AICN COMICS Q&@: Majin Fu talks with writer Brian Aderson about gay superheroes, DOMA, and the new SO SUPER DUPER comic! Plus a review of the book!
@’s by Brian Anderson
Writer of SO SUPER DUPER!!!
MAJIN FU (MF): Who was your favorite superhero as a kid? If you had more than one favorite please list them all.
BRIAN ANDERSON (BA): Hands down my fave superhero as a boy – and still as a man-child – is She-Hulk. The original She-Hulk, Jenn Walters – not this present day Red She-Hulk Betty Ross stuff. (No offense, Betty! You’re fab!) Something about being big, green, sexy, sassy and strong just spoke to the impressionable gay boy maturing within me. She-Hulk really is the reason I became a lifelong comic book fan; FANTASTIC FOUR #268 when she fought the mask of Doom and crashed off the top of the Baxter Building, man, I loved her and comic books from that moment on! John Byrne remains the definitive She-Hulk artist.
A few other favorites (note they’re not ALL women):
Wonder Woman: Because, like, I’m gay and it’s a biological imperative that all gay men love Wonder Woman. We don’t have a say or choice in the matter; we’re all just born to love Wonder Woman.
Spider-Woman: That hair, that costume, the web-pits! Adore!
Rogue: Like I a need a reason, Sugah?
Batgirl: The 60’s TV show did it for me. Plus, she had yellow knee-high, high-heeled go-go boots and she never seemed to throw a punch, only kick. How I longed to kick bad guys in the face wearing those boots.
Dazzler: Not the disco era so much as the Australian outback era with the blue bathing suit and the ‘Zark’ finger lasers of hers.
Daredevil: Because his comic was the very first comic book I ever bought as a boy (there was a tiger in it!) and because he’s a ginger. I have a thing for gingers.
MF: Did they come into play at all in terms of your inspiration for SO SUPER DUPER?
BA: I think everything comes into play when you create a comic book. All your life experiences, all your favorite stories, music, sexual positions…well, maybe not sexual positions so much, but everything else does, for sure.
In fact, eagle-eyed readers of SO SUPER DUPER will spot that Psyche’s costume is inspired by Aurora’s yellow, white and blue scarfed costume change back in classic ALPHA FLIGHT comics of the 80’s, also by the legendary John Byrne. Clearly that dramatic new look stayed with me.
MF: What makes SO SUPER DUPER a story that needed to be told?
BA: I’m not narcissistic enough to boastfully declare that my storytelling abilities in SO SUPER DUPER are so Pulitzer Prize-worthy that my story “needed” to be told, as though it will change the very fabric of comics and forever alter gay rights for the better (writers take themselves so seriously sometimes.)
I just had always wanted to write comics, and I decided to stop ‘wanting to write them’ and just went and wrote one. They say (whoever “they” are, they sure are know-it-all-y) write what you know, so I wrote about a gay superhero who was a little on the fruity side, somewhat lazy, kind of annoying and pesty, yet someone who still tries to be the hero he knew he could always be.
And I wanted my comic to be accessible to people of all ages, all sexualities, and of all alternative realities and universes (whether Ultimate or Earth 2). I also made a conscious decision to never back away from the character being gay while also making sure to not base his gayness solely in the fact that he likes to have sex with men. It’s not a sexual book and me having hot, delicious and frequent bedframe-mashing (take that Bella and Edward) sex with my boyfriend isn’t the only thing about me that makes me gay (though it is one of the best.)
MF: Are you happy with the timing of the full story's publication and the Supreme Court's decision pertaining to DOMA?
BA: Am I happy? I’m downright mother fudging ecstatic! Not just because my book’s out, but because finally the gays are making major headway (heehee, I said ‘head’) in society. And I can marry my beautiful man now in the gayest wedding you’ll ever see ever. My book being out is like the icing on the yummiest cake you ever did taste.
