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…


Geeks OUT LGBTQIA+ Creator Spotlight: Vita Ayala

Hello and welcome back to the Geeks OUT Creator Spotlight. For this edition I had the chance to speak to one of the most sought after and super talented comic writers working in the industry today, Vita Ayala! Vita Ayala is a queer Afro-Puerto Rican, born and bred in New York City, where they grew up dreaming dreams of dancing on far away worlds, fighting monsters on the block, and racing the fish along the bottom of the ocean. Their killer list of work includes THE WILDS (Black Mask Studios), SUBMERGED (Vault), QUARTER KILLER (ComiXology) all creator owned. They’ve also have been tearing up carpet in the mainstream on titles such as SUPERGIRL (DC), XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (Dynamite), LIVEWIRE (Valiant), NEW MUTANTS and CHILDREN OF THE ATOM (Marvel), among others.

Welcome, Vita!

Chris Allo: We like to do a little educating here on the GeeksOut Creator Spotlight. With that in mind, as a queer non-binary person, how would you define that in a general sense? And what does it mean to Vita personally?

Vita Ayala: I can’t really define what queer non-binary means in a general sense, because those words and the identities “covered” therein are extremely personal. The “general” accepted definition for non-binary is a person who does not fall under the binary gender identities of “man” and “woman” in their societal context. But there is a lot that can be covered under such an umbrella term.

For me, I feel like I am a gender that is not “man” or “woman,” but not agender either. I don’t really have the language yet to full articulate it beyond saying that.

Black Mask Studios

When did your interest in comics begin? What was your first comic book?

I have told those stories a lot, so I won’t go on too much about it, but my first comics were a Wonder Woman comic, an X-Men comic (with Storm and Bishop on the cover – or just Storm, my mind remembers both but also my mind is a labyrinth so who knows), and a Fisher Price-Marvel team up, Arabian Nights (which I still have).

I’ve always loved stories, and have had an active imagination. I was drawn to these books because they featured BIPOC people (and here, I admit that I misidentified Wonder Woman as Puerto Rican for a long time, but in my defenses, there are Reasons), and they were heroes. I would flip through the pages for hours, making up the words (since I couldn’t read at the time).

Who are some of the writers and artists (any kind of artist; they don’t have to be comic artists) whose work inspires you?

I’ll talk about some inspirations that are outside of Western comics – inspirations that have been with me since long before I was trying to become a professional writer.

Octavia Butler is a huge influence on me, as a creator and as a person. Her books saved my life, and rewired my brain.

Basquiat is one of my favorite artists. I grew up in the Lower East Side/Alphabet City in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and his spirit was still in the concrete and brick, in the streetlights and subways. His work is incredibly powerful, but also, he as a person resonated with me a lot of a teen (and still).

Naoko Takeuchi has shaped my moral center a lot. She taught me what friendship could be, and how to love people for who they are not who you want them to be.

Bruce Lee  – as an actor and creator and martial artist – is a huge inspiration for me. His drive and vision and self discipline are aspirational, holistically. 

Totally!

And I would be lying if I didn’t say that Lewis Carroll and Homer are both foundational figures in terms of my inspiration. Alice in Wonderland/Through he Looking Glass and The Odyssey are two of my favorite stories of all time (though, they are arguably the same story).

How has being a queer non-binary informed your work? What is it about being a queer non-binary writer that you feel gives you a unique and enlightened or challenging perspective that you channel into your work?

Comixology

First, I don’t think that being any particular identity makes you enlightened just by virtue of being it. Enlightenment (if it can even be achieved) is a lifelong pursuit and requires a LOT of work.

Totally right!

This is a question that there are plenty of canned answers for, but the honest truth is that everyone’s perspective is unique and personal, and absolutely informs their point of view. My intersecting identities have shaped both how I am perceived in the world and how I perceive the world, and that in turn is channeled into the world.

I also believe that there is no objective state of being, and no way to creator “objective” work. Everything we do – whether casual or purposeful, art or science or whatever – is informed by our biases and experiences.

Submerged-Vault

What drew you into wanting to work in the comics industry? What was the first comic or graphic novel that made you realize the power and potential of the medium?

I started working at a comic shop when I was 19, partially to justify dropping out of school, and partially to feed my comic and manga habit. I ended up working there on and off for 10 years (with breaks in there to attend college), and my understanding of Western comics as an industry was born and nurtured there.

