LGBTQ+ Creator Spotlight: Karen S. Darboe, Artist Supreme

Happy New Year to all the queer comic book connoisseurs out there! For the first installment of the Queer Creator spotlight of 2023, I had the honor of speaking with Afro-Italian artist Karen S. Darboe who’s launching her first Marvel book this week, Bloodline: Daughter of Blade.

Karen grew up in a small town on the southern peninsula of Italy named Follina. Her interest in art began early on and it was when she was seven years old that she read her first comic, the manga “Detective Conan.” It was her mom that explained to her that it was a person that drew all of the art and images that made up the “Detective Conan” book. Karen decided then that, that was what she wanted to do when she grew up.

From 2010 to 2015 she studied traditional art (painting and sculpture) in high school and in 2016, she attended the International School of Comics in Padova, where she graduated with high grades in 2018. While studying in the International School of comics, she worked as a teacher in a local art atelier called “Favol Arte”, owned by illustrators Anna Casaburi and Arcadio Lobato. And in that same period, she was able to create several illustrations for the metal band “Hell in the Club” which were used on merchandise.

Karen has gone on to work for Freak & Chic Games’ card game “Squillo City”, FairSquare Comics on a short story for the anthology “Noir Is the New Black”. And started doing covers for Black Mask Studios, Fair Square Comics, Behemoth, BOOM! Studios, Skybound and Marvel. Working on such titles as Something is Killing the Children, TMNT, Thor, Black Panther, The Walking Dead, Ms. Mutiny, and many more!

Marvel’s Bloodline: Daughter of Blade Cover by Karen S. Darboe

Chris Allo: As a young girl in Italy, what came first the love of drawing or the love of comic books?  Which came first for you?

Karen S. Darboe: I would say that art was the first thing just because I can’t remember a day of my life without drawing, and I bet my mother would agree! Comics came right after, though.

CA:  What was your first comic book? What was the thing that got you into comics? Do you have a favorite book or character?

KD: Oh yes, I remember this clearly, the first ever comic book I owned was Detective Conan! While starting to read more and more books my tiny innocent brain thought that those drawings were way too perfect to be created by humans, i always assumed they were done by computers or some sort of hyper advanced hi-tech thing, but then my mother revealed the shocking truth that changed my life forever, and in that moment I said “Hey, I wanna do that, and I’m gonna devote my whole existence to that!”

That’s literally how I started to get really involved in this world of comics! Then of course, Dragon Ball followed, which became, and still is, my absolute favorite series! Favorite character? It’s Cell, and people who know me absolutely saw this coming!

Skybound Walking Dead 19 Deluxe Cover Art by Karen S. Darboe

CA: Who are some of your artistic inspirations?

KD: My two major ones are absolutely Milo Manara and Gustav Klimt, as a lover of sensuality and the decorative aspect of painting, those are my two favorite masters since I started learning about art and comics!

CA: When did you decide to pursue drawing as a career?

KD: Well, as I previously stated, I had a very clear vision of myself doing this as soon as It has been revealed to me that people actually draw comics with their hands, that might sound like a very anticlimactic motivation, but being told, as a seven-year-old, fascinated by comics and art, that I could do that in the future when I grew up, was like the heavens opening up in front of my eyes. So yes, I decided I wanted to do this when I was seven!

CA: You’re very fearless when it comes to drawing. You don’t shy away from any content.  Why is that?

KD: Well, I admit I don’t have a specific answer for that, it’s simply how I am a very open person, not easily startled by taboos.

Squillo City Card Game art by Karen S. Darboe

Probably being raised in a very strict environment contributed to that, cause I really didn’t understand why some simple aspects of life such as sexuality were considered as much of a taboo. I personally wasn’t embarrassed by that like many people around me, I didn’t see the problem, so I thought about why I should stop myself from representing what I like just because others don’t like It.

Isn’t art by definition the expression of ourselves? Of course, not everyone will enjoy it, and that’s fine, but I can simply say that I’m simply very comfortable drawing and sharing what makes me feel better.

CA: You’ve been drawing professionally for a relatively short time. Yet, you’ve done dozens of covers. What was one of your favorites?

Boom! Studios Magic #4 Hidden Planeswalker Variant Cover by Karen S. Darboe

KD: Covers are my absolute passion, because I love to work on different characters and stories, so you can Imagine my surprise when I was asked by BOOM! Studios to work on a variant cover for Magic: The Gathering, starring the beautiful Nahiri. It was such fun and a big honor being able to represent her!

CA Generally speaking, are there any specific types of projects or subjects that you really like working on?

KD: Simple, are there enough women to draw? If the answer is “yes,” then you can absolutely count me in! Bonus points if it’s sexy!

CA: You’ve gone from a relatively unknown cover artist to launching a book for Marvel. Bloodline: The Daughter of Blade. Can you tell us a little bit about that journey?

KD: Well, I can say that everything became a thing very VERY fast! To this day I still didn’t fully realize how big this thing I’m doing really is, cause as you stated, I went from a fairly unknown individual to co-creator of a new Marvel character, this is the stuff that happens only in fantasy books right?

Fair Square Comics Noir is the New Black Art by Karen S. Darboe

At that time I had just finished my first published work for a card game here in Italy, and right after that my agent, Chris Allo, who was helping me find cover work in the American market, came to me with the proposal to work on a short story for the anthology “Noir Is the New Black”.

I was definitely not convinced by it cause it has been a while since I worked on sequentials, and it never went too well for me on that front, but he insisted that maybe I should give it a try and so, with his support, I did! And with that he got me my first work at BOOM! and then showed the “Noir” samples to Rickey Purdin at Marvel. Some editors working for Marvel saw those sequential pages or were following the NITNB project and noticed my work; that’s when they contacted me. I can say that I was at the right place at the right time!

CA: How does it feel to be working on a book for one of the “Big Two?”

KD: As I hinted before, it took me a while to realize what I was actually doing, and probably I’m not even fully understanding it yet! But seeing my name associated with some characters I portrayed in my covers like Deadpool, Black Panther or Photon is really something that feels simply fantastic and unreal at the same time!

Marvel’s Bloodline: Daughter of Blade #1 art by Karen S. Darboe colors by Cris Peter

I’m just a random girl living in a rural Italian city of 4000 souls that lives and breathes art, and here I am, with my name printed on Marvel comic books, it feels just …unreal in the most beautiful way possible!

CA:  What do you hope readers will take away from your art on Bloodline?

KD: Of course, I hope that readers Will like Brielle as a character as much as I liked working on her and that both mine and Danny Lore’s work on this would be appreciated since I tend to grow really attached to the characters I create!

Also, the subject that really got me involved in working on Bloodline Is the relationship between a father, with Blade’s cryptic persona, and a daughter eager to welcome him in her life. That’s a very personal and emotional subject for me since I had a very distant father that didn’t really express his emotions, and as a young girl the only thing you can think of Is “Does he love me?”

So, I really hope that people will be able to feel that tension as much as me and Brielle felt It, in some way!

CA: As a queer female artist working in the industry, what do you find exciting? What do you find challenging?

KD: To be honest what i like the most Is actually the fact that me, being a queer female artist, doesn’t really seem to count at the end of the day, meaning that my work Is what makes me relevant, and not me as a person, which Is a thing that i personally enjoy, and this Is also why i love the comics/art industry so much, your works speak already by themselves!

Boom! Studios Something is Killing the Children#21 Variant Cover Art by Karen S. Darboe

CA: Do you have any words of encouragement for other young female artists who want to work in this industry?

KD: This Is actually applicable to everyone, but It’s that one thing i truly believe, which Is never stop dreaming and working hard to better yourself in order to achieve that dream.

When you’re young you might or not be surrounded by supportive people, we all know that when a kid expresses the desire to pursue the artistic field, it’s unfortunately, not always welcomed in the best ways, and of course in that environment it won’t be easy.

You might be even forced to avoid art schools, I saw It way too many times, but the lucky part here Is that art requires studying, not a degree.

There are amazing artists who went to art schools, and amazing artists who didn’t, if you like the field, if you like to create, there are the correct tools to study, learn and better your skills even if you are not immediately supported. What you need is a pencil, some paper, and your passion.

Black Mask’s White Chapter One variant cover by Karen S. Darboe

I’ve seen so many people throw away their art dream because they weren’t supported during those formative years, but I can assure you that you’ll find the right support, and of course, don’t rush It, growing up and improving requires dedication and time.

Don’t be scared to see 17-year-olds already with a huge following online making ton of great art, everyone is different, and It’s never too late!

CA: Thank you so much for a great interview, Karen. Looking forward to seeing Bloodline come out this week and future fabulous covers from you.

LGBTQIA+ Creator Spotlight with Kathryn “Kat” Calamia

Happy fall, ya’ll In this installment of the queer creator spotlight I had the opportunity to interview creator, journalist and YouTuber, Kat Calamia. A bi-woman of many talents. She’s the editor, creator, and one of the writers for Bi Visibility: A Bisexual Anthology. She’s also writer/creator for the superhero drama, Like Father, Like Daughter, and the psychological martial arts thriller, They Call Her…The Dancer. She’s also the co-creator for WebToon’s fantastic queer romance, Slice of Life.

Aside from being a talented creator/writer, Kat Calamia has been working in the comic book industry as a critic for over a decade on Comic Uno, her YouTube channel. She’s been writing for various websites including IGN, Fandom, TV guide and for Newsarama since 2017. She currently writes for DC Comics’ DC Universe. A graduate of MaryMount Manhattan, Kat wasted no time pursuing her passion and love of comics!

Chris Allo: When did your interest in comics begin? What was the “thing” that got you into comics?

Kat Calamia: It was a who – my Dad got me into comic books when I was young. He used to collect Silver Age DC comics. So instead of Sleeping Beauty, Superman was my bedtime story. When I started watching more superhero content like Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man (2002), and X-Men Evolution, this helped me venture into getting my own back issues, which then led to me forming my own pull list. I’ve been going to the comic book store every Wednesday since 8th grade – I’m 27 now. 

Like Father, Like Daughter/Cover Art Wayne Brown

CA: How has being LGBTQ informed your work? What is it about being bi that you put into your work?  Or that compels you to want to share with the world?

Kat: Our experiences shape our writing. I grew up in New York – that informs my work. I have a twin – that informs my work. I’m bi – that informs my work. And so on and so forth. 

I enjoy consuming and writing queer stories. I’m humbled that I’m able to contribute to the many wonderful queer stories out there, and showcase what authentic LGBTQ stories look like.

CA: You’re very prolific on Kickstarter. What attracted you to the KS platform? Is that where you primarily publish your work?

Kat: The list is long, but first and foremost it’s the most useful tool to garner an audience and fund your books as an indie creator, and that’s why it’s the primary space that I publish my work. I love the people who work at Kickstarter, I love my fellow creators that post their projects on there, and I love the backers! The platform is all about community, just like comic books themselves.

CA: In order for a Kickstarter campaign to be successful, you need an audience, a community.  How do you go about building that audience from your experience?

Kat: The short answer is that Kickstarter is a community and you should utilize that community to its fullest, and just like any other business – presentation is important. The other answer is that I actually do Kickstarter consulting that helps with that very topic. So if this is something you need help with, hit me up on twitter @ComicUno!

CA: What are the projects you are most proud of right now?

Kat: Of course, I’m proud of every project that I put out there, but if I had to choose one it would be Slice of Life. I write this with my business partner, Phil Falco, and we’re having a blast posting it on WEBTOON. It’s a different experience posting your work online and getting feedback in real time about your writing. We’re really happy with the character work there and our exploration of the LGBTQ and high school experience.

