For this installment of the Geeks OUT Comics LGBTQ spotlight we’re going to switch it up and speak with someone on the editorial side of comics, Konner Knudsen
Chris Allo: What drew you into wanting to work in the comics industry? What was the first comic or OGN that made you really see the power and potential of the medium?
Konner Knudsen: The passion I saw from creators in artist alley is what really drew me in to wanting to work in the industry. My passion is storytelling, and I consider it a privilege to get to help creators tell the stories they want to tell.
That comic was Hellboy. Mignola’s work made me rethink how I want to tell my own stories.
CA: So I came across you on Twitter, you’re very open about being queer, and you really want creators in the community to succeed. If at all, how has being queer informed your work, or how you edit a book or work with creators?
KK: This is a tough question. I would say that the treatment of other LGBTQ people in our industry drives me to do the best job I can. I suppose it also makes me more critical of non-LGBTQ creators’ portrayal of LGBTQ people, we exist and deserve strong representation not the slapdash tokenism or outright bigotry we have so often been subjected to in the past.
CA: As someone who works in mainstream comics, what do you think the future of LGBTQ representation looks like there?
KK: I believe that representation will continue to improve in mainstream comics, where in recent years some of the best-selling work has been driven by or at least featured LGBTQ characters. Ideally, it will continue in the direction where our characters are not treated as props but as people.
CA: You’ve worked on some really cool projects! Some of which are licensed: Aliens, Stranger Things, etc. What are the challenges of working with licensed content? What are the perks of working with licensed content?
KK: I love science fiction and horror. I have an acute interest in stories that include elements from mythology and folklore…
All the Stranger Things books, Dragon Age: Blue Wraith (HC coming out August 19th!), and Giants (by the Valderama Bros). In particular, Death Orb by Ryan Ferrier and Alejandro Aragon is still one of my favorite creator- owned books that I have worked on, the team is as energetic and outrageous as their comic. Another is Berserk. I love manga and have really enjoyed getting to work on our new big beautiful deluxe editions!
Recently I got to work on a fantastic new edition of Andrew MacLean’s ApocalyptiGirl and am absolutely in love with how it came together. Our designers did a killer job. I helped put together the sketchbook section and am abnormally proud of how it turned out.
ApocalyptiGirl art by Andrew Maclean
There is often a large amount of responsibility attached to creating licensed comics. Fans expect a lot from us but we also need to keep the parent company happy. We are like kids playing at a friend’s house: we get to borrow their action figures and owe it to our friends to not break or scuff those characters in any way. The challenge is taking their toys on a compelling adventure without bringing them back with scars. I would say we do a pretty great job. The main perk of course is having those huge fan bases to make happy and hopefully draw them in to read other comics too.
CA: Aside from the licensed projects that you’ve edited, you’re also continuing the great tradition of supporting and publishing creator owned books that Dark Horse started so many years ago, which is amazing! Can you discuss any type of criteria you guys have for selecting creators or projects that you decide to publish?
KK: The brilliant thing about Dark Horse editorial (in my experience so far) is that everyone here can pursue any project they want to do. From OGNs, to art books, to video game guidebooks, to reprinting historic anthologies like Creepy and Eerie, to first time creative teams with exciting new mini-series, to wild crossover comics such as Aliens vs. Predator. The criteria is that the editor believes in the project, and I think a lot of wonderfully creative things have come out of this loose format. Without the ability to tell you in detail, I can guarantee there are some more exciting books on the way.
CA: It’s promo time! Can you tell us about some of the creator owned projects you’ve worked on that will be coming out in the next year? Are there any particular projects/creators that stand out for you?
KK: Ooh spoilers! Man, I have quite a few books I wish I could tell you about but don’t want to spoil just yet. I am getting to edit some really exciting creator owned books with some amazing teams, and if I could I would shout them all out right now. I can tell you that more than half of the books I am bringing to Dark Horse are from queer creators. The “Expanded” edition of Grafity’s Wall by Ram V, Anand R.K. and Aditya Bidikar comes out in March. It is going to be beautiful and if you haven’t read it yet I highly recommend you check it out. In my humble opinion it is one of the greatest graphic novels of the decade (if not all time).
CA: What can LGBTQ creators do to maximize our representation in the industry?
KK: Signal boost and reach out to your fellow LGBTQ creators, stay connected, keep relationships positive. Provide constructive feedback and push each other to make the best work you can! I have been honored to work with people who aren’t just excited to work with me but excited to introduce me to their friends and their friends work. Do more of that! Introduce your non-LGBTQ pros and fans to your queer friends’ work so that they are more visible. Those who have found success in this industry need to keep speaking up for fellow LGBTQ creators who are trying to break in. When someone appears to have “made it” keep supporting their work so they can keep kicking butt, and lift others up.