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t actually consider entering the industry as a creator until 2012, when I was working at the comic shop with Matthew Rosenberg. He was incredibly supportive, and he (having a lot more knowledge about the professional side) really helped guide me through my first few years/attempts to “break in.”

So great to hear about the support from Matthew. He’s a very talented writer as well.

There were two books that really reshaped my understanding of what comics could be. The first was Gotham Central – I could talk about this series forever – and the second was Strangers In Paradise, which was a book that also saved my life. And when I say certain books saved my life, I mean it literally. I would not be here, alive, if they hadn’t found me when I needed them.

Wow!

Valiant Entertainment

In terms of work-for-hire projects, what kind of stories do you most enjoy writing? What are some of the projects you’ve worked on that particularly satisfied you as a writer?

I like writing a wide range of things, but I think I tend to be most immersed when I am stress testing what makes a character who they are, or I am trying to get to the answer of some sort of question I have a bout a character/set of characters.

It’s hard to single out a particular project that made me feel satisfied, because I get different things out of different projects. I don’t think I would be able to work on a project that I wasn’t invested in, and so I am very satisfied with having worked on things once they are done.

Also, honestly, the gift of collaborating with such incredible creators through these projects is a blessing. Every collaborator I have had has been both an inspiration and a wonder, and even when I am stressed, knowing I have such amazing partners (artists, colorists, letterers, editors) to work with me brings me energy and joy!

Quarter Killer-Comixology Originals

So great to hear you say that, Vita! Comics are a truly a collaborative effort.

Who are some contemporary writers and artists in the comics industry you enjoy most these days? Who inspires you to want to continue to work in the industry?

I am so incredibly lucky to know so many skilled, passionate, wonderful creators. I am most excited, awed, and inspired by my collaborators and peers. 

Again, singling anyone out is hard because that means I am leaving people out, so I’ll just touch on a few I bought recently. 

Trung Lê Capecchi-Nguyễn’s book, The Magic Fish, wrecked me. It’s incredibly beautiful and touching, and I had to sit with it for days afterwards.

Agreed, quite an amazing and empathetic tale.

Leah Williams and David Baldeón’s work on X-Factor has been consistently moving and interesting, a mix of joyful and melancholy. I love that book so much, and I will miss it desperately when it is gone.

Martin Simmonds and James Tynion IV have absolutely smashed the button in my brain that was made for Vertigo comics. That book is really incredible.

I’m a big Vampire the Masquerade fan, and the comic is a gas. I have been loving what Tini and Blake Howard are doing with the backups in that book.

I didn’t know about those! Will check them out!

My wife and I have been on a big 20th Century Boys kick lately, and Naoki Urasawa always energizes my brain!

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

I guess the advice I would give writers is to get into the habit of writing regularly. I don’t mean “you must write everyday” or anything like that, but more, figure out a routine that works in your life, and stick to it. 

You have to hone your craft as much as possible, and you can’t wait for “inspiration to strike you” – keep a journal if you don’t feel like you can write fiction on a schedule or if you feel like you have writer’s block. Writing is a skill that you have to practice at to become more proficient at it.

As for what I wish I had known? I guess I wish I had known to try and get an agent as early as possible, or to hire a lawyer to look over contracts. Having an advocate that is purely on your side is important, and having someone to make sure that your interests are being made priority in legally binding documents invaluable.

As an artist’s agent myself, I whole heartedly agree!

The creators (writers, artists of any kind, designers), we are what brings value to the industry. We should be respected and treated accordingly.

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

I have no idea, I haven’t been to the future haha.

I walked into that one…

Marvel Entertainment

If you mean what I would like to see going forward, I want to see more and varied representation. More intersecting identities. More, more, more.

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

I have pretty standard answers (Renee Montoya, Xena, Katchoo), but I think that closer to the truth is the queer characters being created and pushed by queer creators.

I’ve expressed the same thing myself. I want authentic queer characters.

I love every queer character I had the honor of helping bring to life. I love every queer character my friends have put their sweat and tears into. All of them. They’re my favorite, because they are labors of love, and they are for us by us. 

If you could put together your own superhero team from any queer characters who are out there, who would be on your team?

It would honestly depend on the story/what the goal was.

Are they investigating something? I have answers for that. Are they adventuring to the center of the Earth to find buried treasure? I have answers for that. Are they repelling space invaders or making magic? I’ve got answers for that too.