Slice of Life/Calamia

CA: Here’s a lighter question. Who is your favorite existing queer character and why?

Kat: That’s a hard one because there are so many I love, but if I had to choose only one I would say Runaways’ Karolina Dean. She was the first character I ever saw in comics where we actually got to see her coming out journey. As a closeted bi, I was actually a little scared to read it because I related to it so much, but there was something that gravitated me to continue at the time. 

Brian K Vaughan gave her room to explore what it meant to be a lesbian. If you read Runaways #1, its obvious that Vaughan was planning to tell a queer story with her from the beginning, but it was never rushed. And then Rainbow Rowell picked up those pieces and told a wonderful queer love story with Karolina and Nico.

CA: What lesson or advice would you give to aspiring creators? What do you wish you knew then that you know now when it comes to being a working creator in today’s industry?  

Kat: WRITE! I see a lot of up-and-coming creators wanting to be writers without writing a script. Practice makes perfect. Start small. Don’t write your 100-issue epic just yet. Start with a short in an anthology, a one-shot, or if you want to aim big – a mini-series.

CA: Being bi-sexual has long been pigeon holed as being a choice primarily in a sexual context.In the “Bi-Visibility” Anthology you all dispel that notion and shine a much more authentic and complex lens on what it mean to be “bi.” I really enjoyed “LGBT” RPG, “A Most Unusual Trajectory” and “The Bi Card”. I thought that your story “Will I Regret It” was particularly poignant and touching. What was the goal with the anthology?

Bi Visibility/Art Lisa Sterle, Katlyn Gonzalez

Kat: For sure, we wanted to showcase the many different bisexual experiences through different genres and perspectives. There’s an unlimited amount of bisexual stories that we can tell! And we purposely made this an all-ages book so kids and teens could also read the anthology. 

CA: Your WEBTOON ongoing? “Slice of Life” with Phil Falco and artist Valeris Peri is fantastic!  How did the story materialize for you? Why did you choose to put it out on the Webtoons platform?

Kat: Phil and I had worked together on a crossover one shot between our two books Haunting and Like Father, Like Daughter, were we had superheroes and the supernatural collide in a fun Scooby Doo styled one-shot. We had so much fun with that project that we wanted to work together on more books.

We both really love WEBTOON and the sheer possibility of tempting those readers to also pick up traditional comics. There, Slice of Life was born as a Webtoon that would also have a printed edition through Kickstarter. As for the story, Phil and I both wanted to create a queer narrative and Phil had an idea of an anime character coming to life. We had a few meetings and the concept about Cheerleader falling in love with anime character was born! The rest is history. 

CA: How did you decide on Valeria as the artist? Was she familiar with the way a story is told on WEBTOON?

Kat: We actually found her on Pinterest when we were scouring the web to find an artist for the book, and her fan art caught our eyes. We contacted her, and she was game. I believe this is the first WEBTOON she has worked on, but the more technical scrolling aspect of the comic is actually done by our letterer and fellow WEBTOON creator, Garth Matthams (Witch Creek Road).

Slice of Life/Art Valeris Peri

CA: Aside from being a talented writer you’re also a journalist. You’ve written for many different websites with a focus on comic book content. Did you go into journalism specifically for that or did you have other journalistic aspirations?

Kat: I have a journalism minor as part of a Communication Degree from college so I’ve also taken a lot of classes about more classic journalism, but I always enjoyed entertainment journalism – specifically comic book journalism.

Bi-Visibility/Art: Lisa Stele, Charlie Kirchoff

CA: You also have a successful Youtube channel, Comic Uno, where you talk comics and give reviews.  How did that come about?  What is it about that forum that propels you to continue to create content there?

Kat: I’ve been working on Comic Uno since high school actually (which was 10 years ago, I feel old haha). I’ve always just loved the medium of YouTube and talking about comic books on a weekly basis. It’s my zen place! 

CA: Must be great to have your passion place also, be your place of Zen!

Can you give us a sneak peak/link to. your next project?

Kat: As I write this, we’re closing off submissions for our next anthology – Hairology. A comic book all about hair. I’m super excited for everyone to see what we have cooking up with that, and I hope people find stories to relate to. That will launch on Kickstarter in early 2023. 

CA: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Kat!


You can find Kat on Twitter, YouTube, and Kickstarter

NYCC Geeks OUT Creator Spotlight – Queers In The Mainstream

Howdy folks! Chris Allo here! For this entry I’m doing a little bit of self promotion! I will be moderating a panel at New York Comic Con entitled “Queers in the Mainstream.” I’ll be talking with artist Phil Jimenez, creator Tana Ford, writer/editor Joe Corallo, creator Amy Reeder, writer Danny Lore, artist editor, Sarah Brunstad, Olivier Coipel and creator Luciano Vecchio about their experiences and career working for top tier companies as queer creators. Info is below, I hope you can make it!

Sunday, October 9th from 12:00PM-1:00PM Room 408

And speaking of Luciano Vecchio, here are a few other panels he’ll be a part of:

Creator Luciano Vecchio

Visual Storytelling Basics for Comic Books

Thursday, October 6, 2022 • 3:15 PM – 4:15 PM

Room 406.1

Crowdfunding Comics!

Friday, October 7, 2022 • 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Room 1C03

Last but not least, please, don’t forget to head over to Pride Lounge where the Geeks OUT folks will be hosting, exhibiting, and representing!

The non-profit organization Geeks OUT, is excited to be part of the Queer Lounge at New York Comic Con this year. We’ll have some amazing programming, trivia, cosplay workshops, limited edition merch available for donations, and more!

Thu, Oct 6 -Sunday Oct 9, 2022 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

NYCC 2022

Have a great Show!

-Chris

NYCC Geeks OUT Creator Spotlight – Luciano Vecchio

“Sereno,” by superstar queer creator, Luciano Vecchio!

Luciano Vecchio

Shelbyville, KY — October 3, 2022 — CEX Publishing is proud to announce the introduction of the next great superhero: SERENO! Written and drawn by Argentinean artist Luciano Vecchio, the superstar talent known for his work on Ironheart, Champions, Wiccan & Hulkling, Edge of the Spider-Verse, and Iceman for Marvel Comics and DC Pride, Teen Justice, and Super Sons for DC Comics. SERENO #1 marks the first time the series has been translated into English for an American audience.

SERENO #1 introduces readers to the city of New Teia, where magic and science intertwine by night, and its guardian SERENO! SERENO, the Mystic Master of Light, must defend New Teia from an evil conspiracy set on transforming the city. SERENO must battle an avatar of Paranoia, a shepherd of Nightmares, and a Cult of Hate all while resisting his attraction to the super cat burglar Rufián. 

Sereno #1 /Luciano Vecchio

“SERENO holds a great importance for me, it is the work that made me find my own voice as an author beyond merely drawing for other’s stories,” Vecchio said. “This is my answer not just to who MY Superhero is as a queer creator, but also to what the Superhero narrative genre as a whole and as Modern Myth means for me, and what I mean for it in turn.”

SERENO is a three-issue limited series with a double-sized first issue. Attendees of New York Comic Con will have the opportunity to get an advanced look at SERENO as Vecchio will be appearing at the show, where he will have copies of a special Ashcan version of issue 1 printed specifically for the show.

Sereno #1/ Luciano Vecchio

“I was already familiar with Luciano’s incredible work, but little did I know that his most beautiful and moving project had only been seen outside of the USA. SERENO blew me away with its fresh superhero character and a mind-bending world all wrapped up in a personal and intimate story.” Andy Schmidt, Publisher of CEX Publishing. “It’s like the best Spider-Man stories but with a refreshing new world and higher stakes. I can’t wait for audiences to read it!”

The SERENO #1 Ashcan is available exclusively at Luciano Vecchio’s table at NYCC (Table C4 in Artist Alley). Copies of this limited edition are priced at $10. New York Comic Con takes place October 6-9, 2022, for more information including how to buy tickets, visit newyorkcomiccon.com.

Luciano will be appearing as a guest on the following NYCC panels this week:

Visual Storytelling Basics for Comic Books

Thursday, October 6, 2022 • 3:15 PM – 4:15 PM

Room 406.1

Crowdfunding Comics!

Friday, October 7, 2022 • 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Room 1C03

Queers in the Mainstream

Sunday, October 9, 2022 • 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Room 408

SERENO #1 will feature five covers from Luciano Vecchio and Argentinean digital painter Agustina Manso (Tactile Entertainment, Wacom, Celsys/Graphixly, Dogitia) and will be included as part of the November 2022 Diamond and Lunar Distribution catalogs, for more information, visit cexpublishing.com.

Hope you check it out!

-Chris

CEX PUBLISHING IS PROUD TO INTRODUCE SERENO FROM LUCIANO VECCHIO

CEX PUBLISHING IS PROUD TO INTRODUCE SERENO FROM LUCIANO VECCHIO – CEX Publishing

Check out all the covers and first look of SERENO #1, hitting stands February 2023 Shelbyville, KY – October 3, 2022 – CEX Publishing is proud to announce the introduction of the next great superhero: SERENO! Written and drawn by Argentinean artist Luciano Vecchio, the superstar talent known for his work on Ironheart, Champions, Wiccan […]

LGBTQIA+Creator Spotlight: Steve Orlando

In this installment of the Queer Creator spotlight I spoke with Steve Orlando about his career and his various works and what it was like to work on the iconic landmark issue of Wonder Woman #750!

Orlando began pursuing his dream of writing comics at the tender age of 12 when he attended his first San Diego Comic Con. Steve pounded the convention floor, as it were, where he met his mentors Steven Seagle and Joe Kelly who happened to be writing X-Men at the time and the rest is modern history.

Chris Allo: What made you want to work in the comics industry?

Steve Orlando:  It’s not a lie, in my case, because I started breaking in when I was 12 years old, but I always kind of had my eye on this. It was always something I wanted to do, whether it was writing, or editing, or being part of a visual art team. That didn’t really come into play until I was a little older. Going back to when I was young, even when I was about three or four, my father sold sports memorabilia, and I was not a fan of sports. So I would always be collecting all these non-sports cards at baseball card and baseball memorabilia shows. 

And that gave me a strong fascination with superheroes, because they all looked incredible! You know, you’re a kid and here are all these brightly colored costumes and all these things. I was also going through, like, Garbage Pail Kids and things like that, but that’s a little less viable these days. There was a lot of Alf. A lot of fucking Alf cards as well. That’s going to date my childhood. But what stuck with me, I think, was the vibrancy of the worlds. Especially because I came in from both trading card collecting, and also back issues at flea markets while my dad was out collecting things. 

I think that’s why I have such an appreciation of “deep cut” characters and concepts, if you’re talking about the lore outside of like the Big 2. You don’t know any of the characters as a kid, and when you’re that young, you don’t even really know who Superman and Batman are. They all seem just as important, right? That’s why I love Big Sir just as much as I love Wonder Woman, or loving – take your pick at Marvel – Slapstick, or Quasar, as much as I like Storm or Captain America. 

So it all came from following my dad around really early on, but when they made Superman permanently electric and blue in the early 1990s, because he was never going back, they made an article in the Syracuse Standard – I’m from upstate New York – it really made it a time to get in. Because here you are in a ground floor moment, when Superman’s powers are changing forever. In that article as well, there were interviews with the folks who were putting it together. Of course Dan Jurgens, but I can’t remember who else was involved. Probably Stuart Immonen and Tom Grummet. And more, because at that time Superman was essentially a weekly book. I was fascinated with the creative process, and that made me think “hey, maybe this is something I want to do.”

