Queer Visibility Interview: Joe Glass and Sina Grace on THE PRIDE ADVENTURES

We’re all pretty used to seeing one queer character rolling around a comic universe. Maybe (if you’re lucky), a couple — romantic or otherwise.

But what about an entire team of queer heroes? What’s that even called?

That’s a Pride.

With the original series in hardcover and the fifth issue of its spin-off title, The Pride Adventures, hitting Kickstarter, we sat down with original creator Joe Glass — and special guest star, writer Sina Grace — to hear all about how the series has been progressing, what the two guys have in store for #5, and their thoughts on the landscape of queer comics in 2018.

Matt Santori: For fans who aren’t caught up, give us a little background on The Pride and The Pride Adventures.

Joe Glass: Sure thing!

So, The Pride is a series all about representation and diversity, and showing people who’ve rarely been able to see themselves be the superheroes be those very superhuman people. In The Pride’s case, that’s specifically been people of the LGBTQ+ community. As the series progresses, we add more and more aspects of that broad range of people to try and show so many more people than usually get the chance to shine in this medium.

Specifically, The Pride‘s first volume told the story of FabMan, a flamboyant, camp, ‘stereotypical’ gay superhero, who gets sick and tired of queer heroes being treated as a joke, or hidden away, or as somehow less than their heterosexual counterparts. He decides to form a team of powerful, awesome, and diverse superheroes to represent the community and fight for justice for everyone.

That ‘justice for all’ idea was key to The Pride. I wanted to tell a story that ostensibly was about queer characters, but that was accessible to anyone: any age, any gender, any sexual identity, whether part of the LGBTQ+ community themselves or not, and see things from a slightly different angle. But also, of course, telling thrilling, fun and positive superhero action adventures.

The Pride has had one volume already, a six-issue main story arc, and then a sister anthology series named The Pride Adventures. The Pride Adventures features several short, self-contained stories per issue, to give more adventures and expand upon the characters even further. There have been four issues already (although, just to be different, the fourth issue’s stories were collected in the hardcover collection before being printed in their own issue … a little backwards to the norm), and had even featured a couple stories written by other writers, in the form of PJ Montgomery and Mike Garley.

The Pride Adventures #5 will be the first brand new stories in the world of The Pride since 2016, when volume one was collected together in the hardcover.

MS: This is the third Kickstarter you’ve worked with for The Pride. How do you think the process has helped spread the good word of the book? Is there something about the format that you think is uniquely positive for the scale of your creator-owned book?

JG: I word I keep coming to with The Pride is ‘community’. The series is about a community; it’s about finding your community; it’s been made by a community, in terms of geographic location and sexual and gender identities too.

What Kickstarter has allowed is for readers and fans to take a more active role in that community too. To come together as a community and essentially say ‘hey, we DO want this, and we’ll help make it a reality’. I think there’s something special in being able to be part of a project in that way at that stage that is different from most other methods, whether that be buying a book in the store or doing the Direct Market pre-order method that makes up so much of the mainstream comics industry.

With those, you know those books will get made whether you pre-order them or not. Sure, adding to your pull list will keep them getting made, but that issue #1 will drop no matter what. With Kickstarter, you’re actively helping to make it a reality, and that project may not be a reality without you.

It’s a more tangible sensation of declaring, with your hard earned bucks, that yes, this is something you want to see in the world. I think for books like The Pride, it’s been incredibly valuable, for that idea alone. It’s getting increasingly difficult for self-published/small press/indie titles to get the word out through social media and other methods, but Kickstarter really helps that in a natural, and tangible, feeling way.

MS: There seems to have been a huge influx of queer Kickstarters in the comics community. How do you feel about that aspect of the experience?

JG: Again, it’s because for many of the queer audience, mainstream comics companies often feel like they’re not listening to them, or not valuing them as an audience. Some big publishers will maybe put a book out with a queer lead, and it could sell consistently over 10,000 copies, and yet that isn’t considered enough to keep it going?

And when that book goes, it’s rare that you see an equivalent queer-led title appear to take it’s place. The queer audience is left feeling like their dollar isn’t worth as much as someone else’s, and their desire to be seen in the medium is less valued than others, too.

Kickstarter gives an accessible, and relatively easy way for queer creators to make their projects a reality, and queer audiences to make them happen, and keep getting that media that they want. Books like Bingo Love or Check, Please really show that there is a tremendous audience that will come out in droves … but they need to feel valued, and that’s not something they’ve been getting from some avenues.

Kickstarter gives them somewhere to get that, and is vital for these projects and creators that are maybe not always given the same shot as others.

Cover art by Jemma Salume

MS: Joe, what’s going on in The Pride Adventures #5 in particular?

JG: Well, as I say, The Pride Adventures #5 contains the first brand new stories in the world of The Pride since the volume one collection back in 2016. There will be five stories in all.

In one, with art by Jon Scrivens, we look at whether there’s a place for pride events in the world still, as well as if there’s a place for The Pride. This kinda came from when I hear people, sometimes even LGBTQ+ people, asking if there’s any need for pride events in a world where many have the right to marry, to feel job security etc. — and of course there’s still a place for these events. They’re still vital, and we explore why.

And that also touches on the place The Pride has. I’ve been asked, now that Marvel and DC have been featuring more queer characters, whether there’s even a need for my team of superheroes anymore. Well, to that I say, look at the fact that most of those queer-inclusive titles are now cancelled or ending, and if there’s any replacements for them. Yes, there’s still a place for The Pride, for just that reason. This story will touch on that.

Another, illustrated by Elizabeth Beals — who I have wanted to work with for ages — will tell a Muscle Mary story about female empowerment and the strength of woman in a still patriarchal world that often tries to shut them down. I don’t know if you noticed, but the last year or so has seen a lot of incredibly strong women, and I could not help but feel affected by that and wanting to speak to that in some way. Because of the sheer awe and respect I feel for these powerful women who have made a stand.