CA: Is there something the comics publishing industry as a whole can do to get more people interested in reading queer content? If you were in charge of an all inclusive content company, what are some strategies you’d employ?
KK: I think the sales of queer comics and OGN’s have already proven the “Old Guard” (whoever they were) wrong about people not wanting to read queer content. I think the challenging part of your question is separating “Queer Content” from “Not-Queer Content” The strategy I would employ is to have plenty of books that aren’t explicitly “Queer” make sure they have inclusive rep and that they treat that rep fairly. Queer people and BIPOC (*looks around the town square*) EXIST! They should be present in all forms of media. The other part of that equation is making sure to hire diverse voices and let them tell the stories they want to tell. Don’t pigeonhole them! Asking marginalized creators to only write about characters that share their identity is also bad (and something that happens too often).
CA: You mentioned really loving LGBTQ stories-can you tell us a few titles and creators that you feel do a great job of representing queer voices?
KK: Too many people to mention everyone!
On A Sunbeam art by Tillie Walden
Tillie Walden: if you love comics and haven’t read any of her amazing OGNs you are missing out. MY favorite so far is On a Sunbeam.
Mark Russell: what can I say? I feel that Exit Stage Left is simply one of the best comics DC has ever published.
Contact High by By Josh Eckert & James F. Wright is stunning queer sci-fi.
Contact High words and art by Josh Eckert and James F. Wright
SO MANY PEOPLE: Terry Blas, David Booher, Joe Carallo, Rosemary V. O., Marie Enger, Bee Kahn, Mags Visagio. I could go on for days.
CA: What lesson or advice would you give to aspiring artists/writers? What is some practical advice you can give to someone pitching a story or submitting a portfolio?
KK: While pitching can be scary and time consuming, don’t stop everything to do it. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to make comics, make your own. Print your own zines. Try your hand at webcomics. Write scripts and keep drawing and coloring and lettering. Put yourself out there, tell the story that only you can tell.
Practical advice on pitching and etc:
Aim for Brevity.
Be organized, confident, and respectful of other people’s time.
Your pitch pages will generally be the most important part.
We need to see that you and your team know how to make a comic, which is something you have to show.
CA: What do you wish you knew then that you know now when it comes to being an editor in today’s comic book industry?
KK: That most creators are a lot easier to talk to than I thought and that I shouldn’t be afraid of telling someone I want to work with them. Because sometimes (if you are lucky) they might want to work with you!
CA: Who is your favorite existing queer character? Why?
KK: This is a super difficult question for me to answer. . .
Art by Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson
Lucifer, in so many iterations is painted as queer. DC’s Lucifer is great but my personal favorite is Luci from The Wicked & Divine. Rebellious, confident, too honest, full of answers and secrets. Too eager to be loved. I could go on.
CA: Luci from Wic/Div is one of my favorites as well! Thanks you so much, Konner!
For this Pride addition of the Geeks OUT creator spotlight, I had the pleasure of speaking with the extremely talented Luciano Vecchio, a queer comic book artist from Argentina. Luciano has most recently worked on the New Warriors re-launch for Marvel. Prior to that, he did a run on Marvel’s Iron Heart with writer Eve L Ewing and fellow artist G. Geoffo.
Luciano began his American comic book career working for DC for the online initiative “Zuda,” as well as digital first TV-based and custom comics. He soon jumped over to Marvel doing the same type of content. He then began work on his creator owned queer-lead superhero team “Sereno” and “Unseen Tribe.”
It wasn’t long until he caught the eye of editor Alanna Smith, then working on the short lived yet critically acclaimed “Iron Heart” series starring young African-American tech genius, Riri Williams.
Chris Allo: When did your interest in comics begin? What was your first comic book? What was the thing that got you into comics?
LucianoVecchio: When I was very little in the 80s in Argentina, the Superfriends cartoon was on TV, my older brother used to collect the Spanish edition of DC Comics, and there was a lot of trading cards, toys and merch illustrated with the DC Style Guide by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez. I was immersed in that and it was a big part of my imagination.
I have a vague memory of the first comic book my parents bought for me specifically, one of Batman and Robin, a storyline with Nocturna and the vampires (Looking it up now, it was the Mexican edition of Batman 349 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan.) I must have been 5 or 6 years old, and I remember having that feeling of “I will do this when I grow up”.
Chris: Who are the artists–any kind of artist, doesn’t have to be comic artists–whose work inspires you?
