LGBTQ Hide Month: DC’S Rebirth Demotes Queer Characters

This piece originally appeared on Panels.

Last week, DC Comics released to press a splash image promoting Rebirth, its purported new and optimistic creative force for its main continuity comic line-up. In an interview with Newsarama, DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns said “Rebirth is the compass, here’s where we’re going.”

The splash image, according to its accompanying press copy, is “a visual Who’s Who of the DCU.” If you want to know who matters in the DC Rebirth, well, here’s your guidemap. It’s linked below.

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In the preceding image (illustrated by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Hi-Fi) you will find the Trinity, Raven sans avian attire, Captain Boomerang, and two Wally Wests—one white, one black.

What you won’t find in this image, this veritable directory of DC’s plans over the next weeks, months, years, is much queer representation. I’ve edited the image to highlight the company-acknowledged-as-LGBTQ characters present.

Queer Rebirth

What’s pictured: Batwoman, Harley Quinn, and Constantine (bottom center, if his muted colors lost you).

What’s not pictured: transgender characters, non-binary characters, gay men, queer people of color, any of the several queer characters created since the New 52. No Bunker, Black Orchid, Virtue, Operator, Porcelain, Ya’Wara, or Starling. Even some of DC’s most noteworthy or headline-nabbing queer characters failed to make the cut.

At last April’s Emerald City Comic Con DC Entertainment: All-Access Panel, DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio claimed that Midnighter, star of a critically-acclaimed recent solo series and one of the most famous gay male superheroes, was “still an important part of the DC Universe.” Not more important than almost 70 other characters, apparently. Not more important than Captain Boomerang.

At May 2012’s Kapow Comic Convention DC New 52 Panel, Didio promised that an established hero would have their sexuality switched to something more queer, becoming one of DC’s “most prominent gay characters.” That character would Alan Scott, an alternate Earth’s Green Lantern. He does not appear in this splash presumably because his home, Earth-2: Society, is one of DC’s two main-continuity series (with Gotham Academy) to not take part in Rebirth promotion, denying him and his other diversified peers thousands of eyeballs. If this Rebirth’s hourglass teaser is to be believed, Scott may also have to compete his “classic,” “previously straight” self, a situation familiar to that of black Wally West. DC_Rebirth_catalog__00036-1

Even Batwoman, arguably DC’s most iconic LGBT character and pictured above for her upcoming role in Detective Comics, was recently victim to a forced, year-long sabbatical. In a glowing piece from the Advocate in May 2015, DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee said of Batwoman, “there are great characters and sometimes you have to give them a rest to bring them back.” Meanwhile Deathstroke has no time for naps, as Rebirth’s giving him his third series in nearly five years.

And though it seems unfair to quibble over a piece of promotional artwork, it actually does represent what Rebirth’s presented of DC’s queer characters so far. Constantine has a solo series, Batwoman is an ensemble lead inDetective Comics, and Harley Quinn swings both ways with a solo and a leading team role in Suicide Squad. And that’s it. As is with the promotional image, there are no other yet-acknowledged queer characters in significant roles.

If these concerns seem somewhat incongruent with a portion of DC Rebirth #1, consider invisibility. Spoilers for the issue (written by Geoff Johns with art by Ivan Reis, Gary Frank, Phil Jimenez) follow.

Across his two-panel appearance, Jackson Hyde (more popularly known as Aqualad of the Young Justice animated series) comes out as liking guys, framed by his mother’s homophobia. In and out and out. He doesn’t appear again.

It’s hard to believe that DC would give him a broom closet’s worth of real estate in one of their most important comics for nothing; it’s just a matter of finding where. Unfortunately, fans hoping up to follow his story currently have nowhere to turn. He hasn’t appeared in any DC Rebirth press material—not in the announcement, in interviews, on series covers, or even in the above splash page, which was included inDC Rebirth #1.

Amidst tearful reunions and a supposed more optimistic return to storytelling, the one corner granted to a queer character is one of prejudice and no clear future.

Queer invisibility (onset by hetero/cisnormativity) is precisely why LGBTQ folk are burdened with coming out. If cis+straight weren’t made the default, then there’d be no impetus to come out. Fitting, then, that DC leads a creative charge that positions cis+straight characters so aggressively as the default. No wonder Jackson’s mother is a homophobe; the universe DC’s Rebirth is building is one where LGBTQ people barely get to exist.

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Numerous interviews with Johns, Lee, and Didio reference “core readers,” previous runs, the past. The event’s name pays homage to Johns’ Green Lantern: Rebirth, which returned Green Lantern Hal Jordan to the publishing foray.

By centering so much on the past, DC eclipses its diversity gains—particularly recent years’ genuinely forward-moving queer representation—in favor of yet again restoring its straight (and white and male) characters to glory.

