This Pride Month has seen a little bit of controversy in the world of comics, but it's not all doom and gloom. Pride is a time for the LGBTQ community to stand for their rights, equality, and thoughtful representation, as well as a time to remember the struggles we've gone through to get here — but it's also a time to celebrate the victories, those that brought us here, and the things to be thankful for now.
I asked my colleagues here at Bleeding Cool what LGBTQ+ creators or projects they think have been the most influential, or they've most enjoyed so that we can present them to you, our Bleeding Cool readers.
So without further ado, here's a list of those that Bleeding Cool is thankful for this Pride Month.
Kieron Gillen, a suggestion from copy editor Haley Rose-Lyon:
The enigmatic Gillen has been portraying queer characters in comics spanning the entire spectrum since 2006's Phonogram. While the focus is more often on his characters' sexualities than his own, he's definitely not been shy to share his experience as a queer person with fans in need. He and longtime partner-in-comics Jamie McKelvie won the 2013 GLAAD Outstanding Comic Book Award for Young Avengers, a nearly all-LGBTQ+ superhero team (badass). But for me, there's no Gillen comic more influential than The Wicked + The Divine. Aside from the wonderful crew of dynamic, powerful queer characters, my personal affinity for WicDiv began within Luci's first few panels — slick, magnetic, and unabashed in her androgyny and sexual fluidity. It's not often one gets to see what their god equivalent would look like, but there she was, right on the page. I don't think I'll ever love a comic character as immediately and as viscerally as I do Luci, and I've got Gillen to thank.
Adi Tantimedh's recommendation is Maddie Blaustein, who you might actually know from her work outside of comics:
Maddie Blaustein wasn't just a former member of editorial at Marvel and DC Comics, but also a prolific voice actor best known for being the voice of Meowth in the Pokemon cartoon series. Deathwish, the four-issue miniseries from Milestone, was written by Blaustein and drawn by J.H. Williams in some of his earliest work. While the series is named for its homicidal vigilante character, the protagonist is a trans cop navigating her way through the sexism and transphobia of her colleagues while investigation a series of murders before the title character forces her to face her own existential issues.
Dan Wickline thinks we should all remember Jeffrey Catherine Jones:
Called the "greatest living painter" by Frank Frazetta, Jones achieved fame as a cover artist on numerous books and comics, including working Wonder Woman, Flash Gordon, Creepy and Eerie, among many others. Winner of numerous awards, Jones passed recently in 2011, so we take a moment to remember her life and art.
Ray Flook brings up Philip Craig Russell, a classic artist with a long history of working on numerous elements of comic creation:
I discovered Philip Craig Russell's work in 1987…and interestingly enough, it was through his inking of Mike Mignola's art in their 1987 Phantom Stranger mini-series for DC Comics. I was just returning to comics after a several year "too cool" stage, and was coming back with a greater appreciation for both the art and writing that goes into a comic.
With this series, I realized just how important an inker is in conveying the overall story visually. Mignola did his part exceptionally well, conveying a world of magic and the supernatural…but it was Russell's work that grounded those panels in a gritty reality that made it easier for me to connect with the story emotionally. When I learned that he was also an illustrator, I went back and found the work he did with Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone and become a huge fan.
For me, Russell had the ability to visually lure me into genre worlds (fantasy, sword-n-sorcery, magic/supernatural) that I usually didn't have much interest in at the time and broaden my geek horizons beyond just "spandex-punching-spandex" books. Don't believe me? Then here's my "one issue challenge:" check-out Russell's work on Neil Gaiman's The Sandman #50 (Ramadan) and see if you also don't end-up as one of the converted.
Bleeding Cool's very own Editor-In-Chief Rich Johnston suggests Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who was instrumental in bringing a sea change in direction at Archie Comics and the latest The CW series, Riverdale.
It cannot be underestimated what a shift Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa brought to Archie. A successful playwright, who was once sued in 2003 by Archie Comics for his gay-themed Riverdale stage production Archie's Weird Fantasy saw success writing comics for Marvel.