Luciano: I started with the American school of artists. Like George Perez, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez were my first inspirations. Then I started mixing it with other influences, like Yoshiyuki Sadamoto from the Evangelion manga, and Bruce Timm’s tv shows. I liked very diverse things I was consuming at the time and tried to mix it all when I drew. Grant Morrison’s writing shaped a lot of my thinking at creating. Gail Simone’s work reeducated my purpose. More recently Rebecca Sugar’s work made me reevaluate my aspirations on what we can achieve through epic fiction and how.
Chris: When it comes to comics, you’ve primarily done work for hire. You’ve done DC and Marvel in America, plus other places. You’ve also done creator-owned as well, right?
Chris: What are the positives for working for other companies, as opposed to working for yourself? What do you like about working for those different (companies)?
Luciano: What I like about working with mainstream properties like the characters of Marvel and DC, is that I think of it as a modern mythology and world-affecting metafiction. A collaborative, generation-spanning collective work. These characters and their stories and universes are bigger than any of us, hyper-charged with a myth-power that can amplify a story or message in a way that is unique to this medium and industry. That is what I value the most of being able to tap into these story-streams.
When I work for myself, I write my own scripts and I value working from the guts with full liberty, and though my reach is far more limited without a big publisher behind, the connection with readers through my work is raw and personal, a much more intimate experience.
Chris: Do you feel with your current comics, like, say, Ironheart, that (has) been collaborative? You are part of the creative process?
Luciano: In different ways depending on the project, but my latest big projects for Marvel are team efforts between writing, art and editorial.
With Ironheart it just flowed because Eve Ewing’s script touched most of my emotional nerves and narrative interests, and we connected and were able to chat about the book and what Riri’s story means to us in ways that were much more personally invested than just drawing a script. In New Warriors, which I’m currently working on with writer Daniel Kibblesmith, I got the chance to be involved from very early stages, and though my input is more visual I was able to insist on including Silhouette in the main roster, who is a favorite of mine and we had recently reintroduced in Ironheart so it gives a sense of continuity.
And in shared continuity there is also this sense of collaboration with past generations of authors who worked on the characters, dipping into previous volumes of the series to make sure I’m invoking the same spirit through my voice, I think it’s a very important part of the job.
Also, I like doing it all myself sometimes, and I’m so honored that I got the chance to write, draw and color my own mini story from my queer and South American POV for the Marvel Voices special.
I started my creator owned comic Sereno as a weekly webcomic while I was working on the Ultimate Spider-Man Infinite Comics series (a digital comic based on the TV show). I was adding more work to a very busy schedule so it had to be meaningful for me. Sereno is an exploration of the superhero genre through a poetic, personal, even spiritual perspective. A sort of essay on what we can do and achieve through epic narratives. And it has the queer lead superhero that I needed to read when I was young and didn’t exist.
Chris: And how long have you been working on that?
Luciano: I started in 2014 and put it on pause in 2018 when I prioritize my monthly series for Marvel. I did other personal work in the middle and after, but shorter stuff.
Chris: Have you collected it? Have you printed it, or are you going to?
Luciano: I have a first volume collected in Spanish. Now in lockdown times, I took the chance to correct the translation for English readers, and it will soon be available through ComiXology.
Chris: In terms of projects like work-for-hire, what kind of projects, or content, that you really like drawing? And what are some of the projects you’ve worked on that really satisfied you as an artist?
Luciano: Superheroes are my main interests, and more specifically underrepresented demographics taking the lead in a medium that is catching up after leaving us behind for decades.
Chris: I assume you’ve worked with several writers. Have there been any writers that really stand out, that you feel like you really gelled with to create a connection, like you guys are feeding off of each other?
Luciano: I would say Eve (Ewing, writer of Marvel’s Ironheart). I feel so lucky I got assigned her first comic work, because her voice and writing, coming from a background in poetry, sociology and education was so fresh and rich I feel it renewed the way I approached making comics. It was a process to get to know each other through the work, because we never met in person so far.
Chris: (laughs) Yeah, that’s how it usually works in comics. So one of your most recent projects was Ironheart, which just wrapped. How did that happen for you? How did it come about, and then what was challenging about it? What did you love about it?
Chris: Well, it was my first shot at the mainstream Marvel Universe, because I was mostly assigned to the digital, animation-based licenses before that, which I had had enough of. I was ready for something more significant. Through my creator-owned work I realized I had my own voice and style, I had my own interests besides just drawing, I wanted to level-up. So the challenging part was making the jump, deciding what I didn’t want to do anymore, go back to producing samples and talk to editors about I what I do want to do and feel I can provide. Then I was given this chance and everything clicked and it’s been quite a ride so far.