Of course, I couldn’t have asked for a better time for this gay little superhero story of mine to come out. Although, full disclosure, Destiny from the X-Men (the future seeing precognitive mutant) gave me a prediction before she died 20 years ago that DOMA would be struck down in June 2013 and I should hop on the gay bandwagon and get SO SUPER DUPER out in time to reap the benefits of all the pro-gay joy in our nation! (Thanks Destiny, you fabulous old broad you!)
MF: You've said before that Psyche is you, making this story almost autobiographical. Were any other characters also inspired by your real life?
BA: For shizzle they were! The character Psyche ends up with, Mighty Wing with the bald head and enormous pink wings, is my fiancé and gay homo same sex lover of 12 years. And I would say Sassy, Psyche’s BFF, is a amalgam of all my best girlfriends over the years (shout out to my straight lady besties--love ya, sisters!), and the mean girls in the comic – the ones who put Psyche down throughout the story – are all the bullies and jerks who were (and are) super mean and jerky and bully-ish to me throughout my life (mean jerks!).
MF: This is just something I was confused about while reading you work: why doesn't Psyche recognize Ultra Woman upon her return, even though it's clearly her? Was it really just because she was more antagonistic?
BA: Ultra Woman appeared to Psyche in person during his first time in the field, after his teammate dies, after he gets powers granted him by his mentor and in a moment of extreme stress and duress. So the last thing he expected was to find his beloved, favorite superhero show up after she had been gone from the media for many, many years, much less have her attack him. It stood to reason, in my mind, that he would be so focused on saving Captain Idol’s life he wouldn’t recognize her. Also, ummmm, he has face blindness. Yeah…that’s it. And…uh…he’s color blind? And well, maybe it’s a just a plot device that didn’t quite pan out as well as I hoped. You decide.
MF: Several characters lead some really interesting arcs as the story progresses. Were these intended from the start, or did they evolve organically with the writing?
BA: I wish I could say I was this amazing writer who had copious amounts of notes and plot points intricately planned with emotional beats and pacing finely laid out so that everything that happens is perfectly set up, but the reality is I let the story dictate to me where it should go.
I do have a grand plan for the story, an idea where the characters should end up, but more often then not those plans change based on how the story plays out, which I find to be much more fun.
MF: How did Celina Hernandez get involved with this project?
BA: I discovered Celina on an ancient and nearly forgotten social media site (no, not Friendster) called MySpace. I was going through a crazy “friend every comic book-related person I could find” mode at the time and I stumbled across her work. I loved her style instantly and knew that my story really needs a genuine artist who could, like, actually draw. I needed someone to take over the book and save it from the horrible artist who started it.
MF: Do you have any aspirations of continuing the SO SUPER DUPER story with other creative teams?
BA: Yes, I would love to actually. I have a few ideas and I think I’d like to consider the “what happens after you fly off into the sunset” kind of story. I’d love to move the characters from their present fun and cheerfully colorful world and make it more ‘realistic.’ Maybe tackle some serious issues a gay superhero couple might face. Also, seeing as how my fiancé and I are about to get married AND have a baby via surrogate, I thought it might be interesting to explore that side of gay life. Can you still have bed frame-destroying sex and have a family? (Please, Hera--I hope so!)
MF: Why do you think there aren't more gay superheroes in comics?
BA: Money. That and a deep-seeded hatred for homos (just kidding.) It’s the money, honey. Mainstream comic companies are focused, as they probably should be, on their bottom line. And what sells it what they’re gonna produce. That’s why there are 19 thousand X-Titles and Bat-related comics. Comic books have to make the cash in order for companies to produce more comics.
If we gay comic geeks, and there are a LOT of us out in the world (raise yo’ hands in the air gays, woot woot), want more gay superheroes we need to support those books with gay superheroes in them. Money talks, honies. That’s the reason Kevin Keller from ARCHIE has his own book--because it’s popular. So c’mon, my fellow homos--let’s unite and support gay comics! Your country needs you!
MF: What is your favorite comic in publication today?
