My name is Chris Allo and I want to welcome you to our ongoing Geeks Out Creator Spotlight. We’re going to be focusing on all of the fantastic LGBTQ+ creators that inhabit the wonderful universe of comic books and graphic storytelling. This feature will be a place where we get to know some of the brightest and most talented queers who put out comics. I will be talking with writers, artists, colorists, letterers, editors and publishers. I want the world out there to know that Queer creators are out there, crafting quality work, telling stories that matter and are a force that won’t be ignored. I hope you enjoy the spotlight.
Fist up is one of the superstars of the comic industry, Olivier Coipel. Coipel has worked for both Marvel and DC. He has worked with some of the biggest writers in the industry. He rebooted the Legion in Legion Lost with Abnett and Lanning and with Brian Bendis he depicted the decimation of the mutants in “House of M.” With Jeff Johns he helped to set up the Avengers for the modern age. He visually re-invigorated the God of Thunder, Thor with, J. Michael Staczynski, and depicted the Unworthy Thor with Matt Fraction. And most recentlyy he co created a new mythos of magicians and crafted some new rules for magic with Mark Millar on the “Magic Order” for Image/Neflix. Hope you enjoy the interview…
Geeks OUT: You started in animation? How was that experience? Any specific projects you worked on?
Olivier Coipel: Yep! Started first doing Animation as an assistant, first for Amblimation in London, for a movie called Balto, then moved to LA to work on The Prince of Egypt and The road to El Dorado for Dreamworks. That was an exciting experience for a lot of reasons, many on a personal level, but also meeting and working with so many talented artists.
GO: How did you transition from animation to comics? Did you have an interest or love in comics?
OC: My first love was drawing, then comics. Working in animation wasn’t really a goal. As a kid-slash-teenager, what I was dreaming about was doing comics. Superhero comics. I was reading them, drawing them… when the opportunity came, it felt logical for me to leave animation to work in comics. At the time when I was working in LA. I was going to San Diego Comic Con. So at some point I prepared a portfolio with some personal drawings and a few pages featuring the X-men to show it to some editors and got the job!
GO: Are there any specific pages, covers or pieces of art that you are really proud of or that you love? I know you did that huge piece of all the Asgardians for Marvel. That is one of my favorite pieces.
OC: Thank you! That was quite a piece I‘m very happy with. Difficult for me to go back and try to remember, it as always related to the feeling, the struggle you had while creating that page-slash-cover… usually I can only think of the recent ones. I’d say the covers for the Magic Order #2 and #5, but I’m also happy with my first issue of Spider-verse… some of my first legion pages because I remember what I went through in my head at that time. And of course some of the Thor pages.
GO: One of your most recent comics projects, The Magic Order, written by Mark Millar, is currently being developed for a series at Netflix. How did you end up connecting with Mark on for this project?
OC: With Mark, it has been a long time (that) we were talking of collaborating on a project. But right after my exclusive contract at Marvel ended I contacted him to check if he was available. I was surprised to get a quick answer! He had that new thing going on with NETFLIX, and told me about The Magic Circle (as it was called at that time) that he had in mind and wanted to develop. They already had a character bible, but told me to change or tweak whatever detail and character I wanted. The biggest change I did was on Madame Albany (leather/vinyl thing again), and changing the main couple to an “interracial” couple (I hate that term by the way).
GO: When it comes to comics, you’ve primarily done work for hire projects at the big two but now you’ve done co-creator owned projects with Millar on the Magic Order. Are you going to continue on more creator owned comics in the future, or is there a chance we’ll be seeing your work on some more mainstream characters you haven’t had the opportunity to draw yet?
OC: I still wanna do creator owned project as well as working again with the “classic” editors at Marvel, DC, Valiant, etc. The market has evolved, and we can do both. My love for some of the superheros I grew up with is still the same.
GO: How has being LGBTQ informed your work?