Chris: So how does it feel? I’ve been in comics for a long time, and for me, this journey will always have samples. Now it feels, with this younger generation of artists, they don’t want to do samples for free. They feel they should be paid. How do you feel about that?
Luciano: It feels like it’s part of the business.
Chris: It’s just kind of accepted?
Luciano: As long as it’s not unfair. At many points of my career I saw portfolio work as an investment. I won’t work for free, but I will invest in myself if it’s going to pay off reasonably.
Chris: It’s not unlike when you’re an actor and you’re doing auditions, right? You’re not getting paid for them. You’re trying out for the job.
Luciano: Yeah, it’s not the same as a publisher asking you to work for free, or being paid in “exposure”.
Chris: Alright, cool. So you’ve done some work in Argentina. How does that compare to your American comics work? Is it very different?
Luciano: Argentina has a very rich, creative and political comic scene, in a smaller market with small and self publishers, it is a scene fueled by passion and it shows. I consider my creator owned work very successful in this context, but I do it for love and not for profit. My American work is what makes my income besides being enrichening in the ways we talked about.
Chris: Are there any artists lately that inspire you? Contemporaries that are working now?
Luciano: More than specific authors my attention is in this paradigm shift we’re attending and being part of, of LGBT+, female and POC voices progressively taking space in the making of culture. In and out of comics, in independent and mainstream, in fiction and other expressions.
Chris: How has being LGBTQ informed your work? What is it about being gay or bi or whatever that you put into your work?
Luciano: I think as public first we have an unique reading of how fiction and culture shapes the world around us and even how we look at ourselves as a result of that, so then as creators we bring that awareness if we can, which is not as easy as I would hope, it’s more of a constant work of learning through trial and error and observation, or projecting oneself into characters and story from that perspective. My subjectivity as queer and South American -Marika y Sudaca- will affect and shape the work I’m producing, and I think when it works out the best is when I draw (or write) for myself, for the kid I was, and that can resonate stronger and more honestly.
Chris: Obviously, when you’re working for a big company, you only have so much control of what you could do. That’s why you could have your own creator owned, so you could do things like that. So outside of the Big 2, what do you think we could do?
Luciano: I think visibility is super important for creators and any person with a following (if your safety and survival needs allow it, of course). When I was a teenager and Phil Jimenez came out it was inspiring and empowering, and now as a professional knowing about so many LGBT+ colleagues in the industry provides a sense of community that can extend to readers too if we’re visible and vocal. And with our work, we can pick our fights, propose contents that we need and won’t get done if we don’t start ourselves. Hold the door open for the next generation of queer creators so that they will have better opportunities.
Chris: Here’s a lighter question. Who is your favorite existing queer character and why?
Luciano: Wiccan and Hulkling are like the most likable of the whole Marvel universe, they’re cute and wholesome in a way that didn’t abound when they were first introduced, I think they incarnate the self-accepting and loving queer archetype and that’s why they have a very invested following across the globe even beyond comic readers.
Chris: What are the projects you are most proud of right now?
Luciano: Ironheart and my creator-owned comic Sereno. And I’m especially proud of my story in Marvel Voices anthology which I got to write myself, which is a rarity being a non-native English speaker, in which I had all the LGBT+ characters of the Marvel Universe gathering BECAUSE of their queer identity, for Pride. It is something I always wanted to see happen, I took the chance and pitched the idea even though I was invited as just an artist into this special, and it worked out. It’s just one page, but I did it all, even coloring and it is a career highlight for me.
Chris: What lesson or advice would you give to aspiring 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?
Luciano: It’s weird, because the world keeps changing so fast. My personal experience really doesn’t apply to newer artists.
Chris: Well the mechanics of it are still kind of the same, yeah? I always tell my artists “whatever you do, make sure you keep a schedule. Make sure you think on those terms.” I think having some of those basics will always stay the same, but knowing what you know now, what would you tell somebody? “Make sure you focus on this, this is really important…”
Luciano: I think I took a while to develop the more human, social aspect of the business. That’s what I struggled with the most when I was younger. I find it is fundamental. In whichever way you can make it happen.
Chris: This last question is, is there anything new on the horizon? What’s your next project that you could talk about? Or not talk about. Do you have something coming up?
Luciano: The New Warriors miniseries which has been rescheduled as a result of the distribution stop, so I don’t know when it will come out now. Same with my variant cover for Emperor Hulkling, which is only a cover but it was so cool to get to draw my boy Teddy like this. And I have a short story as writer/artist in an Argentinian anthology coming up, in a much more personal and raw style.
