DC Comics' Steve Orlando: Gay Superhero Midnighter Proves 'Comics Are Evolving'
DC Comics made history on Wednesday with the release of the first issue of Midnighter, the first ongoing mass-market comic headlined by a gay male superhero.
The title is a part of a new, more inclusive era for DC that kicks off this week and aims to make the publisher’s line the most diverse in the industry. The Advocate recently sat down for a chat with Midnighter writer Steve Orlando about his plans for the new series and making LGBT comics history.
The Advocate: Congratulations on being the first writer at DC to pen the adventures of the publisher’s first comic headlined by a gay male superhero.
Orlando: Thank you, it’s been very exciting.
On your side, what was the initial reaction like when the announcement for the comic was made back in February?
It’s was interesting because there were a lot of questions about topics that, well, let’s just say I didn’t have to put in the pitch. [Laughs] Questions about his preferences and certain details about the average queer man’s life. But joking about his bedroom roles aside, it’s very interesting that people even have an opinion — and I’ve found they have a very strong opinion — about any aspect of his relationship life. It’s exciting for me to see that people care that much. Although I do think it’s funny that I could cause outrage just by saying whether he’s a top or bottom. And no, I won’t be revealing that in the story. [Laughs]
Because this is the first gay male superhero headlining his own comic at DC, do you feel any added pressure writing Midnighter?
There is pressure, but at the same time I think it’s often unrealistic. My only expectation for myself, and I feel the only obligation for the team, is to tell a true story about this gay man’s life. It is impossible to tell some sort of mono-myth that is going to sum up the experience of every queer man in the world. It’s just not possible. All I can do is deepen the portrayal of him as a gay man going out into the world in a way that we really haven’t seen before. We’re not going to shy away from aspects of his life in his romantic pursuits, in his day-to-day life, because I think all of those things are very important. What I want to make sure I do is create a world around him that is filled with other queer people as well, and have those be telling examples of 3D people and give them the layers and struggles that real LGBT people face. But it’s not possible to have one character represent the entirety of any minority.
What is one of the things you hope to accomplish with this comic?
The character going into the story is out in every way and the core idea behind bringing him back is that he is 100 percent confident in who he is all the time. There’s no conflict, no questions like, Who can know if I’m Midnighter? Who can know that I’m gay? There’s none of that. The idea that he has no shame, is so proud and so confident in who he is, I think that is widely applicable. And I hope it’s that message that translates across the LGBT community.
Even though the character is sadistic and has qualities that are not necessarily mainstream acceptable — to say the least with his hobby of violent citizen’s arrest — yes, I think he can be. That is not to say that young queer people should be going out and punching people’s mouths, but having said that, I think we’ve all had moments where we wish we could. So I think there’s some wish fulfillment there. I mean, this is comics, not some documentary. So I feel we are allowed some creative license with the violence he enacts because of that wish fulfillment aspect superheroes provide.
How do you respond to concerns from some readers who feel Midnighter isn’t a good representation of gay men?
I think it’s ultimately more progressive, because this is a book that is engaged with him being gay but isn’t about him being gay. I think we’ve moved past the idea that gay people have to be portrayed in only one way. By pulling away from that, we can have characters who can do other things and people can realize they’re not a spokesperson for the entire community. It’s a loaded conversation, because the reality is I would love to say that every queer person is a wonderful person, but we’re just people. Gay people do great things, and gay people also do bad things. That’s life. It doesn’t do a service to the community, nor does it do a service to a story to act like that’s anything but the way it is.
Throughout his history, Midnighter has mostly been partnered with Apollo. Will we be seeing Apollo and the effects of their romantic involvement in this series?
Things that happen with Apollo resonate throughout the entire series, though I’m hesitant to say whether or not he has an ongoing presence in the book. However, I will say anything that goes down between them is very telling to my experience as a queer person and the things that I’ve seen in my life. They are largely each other’s first relationship, and a big part of the book is Midnighter realizing he doesn’t even know how to define himself as a gay man without Apollo, and I think that’s something many people in the real world face.
Will other LGBT characters in the DC Multiverse be making appearances?
You’ll be seeing other LGBT characters, though they will mostly be new characters.
Is there any chance we could see Batwoman swing through Midnigher’s hood?
They operate in worlds where that could definitely happen. I love the concept as a gut reaction, but [the idea of bringing in other popular LGBT superheroes] early on would also make me worry that people might see it as the “gay Super Friends.”
That could be an amazing new book!
Right? [Laughs] But I do like the idea of Batwoman showing up, because barring the fact that she is another queer character, her more militaristic mindset and pragmatism makes her a great fit for [a team-up with] Midnighter. However, we really want to make sure we establish Midnighter as a character on his own. He’s a character that doesn’t need a bump, and I believe that about him.
We’re seeing a record number of LGBT characters in comics right now. What do you think that says about the evolution of the industry?
I think it’s something that’s been a long time coming, but I also think it shows the diversity of the readership. DC wouldn’t be doing this book if there wasn’t a demand for it and people didn’t want this kind of icon. At the same time, it does show the times are changing and comics are evolving. Comics have always been about wish fulfillment and identifying with the underdog. But now we’ve reached a point where we better understand what that means, and we can create more books for a wider range of people that do the jobs that comics do.
Watch the latest episode of DC All Access below featuring Orlando as well as The Advocate’s entertainment editor Jase Peeples discussing the arrival of Midnighter’s series in the DCU.