As Joseph Glass's The Pride #1 launches today on Comixology, Bleeding Cool's Tom Huxley (who used to be known as Tom Huxley until Rich had his name changed by deed poll) takes a look during his time at the London Super Comic Con:
Gay superhero comics. You may think you've seen it all before. Groundbreaking characters like Northstar, Midnighter, and Rictor. Groundbreaking books like Spandex, Batwoman, and Rawhide Kid.
But, if you'll pardon the play on words, nobody's really tried to tackle the issues straight. And that's what The Pride sets out to do. It hoists its theme front of centre, and there's purpose to it – a gay superhero team has assembled in order to improve the image of gay people worldwide. That's already a more compelling reason for a particular super-group to keep banding together than most of the superhero teams out there.
For a book about LGBT characters you might expect the 'diversity' box to be already ticked, but writer Joseph Glass introduces a cast as varied as the All-Different X-Men, each representing a different strain of the gay community, and each arriving with the baggage that accompanies that particular strain. While a lot of fun throughout, the well-informed handling of these issues may come across a little heavy-handed at times, but with the events in countries such as Russia and Uganda, with attitudes being (to say the least) mixed throughout the world, perhaps it needs to be. I particularly appreciated the clever and amusing efforts to reclaim homophobic pejorative as superhero names – 'Muscle Mary' being a personal favorite.
Going in, I expected another product along the lines of Spandex, which combines infectious enthusiasm with amateurish execution. The Pride surprised me by being nothing of the sort, instead produced very much in the style of a traditional superhero comic, with a strong sense of structure, solid pacing and polished visuals. Gavin Mitchell's simplistic yet disciplined artwork is very much in the vein of Michael Lark or Paul Azaceta, telling the story smoothly with striking, distinctive character designs; while Kris Carter's vibrant colors pop the eyes and give the book a professional veneer. This does fall apart a little in the two single page back-ups by other artists, which run rather closer to my initial small press expectations, but they only represent a small appendage to a larger organism.
One of the more intriguing scenes introduces a cabal of Bible-bashing villains. It is vague with the details and I hope the subsequent issues are as nuanced on this sensitive topic as it has been on the other topics it covers. The moral decay of religion around the world is a fascinating subject and with the right approach, Glass et al. could get a lot of mileage out of this. I look forward to seeing where this plot goes.
The Pride may play it straight but it has its humorous moments as well – moments where you can laugh with the characters rather than at them. I suppose it speaks to my own prejudices that my inner Mary Whitehouse was pleasantly surprised to find that the content was clean of offensive swearing, explicit sex references or graphic violence. This family-friendly approach could make it a great educational tool in tackling homophobia in the future.