Content Warning: Discusses the hate crime that occurred in the Pulse nightclub shooting.
The summer of 2016 shocked the United States when a lone gunman, Omar Mateen, entered the Orlando, FL nightclub, Pulse, on the evening of June 12 and opened fire. A known LGBT club celebrating Orlando’s Pride Weekend, the venue was full of people of all ages and walks of life, celebrating themselves, loved ones, and love. In the aftermath, 49 victims were murdered and another 53 were wounded.
In response to the tragedy and violence visited upon a minority population, a groundswell of support rolled in. Lines in Orlando wrapped around blocks with waiting blood donors. Tributes were made and victims recognized. Donations poured in to help pay for costs incurred by victims and their families. The comics community was no different. What started as an idea quickly snowballed as more and more writers and artists volunteered their time. The result? IDW’s Love is Love anthology, of which proceeds go to benefit the victims of the Pulse shooting. Some of our writers also purchased a copy, and have selected a passage that resonated with them, as well as touching on what they hope to see in the comics industry for 2017.
I’ll start by saying that no, I did not, in fact, choose the Supergirl contribution. It was beautiful and moving, too. In fact, there were so many cathartic, sob-inducing, happy smile creating, and all around lovely pieces in this tribute to the Pulse nightclub shooting, I had a hard time picking one that resonated most. I’d think I had one, then found another. And another. And another. All that to say, pick this comic up if you can. It’s beautiful.
In the end, I chose a comic written by Jeff Dixon with art by Karl Slominski that tells an entire story of the love and loss of a queer woman of color entirely through the images of hands. Hands clasp each other in lonely, mute appeal to be seen. A hand reaches down to pull up and make equal. Two people clasp hands as life marches on, a bracelet with two halves of a single heart marking their love. Blackness, then the first woman’s hands filled with flowers, touching the grave of her loved one. Finally, hands touch her back, her shoulders, seeing her, loving her, supporting her in her grief. The only words: “To those left empty-handed…let our hands support.”
The colors are muted and from a limited spectrum, the tone encapsulating both joy and grief all at once. It struck me both in the power of using starkness to convey so much emotion and in the need for such few words to tell a powerful story. Love, loss, acceptance, joy, grief, loneliness. All of these make an appearance and mingle together. This is what life feels like: all of these emotions together all at once. Impressions of color and feeling that make a coherent story.
What got me the most? Just how much the final image reminded me of scenes in a church. I’ve seen this display time and again, yet rarely as a show of solidarity for loss. This is what the church should be. This is what my religious commitment tells me I ought to do for others. Support them in their grief; listen to their loss; come alongside wordlessly and stand with them in their pain. No platitudes, no advice, no diminishment of experience, or justification, no angry shouting that people deserve it or looks of disgust. Just support for the empty handed. Because love is love.
When Love is Love was first announced I had some…conflicting feelings. It’s not what you think, trust me. It’s just that I was surprised by the specific person who was organizing it, and the promo image that accompanied the announcement. You know the one. That Rafael Albuquerque pin-up of Batwoman holding a combo American/Pride flag. Which I will obviously be blowing up and framing and putting up on my wall, but that’s not the point. That genuinely strange combination had me very concerned at first, but that certainly didn’t stop me from pre-ordering a print copy directly from IDW the second I was able.
The cause was, and is, far more important than any personal feeling I may or may not have. In any case, once the first previews started rolling in, I stopped being worried.
And it just so happens that this was one of those previews. I saw this quite a bit in advance, actually, somewhere around October, I think? And good lord it hit me hard. Really damn hard. I’m really not quite sure what to say about it other than it’s just…it is. It’s brave to wake up in the morning and roll out of bed into a world that hates you. It’s brave to not let that hate define you or discourage you or weaken you or, hell, stop you from doing what you want to do. Being who you want, and need, to be. I mean, I’ve written on this before but the fact that Kate is a superhero because she is gay, and to have her more or less be the damned poster child for this thing?
Good lord. I hesitate to say that you could hardly ask for a character more perfectly suited for the role, as there’s always someone better, but you get what I mean. This is raw, it’s real, and it hurts. And it should hurt, because it sure as hell hurt then and there’s no reason it won’t stop hurting now.
As for this new year of comics, what I want from it?
C’mon. I think you fine folks know me well enough by now. Do I really need to spell it out?
…it’s 1000% more queerness and explicitly non-Christian protagonists. That’s, uhm, that’s what I want. Those things.
And also Kate punching a “Rebranded” Nazi in the face in her solo series. Which I would also frame and hang on my wall.
As soon as I see anything reflective of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s wonderful speech at the Tony Awards, I tear up. And then I read. I must.
Love is Love is something I heard about last minute, and I just had to partake. Because you may or may not know this about me, but I am from Orlando. This place is still my home and has been for two decades.
I work five minutes away from Pulse. It was my first gay club experience, as it was for a current Riverdale resident (featured in the anthology). I panicked and cried for hours as I worked the day of the tragedy, five minutes away from a place I loved. I tried to reach out to as many as I could and still kept thinking of more.
I related so much to these tales, and yet I still couldn’t. I reminisced about my friends coming out to me, as some of these stories do.
In a way, the massive collaboration is therapeutic. Knowing that some of my favorite superheroes will stand with my city, my community- it means so much. The Harry Potter dedication was poignant and beautiful. There are even a few funny bits, such as Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) throwing away his weapons, saying he’ll “stick to karate” instead.
I could go on about this forever, but here is the takeaway. This book screams to love, accept, and remember, and I think we all should listen.