Black Wally West gets less definitive alongside White Wally West. Jaime Reyes and Ryan Choi, the Mexican-American Blue Beetle and Chinese-American Atom, get to return to comics only if chaperoned by their white male contemporaries. If the “classic” (all-white, based on that teaser) JSA truly returns as they were, they’ll be full-on rendering their Earth-2 counterparts as derivatives.

At the end of the day, there is only finite space. There is only finite space on a team’s roster, in a comic’s pages, in an event’s promotional material, in a publisher’s slate, on the shelf of a comic book store.

There was no room for Bunker on Teen Titans (there barely was even when he was on it), Operator in Birds of Prey, any queer character on the Justice League, an Authority book starring Midnighter and Apollo, or a leading transgender character anywhere. Queer characters have been pushed out. It’s sad, then, that the most hopeful and inclusive places for queer fans and characters is not the “core readers’” present day, but in the past—the lone series of DC Comics Bombshells, an alternate universe, digital-first comic set during World War II.

And, at the end of the day, there is only finite space in fans’ budgets.

Up Past Midnighter: Why Can’t I Stay?

This piece originally appeared on Panels.

We all have our self-insert characters, either in our fiction or in others’. Characters that, in many ways, are us—but with different colored hair, a more tragic backstory perhaps, or a really badass scar across one eye.

When women have self-inserts (or female characters who are generally just competent), they’re called Mary Sues. When (often cisgender heterosexual white) men have self-inserts, they’re called protagonists. In comics (and elsewhere), male protagonists’ flaws can be usually described as “is just a little too quippy” or “probably sleeps with more women than what’s socially acceptable, that scamp.”

As a gay man, self-inserts don’t exist for me in mainstream media. So I’ve turned to my personal fiction.

But, for far more years than I’d care to admit, all of my self-insert characters would subconsciously veer towards the same path: he, a supporting character to the female lead, would sacrifice his life in a bid of heroism, loyalty, and friendship. Remember, this was my obvious self-insert character, my Best Case Scenario.

Years of seeing myself in two specific media roles—that of the supportive Gay Best Friend with no interior story worth telling or the tragic corpse dangling on the reel as awards bait—conditioned me to see my Best Case Scenario as “dying as a secondary figure, but nobly and by choice.”

“Choice.”

I can’t find many heroes for me, so I turn to comics: the world of immortal heroes, both in power set and market value. Every month, I scour solicits for roles—superpowered or otherwise—that I might get to occupy.

I get to be the ensemble member on the team with more members than I have lines. I get to be subject of a national-headlines-grabbing event, only to be sidelined for months (or years) later. I get to be a hero whose humanity gets virtually exterminated by a cosmic force. In Secret Wars, I get to disappear. In Future’s End, I get to die three times in the first several issues. In an Image comic, it’s a surprise—I have an even chance to be a space explorer or an abused, suicidal student serial killer-turned-series-villain, a wrestling champion or a predatory serial public masturbator (who literally turns into a behemoth pig). At DC, I get to be the lone gay male hero to get a solo ongoing series in the publisher’s 80-year history. At Marvel, I’ve still haven’t had that chance in their 77-year one.

In Midnighter, I got to lead and I got to live. I got to be Wolverine and Batman. I got to be happy and alive. I got to be a survivor. I got to be smarmy. I got to be handcuffed to Dick Grayson.

For a year and no longer. That is my entire leading lifespan. In the DC Rebirth, I’m not—through any character shown at that presentation—visible anywhere.

Meanwhile, the industry’s Dudley “How Many Are There?” Dursley gets to lead: Invincible Iron Man. Aquaman. International Iron Man. Deathstroke. Moon Knight. The Flash. Spider-Man/Deadpool. Green Arrow. Amazing Spider-Man. Red Hood/Arsenal. Amazing Spider-Man 1.x. Swamp Thing. Spidey. Superman. Hyperion. Batman/Superman. The Astonishing Ant-Man. Action Comics. Star-Lord. Superman: The Coming of the Supermen. Venom: Space-Knight. Superman: American Alien. Karnak. Batman. Doctor Strange. Detective Comics. Doctor Strange: Last Days of Magic. Batman Beyond. Hercules. Green Lantern. Daredevil. Batman ’66 Meets the Man from U.N.C.L.E. Old Man Logan. Art Ops. Deadpool. Lucifer. Deadpool & the Mercs for Money. Jacked. X-Men: The Worst X-Man Ever. Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham: The Silver Age. Darth Vader. Obi-Wan and Anakin.

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Don’t worry, Dudley, you have a full 42 just next month and just as many in the months following. And me? We’ll see how these next eight decades go.

5 Queer-Friendly Comics Publishers You Should Know

This piece originally appeared on Panels.