Justice League America/DC Entertaninment

I gravitated more towards the visual side when I was younger, and I still like visual art, but it quickly became apparent to me that the speed of my ideas, and what was going to be most interesting to me in a visual sense, was going to be writing. So I started hustling and doing it! You know, my friend? Some kids do can drives to get themselves, I don’t know what normal kids are into, a shiny new bike? But what I wanted was a plane ticket to San Diego Comic Con. So that’s what I did.

Allo: Good for you. 

Orlando: At 12 I met Steve Seagle and Joe Kelly, who were writing X-Men at the time, and they started mentoring me on this whole business. It took almost 20 years, but that’s how it all began.

Allo: I read this before about you, but you kind of just hit the convention floor and pounding the pavement and approaching companies and editors?

Orlando: Yeah, I mean I don’t have any shame. And also, the narrative at the time was like “oh, you know Jim Shooter was writing the Legion of Super-Heroes when he was, what, 14 or 15? And it was Paul Levitz who only worked for one company his whole life, and it was DC Comics, kid! And he got in when he was 17!” So I was like, “shit, I’ve gotta get moving! If I’m going to be the next Jim Shooter, with no concept of what that entails, I need to get my ass in gear!” I tend to still be someone who doesn’t really sell fame. So I began approaching Seagle and Kelly. They kind of looked identical in the 90s, so it was easy to find them. 

And that was also when Crossgen was starting to get going. I was following them almost monthly, I really loved those books. And because not as many people knew them at the time, they were really easy to talk to. I always talk about people like Seagle and Kelly, but I should really talk about people like Tony Bedard, and Barb Kesel, who also took a lot of time to kind of show me the ropes really early on. To this day I always remember to bring my balloons, and that’s because Barb Kesel told me that anybody who doesn’t do it is an unprofessional fool, and I’m not going to argue with that woman, so I always remember my balloons! 

Allo: I worked with Tony Bedard when I was with Marvel. He’s a really good guy, and a really good writer. So you did a creator-owned first?

Orlando: Yes, that’s true by numerous tokens. My first published work was in 2008, in the Eisner-nominated Outlaw Territory anthology through Image. I had two shorts that I made with my co-creator on that, an amazing hearing-impaired artist named Tyler Niccum. He actually has a book out that you can buy right now actually, about his life as a deaf hitchhiker. We worked together in 2008 and even that was through networking, actually. He was like “shit, I need someone to work with. Let’s make it Steve.” So we did that, and then I also worked with Celal Koc, a European artist, for Outlaw Territory volume 3. And if I’m mixing up which volumes I’m in, come and slap me in the face, because I did that a long time ago.

Allo: (laughs) Okay.

Orlando: And then in 2012 I had already been networking with DC for over a decade. So I got the opportunity to do a story there in the Strange Adventures anthology, about centaurs taking space peyote and hallucinating gladiatorial combat.

Allo: (laughs) Very topical!

Orlando: I know, all the time, right? That’s how bisexuals decide. We take our straight half and make it fight our gay half, and whoever wins, you know, gets to choose where the dick goes. Anyway, so I did that, and that was with DC, with editors Will Dennis and Mark Doyle. The funny thing is this was around the same time Tom King broke out with an anthology called Time Warp. This was years before we would meet, but it was the same round of early Vertigo short stories. That was around 2014, when I did Undertow, and I also appeared in the “yellow” issue of the CMYK anthology, with future friend and collaborator Gerard Way. So my past was really prologue in a lot of ways. I didn’t know it at the time.

So we did Undertow at image, and a lot of my friends and peers at DC were following my work and said “look, this is somebody reliable who can be trusted with work.” So thanks to the success of the Burnside Batgirl repackaging, I got an opportunity to pitch whatever I might do in a similar mode. Which ended up being Midnighter.

Undetrtow/Image Comics

Allo: Which is awesome!

Orlando: It is funny when you think about it. I was in an anthology with Gerard, who ended up being a good friend and collaborator. And I was friends with Tom. He and I both had these poorly selling but well-regarded books at DC at the time.

Allo: I wouldn’t blame yourself. A lot of it has to do with marketing. DC was pushing out so many books at the time. It’s like, “what do I buy this month?”

Orlando: Not Midnighter and Omega Men, I’ll tell you that much! But that was in 2015. We’re both doing fine.

Allo: Would you consider Midnighter your breakout hit?

Orlando: Oh, very much so. I’d consider that my “Freebird,” actually. I’ve gone on to put out stuff that I’m much more proud of. But any creator evolves over the course of seven, eight years. At this point it’s been long enough that I can go back and… unquestionably it showed folks who I was at DC, and I made a huge fan out of Dan DiDio. I got signed as an exclusive probably about a year after Midnighter launched.

Allo: So being at DC, you got to write Midnighter, and then Midnighter and Apollo. You went on to write Supergirl, and then Wonder Woman… obviously Wonder Woman is a heavy hitter. What was that like for you?

Midnighter and Apollo/DC Entertainment

Orlando: It was fascinating to work on a character and see… you know she’s one of the Trinity, but I think her character is easily the most complex. She has a lot of oppositional forces in her life, and she’s in one of the greatest corners of the DC Universe, and she’s also an agent of peace, which is something we tried to wrestle with throughout all my two-and-a-half runs. But I loved building parts of that world. It’s something I’d love to come back to, but sometimes I feel that I’ve said what I’ve said. I had wanted for years to do Martian Manhunter, and I was lucky enough to do a 12-issue series. I think it’s my best. It’s the best work I’ve ever done, and easily my best DC work. I worked with one of my favorite people ever, Riley Rossmo. The editors I worked with, Chris Conroy and Dave Wielgosz. I felt that I said exactly what I needed to say. It was unadulterated. I don’t know if I ever need to write J’on again, even though he is my favorite DC character. But with Diana, it’s like the more the world gets shittier and more hateful, there’s always more to say with Wonder Woman. It was an honor to be part of that, but of course there’s always stuff on the drawing board that couldn’t get done. That said, Conrad and Cloonan are doing a great job, along with of course Stephanie and Vita, who are doing stuff that I wish I could have done when I was there. So I’m really excited right now.

Allo: In recent years, comics have become more inclusive of LGBTQ+, black and brown characters. Obviously not enough, but things are changing. As a creator on that front, what are some things creators can do to help facilitate more exclusivity and even exposure to queer folks and lifestyles within comics?

Orlando: The thing is, my answer is not going to be sexy. One thing they can do is buy the books. And they can pre-order the books and not buy them in trade and not buy them in digital. I’m going to be honest because I just said that, and it sucks. But that’s also the reality right now. And people come to Orlando for reality when the reality is shitty. The reality is that right now for the publishers, their customers are retailers, and the retailers’ customers are readers. For better or worse, the industry is in need of a ballistic overhaul. But we’re not there yet. So right now, the best we could do is… the language of the Big 2 publishers is preorder numbers. It’s not ideal by any means, and I’m speaking euphemistically when I say “ideal.” 

I remember when my friend  David Walker was on Nighthawk… he’s a good friend of mine, and that was with Ramon Villalobos. That book was canceled shortly after it came out. And I don’t fault the publishers either, because the markets are so tight that they’re going to do what they have to do. There’s not really a villain here, or maybe there are so many villains that nobody is a villain.  But that happens because preorder numbers weren’t high. 

There are many other problems in the world, but if the question is how you can support more inclusive content, for better or worse, support the places that are supplying it. For the Big 2, that means you have to preorder and support the periodical editions. That said… the world doesn’t stop and start with the Big 2. There are other publishers with different metrics, like book market numbers and they expect books with a longer tail. Support books that you are interested in, but if the question is how you can support books at big publishers, the answer is preorders.

Rainbow Bridge/Seismic/Aftershock

Allo: Talking about the landscape of comics, obviously right now there are more publishers. Of course smaller than Marvel and DC, but there’s definitely a lot more publishers and a lot more content out there. How exciting is that for you as a writer? Do you approach other companies? Does the new world of comics, with the amount of publishers right now… is that a good thing?

Orlando: More competition is always a good thing. More options for creators is always a good thing, because at the end of the day… if this wasn’t comics, say you were a farrier, the first job that comes to mind because I’m an idiot. Say you were a cobbler, and other jobs that don’t exist right now. The point is, if you have any type of office job, as we all know, it’s not a guarantee that you’re going to remain in that office. And if you work freelance, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to work out. If you work in comics, you’re probably working in 10 different offices in a given month. You know, sometimes you need to refresh yourself. You need to revitalize. A pitch that you might have at one company may be a nonstarter. That might be because of the people you pitch it to, and it might be because of what they publish. But it might be gold somewhere else. And that doesn’t mean, because one person turned down the idea, that it was bad. It just wasn’t a good fit for that company. 

The more companies we have that are trying to do different things and push out different kinds of comics, the better. Unquestionably. RIP the companies that tried along the way and failed, like Speakeasy and Crossgen, which I referenced before. I referenced those before because I love Crossgen books and I love Rocketo, which Speakeasy published. Frank Espinosa, amazing. Not only are those different places to work, but each company brings in a slightly different kind of creator, and they’re gonna know how to best hone their ideas and get them out there. 

The onus is on us as creators to not just cold pitch things, but… something that I might pitch to Aftershock, who I have a great relationship with – and honestly, they’re kind of my ride-or-die because they supported creators intensely during the pandemic – a book that would be a good fit there maybe wouldn’t be a good fit for Vault, who are also doing great work. And vice versa. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’ve got to know which brands you’re going to. The problem is now there’s more brands than ever. Which means there are more homes than ever for unique stories.

Allo: You worked at the Big 2, you worked at smaller publishers, you worked creator-owned… what are the benefits of work for hire versus creator owned? What do you enjoy the most? What things about those experiences do you like or not like?

Wonder Woman 750/DC Entertainment

Orlando: I think the best situation is to have your feet in both pools. There is unquestionably something exciting and invigorating about being part of what is really a gigantic, decades-long ongoing story. Listen, I was the lead writer of the 750th issue of Wonder Woman. Nobody else can claim that, it was just me.

Allo: It was great, by the way!

Orlando: If I make it to 100 years old, I will still be the writer of Wonder Woman 750, and it will still be an amazing thing. And yeah, that’s a responsibility. It’s an honor, it’s exciting, and there’s no question there. I’m in the X-Men office now, and that’s an honor. I would argue it’s the biggest renaissance the mutants got in at least a decade. Not that there wasn’t incredible work in the interim there. To act like it’s not an honor and a privilege… anyone who says otherwise is complete horseshit. So those are exciting moments.

Darkhold/Marvel Entertainment

At the same time, you can’t take those things with you. So you also wanna be working on originals where you are not part of an 80 year tapestry. You are thread one on that tapestry. And it’s not that it isn’t exciting, it’s just a totally different thing. The way that I think you stay fresh for either one of those is by doing the other. Like, if I spend a month in the work for hire mind, I get that hunger to work on originals, and vice versa. And it’s not really like I just spend on a month on one or the other. Let’s be real, I do both every day, seven days a week. That’s what it takes to be a creator. A freelance creator, at least. But I think one fuels the other. And I think there’s a certain amount of freedom when you know there’s not going to be any sort of S & P person telling you can’t do this. 

