Blizzard's multiplayer shooter Overwatch is known for its fantastic, individualized cast of characters, which makes it appealing to all sorts of players — not just the stereotypical straight white dudes first-person shooters tend to attract.
An unintended consequence of this seemingly more diverse player base is there is a boatload of Overwatch fan art — as if years of being excluded from the genre caused women and LGBTQ people to explode in a fountain of gorgeous creations.
The newest fan project that's worthy of some serious attention is the Sapphic Overwatch Zine: Vol 2, a truly badass collection of Overwatch "femslash" art — a subgenre of fanfiction that pairs up female characters in romantic and/or sexual relationships. We chatted with Harriet Moulton, the zine's creator.
Overwatch fan art: The Sapphic Overwatch Zine, Vol. 2 looks awesome
Moulton, a recent college grad from the U.K. who studied computer animation, is still in the process of assembling the second volume of the zine and the vast majority of its approximately 50 pages. Moulton illustrates most of it herself but reserves 10 slots for guest artists, who can submit their work for consideration via the zine's Tumblr page.
In a Skype interview, Moulton said the Sapphic Overwatch Zine is a way for her to give back to a community she's grown to love since Overwatch was first announced.
"I really enjoy buying fan-made stuff, like magazines and zines," Moulton said. "Overwatch is perfect for that. I love the characters and I know so many other people who love them — and a lot of people enjoy my art, so it's nice to be able to have that give and take [with the fandom]. I just wanted to produce something nice [for them]."
The first edition of the zine came out a few months ago, so Moulton said it felt like a good time to start working on a second volume. A big part of that motivation came from the "Reflections" comic Blizzard posted on its site that established Tracer as a canonically queer character.
"The second zine was definitely spurred on by the holiday comic," she said. "I mean, Tracer being a lesbian is incredible — like, I felt for once my interests were being catered to by big industry creators. The face of the game? That face you see every time you log in? That face on posters everywhere? She's a lesbian. She's gay and she has a girlfriend."
"The face of the game? That face you see every time you log in? That face on posters everywhere? She's a lesbian. She's gay and she has a girlfriend."
She continued: "The first zine was sort of me doing what I do anyway in my free time, making the canon gay, but now? It's actually gay and I'm still almost having a hard time actually believing it. So, this zine is definitely more of a celebration of canon — for once — versus just a celebration of purely fandom creation."
However, the question of which relationships, commonly called "ships," actually get celebrated within the zine is a carefully calculated and planned-out process — especially since there are so many to choose from. Zarmei, Pharmercy, Widowtracer and Symmarah are just a few examples of the seemingly countless ships you can find on Tumblr — one of the places where the fandom flourishes most.
"The first zine was like one-third Widowtracer, because that's what I had done at the time," Moulton said. "About half was old art and half was new." But for the second volume, every piece of art in the Sapphic Overwatch Zine is brand-new.
"I've got a Word document that I plan all the pairing pages out and make sure there's enough of each character," Moulton said. "But this time around I'm focused more on [new characters] Ana and Sombra."
Really, the fact that a fan project with such a specific but frequently neglected audience in mind can thrive is nothing short of a miracle — especially within the macho world of competitive first-person shooters.
"The fandom's been really supportive and it's amazing to have a fandom that's got this much femslash in it," Moulton said. "That really surprised me when Overwatch first came out. It was like, 'Oh, oh, everyone else is doing this now as well? This is great.' The fact that I have an audience for it is really amazing."
You can pre-order the Sapphic Overwatch Zine: Vol. 2 now for $15.
More Overwatch news and updates
For more on Overwatch, check out the rest of what Mic has to offer. Here is the latest developer update where Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan explains the new Capture the Rooster mode, the full patch notes for Overwatch version 2.03, a full explanation of the different types of health in Overwatch, the latest rumor of a Terry Crews-voiced Overwatch character, our definitive ranking of every Overwatch hero, a roundup of awesome gender-bent Overwatch cosplay and a giant Overwatch FAQ for beginners.