Brutal fight sequences, unrealistic melodrama, heart-wrenching loss, and cartoonish, over-the-top villains are comics staples. And by “comics,” I mean the industry—forget what’s on the page.

Trusting companies is tough and ill-advised; trusting companies with matters of LGBTQ representation is why I wake up screaming at night. Between fits, however, I have found solace. Several comics publishers, by fostering queer talent and keeping an eye towards diversity, have earned my trust as a queer fan. Here are several I’d recommend.

Rosy Press

Fresh Romance #1 cover by Kevin Wada
Fresh Romance #1 cover by Kevin Wada

While decades-old publishers are still struggling with baby steps towards queer representation, Rosy Press—which launched just a year ago—has been inclusive from the get-go.

Janelle Asselin, a queer woman herself, is the publisher of Rosy Press and architect behind Fresh Romance, a monthly, primarily-digital romance anthology. Many queer comics creators—Kate Leth, Sarah Winifred Searle, Kevin Wada, Trungles, Taneka Stotts, Marcy Cook (full disclosure: a writer at Panels)—have had or will have work featured inFresh Romance.

“School Spirit,” by Leth, Arielle Jovellanos, Amanda Scurti, and Taylor Esposito, follows several high school students, two of whom are girls in a clandestine romance.

Fresh Romance is now currently crowdfunding a Kickstarter-exclusive print collection of its first stories, which include “School Spirit.”

BOOM! Studios

Lumberjanes #1 cover by Noelle Stevenson.
Lumberjanes #1 cover by Noelle Stevenson.

Throw a rock in any given direction at BOOM!’s publication slate and you’re bound to hit a book starring queer characters (metaphorically, please don’t throw rocks at people IRL).

There’s Lumberjanes, a series starring girls (at least three of whom are queer) exploring friendship and supernatural shenanigans at their summer camp. There’s The Woods, another comic about (primarily) queer teens trying to survive supernatural woods on another planet—and to much more lethal stakes. There’sCognetic and Memetic, two separate but thematically-linked miniseries about queer leads navigating unique and unnerving apocalypse scenarios.

Help Us! Great Warrior, Bravest Warriors, The Spire, and We(l)come Back join this already impressive list.

These stories would not exist were in not for queer creators and editorial members—including Noelle Stevenson, James Tynion IV, Shannon Watters, and Grace Ellis—who breathe them life.

Northwest Press

Anything That Loves edited by Charles "Zan" Christensen, cover art by various.
Anything That Loves edited by Charles “Zan” Christensen, cover art by various.

With most publishers, fans have to rely on word-of-mouth to find queer stories by queer creators. Reading a solicit or looking at a cover won’t necessarily always tell prospective audiences if the character staring back at them is queer.

Since the business of Northwest Press isqueer comics, that’s no concern.

In its relatively short lifespan (it was founded in 2010 by Zan Christensen), the publisher has produced several queer anthologies, anti-bullying stories, and multiple award-winner comics. It’s highest-profile project is Anything That Loves, an anthology exploring sexual identities beyond the gay/straight binary.

Hard to Swallow, an anthology containing ten years of gay male erotica, earned over $20,000 in funding last month on Kickstarter.

Oni Press

Wet Moon vol. 1 reprint cover by Annie Mok
Wet Moon vol. 1 reprint cover by Annie Mok

In truth, Oni Press was not really on my radar before 2015. I’d heard of it and was actually reading one of its series, The Bunker, slowly over trade. Otherwise, we were two ships passing each other in the night.

Then, in early 2015, the publisher announced that it’d be opening up toopen submissions—with a special focus on diverse creators and stories. Months later at San Diego Comic Con, they alsoannounced several new (unaffiliated with the open submissions) series—Another Castle, The Mighty Zodiac, Over the Surface—that appeared diversity-friendly with creators, characters, and tone.

This newfound goodwill has prompted me to better notice Oni’s present and future queer offerings. Scott Pilgrim and Hopeless Savages are past critical darlings with (supporting) queer characters; current and future series Another Castle, The Bunker, and Merry Men all feature LGBTQ diversity either on or off the page (or both!). Upcoming print editions forWet Moon and Fresh Romance (in partnership with Rosy Press) provide the same.

Hiveworks

Agents of the Realm vol. 1 cover by Mildred Louis
Agents of the Realm vol. 1 cover by Mildred Louis

Any conversation about queer comics that leaves out webcomics is a sham. While traditional publishers tend to their dinosaur farms (that wasn’t meant to make them sound cool), independent, otherwise ignored voices have been forging ground on the digital frontier.

Hiveworks is a publisher—albeit not in the usual sense—of webcomics. Independent webcomics creators choose to align their series with Hiveworks and, in turn, get focused support without editorial interference. Webcomic owners no longer have to go it alone; through Hiveworks, they get mentorship, advertising, and boosted visibility.

