”

I trust you will enjoy this interview with alt cartoonist, novelist, and crossdresser Steve Lafler. I mean Fiona Mallratte.

TGForum: How did you get started as an alt cartoonist?

Fiona: As an undergraduate at UMass Amherst, I drew a daily comic strip called Aluminum Foil for the student newspaper. Before graduating I sold my first cartoon to Rolling Stone’s offshoot magazine College Papers.

TGForum: Enter Fiona Mallratte. How did that name originate?

Fiona: Fiona was waiting in the wings when I was three or four. I requested a crinoline dress to wear at my older sister’s eighth birthday party. Mom sternly admonished me. I barely understood why. Of course, I wanted to be one of the girls. It looked like fun. Fiona found her legs over Halloween in due course, attending the annual Cramps concert in San Francisco featuring Poison Ivy and the late, great Lux Interior, both glam queens of the first order. I would attend art openings and comic book parties as Fiona, who was a “Mall Rat,” always on the lookout for a cute dress or pair of shoes.

TGForum: You are best known for BugHouse, Dog Boy, and Buzzard, among others. How did they come to life?

Fiona: Dog Boy popped out of my unconscious early on. He is an enthusiastic youth with a big doggie head, searching for strong coffee and the meaning of life. These comics were improvised of the moment. I published 17 issues of Dog Boy.

Buzzard was the anthology comic magazine I published with my imprint Cat Head Comics in the ‘90s with co-publisher Stephen Beaupre. We featured the cutting-edge underground cartoonists of the day.

The BugHouse graphic novels are my fictional history of Bebop jazz with an all-insect cast, and a deconstruction of the psychology of addiction. It came about due to my love of jazz, and my desire to drink less.

TGForum: You have been referred to as the maverick marching to his own beat. Please share some of the juicy details.

Fiona: I am an artist dedicated to free expression of my ideas without filters. I do not contrive content to serve a market niche, I am a loose cannon on the deck. I have always done commercial work on the side as needed, freeing me to serve my muse rather than the marketplace with my graphic novels.

TGForum: Any other unique characteristics we should know about you?

Fiona: Like most of us, I have various streams of personality in my heart and mind. I love getting dolled up in dresses and heels, and I am quite comfortable with it. If you feel confident, roll with it.

I am also comfortable as “Steve,” a true-blue bohemian cartoonist, and a caterwauling country punk caveman rhythm guitarist. There is also the life-long runner who competes in marathons (I qualified for Boston this year.)  If I have a problem, it is balancing all the creative impulses fighting for dominance. On the whole, I defer to the cartoonist.

TGForum: You have had the opportunity to work with several distinguished organizations (Sony, Apple, Bill Graham). Was it luck?

Fiona: I worked to build my reputation and clientele over a period of years. That being said, a high school friend was a hardware project manager at Apple, and a housemate was a marketing executive at Sony. For creatives, marketing and promoting is a process and part of the job. Luck factors in, but you create your own luck.

TGForum: Is Manx Media still a part of your life?

Fiona: It is the name of my publishing company, although I use “Cat Head Comics” as the actual name of my imprint for the most part.

TGForum: What advice can you give those thinking about pursuing a career as a cartoonist and illustrator, as well as thoughts of becoming published?

Fiona: Simple. Pay yourself in ample time to create and find your voice. Trust yourself, deep down your creative self knows just what to do. To succeed in self-employment, embrace simple accounting. Creatives need to become familiar with IRS “Schedule C” (profit or loss from business or profession.) Attention to your income and expenses keeps the rudder of your career on an even keel.

TGForum: Can individuals or the corporate world still reach out to you for creative work? In other words, are you hirable?

Fiona: I still do illustrations for the right clients, with time at a premium, I charge a lot. I have had great fun working with music and entertainment industry clients in the past, such as The Residents and Margaret Cho.

TGForum: Where is the best place to purchase your creative works?

Fiona: At there are buy links to my graphic novels. Current titles include BugHouse book one, 1956 book one, and Death Plays a Mean Harmonica. Many comic book retailers carry them too, and book retailers can order these titles from Diamond Comic Distributors or Ingram.

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Category: crossdressing, Interview


About the Author ()

Shelley Anne Baker has been part of the transsexual and transgender community for six years. Wandering about the California BDSM community, she finally found her stride in making the transition to dresses and high heels. Today, her women’s apparel, and shoes outnumbers her male apparel (that she just has to have for certain occasions, but such is life). She has seriously considered HRT, but now feels life has passed her by on that count. She is a professional writer and experienced corporate brand marketing and public relations consultant. For interview consideration and participation email Shelley Anne at

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