Chris: Well if you could pick your own project, what would you want to work on? Like a mainstream thing.
Luciano: If I can just dream, a Young Avengers or just Wiccan & Hulkling book. I’m starting to fantasize about writing or co-writing something with them.
Chris: So if you could put together your own superhero team from any queer characters who are out there, who would be on your team?
Luciano: Also, I think Wiccan and Hulkling and Nico Minoru and Karolina Dean have so much in common as couples that would make a great team dynamic. But more of a team I would love a book about community, where any queer character can appear and connect and know each other because of their shared identity, as we do in real life.
Chris: I think every character has the potential to be great, it’s just a matter of… to me, comic books are “character, writer, artist.” If you find the right team, they could make anybody an amazing character. I don’t think any character is shit like that. Any character can be great. Oh, one more question. How was your Flame Con experience? How important do you think it is to have our own conventions?
Luciano: It is super significant for me. My first time I attended just as a visitor in 2018, which I hadn’t done in years at any show, and it was so special. For the first time I felt fully safe and with my own community in a comics related event, I went to workshops and panels, met people, learned from LGBT+ peers in the industry. I was at the professional crossroad before making the jump to Ironheart and those two days were defining in my intentions. I said to myself this is where I want to be, and I want to return as a guest. And bam! Next year, 2019 I was part of the guest list, tabling and participating on the Designing X-Women panel, and it was my favorite con experience ever. I looked forward to returning in 2020, I guess given the circumstances it will have to be 2021?
Chris: How does it compare with artist alley in New York Comic Con? (Laughs)
Luciano: Well it’s shorter! (Laughs)
Chris: Yeah, it’s exhausting.
Luciano: Well, it’s a pleasure. I don’t know. Being within our community, it’s more chill, it’s more enjoyable in general. New York Comic Con is also super enjoyable, but it’s so much more intense, and you’re surrounded by people you admire, and… I don’t know. There’s opportunity in every direction. It’s exhausting.
Chris: Was there anybody you met at each of the conventions that you never expected to meet? That you were a fanboy for?
Luciano: Lots of people over the years, I used to be super awkward or just freeze when I met my childhood idols like George Perez, JL Garcia Lopez or Grant Morrison, but contexts like Flame Con or sharing the “New York Times’ LGBT in Comics” panel at NYCC that I did twice allowed me to make the transition from fan to peer with creators I admire and who have positively influenced me with their work but also with their insight, support and encouragement, like Phil Jimenez, Amy Reeder, Steve Orlando, Vita Ayala, and more.
My name is Chris Allo and I want to welcome you to our ongoing Geeks Out Creator Spotlight. We’re going to be focusing on all of the fantastic LGBTQ+ creators that inhabit the wonderful universe of comic books and graphic storytelling. This feature will be a place where we get to know some of the brightest and most talented queers who put out comics. I will be talking with writers, artists, colorists, letterers, editors and publishers. I want the world out there to know that Queer creators are out there, crafting quality work, telling stories that matter and are a force that won’t be ignored. I hope you enjoy the spotlight.
Fist up is one of the superstars of the comic industry, Olivier Coipel. Coipel has worked for both Marvel and DC. He has worked with some of the biggest writers in the industry. He rebooted the Legion in Legion Lost with Abnett and Lanning and with Brian Bendis he depicted the decimation of the mutants in “House of M.” With Jeff Johns he helped to set up the Avengers for the modern age. He visually re-invigorated the God of Thunder, Thor with, J. Michael Staczynski, and depicted the Unworthy Thor with Matt Fraction. And most recentlyy he co created a new mythos of magicians and crafted some new rules for magic with Mark Millar on the “Magic Order” for Image/Neflix. Hope you enjoy the interview…
Geeks OUT: You started in animation? How was that experience? Any specific projects you worked on?
Olivier Coipel: Yep! Started first doing Animation as an assistant, first for Amblimation in London, for a movie called Balto, then moved to LA to work on The Prince of Egypt and The road to El Dorado for Dreamworks. That was an exciting experience for a lot of reasons, many on a personal level, but also meeting and working with so many talented artists.
GO: How did you transition from animation to comics? Did you have an interest or love in comics?
OC: My first love was drawing, then comics. Working in animation wasn’t really a goal. As a kid-slash-teenager, what I was dreaming about was doing comics. Superhero comics. I was reading them, drawing them… when the opportunity came, it felt logical for me to leave animation to work in comics. At the time when I was working in LA. I was going to San Diego Comic Con. So at some point I prepared a portfolio with some personal drawings and a few pages featuring the X-men to show it to some editors and got the job!