OC: It doesn’t. Well I don’t think it does It’s not something I keep thinking about while drawing stories; Of course I love drawing male bodies. Spiderman swinging around, legs up (laughs). But I also love drawing female bodies, animals, birds…anything that has organic shape. Maybe in that sense it did. Although I did once in a while, in my career, squeeze (in) a few clues here and there, but just like a game.
GO: As someone who has worked in mainstream comics, what do you think the future of LGBTQ representation looks like there?
OC: I would hope that it wouldn’t be a thing to get a LGBTQ character the main role in a story, but there is still a long way to that. But I wanna see things positively. Things are moving forward, slowly, but moving.
GO: What can LGBTQ creators do to maximize our representation in the industry?
OC: I’m not very comfortable with that question, as I have to admit personally, as a POC, I feel concerned about the representation of POC as much as their sexuality. I can’t focus only on one aspect without thinking about the other. But to answer your question, visibility is the key. Putting more characters in there, you don’t need to play the drums or anything when you have one single character who‘s revealed as being LGBTQ. But just by putting more of “us” out there.
GO: Who is your favorite existing LGBTQ character? Why?
OC: Again I didn’t really care about that aspect back then. My favorite characters didn’t really have sexuality. At least I wasn’t thinking about that aspect. Even today, would I feel different to one fictional character because he’s been revealed as LGBTQ character? Depends on how it is written. One character that comes in mind is Midnighter. Just a badass character, and I guess the leather thing (laughs).
GO: Any hints as to what you might be working on now that The Magic Order is done?
OC: Nope, not yet. There’s a few possibilities, but none have been decided yet. Doing covers for now.
Chris Allo twenty year career in comics and former Talent Manager for Marvel. Avid X-Men fan and proponent for all comic creators
BONUS: Transcribed Geeks OUT Podcast Interview
Geeks OUT’s Kevin Gilligan: Hey everyone, it’s Kevin Gilligan with the Geeks OUT podcast, here live-to-tape at New York Comic Con. I’m sitting here with the amazing artist Olivier Coipel. You may be very familiar with his work especially if you read Marvel Comics. He is here from Portugal visiting us. Olivier, one thing I try and ask everyone, is what are you getting down and nerdy with? What are you consuming in pop culture? What are you reading? Watching? Any video games that you’re playing?
Olivier Coipel: Yes. Oh, right now? Do you mean like right now?
KG: Right now.
OC: Right now I just bought a Playstation 4. So I played Spider-Man, Uncharted, and, what else… God of War. Just when I have time. And right now, with comics… nothing!
KG: So what you’re saying is you’re busy!
OC: Yes, very busy. You know, when you work, and you have kids, you don’t have time to enjoy. You know, when I have a break, I just enjoy a glass of wine and watch TV.
KG: Yeah, understandable. What shows do you watch with your partner?
OC: Pose. It was an advantage for me from the first season. This thing is, you’re not used to it being on TV, or mainstream television. Even with the LGBT community out there in comics, with that kind of thing. We don’t talk about that kind of stuff. So that’s why I really like it. That’s one. And the other one I’m watching is The Handmaid’s Tale. I really like it.
KG: Nice. I’ve watched Pose obviously, but Handmaid’s Tale I can’t bring myself to watch quite yet. It’s a little too real.
OC: Yeah, at this moment.
KG: But I imagine, being in Portugal, it’s a little easier to watch from afar what’s happening in this country (laughs)
OC: Well, I’m from Italy. I don’t think it’s just coming from the states. It’s everywhere now. The world is getting into extremism. People are exploited. Working class everywhere, in the states, I see it in New York, in France, in India, everywhere, the working class are desperate and they are trying to find a new direction.
OC: Sometimes it leads to extreme choices.
KG: Yeah, we do see that here in America, and unfortunately people love to find a scapegoat. So in terms of comics, which would you say is your favorite LGBTQ character? Right now there’s a lot in terms of–
OC: I would say Northstar!
OC: Yeah, I’ve always liked him, as a kid, so I would say him. I think since then he’s been copied. I’m going to think about him right now.