But that can also become a negative, because the reality is that you can’t say that with 50, 60, 80 year old franchises. There’s always going to be S&P  on a huge character that’s also on lunchboxes, backpacks, or whatever else. To expect otherwise is folly. I expect to have different hurdles at different companies. I think that’s part of the game. Again, I’m not negging myself when I say to myself that more people are reading Wonder Woman or the X-Men, than a book like Loaded Bible: Blood of my Blood, a book in which Jesus was makes out with Dracula and wants to fuck with him. That’s just a fact. There are freedoms and restrictions that come with both of those scenarios.

Allo: You’ve been doing some really great stuff at Marvel. Last year you did the Darkhold with Wanda. You’re working on Marauders now. Not to compare DC to Marvel, but what have been the good experiences from working at each company? What do they do differently that’s great for writers? What could they do better?

Orlando: A lot of times as creators we talk about… I think there is a fundamental difference between, at least the classic characters at Marvel and DC. And I think it’s a product of when the characters were born. What we love to say, when we’re fingering our assholes as it were, is that DC is the world as we wish it was, and Marvel is the world as it is. But, you know, that is flowery fucking bullshit. The reality is that DC characters tend to be much more mythological and aspirational, and Marvel… not to say they were built around Spider-Man, because they did acquire Timely and other characters, but their trademark characters are mostly  people you could meet on the street. That’s why Peter Parker was so revolutionary. He could shoot webs, but he’s also just like you. He can’t make rent, and he can’t get the girl, and the old Parker luck, and…

Allo: And he’s late for school.

Orlando: And Batman… look, I love Batman, but he does not have the old Parker luck. He has the old Tony Stark billions. Again, the general DC character is more mythological, and the general Marvel character is more… I don’t want to say more street level, but more humanistic and relatable. There are exceptions to both rules. Batman is more like a Marvel character, and Thor is more like a DC character. So they stand out in a world that contrasts them. And then of course there are characters like Captain America and the Destroyer, the original Vision, Sub-Mariner, the original Human Torch… they were all created in World War 2, and the way that they function was more like a DC character. But they’re a rarity, and I think that makes them special at Marvel. And Captain America, by the way, was fighting the Nazis before we were! That’s always going to be one of the coolest fucking things. Not like I was fucking around then, but still. 

Marauders #1/Marvel Entertainment

Allo: Of course. Obviously this is a visual medium, so can you name some great artists that you’ve worked with? And maybe some great artists who you’d like to work with? 

Orlando: Great artists that I’ve worked with… I’ve never worked with a bad artist!

Allo: Well, the standouts. I know you love all artists, but who really brought your work to life?

Orlando: I would love to say I love them all equally, but I would be lying (laughs). Well I’ve already said that I love to work with Riley Rossmo, who’s at a few different companies right now which bums me out, but stay tuned because I might get the band back together for something really quick. Riley and I hit it off from moment one. We worked together on “Night of the Monster Men,” and we worked together with Roge Antonio. And Andy MacDonald – Andy actually has a book with me coming soon, so keep an eye out.

But Riley and I, we just got each other. We’ve always loved the same kind of stuff. And he’s someone who always wants to be challenged, which is good because I’m a bastard when it comes to writing challenging scripts. We loved working on “Night of the Monster Men,” he was the first name that came up when DC offered me Batman/The Shadow, and I’m probably one of the biggest Shadow fans at DC. I’m probably one of the biggest Shadow fans around. He is my favorite character.

Allo: Really?

Batman/The Shadow/DC Entertainment/Dynamite Entertainment

Orlando: Yeah. I’m frequently asked who my favorite Marvel and DC characters are, and there’s different answers for that, but my favorite character is The Shadow. So it could only be Riley, and it led to an incredible visual reinvention of that whole world. Sure enough, as soon as we got the final pen stroke of that book, we began lobbying DiDio, who’s one of my strongest supporters, for Martian Manhunter. Once again, I’m a kid in a candy store. I would work with Riley in a second, and not just because he’s one of the nicest Canadians in comics, but that certainly helps. 

But he’s not the only one. I want to point out that I loved working with ACO and Hugo Petrus during my Midnighter and Apollo run. Fernando Blanco… Ryan Sook  on The Unexpected. I’m going to lightly fluff him here and say Ryan Sook was like, in Wayne’s World “we’re not worthy!” But he’s just the kindest guy. Of course his work was off the chain. His work was incredible, but always so humble for someone I consider a giant. And funny story, he actually drew a portrait of me for my alumni review at my college. So I’m gracious, I’m not lying. I don’t know that I’ve ever worked with Joelle Jones, but I love Joelle Jones. I’ve met her a lot at summits and stuff like that. Maybe I got a cover or something like that, but she’s incredible. I’m probably forgetting countless people at DC.

Allo: It’s okay!

Orlando: Oh, and of course, beginning to work with Ivan Reis on Justice League of America. And getting a Kevin Nowlan cover, are you fucking kidding me? Who am I, what’s going on? On the Shadow/Batman crossover.

Allo: That was incredible.

Milk Wars/ DC: Young Animals

Orlando: Getting a Frank Quitely cover to Milk Wars… I could go on! Oh, and RIP by the way, getting a John Paul Leon cover for Midnighter. Just the nicest guy, and gave me the cover for a very gracious price for someone who, again, I consider one of the greatest artists in the history of the industry.

Allo: Definitely.

Orlando: That was great. It’s a small thing, but Brittany Holzier and I campaigning for Ramona Fradon to be a part of Wonder Woman 750. Something I’m incredibly proud of. Something that was mostly Brittany’s work, but she and I came together and I’m incredibly proud of it. Easily the most historic living female comic artist. There are no words that could be heaped upon her that would be undeserving. 

And at Marvel, they lined up a murderer’s row for me. Cian Tormey on Darkhold… everyone I worked with on Curse of the Man Thing… Andrea Riccardo… Francesco Mobli… they’ve all gone on to do incredible work at Marvel. Eleonora Carlini on Marauders… the energy she brings is incredible. It’s a revelation. Folks who haven’t checked out the book really don’t know what’s coming.

Allo: Any tidbits about… well of course my favorite character is Psylocke, so any big plans for Psylocke on the Marauders?

Orlando: Well, before I answer that, why don’t you explain more, because I think a lot of folks who are Psylocke fans… I have an answer for you, but I wanna hear you turn the tables. I’m always fascinated about why people like Psylocke. I think we both know that the person in the body that we once believed to be Psylocke is not the same character. As she always should have been, the actual Japanese woman is back in the Japanese body. When you say it’s your favorite character, do you mean Qanon, who appeared in roughly three issues before disappearing for roughly 30 years, or do you mean Betsy Braddock?

Marauders #1/Marvel Entertainment

Allo: I mean, it’s funny because I loved Betsy when she was introduced, and when she was introduced in New Mutants and took on Sabretooth, I fell in love with Betsy. And then the evolution happened, and the visual of Kwannon was something I loved too. Those are kind of my favorites. I follow Captain Britain, and I follow Marauders because I follow Kwannon wherever Kwannon goes. 

Orlando: I’m just always interested. Psylocke is a war captain, and you’re going to see her… I don’t want to spoil too much, but she’s going to step up in a leadership role more and more over time. You kind of see that evolution as she’s more confident in herself and can do a lot more now that the correct mind is in the correct body, so to speak. You’ve already seen that in Marauders #1, but it’ll become text, not subtext, by the time the year’s over.

Allo: Awesome, that’s exciting. They’re both really great characters.

Orlando: And look, she goes to fucking space if she wants!

Allo: Your book Party And Prey touches on the “Party and Play” gay subculture.  Which is known as the “PNP” crystal myth fueled sex scene. It’s known to be a bit scary filled with predators, extortion, suicide and addiction.  What was your interest in this and what was the impetus for the story?

Orlando: In regards to PARTY AND PREY, since I co-wrote the book I tend to not do solo Qs for it. BUT I think a lot of what you’ve asked is answered by the text piece my co-writer and I included in the book? We try to let the work speak for itself on things we’ve done together, and intended that to be our statement on the content.

Party and Prey/Aftershock

Allo: Any advice for up and coming queer creators, or creators in general, that you wish you had when you were starting out?

Orlando: Look, comics is a challenging business. There are less spots at Marvel and DC… it’s easier to play for the Yankees or Red Sox. Know that it is a challenge, but know that it can and will happen if you don’t give up. I like to tell my story because it’s a story of almost 20 fucking years. I know someone can buy a pie for someone in a diner and get a book the next week, but that is not my story. And there’s nothing wrong with that story either. There’s no one way to break into the comics industry, just as there’s no one way to break into the comics or any other entertainment industry.

The thing is, make your books and hone your craft. It’s easier than ever. When I was a kid we didn’t have crowdfunding, and we barely had the internet. Now all those things exist. It’s easier to connect with likeminded creators whether they are established or aspiring. And make content! Make the content, and make it short. Almost everyone, myself included, is guilty of saying “this is my Dune, or this is my Lord of the Rings. My first book will be 100 issues long, and everyone will see!” 

Killman/Aftershock

No one will see, because no publisher will take a risk on the faith of an unproven talent. Make eight page stories, make 10 page stories, which, by the way, are harder to tell than a 100 issue story. And find peers or editors or creators who you respect and you think have your best interests at heart and get critiqued. Get ready to hear some things that you’re not necessarily excited about, but that’s why I say make sure to find creators who you respect and have your interests at heart. Even if they’re things you don’t want to hear, they’re probably things you need to hear.

Look, I was mentored by one of the most lovably gruff people in comics. When I met Steve Seagle, he told me “here’s what’s unprofessional about your work, kid. Either I’ll see you next year or I won’t.” It doesn’t have to be that harsh, but you have to find folks whose critique you respect, and you have to get ready to take it. If you do that, it could be a long process, it might be a short process. And maybe you won’t get there. But use the resources that are out there, like crowdfunding. It’s easier than ever to tell your story unadulterated. You don’t have to be like me sneaking in in 2008. You can do your book with 38 dicks like Euphoria, and it can get funded, as long as you’re speaking your truth. Don’t be deterred by speed bumps and things like that. You can get there. And also, know that before they got in, every creator you know probably quit trying to make comics a thousand times. God knows I quit many times, and the only reason I didn’t is that I’m extremely stubborn. That’s what you take to heart. I would call Steve Seagle and he would be like “this isn’t fair, I want to quit!” And he’d be like “no you don’t.” And that’s when I’d be like “fuck you, old man! I’m never going to quit!” Even though he was probably the same age that I am now.

Allo: Thanks so much, Steve for a great interview!


For more info on Steve Orlando and to see a list of his works check out his Twitter and Instagram.

Interview with Marvel’s Voices : Pride (2022) #1 Editor Sarah Brunstad

Greetings and Happy Pride all! For this installment of the Geeks OUT! Queer Creator spotlight, I had the opportunity to speak with Marvel Editor, Sarah Brunstad. Sarah has worked on a plethora of titles for Marvel including, Aliens, X-Men, Captain Marvel, Black Widow and a number of the Marvel Pride Anthologies.

I spoke with Sarah about this year’s much anticipated, Marvel Voices: Pride issue, queer representation in mainstream comics and the awesomeness of working with all queer creators on Marvel’s queer characters.

Chris Allo: It’s that time of year for the Marvel’s Voices: Pride edition number 2! For the uninitiated can you just give us a little rundown on the Marvel’s Voices brand?