Many of the webcomics supported by Hiveworks feature a mix of queer stories and queer creators. Sister Claire, Agents of the Realm, Sfeer Theory, Balderdash, Go Get a Roomie!, Knights Errant, andSparkler are just a few. Mildred Louis’s Agents of the Realm recently concluded its volume one Kickstarter where it raised over $30,000.

Series Announcement: Oni Series “Merry Men” Interprets Robin Hood as Gay Outlaw

This piece originally appeared on Panels.

Robin Hood is a man of many hats; he’s been a centuries-old folklore legend, the star of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and a fox (both in the anthropomorphic sense and as a compliment).

Starting this June, Merry Men from Oni Press will present the iconic archer in a different light: as a 13th century gay outlaw and former lover to King Richard. In response to Prince John’s criminalizing of homosexuality, Robert Godwinson (nickname: Robin) and his band of friends and lovers live in isolated lives in the Sherwood Forest. That is until a stranger approaches these merry men beseeching aid against the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Writer Robert Rodi (Astonishing Thor, Codename: Knockout), interior artist Jackie Lewis (Lion of Rora), and colorist Marissa Louise (Semiautomagic) have banded together to create Merry Men, which is launching on June 1st.

Panels is excited to present an exclusive preview of the comic and interview the creative team. 75c1e3e4-d057-4b5f-bcc5-2852e3df1dbb

How did Merry Men come to be and how has it evolved since its inception?

Robert Rodi: I’m a bit of a history buff, with a special love of English medieval history. And one day a few years ago I was ferreting around the various blogs and websites devoted to the subject when I came upon a discussion of whether Robin Hood was gay. Well… of course Robin Hood can’t actually have been gay, because Robin Hood wasn’t real. But there was some discussion, based on a few papers by a few academics, that possibly the origins of the Robin Hood story were rooted in sexual outlawry — that the historical figures who inspired the legend of Robin and his merry men, were people who were ejected from society and forced to live in nature because of their homosexual practices.

As a gay man I was of course very interested in this, and read as much as I could; and, well, it’s all about as persuasive as any other theory about the origins of Robin Hood, which is to say, about as persuasive as you want it to be. Given the lack of any hard evidence of any kind, everything about Robin is more or less conjectural.

“Whatever people think Robin Hood is, Robin Hood is.” That’s an awesome quote. Beyond his station a sexual outlaw, who is this version of Robin Hood to you?

Robert: Well, any version of Robin Hood has to be a man of the people … a man who stands up for the little guy against the monolithic authority that would otherwise crush him. But when we meet our version of Robin in our first issue, he’s not got there yet. He’s just a guy who’s been in the Crusades and returned home and tried to settle back down to his old life. And it’s a humble life, too; unlike the later Robin Hood legends, where he’s a nobleman named Robert Lockley, in our story he’s a lowly village burgher, Robert Godwinson. He’s an outsider: a Saxon in a Norman world. He just wants to live quietly and peacefully.

But that all goes to hell, and he finds himself in a refugee in Sherwood Forest, with a band of friends and lovers who look up to him and basically make him their leader by proxy — because he’s a man of the world, he’s seen the world, he’s been a soldier. He’s not entirely comfortable with being the guy who makes the decisions, but he recognizes he’s the obvious choice and so he goes along with it. But then as our story progresses, he gets pushed into being something even bigger — something almost mythic.

Jackie Lewis: I think Robert has hit the nail on the head with this one. However Robin Hood is interpreted, presented, or performed, the cornerstone of his character is that he’s someone who fights for the underdog. He represents something bigger than “steal from rich to give to the poor.” He represents the will to stand up for what you believe in, whether it’s protecting peasants or struggling for equality. He’s the quintessential protagonist. While Robin is usually portrayed as a nobleman whose main story arc is that he opposes Prince John’s claim to the throne, I think Robert’s take on him adds many, many layers to the Robin Hood legend. The struggle of queer people is woven throughout world history, and using the platform of this incredibly well-known cultural icon to tell this story is brilliant, in my opinion. 8d1db570-db97-4f25-b0f8-79e39ecfaad5

Jackie and Marissa, how are you approaching your work on Merry Men? Can you share your specific priorities and inspirations?

Jackie: My main priority, when designing the characters that we’re more familiar with, was to break away from “classic” representations, but still pay homage to them. Take away Robin Hood’s pointy feathered hat, but leave the slightly-curled mustache. Little John has to be big and burly, but make him a bit more subtle. Basically, keep the characters in the realm of recognizability, but make them unique to this project.

