What’s Kickin

Hello folks! Time for another WHAT’S KICKIN! We’ve got a little preview of SIX projects currently funding on Kickstarter that we feel are more than worth your time and pledge. Take a moment and do a little window shopping here and then head on over to the projects for a full on look at the goods!

NEXT DOOR: A Neo-Noir Crime Comic

A neo-noir story of paranoia, privilege, and walking the dog gone wrong.

Next Door is the debut comic for writer/journalist Zack Quaintance, and the second Kickstarter for artist Pat Skott (The Space-Wolf). They’re joined by star colorist Ellie Wright (Bettie Paige, James Bond) and star letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (Black Stars AboveJoin The Future). It’s 30+ pages of crime comics meets the housing crisis, told through the dual perspective of a trendy privileged couple moving into an “up and coming” neighborhood…and the long-time residents they’re pushing out. This neo-noir tale has hints of The Dregs, some BTTM FDRS, and just a bit of Stray Bullets.
Funding through SEPT 4th

Knights vs. Pirates

The search for a legendary relic ignites a battle between two of the most fearsome warriors of all time.

On a quest from God, King Arthur has dispatched three of his most trusted Knights to search for the Holy Grail. Unfortunately for the King, he is not the only one that seeks the sacred prize.  The King of the Britons will be tested like never before. He will put his life on the line for the sake of his country and for the sake of his people. The infamous pirate Blackbeard is on the hunt for the ultimate power, power that will allow him to rule over the seven seas for all of time. But, his reward won’t come easy. Blackbeard will have to use all of his cunning and brutality if he has any hope to defeat some of the greatest warriors that the world has ever seen. Written by Jay Martin, art by Chris Imber and colors by Chris Jenkins.
Funding through SEPT 7th

Ninja Nuns: Bad Habits Die Hard

The Metalshark Bro Spin-Off the world has been waiting for! The Ninja Nuns are here to cast out the wicked in this 40-page one-shot.

WHO ARE THE NINJA NUNS! MSB fans from all over the world clamored for more stories, more adventures staring the Church’s swift arm of justice that protected the flock from the gathering wolves! So Metalshark Bro co-creators Kevin Cuffe and Bob Frantz put their heads together and cooked up a few ideas for short stories. The duo invited Metalshark Bro editor Chas! Pangburn (who is a great writer) to submit a story and wa-la! The dudes had 30 some odd pages of Ninja Nun Stories broken into 4 short stories. Scripts are cool but ART is better! Kevin, Chas, and Bob contacted a few of their favorite artists (Tony Gregori, Josh Jensen, Dann Franco, Gabriel Calfa, Angela Sprecher,and John Bergin) and BAM! They got themselves a comic book.
Funding through SEPT 9th

PROJECT: STARLESS DAYDREAM

Over 30 comic creators come together to create the finale to a mech anime that never existed!

It is the dying days of the 10 Years War between Earth and space colony Saturn Sigma. With resources dwindling, the desperate Saturn Sigma forces press their advance against the weakening Earth Federation Alliance. Ace Ringer Fuku Basara has become disillusioned by this years long strife against the EFA.  After defeating their rival Jester Rollins, Fuku steals away with their best friend and giant mech, BG-BY. They are tired of fighting in a war they didn’t sign up for and want to fight for themself…but the wounds of war take long to heal and Fuku will not be able to outrun the ripple effect of their actions. Featuring the talents of:
AHG – C. Thomas Anderson – Julia Cartales – Dave Chisholm – Alex Delgado – Sachi Ediriweera
Ivan Fiorelli – Minerva Fox – Colm Griffin – Rupam Grimoeuvre – Henry Guerra – Matt Harding
Matthew Harrower – Salvador Hernandez Jr – DC Hopkins – Fell Hound – John Jack – Liana Kangas
Jonathan La Mantia – Fabian Lelay – Danny Lore – Elizabeth Malette – Adam Markiewicz – Mike McGhee
Gary Moloney – Dan Morison – Jenny Odio – Skylar Patridge – Sebastián Píriz – Simone Ragazzoni
Benjamin Sawyer – Shaun Sunday – Artyom Trakhanov
Funding through SEPT 16th

THE O.Z. #1 – A Fantasy Classic Reimagined for Comics

Haunted by her past, a disillusioned Iraq war veteran must survive the war-torn land of Oz.

Decades ago, when a young girl defeated the Wicked Witch of the West, she said farewell to the magical land of Oz… but unwittingly plunged the country in a vicious power vacuum leading to years of brutal civil war. But a generation later, the name of Dorothy Gale lives on in her granddaughter, an Iraq war veteran grappling with disillusionment and PTSD — yet when a tornado strikes Dorothy’s quiet Kansas town, this former soldier finds herself in the war-torn battlefield known only as The O.Z. Forced to navigate warring factions led by the Tin Soldier, the Scarecrow, and the Courageous Lion, Dorothy must come to terms with her legacy and her past if she ever hopes to bring peace to the Occupied Zone. Brought to you by David Pepose, Ruben Rojas, Whitney Cogar, and DC Hopkins.
Funding through SEPT 16th
We spoke with David Pepose about the project, have a listen here:

God Puncher Vol. 1 “Tim Finnly: Wanted!”

A TPB of the comic God-Puncher!