GO: Are there any specific pages, covers or pieces of art that you are really proud of or that you love? I know you did that huge piece of all the Asgardians for Marvel. That is one of my favorite pieces.
OC: Thank you! That was quite a piece I‘m very happy with. Difficult for me to go back and try to remember, it as always related to the feeling, the struggle you had while creating that page-slash-cover… usually I can only think of the recent ones. I’d say the covers for the Magic Order #2 and #5, but I’m also happy with my first issue of Spider-verse… some of my first legion pages because I remember what I went through in my head at that time. And of course some of the Thor pages.
GO: One of your most recent comics projects, The Magic Order, written by Mark Millar, is currently being developed for a series at Netflix. How did you end up connecting with Mark on for this project?
OC: With Mark, it has been a long time (that) we were talking of collaborating on a project. But right after my exclusive contract at Marvel ended I contacted him to check if he was available. I was surprised to get a quick answer! He had that new thing going on with NETFLIX, and told me about The Magic Circle (as it was called at that time) that he had in mind and wanted to develop. They already had a character bible, but told me to change or tweak whatever detail and character I wanted. The biggest change I did was on Madame Albany (leather/vinyl thing again), and changing the main couple to an “interracial” couple (I hate that term by the way).
GO: When it comes to comics, you’ve primarily done work for hire projects at the big two but now you’ve done co-creator owned projects with Millar on the Magic Order. Are you going to continue on more creator owned comics in the future, or is there a chance we’ll be seeing your work on some more mainstream characters you haven’t had the opportunity to draw yet?
OC: I still wanna do creator owned project as well as working again with the “classic” editors at Marvel, DC, Valiant, etc. The market has evolved, and we can do both. My love for some of the superheros I grew up with is still the same.
GO: How has being LGBTQ informed your work?
OC: It doesn’t. Well I don’t think it does It’s not something I keep thinking about while drawing stories; Of course I love drawing male bodies. Spiderman swinging around, legs up (laughs). But I also love drawing female bodies, animals, birds…anything that has organic shape. Maybe in that sense it did. Although I did once in a while, in my career, squeeze (in) a few clues here and there, but just like a game.
GO: As someone who has worked in mainstream comics, what do you think the future of LGBTQ representation looks like there?
OC: I would hope that it wouldn’t be a thing to get a LGBTQ character the main role in a story, but there is still a long way to that. But I wanna see things positively. Things are moving forward, slowly, but moving.
GO: What can LGBTQ creators do to maximize our representation in the industry?
OC: I’m not very comfortable with that question, as I have to admit personally, as a POC, I feel concerned about the representation of POC as much as their sexuality. I can’t focus only on one aspect without thinking about the other. But to answer your question, visibility is the key. Putting more characters in there, you don’t need to play the drums or anything when you have one single character who‘s revealed as being LGBTQ. But just by putting more of “us” out there.
GO: Who is your favorite existing LGBTQ character? Why?
OC: Again I didn’t really care about that aspect back then. My favorite characters didn’t really have sexuality. At least I wasn’t thinking about that aspect. Even today, would I feel different to one fictional character because he’s been revealed as LGBTQ character? Depends on how it is written. One character that comes in mind is Midnighter. Just a badass character, and I guess the leather thing (laughs).
GO: Any hints as to what you might be working on now that The Magic Order is done?
OC: Nope, not yet. There’s a few possibilities, but none have been decided yet. Doing covers for now.
Chris Allo twenty year career in comics and former Talent Manager for Marvel. Avid X-Men fan and proponent for all comic creators
BONUS: Transcribed Geeks OUT Podcast Interview
Geeks OUT’s Kevin Gilligan: Hey everyone, it’s Kevin Gilligan with the Geeks OUT podcast, here live-to-tape at New York Comic Con. I’m sitting here with the amazing artist Olivier Coipel. You may be very familiar with his work especially if you read Marvel Comics. He is here from Portugal visiting us. Olivier, one thing I try and ask everyone, is what are you getting down and nerdy with? What are you consuming in pop culture? What are you reading? Watching? Any video games that you’re playing?
Olivier Coipel: Yes. Oh, right now? Do you mean like right now?
KG: Right now.
OC: Right now I just bought a Playstation 4. So I played Spider-Man, Uncharted, and, what else… God of War. Just when I have time. And right now, with comics… nothing!
KG: So what you’re saying is you’re busy!
OC: Yes, very busy. You know, when you work, and you have kids, you don’t have time to enjoy. You know, when I have a break, I just enjoy a glass of wine and watch TV.
KG: Yeah, understandable. What shows do you watch with your partner?