People will like the title of that story, I think they’ll get a kick out of it, but I’ll save that for people to find out in the issue.

Cem Iroz — a wonderful artist I found online, and who will be illustrating one of the issues in the next story arc of the main series of The Pride — helps bring a story of Wolf and Twink facing down a tense hostage situation where mental illness and health comes into play. It’s about wanting to tackle a superhero story in a slightly different way, beyond just smacking people down and punching things (though still keeping action and suspense in play).

I’d say there’s a lot of inspiration from the wonderful work that James Tynion IV and Steve Orlando have been doing showing that kind of thing in Detective Comics and Justice League of America respectively, but of course, with a Pride twist.

Finally, there’s a story with artist Rhys Wootton that is perhaps one of the most politically charged of the issue, or maybe side-by-side with the Muscle Mary story. This one will feature White Trash standing in the path of a far right march on a US city. I think that’s something we all recognize in the world today, and the LGBTQ+ community in particular has felt very aware and wary of it, and this story will touch on that wariness somewhat.

And of course, there’s a story by the fabulous Sina Grace.

Interior art by Cem Iroz

MS: So, Sina, tell me a little about how you came to work on a story for this issue. Had you been following the book and what was Joe’s pitch to you like?

Sina Grace: I was a fan of Joe’s writing, and I super enjoyed the series, although he probably doesn’t believe me. I’d bought the PDFs to support, but I hate reading digital, so it took like six months before we met in person and I got the hardcover edition.

When I finished reading the hard copy and told Joe how much I dug the material, he brought up the potential of working on the Adventures line. From there, Joe was pretty open to letting my imagination run wild, and of course I did the same thing I always do: investigate the interior lives of the cast!

JG: For my part, I have been a fan of Sina’s since I saw him on a panel at SDCC, god, two, maybe three years ago. I immediately went and sought out Self-Obsessed, and loved it. I then loved Nothing Lasts Forever, and of course, his work on Iceman has been fantastic.

I love how Sina can tell a powerful, exploratory superhero story that really gets to the heart of the emotions in that tale and character. I knew I would love to have Sina in The Pride someday.

MS: What’s your particular story about?

SG: My story focuses on FabMan’s dating life.

What I love about The Pride is how much Joe tries to tether these characters to reality, and I always love writing about worlds where superheroes are rather commonplace. I feel like when you’re someone as special as FabMan, finding romance may not be as fab as all that.

The themes are a little similar to what folks who struggle with fame have to deal with. Can you make a real connection? And if so, how? I don’t know that I deliver great answers by the end of six pages, but the peek is worthwhile.

JG: Something else I’ll add: all the stories in The Pride Adventures #5 work as a good bridge between Volume One, and the upcoming second story arc/second volume in the main series, with a lot of thematic touchstones that will give fans hints on what to expect. Without any input from me on that, Sina came to me with a story idea that fit so perfectly into the main themes of that upcoming arc, I knew it was meant to be.

Art by Jon Cairns

MS: And you’re working with artist Jon Cairns. How has that experience been like?

SG: Jon and I actually have a whole comic series we are slooooooowly noodling on in the background, so I’ve been working with him for years. I am a huge fan of his work. He can draw pretty much anything, and his line work is so confident. He believes in me in a way that makes me want to be a better writer, and it’s fun to jump on something short-term that we can show off to the world!

JG: It’s so weird, I briefly met Jon myself at Thought Bubble here in the UK a couple years back, and had wanted to work with him on something for The Pride. At the time, I didn’t have anything ready and Jon was kind of busy. Then Sina said he had an artist in mind and mentioned Jon, and I was doing like a full Karen from Will & Grace: ‘What’s this? What’s happening?’

Just that weird synchronicity of comics.

MS: What are your takes on the broader landscape for queer characters and stories in comics in 2018?

SG: My two cents is that there’s always this tug-of-war in regards to how many steps forward and how many steps back are being taken. We’re finally broadening the roles that queer characters play in mainstream comics, but there are always stumbles in landing the plane.

My favorite phrase applies here: cautiously optimistic!

JG: If we’re talking mainstream comics, like Marvel and DC? Well, things could get better. It was looking good for a while there, but we seem to have been pushed a few steps back again, which is a shame…

But that won’t last long. There’s plenty of folks at those companies wanting to see that kind of representation and with the desire to do, so it’ll be back. In the meantime, there’s so much in the indie and self-published and small press scene, that the audience should turn their attention too.

And if they’re all looking there, well, the mainstream publishers will follow. So, yeah, what Sina said: cautiously optimistic. But let’s not rest on our laurels and wait for it to happen. Let’s make it happen.

Iceman cover art by Kevin Wada

MS: Any final thoughts for the Comicosity audience on the Kickstarter or any of your other projects? Pimp em if you got em.

SG: Iceman is a dope book and people should read it! The first collected edition is in stores everywhere!

JG: Along with Sina, Iceman is absolutely dope and y’all should pick it up.

If you too want to see more stories about more different kinds of people in comics, then please check out the Kickstarter, where rewards include the comic, the volume one book (of which there’s only so many of the gorgeous massive hardcover left, so get in on that while you can) and yes, enamel pins. Because you gotta have enamel pins these days. So please help us bring this comic out for all those that want it and need it.

And hey, if you would like to check out the first volume before committing, you can grab it on ComiXology, individual issues or the whole volume collection, or print copies at the online store.

And remember, The Pride isn’t going anywhere. It will always be there for you.

Don’t forget to pledge for The Pride Adventures #5 over at Kickstarter right now!


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