From artist and writer, Lane Lloyd, God-Puncher is a high octane, off the wall Fantasy-Comedy about a man named Tim Finnly, the titular ”God-Puncher.” Betrayed by the gods he protected, Tim Finnly now hunts them down with his talking fists. This kickstarter is to fund a collection of the first five issues of God-Puncher. In this arc, Tim Finnly is being hunted by his arch nemesis, the lord of time, Syrem. Tim not only has to worry about Syrem, he now has to worry about an entire nation out for his head! He’ll need all the help he can get from a few strange characters if he hopes to make it out of this alive. 
Funding through SEPT 24th

Kickstarter Spotlight: Commander RAO

COMMANDER RAO – A DYSTOPIAN ACTION ONE SHOT
From: Fell Hound (story/art) and Lettersquids (letters/logo)

Set in a sci-fi future after a decade of warfare against the despot Baron Klaus, a rogue embittered soldier decides to storm the Baron’s manor and kill him herself. A year later, stories are sung of her heroism, but the mystery of her motives remain. Thus begins the tale of COMMANDER RAO, a thrilling fast-paced action comic of how violence begets violence, and how all the heroics of warfare are meaningless in the eyes of what has been lost. According to Fell Hound “Commander Rao is a 28-page dystopian one-shot told through blazing action and minimal dialogue. Inspired by animated fight scenes from shows such as Legend of Korra and Castlevania, the aim was to create a unique, cinematic action comic with a focus on flow and dynamism; while still telling a deeply personal story of broken friendships and survivor’s guilt. It’s a bit sci-fi John Wick with grappling hooks and a comic for anyone who enjoys sci-fi/dystopian genres, intense action sequences and character driven narratives.” I’m not sure about you folks, but sci-fi dystopia with a John Wickish lead running around splashing Legend of Korra and Castlevania type action on the pages? Yup, I’m in. It is very clear from the preview art (hang tight for two EXCLUSIVE pages) that Fell has captured the dynamism she was after in the approach to the action sequences. From what we can see this is shaping up as an excellent display of Fell’s ability. The entire tone and structure stands in contrast to her work with Do You Believe in an Afterlife? (our review linked below). In terms of her portfolio it is a perfect partner piece to that in regards to showing off the range and capabilities of her art. Because of the stark difference in approach that Fell has taken with Commander Rao I reached out to her to get some details on this new project:

Where/how did this story originate?

My portfolio had been lacking some action scenes, so my original intention was to make a short action comic to practice. I used to have a sketchbook of random sci-fi soldiers and designs that I didn’t want to go to waste as well. Commander Rao’s signature look ended up being a mix of those early soldier designs, with some inspiration after Lady Maria from Bloodborne and French Revolution fashion.
 
At the same time while I was brainstorming ideas for this action short, I was writing an outline to a different dystopian war story. Eventually as I was working on both comics the ideas began to crossover and I decided to expand my short comic into a full one-shot. Thus began what I’ve been calling “Dystopian War Project” – a series of two one-shots that include Commander Rao and its upcoming prequel comic!

From the preview art and description the focus is on
the action to tell the story. Was this a choice from the
get go or did it develop as you started working on it?

Yup! My main priority for Commander Rao was always to draw a visually striking action comic and push my art a little. A few years ago, my friend and I were discussing action in films. He mentioned how action in a lot of films these days featured very quick cuts, sometimes to the point he felt they were losing focus and becoming nauseating. Whereas in some older films where the action had longer cuts, he was better able to appreciate the flow and choreography better.
 
I thought about what he said and wanted to apply that into my own comics work. Instead of a fight scene collage I wanted a fight scene that flowed and made people appreciate the movement from one panel to the next. I didn’t want the action to lose momentum as the pages turned.

The synopsis itself begs this question, just how much have you packed into this 28 page one shot?

To be honest this is a one-shot that treats itself like an animated 10-minute short film. It was developed from the ground up as a short story that expanded to a slightly bigger story rather than a grand epic scaled down. Action aside, it’s very narrative focused, character driven and light on exposition. Most of the story is told in real-time as we follow Rao through her rampage across the Baron’s property. Whenever I write I like to keep things succinct and remind myself: simple is best. That doesn’t mean the story won’t have some surprises, but I tried not to add in anything that would take away focus.

How far flung in the future are we in Commander Rao? 

Commander Rao takes place in the year 2X74 😉 So I’d say just far enough that they’ve invented rocket boots and 50 ft tank-mechs haha!

While a one-shot, is there more to the tale of Commander Rao?

Oh yes! Commander Rao was developed to be a one-shot that while standalone, is “part one” of a much deeper story about the crux of the narrative: a heart-wrenching tale of friendship. It is my hope that Commander Rao can introduce the characters and their relationships in an engaging way while still making people curious. And then we will eventually go back in time to the prequel where those relationships are expanded upon and some burning questions can be finally answered.

Just how big of a glimpse of the bigger world will we get?

When it comes to worldbuilding I prefer the art to tell itself. While there are mentions of bigger world events, much of that is no longer the focus of Rao’s interests. For example, “The War”, which at the start of Commander Rao is standing on its last legs, serves as a background catalyst for the characters current circumstances but is never the forefront. For this particular chapter of Rao’s story, Rao has a very singular goal that narrows her worldview dramatically, and the comic very much reflects that perspective. The war will have a more important part to play in the prequel to come. But for now, Rao’s one-woman mission against the Baron takes the spotlight.


There you have it folks! Commander Rao looks to be a fantastic new crowd-funded project. I loved the work from fell that I dove into previously and this is giving me every reason to be excited about taking in even more! Click below to get alerted when the campaign kicks off!

