The superhero genre in comic books has taken steps to better represent the LGBTQ community, but an independent title called The Pride is doing it in one big leap.
Created by writer Joe Glass and a bevy of artists from around the globe, The Pride is a super-team that takes the diversity of the original "All-New All Different" X-Men of old and modernizes it to represent the broad array of people with sexuality beyond just that of heterosexual.
After a strong run of nine issues between two titles, Glass is using Kickstarter to raise funds and handle pre-orders for a hardcover collection of the entire The Pride saga thusfar. After meeting his original goal early on and almost doubling it in the final hours of the campaign, Newsarama talked to Glass about the origins, scope and intent of his super-team series.
Newsarama: Joe, for those who haven't read The Pride, tell them in your own words: what is it about?
Joe Glass: In the simplest, bare bones sense, The Pride follows FabMan and a team of LGBTQ+ superheroes he puts together to fight for better representation for the community as well as justice and what's right. They'll face prejudice, injustice and the kind of faulty thinking and poor media representation and treatment that the LGBTQ+ community faces every day...but they'll also be all that stands between the world and a terrible villain bent on domination.
The story behind that? The Pride is the kind of book I always wanted to see as an LGBTQ+ comic fan, and I wanted to tell it in such a way that is accessible to anyone and everyone, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.
Nrama: So just who is FabMan?
Glass: FabMan is Tomorrow's Fabulous Man, Today! Ha!
He's very much the guy who gets the ball rolling in The Pride. Basically, he's a flamboyant gay man - he's the stereotype, if you will, but personally, I don't see 'stereotype' as the dirty word that many seem to think it is. He's camp, enthusiastic and wears a punk Lycra supersuit with hot pants. Why would I go with such a blatant stereotype, I hear so many people ask.
Because we deserve a voice and representation too. I include myself in that because, frankly, I can be pretty darn camp a lot of the time, as are many of my friends.
Something I saw happening a lot with LGBTQ+ characters in mainstream comics is that queer character is often presented in a fairly heteronormative way. That is, if the character didn't explicitly say they were gay, you would be hard pushed to know it - their queer identity is effectively hidden, except for when it's beneficial for it to be obvious, for a plot point or reveal. FabMan is the reverse of that, a character who you can't get away from the fact that they are gay and revels in that part of their identity, as I do, and many others too.
Finally, he's also very much my way of not only looking at a superheroic archetype in the Superman-esque figure, but also looking at many of the leaders and icons of the gay rights and LGBTQ+ movement have been camp, flamboyant, outspoken people.
Nrama: What are FabMan and the Pride up against in the main series?
Glass: The main villain of the core story arc of The Pride is the Reverend - a man who has taken something powerful and good in religion and is using it for his own selfish and dastardly ends. Along with him is the brutish Basher, a thug filled to the brim with misogyny and homophobia and frightening violence.
But more than that, the villain of The Pride is very much the ways in which the LGBTQ+ community finds itself attacked in the real world: misrepresentation, being made the butts of jokes, or boiled down to a single thing. I wanted to show the community is more than any of that, and can rise above it. That we shouldn't have to prove ourselves, but you can bet we can when we do.
Nrama: Why did you create The Pride in the first place?
Glass: As I mentioned earlier, I kind of wanted to make a comic I really felt I needed when I was growing up a confused gay teen reading comics. I felt it really hard to see myself in my favorite media. I mean, there were allegories, sure, like the X-Men, which were always my favorite books. But allegory only it seemed, at least when I was a teenager. And whilst one might argue that that is representation and something to see ourselves in, one could also argue that by only showing it allegorically, you are by definition saying it's something that shouldn't be talked about directly.
I wanted to see heroes were openly and unapologetically who they are, sexuality and gender identity and all. But more than that, a book that gave LGBTQ+ audiences something to see themselves in explicitly and as context, not subtext, and non-LGBTQ+ readers can also enjoy and may find they relate to as well, and come to understand the LGBTQ+ community more.
Nrama: Kris Anka has been a key part of the visual make-up of this series, although he's only done covers. But he's still a part of it, years later, doing commissions for the Kickstarter. What's his involvement like, especially has his star has risen at Marvel?
Glass: Ha, my only wish is that I could get him to do more, if only Marvel didn't have him in their clutches!
Honestly, Kris' support has been amazing. From way back when I first came across his artwork on Project: Rooftop and immediately messaged him about doing our first cover, he's gone on to do more covers, a couple of character designs and generally just be super supportive of the book. That's never changed no matter how busy and big he's got with his Marvel work (and frankly, his work on Captain Marvel at the moment is freakin' amazing!), honestly, his help has always been so much appreciated, and we've since become really good friends.