I also did a TON of research. I now have so, so many books on the early medieval era. I start every new project by researching contemporary clothing, weapons, technology, really anything that will help me visually flesh out the world. I’ve even gotten supplies for and made medieval era-appropriate arrows, just to get a really good sense of how to draw them. I also watched a few different Robin Hood movies that I grew up on, not only to refresh what stands out to me, but also to make sure I avoid designing anything too close to past interpretations. What’s great is that I still love all of them for various reasons, and I want to bring that love to this project. I want readers to fall in love with the characters and Robert’s new take on the Robin Hood mythos.

Marissa Louise: I was very excited to receive this project. I knew right off the bat I’d be setting up moods for fights, forests & romance! Those are all very different moods so to integrate them is very appealing. The speckled light of a forest can really amplify any mood in very interesting ways.

Like Jackie I do research, a  little less extensive though. Jackie sent me some fletching information. That was really neat, but I haven’t made arrows yet. There is a sword fighting community in Portland, Oregon, that I stop by some time. I highly recommend learning that. Most of my research is going through old illustrations or movies I like to find palettes & lighting the evoke the mood I’m looking for. Then I compile this on a Pinterest board and do color studies.

Robert, you mention Robin’s band of friends and lovers. Who are these Merry Men, and do they all have roots in previous Robin Hood stories?

Robert: Most of my cast is drawn from previous Robin Hood stories: Little John, Much the Miller’s Son, Will Scarlet, Arthur-a-Bland, and Alan-a-Dale. Joining them are two all-new new characters. Kenneth Lester is an older man (and one of Robin’s ex-lovers); I wanted Robin to have someone wiser and more experienced on hand, that he could use as a sounding board. And then there’s Sabib al Hassan, a Saracen page Robin rescued in the Holy Land.

The two obvious absences from this list are Friar Tuck and Maid Marian. To explain that, I have to clarify how I approached the series. I wanted to clear away all the narrative and thematic layers that have accumulated over the centuries — to go back to first principles (the earliest Robin ballads, from the 14th century) and start over from there. I felt free to pick and choose from everything that came after. And I did not choose Maid Marian. Partly because she’s such a late addition to the legend; she doesn’t appear in any Robin Hood ballads until the 16th century. And she actually had her own folkloric tradition before that. It’s sort of like, if a couple hundred years from now, people only remembered Wonder Woman as Superman’s girlfriend. In a way, I’m just giving Marian back her freedom; she’s not stuck being somebody’s love interest anymore. And that’s the other reason I’m not using her: because she wouldn’t fit that role, anyway. In our series, Robin’s love interests are all male.

As for Friar Tuck … that’s a bit complicated. The first Robin Hood ballads were set in the fourteenth century, but later he got retconned to the early twelfth — which I vastly prefer, given the nice, juicy über-villain we then get in Prince John. But in the early twelfth century, there were no friars in England; the mendicant orders came much later. And I’m trying to keep this series as historically accurate as possible, to compensate for any liberties I might take for narrative purposes. I do have plans for Tuck, and you’ll get an pretty good idea of them before our first arc is finished; but he won’t be a friar, and might not be recognizable in some other respects, as well. 1b361d87-ba02-48f7-af84-d9956d79445c

The synopsis mentions homosexuality (through Prince John’s laws against it)—can readers also expect to see other shades of queer identity in Merry Men?

Robert: Yes, they can, Jon. Beginning right in issue #1.

Jackie and Marissa, can you share a little bit about your process when you receive a Merry Men script?

Marissa: When I get the script I read it and try to pick out important emotional beats. Once I get the line art look it over to plan lighting and figure out how the emotional color beats would work best with the line art. Then I send the pages to a flatter. When I get those back I color correct and render.Then I usually set it aside for a bit and look back at it to refine the rendering, light and eye flow. The covers are a little different. I really try to tell a strong story with just one image. So I tend to push my colors a little harder on the covers than I do on the interiors. It is necessary for it to blast off the shelf, but also not rely on the same tricks as the covers around it.

Jackie: First thing I do is read the whole script. I’ll look for anything that might come up throughout it that I need to include early on; any costume or environmental elements, even a plot element that occurs later on that I can elude to in earlier pages.  Then, I print out the script and sketch out rough compositions for each panel on the script pages themselves (something I used to do when I did theater). I plan the page layouts based on how much real estate I wanna give each panel according to importance, amount of dialogue, etc.

Luckily, this isn’t hard, because Robert’s dialogue and descriptions are so lovely and give me room to flex. From there, I do thumbnails and pencils in Manga Studio, then print out the blue line on bristol and ink over that. All along this process, I check for continuity errors and any anachronisms I might have accidentally included. Also, I constantly refer back to the script to lead me on acting cues and anything else it calls for.

Can you tease what readers can look forward to in the first several issues ofMerry Men?