KG: Okay, well Northstar was of very significant importance in terms of being one of the first gay heroes in Marvel comics.
OC: I would say Meat Cake. It’s comics, right? (Laughs).
KG: Who are some of the artists–any kind of artists–whose work inspires you?
OC: Oh, there’s a lot. It’s difficult because there’s a lot, but the first ones were Moebius, Mark Silvestri, Urasawa and Pluto who else… there are so many! Especially now. Because I stuck around, and everyday I discover artists who inspire me a lot. I mean, I don’t know them, personally, and some of them are not even published, but there’s a few, many many now on Instagram, who are killing it. I mean, they inspire me a lot. The problem is I don’t remember their names.
KG: That’s fine, that’s okay! So as someone who has worked on mainstream comics, what do you think the future of LGBTQ comics looks like in comics?
OC: Future representation? You know what, I’m not even sure we’re there yet. Even if you have a few characters here and there, it’s more like a very short process. I mean, a very short (impact?). Like an announcement or something. So I don’t think we’re quite there yet. In the future we’ll need more LGBT characters. But not like making it an announcement or anything. Just like, making it a more… LBGT characters should be among straight characters and everything. There should be no more “we need to make an announcement about this.” We’ll get there once it becomes quote unquote “normal.” We don’t need to make any specific thing about it, you know? Like if the story, or even if you just see a guy kissing another guy, it doesn’t have to be the main focus of the story. Just like, part of the normality of it, you know?
KG: It’s just like, part of the colors that are being painted, yeah. What can LGBTQ creators do to maximize their representation on the industry?
OC: As a creator? Like the writers or artists?
KG: In both respects.
OC: I could only talk about myself, but I have little power for that. I just try, sometimes, to put in the background stuff like that, some clues about the gay community. It could be an equality sign, or two characters in the back. Only people who pay attention would notice. But I think as a writer, they have more power, you know? To create characters, to stop thinking about straight people, or even white people. Diversity is everything. It’s not only about the gay community, or being Asian or black. Stop thinking about everyone random being white and straight. Start trying to think beyond that. Making more characters. Like I said before, you don’t have to treat them by the fact that they’re gay or not. Just make them gay! It’s easy! It doesn’t change anything. I don’t think it would change the storyline. I mean, maybe some details. It doesn’t have to be something focusing on that. It’s hard, because the imagination of writers are strengths, and it’s hard I guess to think beyond that. We need us to think beyond that. We need more representation. So it’s up to, not just the writers, but maybe the readers. I don’t know. But it’s up to everybody. When it comes to writers, I try to tell them “think beyond that. Think outside of your box.” I guess that’s the only way to do that. Trying to talk to them. And on my side, giving some little clues for characters on the back.
KG: Well I mean, I know there are some writers who do seek out feedback from artists that they work with. They’ll collaborate with them and say “what do you think of this character?” And they’ll write in terms of, if there’s a new character who doesn’t need a thousand people to sign off on. You know. I know it’s a little easier in indie comics to be creative. You’re creating a world, instead of playing in an established sandbox. But yeah, I agree in terms of, these are conversations that should be had with creative staff in terms of like “hey, maybe reflect the world that exists around you!”
OC: Well, but you know, in the states, people are living in their own communities. So it’s hard! It’s up to us. I don’t know any LGBTQ writer or something like that, but it comes from us first. We can’t expect other people to think of their world, and us, being quiet waiting for them to do that. It’s up to us to try to change things. To bring better things. The thing is, I don’t know any, many, LGBT writers.
KG: Well, there are a good handful of LGBT writers. We have Steve Orlando at DC Comics, also James Tynion IV, who is now going to be writing Batman.
OC: Oh, right.
KG: In December, I believe. But even with Marvel, Tini Howard, who just became an exclusive writer with Marvel. She is writing the miniseries Death’s Head, and is doing the Savage Avengers I think. I think that’s the title, I may be misquoting. [Greg’s note: Savage Avengers is written by Gerry Duggan. The book he’s describing is Strikeforce]. But in the team she has of Avengers, they’re kind of the behind the scenes… not Wetworks of Avengers, but handling things that are maybe so camera-ready of the Avengers. That is a team with Angela, who is a lesbian character, and Thor’s sister.
