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 …
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.
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.
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:
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:
Curt Pires, Alex Diotto, Dee Cunniffe,
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,
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?
Erica Schultz, Marika Cresta, Matt Emmons,
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?
Vita Ayala, Danny Lore, Jamie Jones,
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.
Greg Lockard, Tim Fish, Hector Barros,
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.
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.