BA: Oh gee, I always dread being asked this question because it seems to change issue to issue--moreso nowadays that writers and artists are on and off books within, like, the same issue it seems. All the upheaval and creator changes in today’s comic books make it a challenge to fully invest myself in a comic. That’s the numero uno problem with comic books today: so many creative changes which lead to the quality of the comic dropping issue to issue (fanboy rant over, sorry about that.)
But if you were to twist my nards and force an answer out of me, I’d say ALL NEW X-MEN is a book I really enjoy. It’s just firing on all cylinders right now. The art is gorgeous and the story is always a surprise; Bendis is really kicking some serious x-ass. In fact, all the X-Books are great right now.
MF: Whose work in comics has inspired you?
BA: So many people I admire, from Chris Claremont, to Peter David, to Marjorie Liu, to John Byrne, to Rick Remender, to Gail Simone, to the afore-mentioned Brian Michael Bendis. I follow writers more than artists.
But if I had to say who’s inspired me the most, who I’ve meet personally and treasure and admire, would be Trina Robbins. That woman is a legend, a true talent, a survivor, a genuine comic book fan and amazing creator (Google her and read up on her, I’ll wait for you to come back.) When she wrote and drew MEET MISTY for Marvel Comics my life changed forever. Her art and writing touched the gay boy within me like nothing else.
I wish I could list some fellow gay indie creators, but personally the majority of them have been so exclusive of me and my work, often shutting me out of their projects and get-togethers, that I can’t honestly name any of them (I’m sure it’s just me and my irritating personality, but still!) You’d think gay indie comic creators would be super supportive of each other, but most of them are in these cliques (not all, most) that it’s like “Mean Girls” only with penises. The gay indie comic book scene is pretty cutthroat, funnily enough.
MF: What's next from Brian Andersen? Do you have any stories you'd like to tell, or do you have other goals?
BA: I always have stories I want to tell. I need to finish up my Oz-inspired story “Friend of Dorothy” and then I’d like to begin a few other ideas I have creeping around my thoughts.
Of course, the ultimate (far-fetched) goal would be to write for a major publisher (a boy can dream, right?). I’d die to write an established female character. So hit me up, Editors-at-a-legit-publishing-company: if you’re desperate enough to hire me I’ll work super hard for you AND I’m not above performing sexual favors to get hired. If there’s a comic book casting couch I’ll lay on it, over it, under it. Whatever it takes.
MF: …And here’s the review!
SO SUPER DUPER VOL.1 TPBKWriter: Brian Anderson
Artist: Celina Hernandez
“I totally know I’m fully laying it on mega-thick!”
Truer words have never said by a comic’s protagonist. SO SUPER DUPER is the love child of Brian Anderson, originally a web comic which then became a fixture on the Newsarama blog page, so rich with unadulterated passion and colorful dialogue you’ll think Priscilla Queen of the Dessert, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the Village People and Lady Gaga are taking a live tour through your personal mind space. If that sounds uncomfortable, may I suggest you lighten up and start thinking about what color boa best compliments your eye color, because this ish be fabulous.
SO SUPER DUPER, or SSD as it will henceforth be referenced, is the story of Psyche, an empath (aka feely-feels expert, but think more like Professor X and you’re closer) who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance after a certain Captain Idol (a thinly-veiled Superman pastiche) invites him to become the newest member of the “Amazin’naughts!” basically representing every superhero team that ever existed. This is pretty much your typical Marvel-esque, “superpeople with problems” tale except ten times more gay, and that’s totally a good thing. The cover itself claims this is “Quite Possibly the Gayest Superhero in the Universe!” so you know this thing’s wearing that pride on its sleeve, or its glitter-littered wrist or whatever.
And why shouldn’t it? Much of today’s media seems so predisposed with pandering to the oh-so-precious 18-34 years of age crowd that it winds up being something entirely different from what any of said demographic actually wants to see. Maybe that’s presumptuous of me to say (although I do fit into that category), but just look at DC’s direction with their current cinematic lineup and perhaps you’ll see where I’m going with this. Not every book need be “edgy” to appeal to an audience, nor does a story necessarily have to be dark to contain compelling pathos. SSD is an ample example of just how this works.