Angélique Roché

Sarah Brunstad: Marvel’s Voices came out of the podcast created and run by Angélique Roché, with the intention of uplifting and highlighting marginalized creators and creators. Angélique worked with former Marvel editor Chris Robinson to build the very first anthology, and the rest is history!

CA: I know you work on many books at Marvel (X-Men, Aliens,Marvel Voices, etc.) How did you come to be the editor on the various Marvel’s Voices books?

SB: I was an associate editor at the time, working very closely with senior editor Wil Moss. When the first anthology was so successful, Marvel decided to do more, and Wil and I had a strong interest in bringing in new, diverse talent. And we’re both crazy people who kind of love building complicated anthologies. So we got the opportunity to do Marvel’s Voices: Legacy, and then I pitched an Indigenous Voices issue that was really near to my own heart. After that, I got to continue editing the line as someone who’s just very passionate about what Voices is trying to do.

Marvel Voices Pride 2022 Variant Cover/Art by Stephen Byrne

CA: Can you give us a little bit of a run down on the characters and creators for this year’s installment?

SB: We have 7 awesome stories this year, and we introduce a ton of new characters. Charlie Jane Anders with artists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt introduced Escapade, a new trans mutant who will go on to star in an upcoming arc of New Mutants. Grace Freud and Scott B. Henderson created a whole gang of new young mutants, a tight group with hilarious rapport. Andrew Wheeler and Brittney Williams—one of my personal favorite artists—did a great Hercules and Noh-Varr story. Chris Cantwell and Kei Zama leaned into some beautiful punk queer history with a wild Moondragon/Guardians of the Galaxy story. Alyssa Wong and Stephen Byrne made an absolutely perfect pairing for the return of the much-beloved Young Avengers. Ira Madison III and Lorenzo Susi brought Pride to Asgard in a super cute Runa the Valkyrie story. And Danny Lore and Lucas Werneck got to do something really special—revisiting Venomm and Taku from Don McGregor’s Jungle Action run and establishing their relationship as a couple on the page for the first time, as Don had always hoped and intended.

Valkyrie(Luna) Art by Lorenzo Susi

CA: What were you looking for in terms of pitches/stories for this book? Was there a set of characters Marvel wanted to spotlight or did that just come as part and parcel with what the creators wanted to do?

SB: I definitely went in with the intention of bringing more trans rep to the Marvel Universe, and was beyond thrilled when Charlie Jane agreed to it—it’s something I’ve wanted to do with her in particular for a long time. For Danny and Lucas’ story, that was something Angélique and I had talked about lot, this idea of bringing a previously coded character out of the closet, so to speak. Venomm and Taku were a perfect fit. And I knew I wanted a Young Avengers story in here, because we got a chance to spotlight Hulkling and Wiccan in big ways last year but the team itself hadn’t been together for a long time, and as the most queer-heavy team in Marvel history, I really wanted to reunite them. I was so excited Alyssa was in for that. But for the rest, I left things really open and just tried to have fun and spread joy.

CA: Obviously, it’s a really good thing to give queer creators the opportunity to tell more authentic and genuine stories through the queer characters inhabiting the Marvel Universe. What other aspirations does Marvel have for putting the book out annually?

Wiccan & Hulkling Art by Stephen Byrne/Marvel

SB: Well, we’re playing a slow game. Every year that we create new queer characters, our world gets bigger and more diverse, and eventually those characters will be as beloved as, say, Rogue and Gambit. And we are celebrating the sheer diversity of talent in comics in an explicit way for the first time. I’m extremely proud that so many of the people who got their start in a Voices comic have gone on to do more work for Marvel—Rebecca Roanhorse, David Cutler, Chris Allen, Maria Wolf, Eleonora Carlini (through the semi-related Women of Marvel anthologies)—I could keep going, seriously, we have made such a huge impact in just a couple of years. Our talent pool looks way different now. That’s the major outcome for me, personally.

CA: You’ve stated elsewhere that you didn’t read comics as a kid, so now that you’ve read, worked on and created quite a fantastic resume in comics, what is it about the medium that you love and why is it such a seemingly important art form in the LGBTQI+community?

Marvel Boy and Hercules art by Brittney L. Williams and Villarubia/MarVEL

SB: I love comics because they’re WEIRD. They’ve existed on the fridges of the publishing and artistic community for a long time. It’s only been 14 years since that first Marvel Studios Iron Man film, and it’s hard to remember now that before that, basically no one knew who Iron Man was. So there’s traditionally been a ton of freedom to do strange, creatively fulfilling things in comics that you couldn’t do anywhere else. We like to say that we have an unlimited budget in comics—you can crash cars, wreck whole planets, in a single page. That’s wild and so exciting. And even though it’s hard, I love the fast pace too, and the feeling that a creative team is a really tight-knit group, always in conversation, always holding each other’s hands. Making a comic is truly a labor of love. I think queer people have always made comics in our own little corners, but I’m really happy to see us taking the mainstream now too.

CA: As a queer person working in the industry, what are some of the things that have happened to help queer visibility that you are happy with and what are some things that you feel still need to come to pass?

SB: Well, we still need more characters and creators on the mainstream, big budget books. In some ways that work has just begun. But also, I’m very inspired by this younger generation of writers and artists coming up who don’t feel any need to hide themselves, who can put their pronouns in their bio and make queer themes a major part of their work without that nasty voice in the back of their head going “but is this marketable.” I’m not saying that doesn’t ever happen anymore, but there’s just a tremendous amount of freedom out there, and I think more people making comics than ever before.

CA: Won’t ask you to play favorites here, but what is something you’re excited for the fans to see coming out of this year’s Marvel’s Voices: Pride issue?

“Escapade’ Art by RO STIEN & TED BRANDT and BonVillian/Marvel

SB: Heh. I mean, yes, ALL of it! But I guess I have to say Escapade’s introduction is a big thrill—I am so thrilled for what we’re going to do with her in New Mutants. Which, by the way, I’m pretty sure this current run now represents the longest ever run on a Marvel series by trans creators (possibly also beating DC!). Vita Ayala has been writing it since issue #14, issue #29 is guest-written by Danny Lore, and #31-33 will be guest-written by Charlie Jane until Vita returns with #30. It’s a big deal, and we’re all very proud.

CA: Can you give us maybe a favorite sequence from one of the stories this year?

SB: Oof! So many! But okay—there’s a splash page in Chris Cantwell and Kei Zama’s story that I LOVE. It’s grimy and intense and so so good. You’ll know it when you see it. Kei and I had a lot of fun brainstorming the Easter Eggs embedded on that page.

CA: As an editor, what is some helpful advice you can offer to aspiring editors, writers and artists that hope to make a career in comics?

SB: Make friends with other people who are coming up. That could be through social media, whatever, or the more traditional way of going to conventions. Ask lots of questions when you get to talk to pros. Read everything. Draw/write every day. Artists—please, please have a professional portfolio that goes beyond your Instagram. And don’t be precious about your work, especially writers! Comics is a collaborative medium, and a considerable part of your job is just being good to your fellow creators. Breaking into comics is pretty hard, but that’s true of any creative industry, and I truly believe that those who put in the sweat eventually get the payoff. (Except, you know, the payoff is a small check and an immense feeling of self-satisfaction—nobody’s here to get rich, haha).

CA: Thanks so much, Sarah. Looking forward to this year’s addition as well as the next entry into the Marvel’s Voices initiative! Here is a rundown of the creators and stories in this years Marvel’s Voices: Pride Edition

es Marvel Voices Pride 2022 Cover Olivier Coipel/Mar vel

YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE (2022) #1!

New York, NY— May 12, 2022 — On June 22, Marvel Comics will celebrate Pride Month with a new giant-sized one-shot spotlighting LGBTQIA+ creators and characters! A queer-centered anthology brought together by an amazing lineup of writers and artists from all walks of life, MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE #1 will feature eight extraordinary adventures, an introduction by Vice President of Television at Bad Robot Productions Alex Phillips, and more!

From uplifting to thrilling, this diverse collection of stories take place all throughout the Marvel Universe and celebrate the themes and joy of Pride Month. And today, fans can get a first look at each one!

·       In last year’s MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE, Steve Orlando and Luciano Vecchio introduced the dreamy mutant hero SOMNUS,  who now stars in the ongoing X-Men series MARAUDERS! New York Times-bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders and artist duo and Eisner-nominated cartoonists Ro Stein and Ted Brandt continues this tradition with the debut of ESCAPADE! Readers will meet this all-new trans mutant super hero in a 20-page adventure that will introduce her career as a super thief and set the stage for her exciting future.

·       Valkyrie Rúna puts on the first ever Asgard Pride celebration in television writer and podcaster Ira Madison III and artist Lorenzo Susi Marvel Comics debut.

·       Shuster and Eisner-winning writer Andrew Wheeler makes his Marvel debut alongside PATSY WALKER artist Brittney L. Williams in an action-packed story about Marvel’s newest power couple-Hercules and Marvel Boy!

·       Rev up your engines for a heart-bending story across space and time in a Moondragon story by IRON MAN scribe and lauded TV showrunner Christopher Cantwell and artist Kei Zama.

·       Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus-award winner Alyssa Wong and fan-favorite artist Stephen Byrne reunite the Young Avengers in a story guaranteed to please fans new and old! Byrne will also depict the team in one of the issue’s variant covers!

·       Comedy writer Grace Freud (Rick and Morty, the Eric Andre Show) brings her talents to Marvel with a story about the power of responsibility featuring the Marvel Universe’s favorite gay ginger, D-Man! She’s joined by Eisner-nominated artist Scott B. Henderson in his first work for Marvel!

·       And writer Danny Lore and artist Lucas Werneck revisit the legacy of Taku and Venom, two Black Panther characters long left in the closet, in a tale of love and redemption!

Check out all five stunning MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE #1 covers and interior artwork from each story now and celebrate Pride with Marvel Comics on June 22! For more information including a word from this year’s creators, visit Marvel.com.

MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE (2022) #1

Introduction by ALEX PHILLIPS

Cover by NICK ROBLES

Variant Cover by AMY REEDER
Variant Cover by JEN BARTEL
Variant Cover by STEPHEN BYRNE
Variant Cover by OLIVIER COIPEL

Story A  – Escapade in “Permanent Sleepover”

Written by CHARLIE JANE ANDERS

Art by RO STIEN & TED BRANDT

Colors by TAMRA BONVILLAIN

Story B – Valkyrie(Rúna) in “Over the Rainbow”

Written by IRA MADISON III

Art by LORENZO SUSI

Colors by RACHELLE ROSENBERG

Story C – Hercules and Marvel Boy in “Ancient & Modern”

Written by ANDREW WHEELER

Art by BRITTNEY L. WILLIAMS

Colors by JOSÉ VILLARRUBIA 

Story D – Moondragon in “Stay Outta My Mind Turf, Jack”

Written by CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL

Art by KEI ZAMA

Colors by RICO RENZI

Story E – The Young Avengers in “All My Exes in the Nexus”

Written by ALYSSA WONG

Art by STEPHEN BYRNE

Story F – D-Man in “LGBT-D”

Written by GRACE FREUD

Art by SCOTT B. HENDERSON

Inks by LEE TOWNSEND

Colors by BRITTANY PEER

Story G – Taku and Venomm in “Perfectly Scene”

Written by DANNY LORE

Art by LUCAS WERNECK

Colors by MICHAEL WIGGAM

Interview with writer Rex Ogle

With the graphic novel “Blink” from Tapas Media to “The Supernatural Society” from Harper Collings, Rex has written dozens of books and graphic novels for the YA audience! In his very candid and critically acclaimed memoir, “Free Lunch“, he talks about the rigors of high school, growing up poor in an environment with incidents of domestic abuse. Tackling topics of abuse, eviction and mental illness, Rex is as transparent and as authentic as very few writers dare to be.