Although, I think whatever the goal/team, you should definitely bring John Constantine along.

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

I can’t say what projects make me most proud, because I feel honored and blessed to have worked on every project I have been involved in.

But I will talk about the books I am currently working on/recently worked on a bit.

I am working on three series right now (New Mutants, Static, Children of the Atom), and have the absolute pleasure of teaming up with folks like Nikolas Draper-Ivey, Chris Cross, Rod Reis, Paco Medina, and David Curiel for art, and Travis Lanham and AndWorld Design for letters.

Some top notch creators! I love Paco, Reis and Chris Cross is amazing! I can’t get enough of his art!

I recently got to work with Skylar Patridge, Jose Villarrubia, and Ariana Maher on  on a Question short for DC Pride, which what an incredible team!

Nice! Villarrubia is so gifted and a role model for me!

And of course, my creator owned work and partners hold a special place in my heart. Emily Pearson, Marissa Louise, Jim Campbell, Lisa Sterle, Stella Dia, Rachel Deering, Jamie Jones, and Ryan Ferrier have my unwavering love!

Marvel Entertainment/DC Comics

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? What’s your next mainstream project that you could talk about? Or not talk about–whatever you’re comfortable with!

As for WFH, mainstream, as I said above, I’m currently working on New Mutants (Marvel), Children of The Atom (Marvel), and Static (DC).

Loving your NEW MUTANTS and can’t wait to read STATIC!!

Not to mention the two stories you have in the Marvel Voices: Pride and DC Pride one shots!!!

I don’t have any creator owned work coming out in the next year, but as I said above, my creator owned work holds a special place in my heart.

Submerged (Vault Comics) is a contemporary queer, Brown retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth that takes place in the New York City subway.

The Wilds (Black Mask Studios) is a post-apocalyptic story that center queer BIPOC leads, in which the end of the world is beautiful.

Quarter Killer (Comixology) is a Black cyberpunk Robin Hood of the ‘hood story set in a near-future New York City that centers a Black non-binary character and their family.

Thank you so much, for your time and for speaking with me! Happy Pride!

Part two with Vita coming soon!


Chris Allo is a freelance editor and artist’s agent. He has been a serious comic geek since his early teens. He breathes, eats and sleeps comics and comic art, and is an X-Men fanatic. Aliens and Star Wars are his second favorite things in all the world. He also loves animals and has a cat named, Mugsy. He has a separate business with his partner, Puppet Punx!, specializing in costumes and puppets.

INTERVIEW: Konner Knudsen

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.

Image result for hellboy mike mignola"

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?

Image result for dark horse stranger things"

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!

Image result for dragon age blue wraith"

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.

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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. 

Image result for dark horse eerie"

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).

Image result for gravity's wall comic"

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!

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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.

Image result for contact high comic"

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. . . 

Image result for luci wicked and the divine"

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!

GEEKS OUT CREATOR SPOTLIGHT: Luciano Vecchio

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?

Luciano Vecchio: 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?

Luciano: Yes.

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.

Geeks OUT Creator Spotlight: Olivier Coipel

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.

Poster for Balto (1995)

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!


Avengers vs X-Men #6 art by Olivier Coipel (2013). Inks by John Dell and colors by Laura Martin.

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.

Spider-Verse #1 (2014) art by Olivier Coipel

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).

The Magic Order #1 art by Olivier Coipel (2018)

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.

House of M #1 gatefold black-and-white cover by Olivier Coipel (2005)

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).

Art by Olivier Coipel

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

Olivier Coipel (left) with Kevin Gilligan (right)

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?

Wonder Woman #750 (2019) variant cover by Olivier Coipel

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!

Batman and Harley Quinn art by Olivier Coipel (2013)

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?

Olivier Coipel on Instagram

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)

Legion Lost (2000) art by Olivier Coipel. Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Inks by Andy Lanning.

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.

KG: Yeah.

Sketch by Olivier Coipel (2017)

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–

Silk (and Peter Parker) art by Olivier Coipel (2017)

OC: I would say Northstar!

KG: 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.


Art by Olivier Coipel, commissioned by Elias Delgado (2005)

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.

Avengers: Siege art by Olivier Coipel

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–

Ultimate Comics Avengers #3 (2010) cover art by Olivier Coipel

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.

X-Men (2013) #1 cover by Olivier Coipel

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.

KG: (Laughs).

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!

OC: Yes!

KG: And safe travels back home to your family in Portugal!