BACK THE PROJECT NOW!

Fell Hound is a queer, Asian-Canadian cartoonist from Toronto, most notable for her bold cinematic style and use of lighting. She began her work in various fan zines and anthologies before launching her debut narrative zine Do You Believe in an Afterlife? in 2019 (our review here). Between Commander Rao, she is currently working on two anthology comics to be published by Boston Comics Roundtable later this year.  

LetterSquids is a letterer and graphic designer who has worked on several amazing indie comics, including projects with Scout, Action Lab, Advent Comics, Insight Comics and many others. His comic Antares Finest (with art by ErrorBound) won the titles of “Best Comic” and “Best Lettering” on r/comicbookcollabs’ 2019 Untold Worlds Anthology.   

KICKSTARTER SPOTLIGHT: Democritus Brand and the Endless Machine

You good folks know we love us some creator published goodness. Well, right now on Kickstarter one of our absolute favorite writers has a campaign for the first two (of a planned six) issues of Democritus Brand and the Endless Machine. For this series Cullen Bunn has teamed with JimmyZ Johnston (writers), Federico de Luca (art), Simon Bowland (letters), Gary Bedell (logo), and Baldemar Rivas (variant cover). We got in touch with Cullen to find out more about the project and what’s in store. Immediately he had a surprise for us!

First and foremost, thank you for taking the time! It is greatly appreciated.
Cullen Bunn: Hey there! I had JimmyZ Johnston, my co-writer, come in on some of these, too! Thank you! The support means the world to us!

Let’s start with the creative team and how it came together …
CB: Jimmy and I have known each other for a long time now. We used to go to horror writer conventions years ago. And Jimmy was the editor on my prose middle reader horror novel, CROOKED HILLS. To put it mildly, Jimmy’s crazy as Hell, but he’s my kind of crazy. He dreams big, comes up with wild ideas. We’ve done a few comics together, and we’ve been kicking around the idea for a steampunk/horror adventure for some time. I don’t even remember how Federico and I first got in touch, but I really liked his art style, and I wanted to do a book with him. It took a little while to find it, but DEMOCRITUS BRAND AND THE ENDLESS MACHINE seemed right up his alley. Simon Bowland is doing the letters for us. I’ve worked with Simon on numerous projects and I know he’s great at what he does. He was the first person I contacted about lettering these books.
(cover to left is the regular cover)


Ok, so the description of the book is “Cosmic Horror in the Steampunk Era,” what led you to combine these two genres for this tale?
JimmyZ Johnston: Cosmic horror is something that I have been a fan of for as long as I can recall. Steampunk has fascinated me ever since I picked up the Girl Genius books from Phil Foglio (back when they were single copy books!) The question of what makes good horror is one I have asked for years. And one answer I always come back to is normalcy. For me the best horror stories are ones that take a normal setting and incorporate horror elements into it. Alien was an amazing sci-fi movie with a normal sci-fi setting. Adding the horror element to it made it perfect movie. For the book we created, taking a normal steampunk setting and adding in the horror elements is something that I hope sets it apart. 
CB: I started thinking about how the world became this steampunk dystopia. I wondered how such a technological revolution might have occured in a short period of time. The origins of the steampunk society–this mysterious mummy that was discovered just 20 years earlier–took us in some truly horrific directions. 

You’re no stranger to and certainly don’t shy away from the outlandish or unusual type of story. How far out there is Democritus Brand?

CB: This is a weird story, I won’t lie. We start out in what appears to be a fairly traditional steampunk adventure tale. There’s hijinks and daring-do and marvelous gadgets aplenty. As the story progresses, though, questions start to rise. Questions about humanity’s place in the world. Questions about cosmic forces that watch over us and play with us for their amusement. It’s a fun and haunting tale, I think, and what’s great is that when Jimmy and I work together, it’s a completely different voice and style of comic!


Did the combination of genres allow you to stretch the Cullen style that many are used to, in terms of what type of story we can expect?
CB: Yes, that allowed me to do some different things for sure. More than that, though, working with a co-writer moves the story in some different directions and gives the book a different kind of “voice.” You’ll see that it is a Cullen Bunn book, but you’ll also see that it is a JimmyZ book. And a Federico book, for that matter. I feel like it’s different from everything else I’ve ever done.
There’s a certain tone that comes with the term “cosmic horror” but the setting provides a unique outlet for it. How were you able to merge the two for this series?
JZ: Taking the Steampunk world into the lore of ancient Egypt let us play with the idea of the unknown with the idea that it has been here longer than we can imagine. Fusing cosmic horror with Egyptian mythology was a key aspect to the world building. The steampunk setting lets us forge a new path. It’s often said that there are no new stories. What excites readers (and creators) is taking elements and merging them in ways that create a uniqueness in storytelling.
How much re-imagining was needed in order to get the two very different stylistic approaches to come together?
JZ: I have always felt that the best stories come from the mingling of genres. Cullen and I talked a lot about the direction the world could go. Having our team as explorers allows us to branch out beyond the expectations of the genres. One aspect to the story we are telling that I think readers will enjoy is that both Cullen and I tend to approach any project with the intention of moving beyond the cliche expectations. So we were really starting with the idea of what would a steampunk world be like if I created it. And what would it be like if Cullen created it. Then we had the amazing artistic talent of Fede who took the concepts we were playing with and turned them into visual representations that added even more depth to the project.CB: What’s fun about world-building for me is that there is a moment where everything just “clicks” and falls into place. Once that happens, the world, the setting, the tone just comes together so smoothly. Merging the two genres was an exercise in world-building. Steampunk is baked into the world’s makeup. And the cosmic horror elements are baked into the steampunk elements, though you may not realize that right away. When the pieces fell into place for this story, it was electric. Well… steam-powered, at least. 