Chris Allo: So tell us a little bit about yourself.  Your pronouns of course and your initial foray into Geekdom. When/how was that passion ignited? I always loving hearing the queer comic geek’s perspective.

Rex Ogle:  I go by he/him/his.  My inspiration always came from reading.  I devoured everything I could get my hands on, and was reading a lot of adult content when I was way too young.  But given my home life, I had a maturity that allowed me into those worlds.  I also started writing at an early age.  I knew straight away I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, I just didn’t know how.  So I started writing every day, and building a practice of spending at least an hour creating something.  From there, I worked my way up 5 or 6 hours of writing every day.  It’s not always easy, but there’s no feeling quite like finishing a piece.

CA: You worked as an intern at Marvel, then editor at DC comics and onto editing for Scholastic and Little Brown Young Readers.  How was that journey?

RO: I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was scared of being a starving artist.  So after college, I packed a duffle bag and four hundred dollars, and told myself, “You’re going to NYC to work in publishing.  Make it happen.  I got a lot of nos but I kept at it until I got that first yes.  I enjoyed my time as an editor, but found it difficult to often be the only queer on staff.  So it’s been really rewarding to see that change in recent years.  

CA: What were your takeaways from editing comics versus prose?

RO: Editing was fantastic, because I got to learn about the inside of the industry. It gave me valuable insight into how books get made.  Some of it is talent, but a lot is also timing and luck.  It helped me realize that rejections didn’t mean my writing was bad, it just meant the timing or editorial champion wasn’t right.  As for comic versus prose, I love them both so much.  They’re so different.  With prose, I get to control nearly every aspect of the story.  With a comic or graphic novel, I’m on a team, which takes some of the pressure off me.  That’s probably why I write both.

CA: Can you tell us some of the projects you’re most proud of from each of those positions?  

RO: I’m really proud of Free Lunch, my (prose) memoir about growing up dealing with poverty and domestic violence.  And I’m not just proud of it because it was my first book (under my own name), but because I truly believe it’s an important story to be told because so many kids are living with similar experiences.  I’m also in love with The Supernatural Society, my recent (prose) middle grade fantasy novel, because it’s very much a love letter to the Universal monster movies I grew up obsessed with.  As for graphic novels, Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdom, comes out in early April, and it’s been years in the making.  It’s a fast-paced and fun fantasy adventure about friendship and inner strength.  As for comics, I’m ready to write more.  Traditional book publishing is great, but it can take a while, so it’s nice to have the immediacy of a monthly comics.  So yeah, essentially, I’m really proud of every project that I work on.  LOL.    

CA: You’ve written a number of fantastic books and graphic novels. The upcoming, Abuela, Don’t Forget Me, the raw book, Punching Bag, the graphic novels, Blink and Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, to name a few.  Did you always want to write comics or prose?  And what was the moment you decided to do it and then take the steps you took to make the project manifest?

RO: As a young writer, I was always writing prose.  But that was mainly because I had no idea how to write a comic.  Then I interned at Marvel and got to read actual scripts, and thought, “Oh, I can do this.”  From that moment on, I found myself jumping between prose and sequential storytelling, because I loved both styles so much.  I decided pretty early on that I was going to be a write, come hell or high water.  But it took a lot longer than I anticipated.  I wish I could have started getting published in my 20’s, but it just wasn’t in the cards.  Now that I’m doing full-time, the projects are snowballing, one leading into the other, and it’s so exciting.  I can’t wait to see all my books come out.    

CA: You’re very open about your life: growing up poor, struggling with hunger and domestic violence as a kid.  A lot of LGBTQI youth can relate.  What was the impetus for telling your story, so real, transparent, and powerful, by the way? Did you struggle with deciding what you would talk about or did you always know you were going to be completely forthcoming and honest?

RO: I’ve always practiced 100% honesty and life, but I’ve always gravitated towards fiction.  BUT after years of rejection, I knew I was doing something wrong.  Then one day, an editor gave me the advice to try and write a true story about my life, so that I could learn to dig my heels into the emotional core of a narrative.  It turned out that’s what was missing from my storytelling.  And as I wrote it, I knew I needed to be as honest as possible with my reader.  I think that’s what readers–especially young readers–appreciate most.  

CA: You also wrote the OGN Blink with art by the incredible Eduardo Francisco. What are the challenges or the things you like about writing prose and writing for an artist on an OGN?

RO: Prose is wonderful, because I’m in complete control.  Though, with an editor’s eye contributing.  But otherwise, it’s just me (and the cover artist).  That’s freeing.  But with an OGN it’s a partnership, which staves off the completely loneliness and fear of writing alone.  So I try to jump back and forth between the two styles to keep a nice balance.  

CA: In recent years comics have become more inclusive of LGBTQI and brown characters.  Obviously, not enough but things are changing.  As a creator on that front, what are some of the things queer folks can do to help facilitate more inclusivity or even exposure to queer folks and lifestyles?

RO:  I think a lot of folks are supporting queer creators, which is a beautiful thing.  The biggest problem I’ve found is discoverability.  Luckily, both bookstores and librarians are getting better about curating LGBTQIA+ sections for those readers. It’s no longer something to be ashamed about–at least in most places.  And I couldn’t be happier that we live in a time where people of color are getting their due.  It’s been centuries of mostly white males telling stories, so it’s really awesome to see the switch.  There should be room for people of all kinds to tell stories, which is one of the reasons I talk about being half-Mexican myself.  

CA: Who are some of your queer heroes in the comic world both real and fictional and why?

“Nimona”

RO: ND Stephenson, who created Nimona, is just amazing.  She went on to queerify the new She-Ra and it’s such a fun TV watch.  I’m also a massive fan of Mariko Tamaki, Molly Ostertag, and Kevin Panetta for the graphic novels they’ve contributed to the world of young readers literature.  As for fictional characters, I’m definitely obsessed with the X-Men (and have been since I was kid), which are more queer than ever.  But I also have to give a shout out to Midnighter over at DC for being someone who defies stereotypes.     

MIdnighter/DC Comics

CA: What words of guidance would you impart to up-and-coming queer creators who want to work in the mainstream world of comics, graphic novels and prose?

RO:  1.) Get comfortable with rejection.  It’s going to be hard to break into comics, but once you do, it’s going to be so worth it–especially when you hold the final product in your hand.  2.) Create the stories you would want to read.  Don’t try to create for others.  Make something you enjoy.  And 3.) Your art is never going to be perfect.  But it can be done.  So stop mulling over every little sentence and every panel of art.  Just keep moving forward.

CA: What got you into comics?  Who were some of your favorite heroes growing up?

RO: My middle school best friend got me into comics.  I had dabbled in Batman, but it was his introduction to me of the X-Men that made me fall in love.  I soon graduated to New Mutants, where I met Magik, aka Illyana Rasputin, who to this day remains my favorite character.  She’s dark and powerful and survived so much tragedy in her youth, and so she reminds me of me, battling every day to make a happier life for myself.  

CA: Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects Four Eyes, Northranger, and Abuela, Don’t Forget Me?

Norton Young Readers

RO: Northranger is my love letter to Jane Austen, as I’m taking her gothic novel Northanger Abbey and updating it with a queer protagonist who falls in love with a cowboy who may or may not be a killer.  It’s a graphic novel, and I’m so stoked for it to come out.  Four Eyes is another memoir, but this time a Disney-version graphic novel of my life, meaning I’m dropping the violence to focus on an almost-universal experience of getting glasses and dealing with the onset of puberty.  And Abuela, Don’t Forget Me is my first foray into writing a novel in-verse.  It started out as a project for my grandmother who is suffering from dementia.  I was writing all of my memories of her down in short verses, so that she could read them with ease and hopefully remember happier times.  But soon I had a book on my hand, and I thought how great would it be to get this published as an homage to supportive grandmothers everywhere.  

CA: Really wonderful, Rex! Thank you so much for your time and the truly fantastic work you’ve been putting out into the world.

For more about Rex and his work check out his website, rexogle.com

Geeks OUT Creator Spotlight: Amy Chu

Chris Allo here for our first creator spotlight of the New Year. Myself and Greg Silber had the opportunity to speak with comics writer, Amy Chu, at last year’s New York Comic Con. Amy is a Korean-American and an advocate for women and Asians in comics. She’s also one of our favorite allies!

Amy is a self-starting Harvard graduate who formed her own company, Alpha Girl Comics, in 2010 with her friend, Georgia Lee. They felt there was a severe lack of female voices in the comic book industry at the time and wrote several stories for the Girls Night Out anthology series which they also published!

Amy has worked steadily over the past 12 years with projects at Marvel, Valiant, DC, Dynamite and more. She has a fantastic run on Red Sonja for Dynamite Entertainment and wrote Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death with artist Clay Mann. She currently has several projects with Archie Comics.

Greg Silber: When did your interest in comics begin? What was your first comic book? What was the thing that got you into comics?

Amy Chu: I think my journey is very atypical. I don’t remember the first comic I read. It was probably an Archie, honestly. You know I didn’t get into comics until much later, right?

GS: Right.

AC: It wasn’t my lifelong dream or anything. The most interesting comics I was reading were when I was at MIT. MIT… had this long box, and I was reading through the long box and thought “cool” because they weren’t superhero comics. They were other things. It was Elfquest, it was John Sable, stuff like that. What I realized was “comics are actually multigenre.” After many years I was hanging out with one of my friends who wanted to start in comics. I remembered the comics I read and thought “you know what, I can do this. I know a little about comics, you know?”

GS: What are the positives of working for other companies as opposed to working for yourself? What do you like about working for those different companies?

AC: Of course working for Marvel and DC, there’s added validation, especially if you’re a fan of that particular universe or character. Doing Poison Ivy is an honor. Doing Wonder Woman is an honor. And let’s face it, you get paid doing that. When you’re working for yourself, you don’t get paid! Cash flow, right? But absolutely if you’re starting out, you’ve gotta self publish. You’re not going to get work from Marvel or DC otherwise, unless you’re like Darryl McDaniels and already a rapper with a massive fanbase. You don’t get that choice. You don’t get the luxury to say “what do you prefer?” It’s a professional luxury to say that.

“Girls Night Out,” Alpha Girl Comics

GS: In terms of projects like work-for-hire, what kind of projects or content do you really like writing? What are some of the projects you’ve worked on that really satisfied you as a writer?

AC: That’s such a broad question. I do like to take underdeveloped characters and give them more agency. I do think it’s ridiculous that there are so many characters, especially female characters and characters of color, that really have been given the short shrift. But I don’t like it if I am basically pigeon-holed in that space. Obviously, I like to write Batman and Superman! But everyone does, and I get a big thrill out of giving my take on certain characters, and when people like my take on it.

GS: Are there any creators lately that inspire you? Or contemporaries working now?

AC: I mean, anyone working in comics is inspiring, because it is a bear! You’ve gotta have a lot of grit and perseverance to make it in this business. Anyone who’s still around, honestly, is an inspiration. I love Sean Von Gorman. He almost sold out of his new book here. That is just like, super perseverance.

GS: Especially in a year like this.