Robert: In our first story arc, you’re going to see the Sheriff of Nottingham’s campaign against “merry men” spread, and our band of heroes evolve from forest-dwelling refugees into a small guerrilla army. You’ll see love affairs tested—some survive, others may not. You’ll see new versions of classic Robin Hood villains, including Prince John, the Bishop of Hereford, and the depraved Guy of Gisbourne. You’ll see a flashback to the Crusades, with Robin and Richard the Lionheart as warrior-lovers in the Middle East, and you’ll witness the travails of an abandoned wife in 12th century England (there will be women in our cast; most definitely so). Above all, you’ll witness Robert Godwinson becoming Robin Hood—with lots of action and adventure along the way, and some reflection on the choices we make, and why we make them. And of course you’ll see lots of gorgeous artwork, gorgeously colored. Sounds like a deal to me.

Jackie: An excellent script that cleverly draws parallels between the world of Merry Men and current social/political issues. Great fight scenes, hard choices, and characters that you’ll get to know in a whole new way. Also, stone-cold hotties.

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Merry Men, by Robert Rodi, Jackie Lewis, and Marissa Louise, debuts June 1st, 2016. It will be available to pre-order in the April PREVIEWS catalogue, and it’s final order cutoff date is May 9th, 2016.

Interview reformatted for clarity.

Art Roundup: Finn/Poe of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This piece originally appeared on Panels.

Welcome to Art Roundup, where we pick a comics character Star Wars ship and spotlight its awesomeness with rad fan creations. In honor of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this spotlight is dedicated to its most popular ship: Finn/Poe a.k.a “Stormpilot” a.k.a “Puffin.”

What better way to start than with this piece by Phil Noto? And sure, it’s not super romantic, but consider: Phil Noto.

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Here’s an adorable “prom pose” illustration by Iledra.

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Poe Dameron’s jacket is no doubt an-indemand cosplay item. What exactly is it made of? Luckily, Tumblr user Lava-Alley has the answer.

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Oscar Isaac sings and plays the guitar to “Star Wars”; it only makes sense that Poe should share his talent. Thanks to Noelle Stevenson for this piece.

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[Edited] When trouble strikes, Finn runs, as seen in this Daryl Toh piece.

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In response, Poe takes Finn for a fast-paced ride in this piece by Leaf Puppy!

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Ugly sweaters are a cultural force that span all universes—at least these, in this pieceby Tumblr user Deadpai, are especially cozy.

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If someone breaks out the mistletoe for Life Day (Is there mistletoe in the Star Wars universe? Can there be?), it’ll look a lot like Cquaer‘s very adorable piece.

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Disney, I need you to contract Reed Black for a BB-8 Has Two Daddies all-ages picture book NOW.

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Out with a BOOM!: An Overview of Queer Comics 2015

This piece originally appeared on Panels.

This piece primarily covers the second half of 2015, as the first half was reviewed in 2015 So Far: A Queer Comics Midterm Review earlier this year. Highlights: bisexual Gotham City Sirens, transgender Sera in Marvel’s Angela, multiple queer ongoings from BOOM! Studios and DC, Jem and the Holograms.

The year 2016 is here, it’s fear (Trump’s poll numbers are rising in my state y’all and I’mnervous), and I’m not sure I’ll get used to it.

To avoid dealing with the present, let’s reflect on the past. How was queer comics representation in the latter half of 2015?

BOOM! Studios

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Lumberjanes #17 | Cover by Carolyn Nowak

If I could bestow a queer comics award upon a monthly publisher, it would—without question—go to BOOM! Studios.

Lumberjanes, The Woods, The Spire, We(l)come Back, Help Us! Great Warrior, Cognetic, Bravest Warriors, Giant Days. All are comics published in the past six months that featured a variety of queer characters: a questioning college student, a transgender lady warrior, a bisexual mermaid, reincarnated queer lovers, and two different sets of (predominantly) queer kids earning their flannel trying to survive supernatural forests.

A great deal of these comics are also all-ages accessible, making them ideal for all children—for the queer ones to learn their self-worth and for the rest to learn about side-shaves (and also acceptance of their queer peers).

Representation on the page is important, but queer creator representation is too; fortunately, BOOM! still features that in spades, with continued work by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, James Tynion IV, Kate Leth, and more.

DC Comics

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DC Comics Bombshells #7 | Cover by Ant Lucia

Little has changed for DC Comics since its partial line-wide DCYou relaunch in June; considering the generally queer-positive nature of the launch, that’s a pretty okay thing.

Harley’s Little Black Book has joinedMidnighter, Catwoman, Constantine: The Hellblazer, and the gang of Harley books on DC’s queer-led landscape. Though Batwoman’s general absence in main continuity remains frustrating, she does have a leading role in DC Comics Bombshells, an alternate history World War II story that features several other queer ladies in its rotating cast.