OC: Yes, yes.
KG: It also has Wiccan, from the Young Avengers.
OC: That’s right, yeah, yeah!
KG: As well as some more (mainstream) like Blade and a few more like Spider-Woman.
OC: Blade is gay?
KG: No, Blade’s not gay, but he’s on the team, as part of the characters who are there. But you know, Tini and Steve, they always try to have queer elements in their stories. But it exists, there are people who are doing it, but I feel like the onus is also on straight creators, and straight writers, to open up their, you know–
OC: Yes! But like I said, I can’t force someone to change their mindset about something. The more we are visible, the more there will be writers writing about gay characters. The world needs to see that, and maybe it will be more natural for them to think about LGBTQ characters, you know? So maybe it comes to us first, to show more, to be more visible, and then people will start to think more about us.
KG: What are some of the projects you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?
OC: It’s always difficult, because I’m never proud of my project. I’m always more proud of my latest one. Because I’m very critical about my work. I like to be critical about my work, because i’m very precise. I see the bad stuff and how I could’ve been better. So I would say now it would be The Magic Order. I was inking myself with an inkbrush. So that’s the one I’m most proud of.
KG: I understand that, and being a creative person, writer, actor, being like “oh, that was terrible!” You know? “Oh, but it was funny!” Yeah, but I’ve met myself, and I know it could’ve been better. But I think that’s sort of the sign of a good artist.
OC: It’s a motivational thing. When I do something, I always want to do better. So, yes, maybe, it’s going to help me be better next time. I don’t know, you always want to do your best, and you always want to have fun doing it. It’s like trying to fix stuff, you know?
KG: I will say, I really enjoyed Magic Order. Also has some queer elements to it, as well as some very fun character designs, especially with the quote-unquote “villain” characters. So I really enjoyed that, and just wanted to say that. What is one character in comics that you would love to redesign? What is one that you’re sort of like “oh, they badly need a redesign,” or one that you would really love to tackle?
OC: One I really want to do, one I’m always thinking about, is Storm. Storm has always been my character. Even if she’s not gay… I don’t think the committee likes that. I don’t think she needs a redesign. Maybe a new costume, from me. I’d like to do that.
KG: I mean, I would not say no to that! (Laughs)
OC: Well she’s difficult. I’m not sure of the direction I would take. I think she needs a total 90% change of direction… We always see her being a tough, angry black girl! We need to change that a little bit.
KG: She’s always like the tough black girl, or the regal quality… a queen. There was a little bit of harkening back to her punk days.
OC: Yeah, but it was just aesthetically. Back in the day, when she was punk, there was something behind it. She was going to be fully processed, she needed to change everything, you know? There has to be a meaning for bigger impact. Last time they did it, there was no storyline behind this, so it was just like “okay, bring back the punk look.” But even the costume wasn’t punk. So it was like, they didn’t try. I don’t think it had the impact that it should’ve had.
KG: I sort of asked you this before, but we weren’t recording. How has New York Comic Con been for you so far this year?
OC: I don’t have a voice.
OC: I don’t have any voice anymore. I have a headache! I hope it won’t kill me to be there on Sunday. So it’s great. Awesome.
KG: So how can people, beyond seeking you out in comics… you mentioned your Instagram page. How can people find you on social media?
OC: Instagram! I don’t use Facebook anymore. I mean, I’m still on Facebook, but I’m tired of talking bullshit. So I’m mostly on Instagram. And I put my personal work too. I do watercolor, and live drawings. There’s a lot more than comics on Instagram.
KG: And that’s Olivier Coipel on Instagram. C-O-I-P-E-L. Excellent. Olivier, thank you for taking the time to talk to us, and I hope you have a good rest of New York Comic Con in your day and a half left!
KG: And safe travels back home to your family in Portugal!