So how familiar will the aesthetic of this project be? 
CB: Federico is bringing his A game to this story, and he is leaning into some of the more familiar aesthetics of the steampunk genre. Of course, when the horror elements start manifesting, he’s taking the look and feel of the steampunk era in the most horrifying directions imaginable. That will turn things on its ear rather quickly.  
Did this combination of elements open anything up for you creatively? 
JZ: Every project brings with it new creative challenges and opportunities. The steampunk world does allow a variety of new ideas that aren’t ones that can be explored in more traditional world building. The horror elements tend to be floating around inside my head at all times, so letting them out to play just feels natural.
CB: Most certainly! We are playing in new territory for me… and it’s thrilling! Lots of new ideas–maybe too many new ideas–have been flooding into my head with this project. We could tell stories about this world for a long time to come!
Was their fluidity in what the end product was, versus at the start, once the creative team was together and involved in getting the project done?
JZ:  Cullen and I have known each other for almost 20 years now. When he was writing prose, I worked with him as an editor. The creative process for us with cowriting is one that is fairly seamless. The largest obstacle we encountered with this was me finding balance between writing time and day to day business time at the shop. It is interesting (for me) how the KickStarter project has changed the nature of it. Up until the time of launch there was a whole lot of isolation in the creative process. Seeing the response as readers are exposed to the project and begin backing it offers a lot of validation to the job of being a creator. CB: I feel like this has always been a very fluid process, really, from the initial brainstorming meetings through the scripts. It’s always been fun for me. It’s never been a “pulling teeth” scenario. 

What do you hope will be the takeaway from this series?
CB: As always, I really want readers to have fun with the book. There’s a lot going on in these pages. A lot to enjoy on every page. I think folks are really gonna dig this one. 
JZ: This initial foray into the world of Democritus Brand will be the launching point allowing us to further explore the world. Adding in new characters and trials for the current team. While the Endless Machine may be the first encounter readers have with Democritus Brand, it won’t be the last.
Again, thank you so much for taking the time!
CB: Thanks so much!

HUGE HUGE HUGE thank you to Cullen Bunn for taking the time to entertain the questions AND for bringing in co-writer JimmyZ to answer with him! That was a nice surprise. Finde out more about the campaign, see for yourself what all the hullabaloo is about, and back the project: DEMOCRITUS BRAND AND THE ENDLESS MACHINE

Get in touch with the creative team:
Cullen Bunn @cullenbunn
JimmyZ Johnston @jimmyzjohnston
Federico de Luca @kere6
Simon Bowland @simonbowland

COMICS HORIZON (SEPT SOLICITS)

This will hopefully be a monthly piece where we’ve taken a look at the solicits and share what we’re excited about! This month (July) sees the solicits for books hitting the shelves in SEPTEMBER! Now, this isn’t the FULL list of stuff that intrigues us but these are books that we WILL be adding to the pull list, continuing, and/or picking up.

Sweet Heart VOL 1 (Action Lab)

Horror done right. Excellent world building and a proper eerie presentation. Monsters are real and people know it. A truly unique plot in a genre where people try too hard to make something old, new again.Horror done right.

(w) Dillon Gilbertson
(a) Francesco Iaquinta
(c) Marco Pagnotta
(l) Saida Temofonte

Lonely Receiver #1 (Aftershock)

A horror take on the break up story. Toss in the sci-fi element and there’s a recipe for what could be an absolutely terrifying take on the break up. Social commentary as well as half of the couple is AI (analogues to our phones).

(w) Zac Thompson
(a/c) Jen Hickman
(l) Simon Bowland

We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #1 (Boom)

The bodies of dead Gods sustain the human race. A live God has never been seen but one ship captain wants to break free of the system. What waits is a threat like none ever faced before.

(w) Al Ewing
(a) Simone Di Meo

Cyber Punk 2077: Trauma Team #1 (Dark Horse)

Based on the highly anticipated upcoming video game, Trauma Team will focus on the sole survivor of a failed rescue mission. Agreeing to continue work on a new mission more danger and threats await.

(w) Cullen Bunn
(a) Miguel Valderrama
(c) Jason Wordie
(l) Frank Cvetkovic

Dry Foot #1 (Mad Cave)

Coming of age tale set in 1980’s Miami? Yes please. Desperate to escape the drugs and violence of the city four teens plane to nab cash from the most dangerous gang in order to do so.

(w) Jarred Lujan
(a) Orlando Caicedo
(c) Warnia Sahadewa
(l) Justin Birch

The Autumnal #1 (Vault)

Small town folk terror. Heading to the tiny Comfort Notch, New Hampshire are a mother and daughter try to escape the difficult life they’d known in Chicago. The newest entry in the Nightfall line appears to be appropriately haunting.

