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.