OC: Pose. It was an advantage for me from the first season. This thing is, you’re not used to it being on TV, or mainstream television. Even with the LGBT community out there in comics, with that kind of thing. We don’t talk about that kind of stuff. So that’s why I really like it. That’s one. And the other one I’m watching is The Handmaid’s Tale. I really like it.
KG: Nice. I’ve watched Pose obviously, but Handmaid’s Tale I can’t bring myself to watch quite yet. It’s a little too real.
OC: Yeah, at this moment.
KG: But I imagine, being in Portugal, it’s a little easier to watch from afar what’s happening in this country (laughs)
OC: Well, I’m from Italy. I don’t think it’s just coming from the states. It’s everywhere now. The world is getting into extremism. People are exploited. Working class everywhere, in the states, I see it in New York, in France, in India, everywhere, the working class are desperate and they are trying to find a new direction.
OC: Sometimes it leads to extreme choices.
KG: Yeah, we do see that here in America, and unfortunately people love to find a scapegoat. So in terms of comics, which would you say is your favorite LGBTQ character? Right now there’s a lot in terms of–
OC: I would say Northstar!
OC: Yeah, I’ve always liked him, as a kid, so I would say him. I think since then he’s been copied. I’m going to think about him right now.
KG: Okay, well Northstar was of very significant importance in terms of being one of the first gay heroes in Marvel comics.
OC: I would say Meat Cake. It’s comics, right? (Laughs).
KG: Who are some of the artists–any kind of artists–whose work inspires you?
OC: Oh, there’s a lot. It’s difficult because there’s a lot, but the first ones were Moebius, Mark Silvestri, Urasawa and Pluto who else… there are so many! Especially now. Because I stuck around, and everyday I discover artists who inspire me a lot. I mean, I don’t know them, personally, and some of them are not even published, but there’s a few, many many now on Instagram, who are killing it. I mean, they inspire me a lot. The problem is I don’t remember their names.
KG: That’s fine, that’s okay! So as someone who has worked on mainstream comics, what do you think the future of LGBTQ comics looks like in comics?
OC: Future representation? You know what, I’m not even sure we’re there yet. Even if you have a few characters here and there, it’s more like a very short process. I mean, a very short (impact?). Like an announcement or something. So I don’t think we’re quite there yet. In the future we’ll need more LGBT characters. But not like making it an announcement or anything. Just like, making it a more… LBGT characters should be among straight characters and everything. There should be no more “we need to make an announcement about this.” We’ll get there once it becomes quote unquote “normal.” We don’t need to make any specific thing about it, you know? Like if the story, or even if you just see a guy kissing another guy, it doesn’t have to be the main focus of the story. Just like, part of the normality of it, you know?
KG: It’s just like, part of the colors that are being painted, yeah. What can LGBTQ creators do to maximize their representation on the industry?
OC: As a creator? Like the writers or artists?
KG: In both respects.
OC: I could only talk about myself, but I have little power for that. I just try, sometimes, to put in the background stuff like that, some clues about the gay community. It could be an equality sign, or two characters in the back. Only people who pay attention would notice. But I think as a writer, they have more power, you know? To create characters, to stop thinking about straight people, or even white people. Diversity is everything. It’s not only about the gay community, or being Asian or black. Stop thinking about everyone random being white and straight. Start trying to think beyond that. Making more characters. Like I said before, you don’t have to treat them by the fact that they’re gay or not. Just make them gay! It’s easy! It doesn’t change anything. I don’t think it would change the storyline. I mean, maybe some details. It doesn’t have to be something focusing on that. It’s hard, because the imagination of writers are strengths, and it’s hard I guess to think beyond that. We need us to think beyond that. We need more representation. So it’s up to, not just the writers, but maybe the readers. I don’t know. But it’s up to everybody. When it comes to writers, I try to tell them “think beyond that. Think outside of your box.” I guess that’s the only way to do that. Trying to talk to them. And on my side, giving some little clues for characters on the back.
KG: Well I mean, I know there are some writers who do seek out feedback from artists that they work with. They’ll collaborate with them and say “what do you think of this character?” And they’ll write in terms of, if there’s a new character who doesn’t need a thousand people to sign off on. You know. I know it’s a little easier in indie comics to be creative. You’re creating a world, instead of playing in an established sandbox. But yeah, I agree in terms of, these are conversations that should be had with creative staff in terms of like “hey, maybe reflect the world that exists around you!”
OC: Well, but you know, in the states, people are living in their own communities. So it’s hard! It’s up to us. I don’t know any LGBTQ writer or something like that, but it comes from us first. We can’t expect other people to think of their world, and us, being quiet waiting for them to do that. It’s up to us to try to change things. To bring better things. The thing is, I don’t know any, many, LGBT writers.