AC: Yeah, there’s a lot to be said for people who are just original, and doing it. Jim Mahfood… let me do a special callout to Jim Mahfood, who was so special because I brought my entire Kubert School class over, and he didn’t even bat an eye. He was so great with them, trying to be inspiring but also telling it like it is. He’s been doing it for 20 years, and he’s trying to do his own vision: making his comics, writing, and lettering, and doing the whole thing. And you know how it is: you can do things, and get the paycheck like I do, and he has a very specific creative vision that he fights for and does. To be able to do that and tell my students what’s going on, I really respect that and like that.

GS: As someone who works in mainstream comics, what do you think the future of LGBTQ representation looks like there?

Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death, DC Entertainment.

AC: Oh, I think it’s great! I mean, there’s obviously room… the thing that annoys me of course is tokenization. I’d like to get to a point where all stories are all valid and represented well, rather than being like “oh, this is the LGBTQ story.” It should be taken for granted. You know what I’m saying? All stories should be mainstream. We should not be like “oh this character’s this or that.” All characters should be represented. And I also like to think that all the stories are equally well-developed. We are in this weird time where there are certain stories that… look, I can say this as an incoming CBLDF member, that the very idea that there is pushback on some of these stories based on sexual orientation or that reference anything, is ridiculous. We still have, definitely, a ways to go. Especially some of the reactions to the trans community in particular, in terms of creators, is outrageous. Right? I think it’s intolerable. If people are not rallying around these stories and these creators, there’s something really wrong with this community. It shames me to see some of the actual creators having issues with this.

GS: Generally speaking, are there any specific types of projects or genres that you really like working on? What are some projects you’ve worked on that really satisfied you as an editor?

“Kizz: The End,” Dynamite Entertainment

AC: I don’t do too much editing except for myself, but if you know anything about me you know I like dabbling. I like all genres. I think everything is game and down for anything, and I don’t like getting into a rut creatively. Every once in a while I’m like “maybe I should do more horror?” That’s definitely something I look forward to. Maybe some more crime? Because I always tend to react when people are like “oh, women don’t do this,” that I find really annoying. You don’t think I can write true crime? I’ll show you!

GS: With horror it’s especially annoying, because a woman arguably wrote the first horror novel. And the whole sci fi genre!

AC: Yeah, let’s not be ridiculous. Let’s look at history. I’m actually doing some horror right now, with a female artist. So that’s quite exciting. There is a little bit of a fan reaction that’s like “oh, really? Let me go back to some of the original horror written by women.” So I think that’ll be fun.

GS: What are the challenges of working with licensed content? What are the perks of working with licensed content?

AC: Again, such a broad question. It’s really not as much about licensed content as the specific licensor. Some licensors are like “we love what you do. If we like what you do, go ahead.” Other licensors are like “no no no, I need to vet every single thing.” It’s really that. I think there’s this idea where some people think licensors are bad, don’t do licensed comics, it’s not right. But I do licensed comics because I’m a fan. Look, I did the X-Files because I’m an X-Files fan. Why wouldn’t I? It’s your choice. If you’re like “I only want to do my own stuff” than that’s your prerogative.

X-Files, IDW

GS: What lesson or advice would you give to aspiring writers and artists today? What do you wish you knew then that you know now when it comes to being a working artist in today’s industry?

AC: Finish what you start. Don’t get caught up in perfection. Get it done, and keep going. Look, I always say, if you have other options, do other things! You know? Because really, this is for people who are like, “I just can’t think of anything else.” If you wanna do this as a hobby, go ahead. Get it done. And then decide, do you want to do it again? Then you kind of know. I meet so many people who are like “I really want to make comics,” and I’m like “there’s nothing preventing you. Make your comics.” Get it out of the way. Get it out of your system. After that, if you want to make another comic, now you know. But this idea that you’ll be 60 years old and you’re still thinking “gosh, I wish I made a comic…” just do it!

GS: If you could pick your own project, like a mainstream thing, what would you want to work on?

Chilling Adventures in Sorcery,” Archie Comics

AC: Well that’s tough, because it’s not like I’m necessarily a fan of one specific character and I absolutely need to do that. I think the greatest challenge is doing a team book, and I think that’s particularly tough. I want to do X-Men, for example. Just because I think it’s technically very difficult. Also because I just gave Chris Claremont a sandwich! I’m thinking X-Men. And let’s be real. His stuff is amazing. There’s aspirational right there. I’d love to do Batman just to say I did Batman. How many women did Batman? Just Becky Cloonan, basically. 

GS: Is there anything new on the horizon? What’s your next project that you could talk about?

Rick and Morty,” Oni Press

AC: I have an Archie Horror: Jughead coming out next month. I think I can say I’m working with Karen Berger on something, but I won’t tell you what it is. I also have something coming out from Oni, but I don’t think I can say what it is. You can print it if they announce it [they did!]. It’s Rick and Morty.

GS: Thanks Amy, you can check out all of the latest news about Amy and her upcomig projects, here.

Gregory Paul Silber is a writer and editor with bylines at PanelxPanel, The Daily Dot, NeoText, Shelfdust and more. His humor column, “Silber Linings,” appears every Friday at The Comics Beat. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @GregSilber.”

Celebrating an Icon: Diana Prince, Wonder Woman-the most enduring female super hero of all time!

All-Star Comics 8, Sensation Comics 1 DC Comics

Wonder Woman was co-created by William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter. She first appeared in All-Start Comics #8 in 1941. Some of us know Wonder Woman from her origins in comic books. Stories crafted by the likes of George Perez, Jose Garcia Lopez, Phil Jimenz, Greg Rucka, and John Byrne. Others remember her from the 1970’s hit TV show portrayed by Linda Carter or from the Super Friends Saturday morning cartoon from the seventies and eighties. Younger generations remember her from the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited shows. And now a whole new generation is experiencing the Princess of Theymyscyria through Gal Gadot portraying Wonder Woman in Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman films

Super Friends, Wonder Woman and Justice League Animated DC Entertaiment.

However you’ve encountered Wonder Woman for the first time, it cannot be said enough that she has always been a hero for all of humanity and even more, a true purveyor of peace, truth, and building bridges. This may seem pretty basic, but it is still a revolutionary perspective in 2021.

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask a few of the creators who have had a hand in shaping Wonder Woman in her comic book exploits-writer Steve Orlando, artist Emanuela Lupacchino and all-around Rennaissance Woman, writer-artist, Amy Chu. And one super-fan who loves Diana more than anyone I know. But also embodies Wonder Woman’s ethics and mindset, Lego Master, Sam Hatmaker.

Comic book, Writer Steve Orlando (MIdnighter, Nightwing, Wonder Woman)

Wonder Woman DC Comics

Chris Allo: What was your first exposure to Wonder Woman?

Orlando: Undoubtedly it would’ve been the DC Cosmic Card series, which was my first exposure to nearly all DC characters. We didn’t have a comic store in my town at first, so I would get back issues at the flea market, and snag all the non-sports cards I could at sports memorabilia shows, where I’d accompany my parents. I was instantly taken with Diana. Especially, oddly enough, the elegance of her Golden Age design. And once I got into DC books in the mid-90s, when we got a Waldenbooks and a comic store, Diana was front and center — battling nazis, becoming the goddess of truth itself, and kicking the shit out of White Martians. It didn’t take long for me to be sold for life.

DC Comics Trading Card Impel

Chris: Why do you think Wonder Woman has endured for so long? Icon level achieved!

Orlando: I think it’s because of the clarity of her message — love over hate, peace over war…and a swift hand for those that refuse those edicts. These were challenging ideas when she was created, and they’re challenging, radical, subversive ideas even today. We know that no matter what we’ve done, who we are, Diana will be there to offer love, IF we’re strong enough to take it, IF we’re strong enough to admit our faults and mistakes, she is there with compassion. And we know for those who fall to violence and hate, the weaks ones, that Diana will be there to defend us. Wonder Woman, through a myriad of lenses, is STILL a book about the devastating, transformative power of love. And that’s a message, and a character, who will always be relevant. 

Chris: Do you have a favorite storyline and or creative team?  One that inspires your work on the character?

Wonder Woman by Phil Jimenez DC Comics

Orlando: I think the closest inspiration for me is Phil Jimenez’s run as writer and artists. Phil and I think very much along the same lines with Diana, even if he’s an angel and I’m a devil. But as a reader, I instantly loved how provocative, how radical, how strong and welcoming Phil’s Diana was. She wasn’t just a classic greek hero, screaming into battle with sword drawn. She DID draw sword, but only when there was no other recourse. And she understood that peace is radical, peace if frightening, and peace is the highest aspiration. She wasn’t naive, she knew this would anger the power structures around her, and she was ready to fight against them. These are ideas imbued in every panel and line of WONDER WOMAN when I’m working on it, and I owe that to Phil.

Chris: Since she is a comics Icon, what is one of your favorite images and or artists that have portrayed the character?

Orlando: Good lord, there are so many! Outside of Phil’s Diana, I would be remiss not to mention the incredible work of artists like Colleen Doran, Ramona Fradon, Nicola Scott, Jill Thompson, Joshua Middleton, Jenny Frison, Gil Kane, Adam Hughes, and when we’re lucky enough to see her draw Diana — Joyce Chin.

Chris: I can add a few to that amazing list! I was working with Joyce recently and mentioned to her your comment, she was so humbled and was surprised anyone even remembered that she drew Wonder Woman.

Emanuela Lupaccina-Artist(Wonder Woman, Trinity, Starfire)

Wonder Woman 67 DC Comics

Chris Allo: What was your first experience or exposure to Wonder Woman? 

EL: My first experience with the characters was 10 years ago or so, I worked on a cover with Wonder Woman and I suddenly had a great feeling drawing the character. It was a powerful action scene and I remember how naturally it came to me drawing her. 

Chris: Why do you think Wonder Woman has endured for so long? Icon level achieved!

EL: Wonder Woman is a superhero where principles and love come before the superpowers. She may change her look through the years but she keeps some good ideals immutable. I believe she touched the heart of the people as she was born as female superhero and what made her such a great character was her personality over the powers. That personality is still there as it was at the beginning. Iconic.

Chris: Do you have a favorite storyline and or creative team?  ONe that inspires your work on the character?

Wonder Woman by Jose Garcia Lopez, DC Comics

EL: My favorite creator is Jose Garcia Lopez, I believe he’s the most representative author of the character. And his art is as iconic as the character itself. 
I do love some of the covers Adam Hughes did for the series, his work was a great inspiration for me as much as Garcia Lopez. I love his touch of power on the character keeping it graceful and elegant at the same time.

Lego Artist Sam Hatmaker

Gal Gadot as Wonde Woman by Sam Hatmaker.

Chris Allo: What was your first experience or exposure to Wonder Woman? 

Sam Hatmaker: I first fell in love with Wonder Woman in 1977 when Lynda Carter introduced the character to the world.  I spent the next few years spinning around and becoming powerful when I felt weak.  I have a 2” scar across the bottom of my chin from spinning around in the bathtub.

Chris: Why has the character endured so long? She’s an Icon now!

Sam Hatmaker: The character has evolved with time, always finding a message to empower women and the disadvantaged.  That keeps her relevant.

Chris: What is your favorite storyline or creator on WW?

Sam Hatmaker: George Perez inspired my love of the character and the Greek Gods.  He made her a character of peace first and foremost.  She is one of only a few characters in comics whose first choice is defense, not offense.  Her weapons are defensive.  Bracelets to deflect attacks, and a lasso that binds the opponent so they can not fight, and forces them to communicate the truth.  My favorite stories were solved with her forcing the enemy to examine themselves and their motives.  