The book’s passion for the subject matter and enthusiasm for its characters is obvious from the get-go, as Anderson, who also personally illustrated the first two thirds of this book, weaves a yarn of humorous naïvete and true friendship without ever losing an ounce of heart or becoming too heavy-handed to have fun. It may take awhile to get used to the frequently flamboyant inner thoughts of Psyche, or the undeniably amateurish art, but that’s all part of the book’s charm.
This book had a delightful self-awareness that was admittedly a bit grating at first, but soon I realized this self-reflexive nature was entirely deliberate, and that may be the book’s best trait when all is said and done. Anderson is purposefully playing with your expectations via various social stereotypes as well as superhero comics tropes, not to perpetuate such misguided patterns, but to subvert them. For example, when our hero Psyche’s agent suggests he come out of the closet as a publicity stunt, he is hesitant not because the dude wants to come out on his own terms, but because he is in fact the typical nervous wreck of a virgin we see so often in pop culture, unsure of himself or even his own sexuality. So maybe he’s pigeonholed, but at least he’s relatable, and the irony of a self-proclaimed “empathy” who’s not even in tune with his own feelings is certainly a nice touch.
You may be upset at first because one character or another seems to be nothing but a one-dimensional figure or run-on joke, but keep reading and you’ll see this book has a lot more to offer than some of the eternal appropriations we see weekly from television and other pop culture outlets. Several times I found myself rolling my eyes as the same dead horse was once again beaten with the stick of cultural apathy, only to turn the page and be completely surprised by how the book seemed to utilize my own expectations to teach me things I never knew about myself. Wow--wait, what? Guess that makes this more than contemporary cash grab by way of topical relevance--this is straight-up art, folks.
Speaking of the art, I would be remiss for saying the first two thirds of this book looked fabulous. Anderson is clearly not a trained artist, as some of the characters look wildly inconsistent, backgrounds are usually barren or nonexistent, and many of the hands are frequently illustrated with the thumbs on the wrong side, unless those are supposed to all be really short, fat pinkies. Fortunately, this unabashed sloppiness suits the material, as so many of the characters are nothing more than poorly rendered imitations at first anyway. Even more fortunately, Celina Hernandez takes over the art duties for the last portion of the book, preserving the story’s wholesome candor while giving the fight scenes and character moments a swell-looking upgrade. Anderson pays careful attention to the emotive power of his figures throughout with an excellent understanding of body language and by utilizing color to convey expression, and Hernandez continues this practice, while also making the action a bit more clear.
The back of the book is also chock-full of bonus comics and pinups that both new readers and fans of the series will no doubt appreciate. Some of these tales are just for fun, while a few offer some interesting insight into some of the secondary characters. It would be fun to see the SSD series continue with a great deal more collaboration using artists like what we see in the back of the book. This would also be a great way to further support the message SSD is presenting, and maybe offer some fresh perspectives on the cast like it does here. It must be said, “Pride Goeth” by Kevenn T. Smith and Ray Caspio has got me thinking that Smith would be a perfect fit for an ongoing series. His perfectly pulpy pencils are a nice fit for such a fun story--just sayin’.
I was honestly hesitant to review this book at first, because I was worried about my journalistic integrity. No book should just get a free pass simply due to its historical relevance, and I didn’t want to be labeled a bigot if I didn’t like it, but luckily Anderson and his fellow creators have banded together to create something truly special, pulling me in so well with an irrepressible charm it was impossible not to appreciate. Sure, it’s not the greatest comic to address homosexuality, or even the first comic about homosexual superheroes, but it’s a bright, shiny step in the right direction. If I’m gushing, it’s because this book helped me to understand it’s cool to gush sometimes if you feel that’s necessary. SO SUPER DUPER is not afraid to be exactly what it is, and maybe that will be enough to let readers know not to be scared of who they are. We can be colorful; we can be loud and proud or silly or stoic, bad or good. As long as we can be true to ourselves, baby, we’re golden.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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