KG: Well, there are a good handful of LGBT writers. We have Steve Orlando at DC Comics, also James Tynion IV, who is now going to be writing Batman.
OC: Oh, right.
KG: In December, I believe. But even with Marvel, Tini Howard, who just became an exclusive writer with Marvel. She is writing the miniseries Death’s Head, and is doing the Savage Avengers I think. I think that’s the title, I may be misquoting. [Greg’s note: Savage Avengers is written by Gerry Duggan. The book he’s describing is Strikeforce]. But in the team she has of Avengers, they’re kind of the behind the scenes… not Wetworks of Avengers, but handling things that are maybe so camera-ready of the Avengers. That is a team with Angela, who is a lesbian character, and Thor’s sister.
OC: Yes, yes.
KG: It also has Wiccan, from the Young Avengers.
OC: That’s right, yeah, yeah!
KG: As well as some more (mainstream) like Blade and a few more like Spider-Woman.
OC: Blade is gay?
KG: No, Blade’s not gay, but he’s on the team, as part of the characters who are there. But you know, Tini and Steve, they always try to have queer elements in their stories. But it exists, there are people who are doing it, but I feel like the onus is also on straight creators, and straight writers, to open up their, you know–
OC: Yes! But like I said, I can’t force someone to change their mindset about something. The more we are visible, the more there will be writers writing about gay characters. The world needs to see that, and maybe it will be more natural for them to think about LGBTQ characters, you know? So maybe it comes to us first, to show more, to be more visible, and then people will start to think more about us.
KG: What are some of the projects you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of?
OC: It’s always difficult, because I’m never proud of my project. I’m always more proud of my latest one. Because I’m very critical about my work. I like to be critical about my work, because i’m very precise. I see the bad stuff and how I could’ve been better. So I would say now it would be The Magic Order. I was inking myself with an inkbrush. So that’s the one I’m most proud of.
KG: I understand that, and being a creative person, writer, actor, being like “oh, that was terrible!” You know? “Oh, but it was funny!” Yeah, but I’ve met myself, and I know it could’ve been better. But I think that’s sort of the sign of a good artist.
OC: It’s a motivational thing. When I do something, I always want to do better. So, yes, maybe, it’s going to help me be better next time. I don’t know, you always want to do your best, and you always want to have fun doing it. It’s like trying to fix stuff, you know?
KG: I will say, I really enjoyed Magic Order. Also has some queer elements to it, as well as some very fun character designs, especially with the quote-unquote “villain” characters. So I really enjoyed that, and just wanted to say that. What is one character in comics that you would love to redesign? What is one that you’re sort of like “oh, they badly need a redesign,” or one that you would really love to tackle?
OC: One I really want to do, one I’m always thinking about, is Storm. Storm has always been my character. Even if she’s not gay… I don’t think the committee likes that. I don’t think she needs a redesign. Maybe a new costume, from me. I’d like to do that.
KG: I mean, I would not say no to that! (Laughs)
OC: Well she’s difficult. I’m not sure of the direction I would take. I think she needs a total 90% change of direction… We always see her being a tough, angry black girl! We need to change that a little bit.
KG: She’s always like the tough black girl, or the regal quality… a queen. There was a little bit of harkening back to her punk days.
OC: Yeah, but it was just aesthetically. Back in the day, when she was punk, there was something behind it. She was going to be fully processed, she needed to change everything, you know? There has to be a meaning for bigger impact. Last time they did it, there was no storyline behind this, so it was just like “okay, bring back the punk look.” But even the costume wasn’t punk. So it was like, they didn’t try. I don’t think it had the impact that it should’ve had.
KG: I sort of asked you this before, but we weren’t recording. How has New York Comic Con been for you so far this year?
OC: I don’t have a voice.
OC: I don’t have any voice anymore. I have a headache! I hope it won’t kill me to be there on Sunday. So it’s great. Awesome.
KG: So how can people, beyond seeking you out in comics… you mentioned your Instagram page. How can people find you on social media?
OC: Instagram! I don’t use Facebook anymore. I mean, I’m still on Facebook, but I’m tired of talking bullshit. So I’m mostly on Instagram. And I put my personal work too. I do watercolor, and live drawings. There’s a lot more than comics on Instagram.
KG: And that’s Olivier Coipel on Instagram. C-O-I-P-E-L. Excellent. Olivier, thank you for taking the time to talk to us, and I hope you have a good rest of New York Comic Con in your day and a half left!
KG: And safe travels back home to your family in Portugal!