Chris: Any standout or favorite image/artist depiction of Diana?

Sam Hatmaker: I have a few.  I own one of the original 1980’s style guide pictures by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.  I love George Perez and Phil Jimenez’s drawings of her.  

Comic Creator Amy Chu (Girls Night Out, Sensation Comics, Deadpool)

Greg Silber: What is your first experience or exposure to WW?  

Amy Chu: Oh you know what, I did read the Wonder Woman comics when I was a kid for sure. Because I was also watching the TV show with Linda Carter. That was huge. I would say that was formative. So there was that, and in fact, if I think harder, there was a lot of classic Wonder Woman I was reading at the time.

GS: Like the Marston/H.G. Peter stuff?

AC: Yeah. I remember because with all the bondage stuff, as a kid I was like “what’s with all the chains?” [Laughs]. Now I’m like “oh, okay.” So yeah, I would say I grew up with Wonder Woman.

GS: Why has the character endured so long? She’s now an icon of mythic proportions!

AC: First of all, how many woman characters were there like 80 years ago? She was very powerful. The character of Wonder Woman is someone we aspire to. She’s powerful, and there’s a quality about Wonder Woman that endures today. Part of it is that she’s so much of a legacy character now, right? It’s great that there are so many new female characters now, but with Wonder Woman, there’s a certain universe that owes everything to her. And she’s from that sort of Amazonian idea as a woman. It’s very appealing! I think it’s also kind of funny that… look, it’s an island full of women. The idea that they’re all heterosexual is kind of odd, right?

GS: [Laughs] Island full of all straight women.

AC: I never thought of it that way but… yeah. That sort of appealed to me.

GS: What is your favorite storyline or creator on Wonder Woman?

AC: Wow, I’m going to get in trouble here. Because there are so many good ones. I will say that working with Bernard Chang on my first Wonder Woman comic, I specifically asked for Bernard. That was Sensation Comics. I don’t want to point to any specific arc because there have been some really good ones, obviously. I will point to Gail Simone and Greg Rucka, they’re all good. I won’t point out some duds that I bought.

GS: Any standout or favorite image/artist depiction of Diana?

AC: Okay you know what, I will point to the (Brian) Azzarello/Cliff Chiang stuff. I am a big fan of Cliff Chiang’s work. It’s so funny. With Brian Azzarello, it’s not like I know him that well, but I saw him at the Comixology party and he was like “hey Amy!” I love his writing in general. I’m not going to say one over the other, but it really did make a difference when I was reading that arc.

Chris Allo: I want to add that two of my favorite artists who have drawn Wonder Woman over the years are Brian Bolland-who give Phil Jimenez a run for his money on drawing Diana’s raven locks. Bolland portrayed her as powerful and almost mythical at times. And second is Terry Dodson, one of my all-time favorite artists, who depicts Wonder Woman as with a more muscular frame than most, but manages to retain her feminine beauty while showing the powerhouse aspect that is equal to Superman.

Terry Dodson
Wonder Woman, DC Comics

I also wanted to take a moment to thank ally, Greg Silber for helping out on this interview. Gregory Paul Silber is a writer and editor with bylines at PanelxPanel, The Daily Dot, NeoText, Shelfdust, and more. His humor column, “Silber Linings,” appears every Friday at The Comics Beat. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @GregSilber.”

See you next time!

Creator Spotlight with Lego Artist Supreme, Sam Hatmaker.

For this installment of the Geeks OUT Creator spotlight, we’re going to speak with someone who’s comic’s adjacent, Samuel Hatmaker, the world-famous Lego artist. 

Sam first got noticed when images of the Golden Girls house set they built out of LEGOS hit the interwebs. It immediately became a viral sensation picked up by The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, Yahoo News, OUT, Today, and The Ellen Degeneres Show! It became the most supported non-Lego project in LEGO IDEAS history.

Sam’s work has been featured in galleries, books, and television. They even competed and became a finalist on LEGO MASTERS Season 1, which aired on FOX in the USA. Samuel’s latest collection of STAR TREK-inspired art commissioned by Roddenberry has been the subject of many interviews and was one of the highlights of the biggest all Star Trek Con in Las Vegas this past August, The 56 Year Mission

Photo by Sam Hatmaker

CHRIS ALLO: So tell us a little bit about how your love of Lego’s came about?

I kept getting LEGO my whole life.  My 21st birthday was spent drinking with friends in my living room and building LEGO creations.  We built the Salem Witch Trials with a place to dunk the would-be witch in water, and a stake to burn her.  The LEGO collection kept getting bigger and bigger, but it was always in buckets and it made it really hard to find pieces to build anything specific or in a certain color.

The LEGO collection kept getting bigger and bigger, but it was always in buckets and it made it really hard to find pieces to build anything specific or in a certain color.

CA: Do you have a favorite set in terms of what LEGO itself has put out over the years?

SH: My favorite set LEGO produced itself is the Monster Hunters Haunted House.  It opens like a doll house and has a lot of play features.  I really enjoyed building it and it’s the only LEGO set that I have kept together and still sits on my shelf.  

CA: What was your first “custom” LEGO?

SH: I was at an antique shop with a boyfriend and I found a 7 ft tall metal industrial shelf system with 88 drawers.  I fell in love with how it looked.  I had no need for it and I left without it.  As we were walking home, my boyfriend said “You know, if you sorted all your buckets of LEGO by size and color, you could actually build new stuff.”  I went back the next day and bought the drawer system and spend the next 6 months sorting parts for a few hours each night.  The first MOC (My Own Creation) I built as an adult was The LEGO Golden Girls House.  

CA: You garnered some recognition when you made the Golden Girls set of LEGOs.  What was that like? 

Golden Girls Lego Set

SH: I posted it online and within a few days, Ellen has reposted it, Yahoo’s Main Page, Huffington Post, Today, and many other news outlets picked up the story.  I got phone calls and interviews about the piece, and it was very surreal.  Something I made for myself, had made so many people happy.  I felt very honored.  It was the first time I realized the power of the brick.

CA: And you reached out to LEGO about working for them?  Good for you! What was that experience like?  How did it differ from other job interview experiences?

SH: worked in toy development for almost 20 years.  After the Golden Girls set went viral, I reached out to LEGO about working as a set designer there.  Their interview and audition process is amazing.  All of their development and design jobs are in Billund Denmark.  I traveled there for a few days and went through a very extensive audition and interview process.  There are daily build challenges as a single person, then with a group, drawing and design challenges, and presentations to the hiring teams.  It was exciting and fun.  I was very qualified to work there and understood the development and the product.  Ultimately it wasn’t a good fit for either of us.  I had been living in New York City and I have a large personality.  Billund is a tiny town and the work environment is very quiet and reserved.  Being single and gay there would be very lonely for me. 

Wonder Women-photos by Sam Hatmaker

CA: Ultimately, you didn’t get the job, but that didn’t sour your love of the brand, you seemed to hunker down and become a full-time LEGO artist.   What came next?

SH: No, I didn’t end up working at LEGO HQ, I knew I wanted to continue using the system to make art for myself.  As I made more and more, it led to people buying my art, gallery shows, and ultimately let me to the LEGO Masters TV show.  Filming a tv show is a crazy experience.  It is emotionally, physically, and psychologically exhausting.  It is like being in a traumatic experience and you bond with everyone else there in a way that isn’t usually possible.  I feel very honored to have been able to show my abilities to the world.  
I have had a very crazy year through Covid, producing a lot of art and commission pieces for a variety of clients.  Sculptures of people’s pets, portraits of celebrities, and giant mural pieces.  The current one I am working on is 6 foot 8 inches tall and 4 foot 2 inches wide.  It was revealed in Mid August and hopefully gets shown at some conventions for people to take pictures with.(I’ll include a link to the article.)

CA: Six Feet?!?! This wouldn’t be one of those amazing RodenBerry Star Trek pieces, would It?

SH: Yes it was the Gene Rodenberry Portrait, specifically.

Sam at Trek Convention in Las Vegas Photo by Sam Hatmaker

CA: How did this project with Rodenberry come about? Why did they reach out to you to work on this special tribute to Gene?

SH: I started working on some Star Trek creations I wanted to build. A mutual friend introduced me to Rod Rodenberry, (Gene’s son) and he had seen my work on LEGO MASTERS. It was Gene Rodenberry’s 100th Birthday and I was excited to be given this opportunity to celebrate his universe.

CA: How many pieces did you do in total?

SH: We collaborated on 6 pieces for the Think Trek year leading up to Rodenberry’s birthday.

CA: I’ve seen them all and they are absolutely amazing. Aside from being beautiful pieces of art, they are quite a feat of engineering and design. Can you talk a bit about the process?

SH: It was all learning for me. I learned and experimented with so many new techniques in engineering. For the “LIVE LONG AND PROSPER piece, there is an almost 2-foot tall hand floating out of the frame. It’s all built to come apart when transported. I made the “bones” out of the build Green because Vulcan blood is green. It can be reassembled in less than 5 minutes.

First InterRacial Kiss w/Sam Hatmaker. Photo by Chris Allo

CA: So these were all unveiled this past August at the big Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. How was that experience? What was your involvement?

SH: It was a huge event celebrating, what would’ve been, Gene Rodenberry’s 100th birthday and the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek. The convention was absolutely magical for me! I got to share my passion for Trek with thousands of other people passionate about the same things! I was asked to do a “live build” over the long weekend, making a mosaic while hanging out in the gallery. I barely got a third of it done because I was so busy talking about the art and the Star Trek Universe with people. I also, did an hour on-stage each day.

CA: Were you performing?

SH: No. During that time I would build a daily Mini-Build Model with the first 50 guests each day. As we were building I would tell stories, answer questions and just try to entertain the audience. On one of the days, we built a tiny Klingon Bird of Prey ship. When I had made the sets, I didn’t realize I forgot a crucial piece. All 50 people needed one. We had supplied lots of mixed brick Lego for people to play with that did not get a Mini-Build Model. They started looking through the bins and we found over 50 in the correct color. It was a magical moment! Everyone left with a complete model that day. Sharing leads to more sharing. I was given gifts by people who thanked me for the mini-builds and for sharing my creations with them.

Photo by Chris Allo

I also got to meet George Takei and Denise Crosby, to show them my creations. I got to see Ben Vereen perform, as well! I met two different groups of queer Star Trek fans and made some new friends. I just had the most amazing and magical time sharing the excitement of the event with everyone there.

CA: So In terms of the commissioned pieces, do you own the pieces or do they? How does that work?

SH: This was a partnership.  If anyone is interested in buying the creations, contact me and I can get you in touch with the broker.  If you are interested in custom creation of your own, contact me. 

CA: And what’s next for Sam, The Lego Mastestrix?

SH: I have a gallery show scheduled Jan-March in Los Angeles at Circus of Books and it’s called “Unsolicited Brick Pics! I might show up a few more places before then.  I am starting another large portrait, but it may take a while as funding becomes available for parts. 

Chris Allo: Very exciting and Great to hear! Well, let us know the details about the upcoming show, and thank you so much, Wildflower!

And if you’re interested in commissioning Sam for a piece you can reach him here.

About the Artist

Samuel Hatmaker grew up in rural Michigan, spent two decades in New York City, and now resides in Los Angeles. For years he’s designed and developed children’s toys for Marvel, DC, Hello Kitty, Nickelodeon, Disney, Crayola, Mattel, Hasbro and many more. In addition to his professional work, he creates dolls, action figures, costumes, prop pieces, lamps…