Hopefully, one of these days we'll finally get to work on a whole project together. Lord knows we been pitchin'!
But more than just Kris, I have to thank all the artists who've been a part of The Pride. It's really felt like this wonderful community of creators all working together to make something wonderful. From Gavin Mitchell who helped me get the ball rolling and design most of the characters, to Christian Wildgoose, Dan Harris, and the other indie UK creators on the scene here that have played a part, as well as those from outside the UK, like Jacopo Camagni, Denis Medri, Cory Smith and Jamal Campbell, to name just a few. It's been amazing to work with all of these incredibly talented people; not forgetting our colorists and letterer, Mike Stock.
Nrama: As you mentioned, you have an eclectic group of artists who were involved in these issues. Some had done professional work beforehand, and many have found Big Two work after this. How'd you recruit for this series?
Glass: For the majority, it was a matter of seeing people whose work I loved online and just sending them a message, telling them about the project and seeing if they'd be available. Amazingly, and luckily, most not only were available but also really excited and open to working on something with the themes and message of The Pride.
We started with Gavin Mitchell, who helped me get it going while we were working on another project called Stiffs, and he helped nail down the overall image and design of the series. The main series ended with Maxime Garbarini and Héctor Barros, who felt so strongly about the message of The Pride and brought their “A” game to make our finale a stunning issue to bow out on. Those and every artist in between has been an amazing part of the series and really been a joy to work with.
It's fantastic to feel that a book about diversity also has a wide community of creators involved adding their own part to the world. And it is no surprise that many have gone on to work for the likes of Marvel and DC! I'm surprised more haven't been snatched up yet!
Nrama: Gavin Mitchell did the bulk of the character designs, which for a series -- especially a superhero series -- is integral. Can you talk about that process, especially now that you've had the characters drawn by so many subsequent artists?
Glass: Some of these characters had been in my mind for years, and I had my own (rough and very bad) sketches which Gav was able to build from, make his own and make them special. Other characters were entirely him, with just rough guidance from me. Gavin has an incredible eye for visual storytelling and design, he really made The Pride what it is.
Some characters were actually designed by others, like Kris and Sophie Campbell. Everyone really helped make the world feel cohesive and diverse visually too, and when Maxime came on for the final issue, he elaborated on it to really continue that sense of distinction and style. Honestly, I gush about every artist on the series all the time, I've been really blessed to have such talent be able to make something special out of my little ideas for a comic.
Nrama: The superhero genre landscape has changed somewhat since you first began The Pride -- but how overall do you think the superhero genre is in terms of representing the LGBTQ+ communities?
Glass: It's weird. It seems to go in peaks and troughs. We just had a great peak, which was primarily coming from DC, with several titles led by LGBTQ+ characters, Midnighter by Steve Orlando, Aco et al. a particular stand out. I mean, seriously, an unapologetic, sexual gay man leading a book, and not just any book but a dark, gritty and hyper-violent action series like that - like, just five years ago you would never have believed you'd see it! Hell, even some editors at major publishers publicly stated how they didn't think it was 'time' for a leading gay man title.
Sadly, a lot of those books are vanishing, and we don't know if we'll see that level of representation replaced by something else, and other parts of the mainstream comics seem to be wanting to hide or unwilling to admit any connection to the LGBTQ+ community at all.
One thing that does give me hope is I think there are more LGBTQ+ creators becoming part of the mainstream than ever before, so hopefully that can only lead to good things. And hell, I ain't gonna stop. I'll keep pushing with The Pride as long as I can.
Nrama: Could you ever see The Pride crossing over with other superhero titles? If so, can you name-check them here and how you could envision it?
Glass: Oh, I'd love to! There's actually another LGBTQ+ superhero book from here in the UK called Spandex which I always thought it would be fun to cross over with. But also, I'd like to do something like those classic DC crossovers, like we got with the Supergirl/Flash TV crossover, and that we've seen in the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. I dunno, maybe a The Pride meets the Justice League, or with Marvel, let The Pride meet the X-Men...that would be a dream come true!
Nrama: The Pride has successfully done several crowdfunding campaigns before this one. Beyond just funding, how has this enhanced connection with your audience affected the way you do writing, organizing and publishing The Pride?
Glass: Way back when I first started this whole making comics thing, I used Indiegogo to get me started. Back then, I thought it'd be funding the production of the whole series but boy was I wrong! Thankfully, in the years following, I have learned so much, and I've learned so much more about organizing and cultivating your contacts and interacting with fans and readers and finding new ones.
It's something I always say about making comics, and which I hear at every 'How to break into comics' panel I've ever been to at any con - you only learn and make it by doing. Make your books, learn from others around you and from the mistakes and walls you'll inevitably make and find, but its all part of growing and learning as a creator.