In Batgirl, Babs’ roommate Frankie Charles has ascended into a more prominent role as almost-Oracle and her former roommate Alysia Yeoh, a bisexual trans woman, got married in a recent issue.

Lowlights include Justice League 3001‘s sustained, awkward handling of Guy Gardner’s gender identity, the sidelining of the recently-introduced Renee Montoya inDetective Comics, and the general lack of queer PoC in DC’s lineup.

Marvel Comics

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Angela: Queen of Hel #1 | Cover by Julian Totino Tedesco

In April, teenage Iceman came out (with a little help from everyone’s favorite telepath, Jean Grey). The story was put on hold and he finally came out to his older self seven months later.

That “hold” was caused by Secret Wars, Marvel’s major summer event—one that was startlingly bereft of the LGBTQ.

While Maestro, Howard the Human, and Nomad were focal points for different series, queer characters were, at best, peripheral. There were queer alternate universe takes on some characters inRunaways or Siege, but that means little long-term when the AU tagline comes with an expiration date.

Though the ensuing relaunch billed itself as “All-New, All-Different,” the habit of sidelining queer characters was anything but. During ANAD Marvel’s rolling announcements, it seemed as if at least three queer characters would nab solo titles out of the several dozens announced: Hercules, Deadpool, and Angela. Apparently, not so.

In a rapid succession of interviews and tweets, Hercules became definitely-straight-“who knows?“, Deadpool became definitely-not-queer-because-of-his-regenerating-brain-cells, and Angela, despite many recent Sera smooches, becameLady No Labels.

In the dozens more announced ANAD series since its launch, zero have been given to pre-established queer characters. Hyperion, Black Knight, and Starbrand & Nightmask series are worth the risks, but Northstar, Ms. America, and Iceman & Iceman sure aren’t.

As with Secret Wars, queer characters exist—just in limited roles. Wiccan and Hulkling fill out a nine-person roster in New Avengers, both Icemen share team titles with at least six other characters, and Ms. America gets the best ratio on the five-personUltimates.

It’s hard to reconcile Marvel’s concerted decisions to elevate its women and characters of color when it’s simultaneously sabotaging its queer representation. The company’s been fielding these concerns for at least seven months; why hasn’t anything changed?

Image Comics

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Virgil | Cover by Artyom Trakhanov

On the first day of 2015 Part 2: Electric Boogaloo, Image—with a rainbow Twitter icon—published Airboy #2, a comic widely derided by transgender critics for its transphobia.

Writer James Robinson apologized through GLAAD to the transgender community for the issue’s offense and impact.

Fortunately, the rest of Image’s year has been buoyed by series featuring queer leads, including Rat Queens, Kaptara, Ringside, Shutter, Virgil, Saints, Trees, The Wicked + The Divine, and Empty Zone. I can’t say it with certainty that it’s Image’s most prolific year with queer leads, but it sure seems like it.

Everyone Else

Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess, from Action Lab Entertainment, launched to critical acclaim in July, and IDW Publishing’s Jem and the Holograms continues to succeed critically and in the direct market. Queer creators and queer romance stories are a commonplace occurrence over at Rosy Press.

Most other monthly publishers have had at least one series with a queer lead in the past year, though I’m unaware of any from Valiant Entertainment.

Dates! An Anthology of Queer Historical Fiction, Duck! Third Time is the Charm,Oath Anthology of New Heroes (full disclosure: I’m a writer in this one),Shadoweyes: Volume One, and Alphabet are just some of the several queer comics Kickstarters to successfully crowdfund over the past several months, collectively reaching over $120,000 in funding.

Hopes for 2016

Last week, Marvel editor and Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) co-creator Sana Amanat championed representation as a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers; it was a pretty big, pretty awesome deal. I, like many other queer readers, would like to celebrate in Amanat’s enthusiasm and not feel excluded by it.

I’d like to see all publishers add more (and in most cases, any) transgender and non-binary characters and creators to their publishing slates. I’d like to see more queer characters of color and I’d like see even more all-ages accessible queer comics, particularly some with queer male characters.

Queer comics creators stole the Eisners last year and FlameCon‘s first flare-up drew thousands. Several publishers are beginning to acknowledge the value of an LGBTQ audience; those who don’t may find themselves affixed with labels they can’t so easily dismiss.

Needs More Colors in the Rainbow: Jessica Jones and LGBTQ Representation

Originally posted on Panels.net

Warning: SPOILERS for the entire first season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones.

If you’ve finished the entire first season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones: are you okay? Have you remained hydrated? Did you take yoga breaks in between episodes? Blare some Enya? Practice your rhythmic breathing? If not, soothe yourself now before you, with fistfulls of napkins and waffles, wind up sob-screaming at an innocent IHOP waitress who just doesn’t seem to understand that NO you do not want the grape jelly right now because it is purple and GET. IT. AWAY.

