Steve Orlando talks Midnighter, Virgil and LGBT representation [INTERVIEW]

We previously helped spread the words about the upcoming talk from acclaimed writer Steve Orlando, set to take place in Glasgow later this month as part of Aye Write! Glasgow’s Book Festival.

Well, with the event just a few weeks away – and hot on the heels of the release of the collected first volume of DC’s Midnighter – we were thrilled to be able to sit down and have a chat with Steve about his work, his motivations and his Image Comics original graphic novel, Virgil. 

Big Comic Page: Obviously, MIDNIGHTER is an openly gay superhero. DC seems to be very inclusive with regards to their characters and LGBT issues. Batgirl has two transgender characters and Batwoman is also openly gay. Was this a factor when you decided to work with DC on MIDNIGHTER?

Steve Orlando: Of course! DC has been nothing but supportive of the book, and what we sent out to do. And really, the titles you mention paved the way for the latest MIDNIGHTER series, which itself stars a character whose creation in the 90s in part paved the way for Batwoman and other queer characters. It is wonderful to see these depictions germinating outward and aggregating across comics and media in general.

With MIDNIGHTER, I wanted a chance to bring a character that strongly affected me as a young person to a new generation and show how vital he is. He offered a chance to add another face to the growing diversity of faces in comics, and do it in his own spectacular, exciting way.

BCP: Do you think that comics are reflecting LGBT issues enough within their story arcs/characters or do you think there is still work to be done?

SO: When it comes to representation, there is always more work to be done. Because there isn’t just one LGBT narrative, there isn’t just one narrative for any minority group, or any intersectional group between them. There are as many stories and lives, faces to be shown in these communities, as any other. It’s impossible to represent the queer community with one character, ten, or twenty. It’s folly to try. And that doesn’t mean they should all be in one book – it’s about working towards a depiction of the world that matches the world around us, filtered through the inspirational, iconic lens that makes comics great.

BCP: Your Image publication, VIRGIL, is based in Jamaica and highlights the serious issues related to homosexuality and violence there. I understand it was intended to be set in Sub Saharan Africa but you then moved it to Jamaica. Why the change?

SO: The change there is all about the work of comics – showing people something they’ve never seen before. And when it comes to Jamaica, the struggle for the queer community there has not been spoken about as much, though people are talking, and thankfully more people will continue to. And it’s about contrast. Most mainstream readers would likely first identify Jamaica as vacation paradise, a stereotypical laid back getaway. But the fact is, for many there, it is anything but that. For the people living in storm drains, it’s anything but that. That contrast between expectation and reality drives the struggles of these people home in and even great way.

BCP: VIRGIL was initially funded through Kickstarter before being given a mainstream release with Image. Do you think Kickstarter is a good way to get more controversial content out there to the wider comic community?

SO: I think it’s a good way to find funding to produce a professional level comic, which in turn allows you to gain wider distribution and publication through a company like Image. Kickstarter CAN be good for finding a base for controversial content, but crowdfunding can also reveal uncomfortable truths about the crowd. VIRGIL, which has no white characters in it, was nearly a failure on Kickstarter until the last minute intervention of queer investors of color.

BCP: Image seems to be knocking it out of the park at the moment in terms of titles and content. How does it feel to work with a creator-owned publisher and the DC powerhouse? Are there creative differences?

SO: It feels great! Of course there are differences, and I enjoy both. Working on creator owned, no matter what your job is, you’re also all editing each other and project managing each other to make sure everyone is working at their best and the book comes out on time. It is a much more holistic process and everyone on the team wears all the hats usually, in different ways. Work for hire allows you to focus specifically on one aspect, in my case writing, which is a relief at times to be able to hone in on one skill. It’s all different, it’s all comics, just different ways to get the book into people’s hands.

BCP: You are appearing at Glasgow’s Aye Write! Book festival later this month. Have you ever been to Scotland before? Are you looking forward to coming to Glasgow?

SO: I have not been, and I am excited to come! It looks like an amazing city with a lot to explore, and with my background as a spirits buyer, and rare scotch fan, I am excited to finally visit places I have wanted to see for almost a decade.

BCP: Scotland has an incredible amount of successful comic writers and artists. Would you like to work with any of them in the future?

SO: Absolutely! I’ve long admitted FLEX MENTALLO is my favorite book ever, so I owe my current job in comics TO Scotland in many ways. As for people I’d like to work with, I am actually ALWAYS looking for a way to work with Scotland’s own Iain Laurie, one of the most unique and interesting artists working in comics today.

BCP: And just before you go…have you ever tried our Haggis?

SO: I haven’t! BUT I’m hoping to during my visit.

BCP: Thanks again for your time, Steve.

Steve will be appearing at the Mitchell Library on the 19th of March in association with Outspoken Arts Scotland & Unthank Comics, will be talking about his career and answering questions about his work and what the world of comics looks like for LGBT creators and characters. Tickets are priced at just £9.

For full information, including a link to the official Facebook Event Page, CLICK HERE.

YJeoMHHPInterview by: Cat McGlinn
Cat Tweets from @LibraryCat10.

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