(w) Daniel Kraus
(a) Chris Shehan
(c) Jason Wordie
(l) Jim Campbell

CONTINUING

Coffin Bound #6
Rogue Planet #5 (Oni)
Shadow Roads #10 (Oni)
Bleed them Dry #3 (Vault)
Engineward #3 (Vault)
Finger Guns #5 (Vault)
Money Shot #8 (Vault)
No One’s Rose #5 (Vault)
Plot #7 (Vault)
Shadow Service #2 (Vault)
Vampire Masquerade #2 (Vault)
Amazing Spider-Man #49 (Marvel)
Batman the Adventures Continue #4 (DC)
Legion of Superheroes #9 (DC)

WATCHLIST

Dept of Truth #1 (Image)
Inkblot #1 (Image)
Stargazer #1 (Mad Cave)
Ultraman #1 (Marvel)
Heavy #1 (Vault)

Pride Month Spotlight: Joe Glass

June is PRIDE MONTH and here at the Driving Creators Network we wanted to showcase/spotlight an LGBTQIA+ comic creator. While there are a MULTITUDE of talented folks we decided on Joe for several reasons. First and foremost he is an extremely talented writer. For our money you’re getting as good of an Indy Comic Writer as there is with Joe. THE PRIDE has seen a few successfully funded Kickstarter campaigns (collected editions and pins) as well being a Comixology Original. Acceptable Losses was also successfully Kickstarted and has recently made its way to backers. More importantly Joe is a fantastic human being. Always willing to engage and discuss on social media, he’s been a very welcome piece of the comic community that has been found by the DCN over the last couple of years. As we dive into the spotlight we’re going to start with Joe himself as well as his take on a few things in regards to the community of LGBTQIA+ comic creators …

JOE GLASS

JOE GLASS

Writer/Creator

First of all.  Tell us about Joe.  Who are you? Not just the comic stuff, but you.
Hm, well, I am a writer and creator who lives in Wales, born and raised here too. I’ve been a reporter and critic in the comics industry, and a staunch advocate for LGBTQIA+ representation in the medium for as long as I can remember, which of course led into creating my own comics with LGBTQIA+ focus. I have a very naughty cat named Oliver who’s favourite things are singing the songs of his people at all times of day and night and biting me. Oh, and I’m really missing doing comic cons right now.
Queer Comix, is that just your imprint? Is there more too it?  Are there plans for it beyond your books? 
Well, funny story: back in the days when I was self-publishing The Pride, ComiXology started their Submit function. When you’re uploading comics to Submit there’s a Publishers Logo bit you have to upload, and I didn’t think about making the Publisher just my own name and using a pic of me or something for it ha. So I made up this fictional publishing arm called Queer Comix. As time progressed, and I got picked up by ComiXology for their Originals line, it made sense to make it more official and publish my independent comics under that logo, making them easier to find together on ComiXology. We’ll see what the future brings with it.
What LGBTQIA+ creators are you a fan of?  Who’s work do you seek out?
Right now? If something is created by Steve Orlando, Sophie Campbell, James Tynion IV, Sina Grace or Vita Ayala I am down for it, right away. And that’s just a start. There are so many queer creators doing brilliant work and more emerging all the time. Hamish Steele, Erika Price, Magdalene Visaggio, so many people are making really vital work right now, so when there’s something new from them I try to get on it as quick as I can.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest obstacle facing LGBTQIA+ comic creators?
Well, there’s a lot. Perhaps the worst is a toxic element of comics fandom that creates a culture of gatekeeping and does everything in their power to make the lives of queer creators a living hell online. Often to the point they have to remove themselves from these powerful social media tools which can be vitally important for spreading knowledge of their work, especially as so few are helped by big publishers. There’s also an element, in terms of mainstream comics like the Big Two, that queer creators have to pull back on their own content, to not make things ‘too gay’ so that it can appeal to as wide an audience as possible, including those toxic elements I mentioned. The thing is, those people are never going to like and support those comics, the Big Two publishers shouldn’t be putting so much focus on trying to reach those audiences and holding queer created or content books to the same standards in a market that sadly still contains a lot of bigotry. 
For example, consider a book like Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass. It’s not a comic, but an OGN, designed to work in the book market over the comic market, and it sells amazingly well. Whereas if a similar book is made for the comic market, it struggles to do as well and the content and creator are subjected to torrents of abuse. Obviously, in this case, the different standards are not based on queerness but on medium (book over comic), but it does evidence how differently queer content can be taken when we change the standards by which we market and push them. 
It all depends on what LGBTQIA+ creators are hoping to achieve, and what constitutes ‘breaking in’ for them, but certainly as far as the Big Two are concerned, it’s mainly about the standards (note, not of quality, but of marketability) that our voices get held to and how those voices get policed to try and appeal to demographics who are not going to support them. 
That’s just one obstacle, of course, but that’s already a hefty chunk of explanation and obviously just my opinion. There’s undoubtedly many more. But if aspiring LGBTQIA+ creators are anything like me, they won’t let that stop them.

THE PRIDE

We start with a look at THE PRIDE.
The skinny is this: The Pride is a superhero group that lives the superhero mantra that is so often voiced but hardly represented by the books trying to send a message. Be who you are and be proud of it. That is exactly what the heroes in the Pride live up in their adventures, themselves. Making no qualms about who they are and how they feel the characters within the pages of The Pride bring full on representation, a voice, and heroes (not just as comic characters) for an entire community that resides in comic fandom.

