By Olly MacNamee
Having successfully Kickstarted this dream project and with the first four issues of a planned 6 issue initial run under his belt, writer and BC contributor Joe Glass can look back over his shoulder and be proud (pun intended) of what he has already achieved with his mini-series, The Pride.
This series is a street-level comic with the main threat threaded throughout the plot – and the inspiration for the main antagonist, a shadowy aged unnamed figure with strong religious convictions – not being the usual cracked mirror megalomaniac, would-be world conqueror but the much more real world horror that is homophobia.
As we witness the heroes recruited one-by-one by Fabman, the crimes they are preventing are grounded, relatable; coming to the rescue of victims across the globe, whether it be a boy being bullied because of playing with his Fabman toy, or preventing an abortion clinic being bricked by an irate, right-wing minority. Fabman's mission is simplistic enough, but necessary: to offer the world a LGBT super squad able to stand shoulder to shoulder with The Pride's big guns, The Justice Division, a superhero team that takes umbrage over the inclusion of The Wolf, once he has been 'outed' by the media. Their weak defense for his expulsion: 'We have a family-friendly image we have to protect.' All The Pride want is recognition and respect.
The comic evokes equality for all in all walks of life while spotlighting, through its breezy plotline and dialogue, the many shapes homophobia can take in the world, whether it is the in-your-face 'gay bashing' as personified in The Basher (right hand goon to the Billy Graham like arch-enemy) or the more subtle media-minded exclusion of LGBT characters for fear of losing their demographic, or to put it more succinctly, their profits and market share. On this front, this is very much a multi-dimensional look at these perennial prejudices
In Fabman and The Wolf we have our Superman and Batman analogies respectively (or should that be, Apollo and Midnighter analogies?) but for once in The Wolf we have a much less melancholy and morose rendition of his DC counterpart. He walks the walk as billionaire Brain Wilde by day, while battling crime as The Wolf by night. He is introduced as a washed out drunk in issue 1 but quickly moves away from this self-loathing character to embrace the second chance joining The Pride offers him with gusto and some humour. He keeps tabs on each of his fellow members not in the same paranoid-filled way Batman spies on his own buddies but, as he explains it to newbie, Twink, 'It's a detective thing'. He's very open about it, unlike DC's Dark Knight.
Glass is clearly having fun playing around with gay clichés of the past but in original and different ways, while offering surprises and plot twists along the way, as it should be given the genre. Their secret headquarters screams to the reader that this is a fun comic, as they all meet in Fabman's bar, Fantabulosa, situated in the heart of New York's Greenwich Village. There's no room for satellite stations, or underground bases. Like I said, this is a comic linked to a real world with real problems. The team's lack of experience is the tip of their iceberg of problems and it seems many of these openly gay heroes have other skeletons in the closet rip for future storylines. The shady religious zealot plotting in the background may well be fashioned to suit the genre, but his hatred is all too real and all too familiar. He's the Westboro Baptist Church-goers given life on the printed page.
Other characters, I think, are created to put a smile on the reader's face. This title never takes itself too seriously, so when The Bear – a literal walking, talking grizzly, once a man – is introduced alongside heroes such as White Trash and Angel (the latter a drag queen who's powers are to confuse, itself another little joke that the readers can share without having to be 'in the know', so to speak) it is all too clear that this was always going to be a fun read. I mean the hero, Super Dude, a hippy speaking, longhaired, sandals and shades wearing superhero not too far removed from Superman himself leads The Justice Division. He's what Kal-el may have become if he'd landed on the West Coast, rather than corn-fed Kansas.
Gavin Mitchell's art on the first two issues, while obviously an artist in development, reminds me at times of an unrefined Eduardo Risso (100 Bullets) which I hope he takes as the compliment it is menat to be and it is to Glass's credit that he maintains a similar art style in issue three while serving his readers a cleaner, clearer more polished manga style courtesy of Hector Barros in the fourth issue. Who knows what the last two issues will bring as the story starts to heat up and we are left at the end of issue 4 with our first real showdown for these ill-prepared would-be heroes, between the super-powered steely The Basher and the mightily impressive The Bear.
This is a LGTB superhero group who are more than happy to be defined by their sexuality and wear it, rightfully so as a badge of honour as they fight the gods and monsters of comic book fiction, while battling against the intolerance and prejudice that can be found in all corners of modern life. Thankfully, the comic book reading public on the whole is, in my experience, freethinking, educated individuals who embrace difference.
A book heavy on dialogue and the kind of soap opera dynamics that drew me into comics like The New Teen Titans in the first place, like DC's teen sidekicks, The Pride are outsiders doing their best to break through and be accepted for what they are, not who they sleep with. They need training, they need support and now, at the end of issue 4, they need hope too.
To find out more and buy back-issues (as well as the first two issues of Glass's companion series, The Pride: Adventures) either in print or digitally simply click here. Above and beyond the main premise of this title, this is at heart a solid superhero team book with the laughs, loves and kooky, crazy threats we have come to expect from our four-coloured fun. Worth a gander if you're looking for something new to add to your pull-lists.
Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. Some days, even he doesn't know where it is. Follow him on twitter @ollymacnamee or read about his exploits at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or don't.