I speak hypothetically.

Jessica Jones (indulge me in ditching the wayward “Marvel’s“) is a lot of things: the second-entry into Marvel’s Netflix plan, the same plan’s only female-led entry, a rousing success for Krysten Ritter, the most emotionally-taxing bingewatch I’ve ever undergone, and the source of my nightmares.

It’s also the first Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) property to feature a major queer character (in Carrie-Anne Moss’s Jeri Hogarth) and the second to feature a visibly queer character at all (beat out by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just two months ago).

Jessica Jones, however, does nothing in half-measures. By my last count, the show features seven queer characters: one major (Jeri), two recurring (Wendy Ross-Hogarth, Pam), and four minor (Sissy Garcia, Zack, Justin Beaudoin, and Justin Beaudoin’s unnamed husband).

After finishing the season, I find myself both happy for the quantity of queer representation on the show, but also even more desperate for representation in other MCU properties.

Jessica Jones is a show that’s dark and complicated. It’s swimming—drowning, even—in brutal topics and moral complexity. There’s no black-and-white, just many shades of grey. And people of all backgrounds should get to occupy all of those shades.

Unfortunately, I am a bit disappointed at where the show does leave its queer characters: in either exceedingly dark shades of grey or dead.

Two of the show’s most sympathetic queer characters are the women on either sides of Jeri Hogarth—Wendy and Pam—and my use of “most sympathetic” underscores how morally murky the show gets. Wendy blackmails Jeri (I can’t say I blame her) and Pam is the Other Woman in this relationship (though she’s quick to turn on Jeri’s shenanigans).

Wendy gets abused by both Jessica Jones and Kilgrave and winds up with her head split by a table; Pam ends up in jail for uniting Wendy with that table (it was self-defense from a mind-controlled Wendy).

The minor queer characters don’t fare better. Sissy Garcia is a violent, predatory butch lesbian. Justin Beaudoin gets mind-controlled by Kilgrave and is then framed for double-murder—one of the victims is his husband. Zack escapes the show unscathed, but that’s mostly because he’s totally irrelevant—so much so that I imagine most viewers of the show have no idea who I’m talking about. Hint: He’s Trish’s assistant.

jeri-hogarth

And that leaves Jeri, one of the most fascinating characters on this show.

In the final episode of the season, Jessica describes Jeri (to Jeri) as “a sack of dark, oozing shit in an expensive suit […] which makes you the best shark in town.”

In practice, viewers see way more of the “oozing shit in an expensive suit” than they do the “best shark in town” part. Jeri has small moments of savvy throughout the show, but nothing that manages to eclipse the colossal stupidity that was freeing Kilgrave. She knows that Kilgrave mind-controlled a college girl, held her hostage, raped her, and forced her to murder her parents. She knows that he basically forced a surgeon to perform vivisection on an ambulance driver. She knows that enough to want to keep the aborted fetus carrying his DNA. And yet.

If the show’s trying to sell her as brilliant, calculated, and logical, her decision to free Kilgrave wholesale unraveled that.

Throughout the series, I found myself waiting for the show to humanize her. Not to excuse her actions or even make her sympathetic, but to show us more about how she came to be. Why did her marriage with Wendy fall apart? What did Pam see in Jeri? Is this mic even on?

If she was supposed to come off as a vaguely incompetent monster, I wish we could have seen more of why. If she wasn’t, well, whoops, that’s what we got.

Looking at the bleak landscape of jailed, dead, and monstrous queer characters (this sounds like the saddest take on F**k, Marry, Kill ever) before me, I struggle to recommend this to queer friends as much as I’d like to. Tired of dead or tragic lesbians? Well, this show is chock full. Want to feel better represented here than the rest of the MCU? If you’re looking for quantity? Sure. Anything else? Not really.

Spoilers for season two of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel’s Daredevilahead

Even the faint sparks of queer representation throughout the MCU fall into these same unfortunate categories. Victoria Hand and her girlfriend Isabelle are queer women in the comics. In Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Victoria Hand and an Isabel are never confirmed to be queer, but they are both murdered. Daredevil‘s queer-coded character Wesley is a villain—who might be in love with his boss—that winds up murdered. Iron Man 2 villain Justin Hammer, in the Thor: The Dark World Bluray/DVD one-shot “All Hail the King,” is shown to be “prison gay.”

It’s not that I don’t want villainous or morally dark queer characters; I do. I just also want us to get to embody the (complex) heroism that Trish, Malcolm, and Jessica had this season. And for us to get to embody villains and corpses less—especially the nameless ones.

Allowing queer characters to exist in all shades of the human experience requires showing them as heroes too. Something that Jessica Jones, and the MCU at large, has failed to do.