For me, this book is important on several levels. Most importantly is that it provides genuine connection to a long overlooked, and quite frankly mistreated, set of fans. The real life struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community are mirroed by Fabman and CO’s efforts. As a member of the community himself, Joe brings authentic insight, experience, and a true voice to the representation within the pages of the book. The importance of this cannot be expressed. Nobody can be represented as they can represent themselves. As you read The Pride and get to know the characters the authenticity shines through. There’s no forced situations, the dialogue isn’t lip service, and the characters themselves are genuine and just pandering. This allows for a beautiful piece of work to come across while delivering on two fronts. Firstly The Pride is, as mentioned, a representative book. It is a safe place for an entire section of comic fans. While a haven it isn’t merely that though. The book is a beacon of empowerment in every sense of the word. As with the superhero message mentioned earlier, The Pride embodies the who and what of the LGBTQIA+ in a fashion that encourages readership to embrace that with which they identify. It isn’t a subplot or plot device, but rather, a fundamental and intrinsic fabric of the creation itself. The creation mind, is from Joe’s scripts. GENUINE. The characters, their interactions, and their expression on the page is GENUINE. That makes all the difference. Second, The Pride is a full on superhero comic full stop. While the lens through which the stories are told and the characters were molded aren’t “the norm” the end result stands up as every bit a proper genre piece as anything else on the shelves. It isn’t all about them though. There are encounters with some outright villains as well as a straight up nuclear meltdown. They face the same perils and overcome the exact types of trials that world famous hero groups have traversed. The difference is that they’ve not been singular in focus. That is the mastery that Joe has in his writing. He’s able to intertwine both aspects (the representation and true on superhero) in a manner that serves them both individually but also intertwines them seamlessly.

Your big work, THE PRIDE. Where/how did this book forge itself? Meaning, your thought process that brought it about.
The first sparks of The Pride came when I was a gay comic fan teenager myself. I was loving X-Men and Spawn, but feeling like I never saw voices like mine or characters that were openly LGBTQIA+. I knew comics was something I wanted to make some day, so I started making my own characters and coming up with scenes. By the time I was 23 I had written the first few scripts, but I felt like no one would want them, they were just for me. I was working with some friends on another comic, and they read the scripts and insisted I had something special there and should make it. That, by the way, shows you how important genuine and true allyship is – it can give us the strength to make a leap, knowing that there are some people willing to have our backs, whether they are like us or not. Anyway, I worked with Gavin Mitchell then to design the characters and he agreed to do the first couple issues too and well, the rest is history I guess. The main thought process that led to its birth was a desire to see voices like my own or my friends in the LGBTQIA+ community shared and seen. And when no one else seemed to be doing it in the medium I love most, I decided to just do it myself.
A big theme in The Pride is the portrayal of the response (or lack thereof) to their formation. How intertwined is that with the actual community they are representing on the page?
Well, thankfully, the comic is very well received. When it is reviewed by genuine reviewers (and not YouTube bigots who seem to like sitting in their cars and screaming at their own laps while sitting in a car park) it’s reviewed well, colleagues and creators I’ve looked up to for years have said wonderful things, and most importantly fans have regularly told me how much it means to them at shows. That’s always the best bit. I’m talking fans from across the whole spectrum of identity and sexuality, but it’s always especially nice to hear from fellow queer comics fans who share what it meant to them to be seen for a moment in a comic. That’s not to say there hasn’t been backlash. The most negative though has come from a certain comics hate group, but I even get some from within the LGBTQIA+ community who don’t like that one of the lead characters is a very camp, visually stereotypical gay man, and decry the whole book as a result. For me, as a camp gay man who loves wearing glitter and bright colours and sequins and more (I mean, heck, just call me the Elton John of comics), it was important to me to include femme, camp gay men, and other stereotypes, because we exist and our voices have value too. And stereotypes are, to me, not inherently bad, it is how they are used. So I like taking them and twisting expectations on their head, or showing you that the people you’d happily write off maybe have something important and of value to contribute. 

In an amusing way, which I guess hasn’t occurred to me until you asked, the response to the comic from some corners has been similar to the in context response to The Pride‘s formation in the comic. In the context of the story they’re kind of treated as a joke, and don’t get a universal positive response when they reveal themselves. They’re met with some derisive or dismissive responses. Conversely, there have been people ready to write it off as a fad, or as a joke, or worse – but the voices that really mattered have been the people feeling genuine joy that they get to see themselves for a minute in their favorite medium.
The LGBTQIA+ thematics aside, THE PRIDE is a full on superhero book. What were your inspirations for this? Have you always wanted to write a superhero book or was it just the fit that was best for the story you are wanting to tell?
Oh, I’m obsessed with superheroes. As a kid, I loved myths and legends, and to me superheroes are just the myths and legends of the modern age; of the 20th Century and beyond. Superman is a new Zeus, or Batman a new Pluto, and I believe they’re capable of communicating the same kinds of messages and emotions that the tales of the gods and demigods did for society all those years ago. So for me, and for what will probably wind up being the majority of my work when I’m done on this Earth, superheroes are a focus. 

In terms of The Pride, it was important to me that LGBTQIA+ people get the chance to BE the hero for a change: not be a supporting character, a victim, or background scenery, but the actual full colour, upfront larger than life hero of their own world. Within that context, The Pride then also allowed me to play not only with the stereotypes of queer representation and life, but also with the archetypes of the superhero medium as a whole. This effect is two-fold: it lets readers feel like they know the character straight away even though they’re new because they understand the archetype but also then allows them to viscerally see themselves in that role. We don’t have to be the Iago, the Timon, the Terry Berg – we can BE the Superman, that kind of thing. In terms of inspiration, wow, I could list the creators of superheroes I admire for weeks. I’d say there’s definitely a lot of Chris Claremont, and I’ll admit to some Scott Lobdell (he was writing the X-books, including my favourite one, Generation X, when I was growing up) too, but the work of Grant Morrison also inspired some of the characters, and some Bendis in there too.
What is the one drive home point that you’d hope people would get from The Pride?
We are stronger together, and everyone’s voice is valid. We achieve great things when we all work together. 

