People know Steve Orlando, lately, for his work on Midnighter. Midnighter, often described as ‘gay Batman,’ is a violent, anti-heroic, almost insufferably intelligent badass who kills worse guys. His solo miniseries did really well in trade paperback form, sparking Midnighter and Apollo. That series will drop starting in October.
This year, at FlameCon (the LGBT comic convention in Brooklyn), Orlando gave an interview to Comic Alliance. In this interview, he talked about representation, the idea of Midnighter as ‘gay Batman,’ and how Midnighter lead to Midnighter and Apollo.
When asked about ‘multiplicity’ in representation, Orlando said:
“Oh, it’s extremely important. That’s been the conversation of the day for me, people asking, “What’s the next fight for representation?” And I was just on a panel with Greg Pak, and he actually said it better than I could, which is a “diversity of diversity.” There is no one character that sums up experience of an entire community, and once you bring intersectionality into it, it’s impossible for it to be just one character. What’s next is “more.”
Because that’s what gives people what they deserve. However many faces in the world can’t see themselves in Midnighter, they can’t see themselves in Kamala Khan, they can’t see themselves in Barbara Gordon, or Cyborg, or take your pick. It’s just impossible, because not everyone’s like that. It’s just a fact. What’s next is more. And how important is it? I think very important. Because that is, to me, the same job as representation.
And yeah, you fight hard for one, and you have to fight twice as hard for two, and that’s what we’re doing now.”
I sat in the audience at that panel, and let me tell you: everything Orlando says here rings true. FlameCon was a goldmine of discussions like this. While there, people looked at diversity in a holistic, intersectional way — something very rare at other conventions.
The fact that we have these discussions at conventions like this says a lot about where the industry wants to go. Communication takes place at places like this — often more productively than it can online.
Beyond that, the idea of ‘diversity in diversity,’ and that ‘what’s next is more,’ those are things that comics — and media in general — need to reckon with. People live diverse lives: we need to represent that. Not all Asians get great grades. Not all women wear makeup and a size two dress. Not all gay people get stuck in serial monogamy for their whole lives. Not all disabled people hate their disability, or exist to inspire able-bodied people to feel better about their lives.
Characters and narratives need to reflect diversity within diversity. They can only do that with more diverse characters.
Orlando also discussed the genesis of Midnighter and Apollo, saying:
“Again, businesses are not people. They look at numbers. On one hand, they look at one thing and see, “This is the demand for Midnighter.” And then they say, “Oh no, actually it’s this.” And now we want to reward that, we want to feed that, and people have made their voices known.
And yeah, without the numbers on the Midnighter trade, there wouldn’t be Midnighter & Apollo.”
This interview really sheds a lot of light on some important industry issues. The place of trade paperbacks vs single-issues has become very contentious lately. This has to do with the sort of shooting-star tendency of a lot of more ‘diverse’ books.
For example, take the recent Nighthawk series from Marvel, focused on a black character in Chicago who deals both with the bad guys and with systemic problems in his society. Despite getting huge amounts of critical acclaim, Marvel cancelled the book after five issues due to poor sales figures. Nighthawk may get a trade, which it may sell extremely well in. But now, it’s too late for the ongoing series, which are still dominated by the single-issue sales model.
Overall, props to Steve Orlando for taking the time to talk about these issues. Midnighter and Apollo #1 comes out on October 5th, right before New York Comic Con. If you’re into violent anti-hero stories, gay characters, and/or gay antiheroes, this might just be the book for you, so go check it out!