Then, 10 years after he was first sued, in 2013 taking on Afterlife With Archie, the publisher's first attempt to create a teen readers Archie title for the comic book direct market. The series transformed the world of Archie into pulp horror, while also diversifying the characters in terms of sexuality. The success transformed the publishing line, opening up what was and was not acceptable from Archie Comics and following up on the work of Dan Parent in creating Kevin Keller and the series Life With Archie. Archie Comics as a whole relaunched in 2014, saw Aguirre-Sacasa promoted to chief creative officer, driving the new line of socially relevant titles as well as creating and writing the Riverdale teen drama for CW.
The public perception of Archie has been transformed by this and brought new attention to the line. That there is even a public debate over the treatment of Jughead as an ace/aro character, and that the world of Riverdale could even be seen as relevant to teenagers lifestyles again, is down to Roberto pushing at the same themes – and characters – present in the very play Archie Comics once tried to ban.
How can you not take pride in that?
Bleeding Cool reviewer Josh Davison brings us a pair to be proud of, James Tynion IV and Marguerite Bennett:
Writer/artist James Tynion IV has been responsible for a number of solid Batman-related titles in DC Comics in recent years. Though the series often maligned, I really enjoyed his work on Red Hood and the Outlaws. The criminally short-lived Talon was a truly great book all its own, and he revived my interest in the Batman: Detective Comics series in Rebirth. If you know my likely now-infamous opinion on Batman, then you know that takes a lot of effort.
A big part of what has drawn me back to Detective Comics was the focus on Batman-affiliated characters like Clayface, Spoiler, Orphan, and, most importantly, the queer character, Batwoman.
Batwoman is a great character, with an attitude and backstory that makes her one of the most interesting members of the Batman Family. She's not just a distaff counterpart Batman. In fact, she outshines him in many ways, willing to take her fight for justice to places that the Batman won't go.
Mr. Tynion has had an associate in writing the story of Batwoman that I would be greatly remiss to not mention, Marguerite Bennett.
While widely known for writing the girl-power centric DC Bombshells and a portion on Earth 2: World's End, Bennett's work on Batwoman is fantastic and stuck with me the most. Bennett's experience as a queer woman has given her an insight into the character of Katherine Kane that many writers would not be able to bring.
Both of these LGBTQ+ writers are incredibly talented and have brought a lot to the realm of DC Comics. Their stories have brought many, including myself, great joy. Their contributions are definitely worth celebrating this month of LGBTQ+ pride, and I salute them and their colleagues. You guys are awesome.
Finally, I would like to include the writer Steve Orlando in this little list:
Orlando made waves for me when he hit the DC scene with Midnighter, which featured an unapologetic and frank look at a gay character. His Midnighter was a man regularly in bed with another man, bedroom floor littered with condom wrappers, who used gay dating apps — and he was a total badass. There was no hiding, no making him "straight-acting" so he could "pass", no shying away from the truth of who the character is.
The action and high-concept sci-fi superhero awesomeness was mind-blowing. The popularity meant the series got a brief reprise with Midnighter & Apollo, and now Orlando is writing Justice League of America.
Orlando is getting to tackle one of DC's biggest properties, and is using it to include one of the most diverse line-ups the team has had. He's also shown a wonderful sense of a team fighting for social justice through the medium of big, epic superhero showdowns. The series is making strides in showing that social justice is not a dirty word by making characters like Lobo, Batman, Vixen, Black Canary, The Ray, Killer Frost and The Atom into social justice warriors.
And let's not forget Orlando's work outside of DC. Virgil, which presented an honest look at the kind of violence the LGBTQ community faces in Jamaica through the lens of a powerful, action-packed blaxploitation-style revenge story, and Namesake, a sci-fi fantasy story featuring a lead character who is the child of gay fathers.
Orlando makes the story first, but doesn't use that as an excuse to ignore the chance to improve diversity and representation. Orlando's work is wonderfully deep and full of the kind of diversity we should all, as a community and an audience, should strive toward and demand.
This list includes just some of the creators and comics that Bleeding Cool is proud of this Pride Month. Who would you have included?