And an extra one for straight fans who maybe haven’t considered checking out ‘that gay book’ yet because it’s ‘not for them’: I hope it makes them look at things from a new perspective, and realise that they might even relate to some of these things too, if they just give them a chance.

ACCEPTABLE LOSSES

Now a look at ACCEPTABLE LOSSES.
The skinny is this: Politically driven motifs endanger the life of a Soldier sent to do the bidding his government. Deemed expendable when weighed against the larger outcome he finds himself on the brink of being a casualty of war alongside the many innocents caught in a place they can’t escape. Direct and to the point, Acceptable Losses takes a look at real world issues that we’ve become all to familiar with in regards to war.

The hardest part about delivering politics in comics is managing bias. Bias itself isn’t necessarily a problem (freedom of expression). Not being able to keep it out of the way of the creative endeavor though, is a problem. This isn’t an issue here. Joe speaks to a very real issue that faces those that serve and those caught between the machinations of war. Joe tackles a face of war that people around the world are, at least at face value, familiar with in “the war on terror.” Using the politics that drive these types as a vice grip on his characters, he presses out a thought provoking tale of choice. At first glance Acceptable Losses reads as an anti-hero type of book. It is, in a way, but is quite a bit more than that. While there is a hint of that aspect what the story really does is peel back the layers of the many levels involved when war is raging on. Highlighting the cyclical nature and self-fulfilling prophecy of our choices, Acceptable Losses also ends up as a cautionary piece for blindly following. Life simply isn’t black and white. Shades of grey exist everywhere and the vast majority of life is lived between the lines. War is no different and neither are the results of it. This is illustrated excellently as the book caps off in the final pages. If you take the time to read and pay attention while doing so, you’ll see just how nuanced this story is beyond first glance. Each character acts as a thought process that people have about war. In this manner they also mirror the effect of power over people (as well as perceived). Don’t forget though, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction … at minimum. While self-contained there are some long legs for Acceptable Losses to stretch out should Joe want to continue this exploration.

Acceptable Losses is quite the turn from The Pride. How did you come up with this story?
A combination of things. I’m more than what people expect of me from The Pride, and I’m more than just focused on queer rights in the world. AL was kind of about speaking to that: about creating something so tonally different from The Pride, something darker and grittier, and that had a hypocritical anti-hero instead of a beacon of hope kind of hero. But it’s also about speaking out about the never-ending cycle of violence that seems to be the immediate response of the majority of world leaders through history and today. How our nation’s actions can sometimes be short sighted and result in the very problems we’re trying to fight against. So it kinda built from that – I wanted to move on from a comic that challenged how people perceived queer representation and stereotypes in the media, and challenge their preconceptions about me too.
Hailing from the UK, you have a different viewpoint in terms of the events depicted in Acceptable Losses.  Can you elaborate?
In terms of the War on Terror? I mean, while we may have approached it differently, the UK essentially takes pretty much the same role in the supposed ‘War on Terror’. I think it’s no secret from my online presence that I’m very liberal, generally socialist, and as such, I don’t like or believe in wars or violence as an answer. Which, naturally, is a complicated viewpoint and discussion when we’re talking superheroes etc. 
But generally, I think that the answer to violence committed on us isn’t to commit disproportionately larger responses that blindly affect everyone, even people who are nothing more than bystanders. When a man slaps you, your response shouldn’t be to pull a bazooka on them. And the more we’ve dehumanised the realities of war, with the addition of drones and categorising a people or religion as hostile combatants, the more dangerous it has become to the future of humanity as a whole.
Is what we see in Acceptable Losses something you see in the UK or elsewhere? Being in the UK you are closer to some similar issues in other countries.
I think it’s something we see all around the world, more or less. These days, even if we don’t live in, say, the United States, we are extremely aware of what the United States is doing and the discussion that creates. In fact, it’s arguable that the actions of the USA affect the actions and decisions of so many other nations these days. And I know for a fact that there are a lot of people who have a better understanding of US politics than UK politics.
All of which is to say, I think the events in AL, while depicted as taking place in America, are relatable to many people from many countries. Do we see the UK doing similar things to other nations? Well, we are often fighting in the same conflicts. 

Joe’s work speaks for itself. With THE PRIDE and ACCEPTABLE LOSSES he has two extremely powerful works that resonate directly with the world we all live in. He’s given voices and heroes to fans that have been under-served, neglected, and even abused. He’s taken an aspect of global life that affects our society on multiple levels and breathed an air of escapism into it that allows it to be taken in and appreciated. Joe has also tackled something that is in headlines nearly every day. Conflict is part of life and perpetuates a cycle of violence. The political arena is a nasty battleground yet often those that care nothing for it are the ones that bear the consequences of its outcomes. What’s truly impressive is the breadth of ability he shows with the diversity in storytelling in these two titles. Even the aspects that are shared find their proper voice (for the respective story) and aren’t just being shoehorned in. There is definitely no square pegging a round hole simply because something needs to fit. Both works see a fluid written perspective that brings across the respective narratives flawlessly. Both of these titles have me excited for more of Joe’s work.

