On June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Florida, the deadliest mass shooting in American history rocked the LGBTQ+ community when a gunman opened fire at a nightclub called Pulse, killing 49 people and wounding 58.
Shortly thereafter, comic writer Marc Andreyko put out a call to comic writers, artists, and some celebrities with a question: Would they contribute a one-to-two page piece, in a style of their choosing, for a comic book unlike any other? One that would give a variety of perspectives on what happened. One that would give all the proceeds to supporting the victims and their families. Over 200 people agreed to help with the book, many of them signing on within hours of the request. The final product is a 144-page book of anger, grief, hope, and love.
On Saturday night, a small group of comic fans gathered in Hyatt International North to have what ended up being a meaningful conversation with six of the authors and artists who contributed to the book. Each had a personal reason for choosing to get involved, but the most prevalent reason was to do something to try and make sense of something so utterly senseless.
Paul Jenkins explained that he normally doesn’t get angry, that he’s more about conciliation, but the story he contributed—focusing on his character Chalice, the transgender woman who is the lead of his series Alters—was written while he was “so pissed off, and it shows.” The feeling of anger was echoed by everyone on the panel, and also in the room.
We talked about how long it took to formulate the actual pieces that went into the book because anger can be paralyzing, and what they did in their pieces. Joe Harris wanted to explore reactions to the tragedy, so he put together a piece with everyday Americans reacting to the news. He was furious going in, but poured it onto the page in a way that he was quite pleased with how the final product turned out.
Mark Tieri was supposed to be involved in a comic tribute after 9/11, and his piece was too angry, so it didn’t get into that anthology. Therefore, with this piece, he did something simple: three sets of major (heterosexual) DC characters in relationships, and the fourth couple were lesbians, all doing normal everyday things, to show that “love is love, no matter the form it takes, it’s all the same.”
Joe Kelly couldn’t figure out what to do, and spent a while trying to process the event. He admits it’s kind of trite, but powerful, the idea that “no one remembers the names of the terrorists, but they remember the victims—out of tragedy, there is some kind of strength. It’s angry, but it will pass; the day will get brighter.” That idea is what works to keep him going, knowing that whatever is happening, it won’t be permanent.
Livio Ramondelli, as an artist, had a script to draw for within a week. His collaboration had a villainous demon from another dimension from the series Darkness Visible whose take on things was “these people want to love each other and be together, and someone wants to kill them for wanting to love each other? Don’t we have bigger problems?” The idea that a villain was the one asking these questions seemed more powerful than having a hero ask them.
Harris took a couple of weeks to get his piece together, but he knew he wanted to do a piece that reflected a slice of everyday life, everyday people sitting in a bar, reacting to the news, talking amongst themselves, making “rough comments and observations that you’d expect,” unaware a couple of the people in the bar were gay and listening to these takes, all while dealing with it themselves.
The panel was emotional, with people speaking up about how, between the shooting itself, and Love is Love, they found the strength to come out, to accept themselves, and to bring themselves into a community that had been lacking. While a small crowd, the love and support in the room was palpable between panelists and audience. Coming together in the face of tragedy is both a very human thing, and also a theme within comics themselves. Everyone was grateful to the men on the panel and the huge number of others who worked on Love is Love for their work.
You can find Love is Love online, or ask for it at your local comic book store.