You’re featured in the currently Kickstarting MAYBE SOMEDAY from A Wave Blue World. What can you share about your participation in this new anthology?
Well, first off I can share that I’m very excited about it. It’s again a chance for me to tell a very different story from what I’m known for, and allowed me to grapple some complex ideas of our world today, from nationalism, isolationism and even social media. It’s short, it’s subtle, but I think it speaks a lot to some ideas I still have for remaining hopeful and positive. Plus the art from Yasmin Liang is….you’ve just got to see it. It’s some phenomenal work, I was so lucky. Now I know the full scale of who’s involved too, I am so excited to be a part of the book with so many super talented creators and great minds of today. It’s great to see more comics from Renfamous, and the first comic work from Hagai Palevsky, and I’ve been lucky to know just how crazy talented Zoe Thorogood is for some time, so I can’t wait to see that shared with the wider world. Honestly, it’s such an amazing book of talent, I feel blessed to be a part of it.
What’s next for Joe Glass?
Well, COVID-19 put a hold on a lot of stuff, so things are still very much up in the air for me. I am hoping there’ll be more Pride and that I might be able to get working on that very soon. I have some other pans on the fire, hoping something will come of them now the industry is starting to rise again, a long sleeping giant. 
The next thing I think will be visible for me though is Glitter Vipers, an original graphic novel, about a queer support group becoming a street gang and fighting back against homophobic crime. I’ll be launching a Kickstarter for that. It’s been pushed back a couple times due to the lockdown and various events, but I’m currently hoping we’ll launch our campaign towards the end of Pride Month.

Judging by the logo that Joe has teased
for GLITTER VIPERS we’re all in for
another treat. Look for the campaign
on KICKSTARTER as early as the end
of June – PRIDE MONTH

I want to thank JOE GLASS for his willingness to participate in this spotlight and for his candor in sharing with all of us.
Below are links to Joe’s online presence and where to get a hold of your own copies of his work:

MAYBE SOMEDAY

Stories of Promies, Visions of Hope

Joe is one of the featured writers in the current
KICKSTARTER campaign from A WAVE BLUE WORLD.
A full color anthology with over 25 stories about
a brighter future. It is the sequel to the Ringo
Award nominated ALL WE EVER WANTED.

In addition to Joe’s wonderful writing, here are some other books that feature either LGBTQIA+ creators or characters:

YOUTH

Curt Pires, Alex Diotto, Dee Cunniffe,
Micah Myers

A coming of age story that tells the story of two queer teenagers as they run away from their lives in a bigoted small town, and attempt to make their way to California. Along the way their car breaks down and they join up with a group of fellow misfits on the road. Embarking together in a van travelling the country they party and attempt to find themselves

LOST ON PLANET EARTH

Magdalene Visaggio, Claudia Aguirre,
Zakk Saam

It’s 2381, and Basil Miranda, on the verge of graduation, knows exactly what she’s doing with the rest of her life and always has: a primo assignment on the best ship in the fleet alongside her best friend in the world. She has meticulously prepared herself, and the final Fleet Exam is tomor-row. But what if none of that is what she really wants? And why hasn’t she ever asked herself that before?

FORGOTTEN HOME

Erica Schultz, Marika Cresta, Matt Emmons,
Cardinal Rae

While investigating a series of child abductions in Montana, the case gets personal for Sheriff’s Deputy Lorraine Adalet when her teenage daughter, Joanna, disappears with a friend. Mired in a never-ending war she escaped long ago, Lorraine had hoped to protect Joanna from her own past. Once in Jannada, Lorraine attempts a rescue mission to bring Joanna and the rest of the kidnapped children back.

THE BLACK GHOST

Alex Segura, Monica Gallagher,
Marco Finnegan, George Kambadais,
Ellie Wright, Taylor Esposito

Meet Lara Dominguez—a troubled Creighton cops reporter obsessed with the city’s debonair vigilante—The Black Ghost. With the help of a mysterious cyber-informant named LONE, Lara’s inched closer to uncovering the Ghost’s identity. But as she searched for the breakthrough story she desperately needs, Lara will have to navigate the corruption of her city, the uncertainties of virtue, and her own personal demons. Will she have the strength to be part of the solution—or will she become the problem?

QUARTER KILLER

Vita Ayala, Danny Lore, Jamie Jones,
Ryan Ferrier

Young Aya begs the infamous Quarter Killer to help rescue her father–a company hacker himself–from men who are forcing him back into crime.
Quarter Killer–so named because they will only accept the ol skool quarters–surprises everyone when they choose to do the job for free. And so begins a game starring our hip-hop inspired Robin Hood and their crew. Confronting everything from addictive video games in the projects to shady corporations in casinos, QK and co are more than just a specialized team of experts–they are a family.

LIEBESTRASSE

Greg Lockard, Tim Fish, Hector Barros,
Lucas Gattoni

During the final years of the Weimar Republic, Sam meets Philip in Berlin and they fall in love. Their romance is hit with an unspeakable reality as the Nazis come to power and fascism makes them a target.

THE DARK

Mark Sable, Kristian Donaldson,
Lee Loughridge, Thomas Mauer

After a worldwide cyberwar ends technology as we know it, a former super-soldier teams up with a biopunk to fight the rise of a biological internet forcing humanity to connect to it—whether they want to or not. An original graphic novel.