Recently, a prominent leader from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder David Bednar, addressed a congregation in South America stating that his religion, also known as Mormonism, does not discriminate against gays because homosexual people in the church do not exist.
Brian Andersen would disagree. The partnered dad is very much gay and Mormon, and used his conflicted feelings about his religion to make a comic book showing the two are not mutually exclusive. His Kickstarter-funded series, Stripling Warrior, has not one but two out superheroes who also just happen to be Mormon.
The comic book comes at an intense time for gay Mormons: Bednar's comments follow the church's 2015 policy that declares Mormons in same-sex marriages are apostates and that their children will not be welcomed into the religion unless they disavow their parents' relationship.
The Advocate recently sat down with Andersen to discuss the current state of the Mormon Church and why his comic book couldn't come at a better time. The author, along with his artist James Neish, also shared a peek at the newly released third issue of Stripling Warrior; check it out below.
The Advocate: What inspired you to create comic books?
Andersen: A lifelong love of comic books. Since the age of 8, when I used my aluminum soda can recycle money to purchase my first issue of Daredevil, comics have weaved their way into my genetic make-up. I'm a geek to the core. I live and breathe for my weekly stash of comic books from Whatever... comics in the Castro.
How did Stripling Warrior come about?
While I'm happy and at peace with my reality as a homosexual Mormon, I will say that I am sick and tired of being told by my faith that I'm not worthy of heaven because of whom I sleep with. I sought to refute the LDS's Church's constant claims that my life was empty, and devoid of any light and goodness by creating superheroes who stood in the face of that negativity.
I also just wanted to write a fun, colorful, action-packed story. Last year as I was writing the first issue I had hoped a couple of heroes steeped within the mythology of the Mormon Church, depicted with healthy, queer sex lives, would be provocative and impactful.
After successfully funding the comic on Kickstarter -- and after hearing from many readers and donors -- I'm thankful for any joy and comfort someone can take away from my little comic series.
Did Stripling Warrior help you address any resentment towards the Mormon Church?
I think so. It was a deeply cathartic comic book for me to create. As a convert to the religion, a former missionary, a graduate of Brigham Young University, and former active member of the Mormon faith, my Mormon friends -- both homosexual and heterosexual -- and I have been personally impacted by our religion's hurtful remarks towards homosexuality.
Once I came out 15 years ago, I made peace with who I was a gay man. Any guilt I felt I gave up to God and trusted I was living my best life as God wanted. That is not to say that coming out for me wasn't extremely difficult. Not to sound trite but I went through the proverbial fire wresting with my faith. It took me a good decade to accept myself
Is this an anti-Mormon comic book?
I hope not! I mean, I didn't write it to be. While I address my frustrations with the church and the pain it causes me in the past, I see the good in the Mormon Church. It's not an inherently evil organization. I have family members, in-laws, and many friends who are still active members of the faith. They're wonderful, dear, amazing people who support and love my family and I.
Though I am not actively Mormon, in that I don't attend weekly meetings, I still live by many of the precepts of the church. Until I am officially excommunicated thanks to my apostate marriage I am going to live my life as an out gay Mormon.
Is issue three of Stripling Warrior the last?
While my Kickstarter funds covered the first three issues of the comic -- the third issue is out now -- my amazing, talented, incredible, fantastic artist James Neish and I are working on a special double-sized Annual Issue. It will tell a special stand-alone issue with some exciting additional artwork from some exciting LGBT creators.
In terms of superheroes and comics, what was your first experience with geek culture?
My first awareness of superheroes came from a box of animal crackers. Except, instead of being in the shape of animals, they were in the shape of DC superheroes. Of all the heroes adorning the outside of the box, it was Batgirl that won my heart.
As a child the amazingly -- now iconic -- purple costume from the '60s Batman TV show spoke to my burgeoning homosexual within. I would longingly stare at her high-heeled image on the cracker box for hours and imagine the adventures she'd have! I'd also carry around the empty box and, thanks to a string across the top, pretend it was a purse.
You must have a favorite superhero character, right? Who might it be?
I can only pick one? Well, apart from my Batgirl love mentioned above, my heart really belongs forever to She-Hulk. She's the first character I ever really fell in love with after reading her for the first time in Fantastic Four. She's sassy, she's strong, she's everything I wish I could be.
This desire to stand and fight against those who view her as less than equal to her fellow heroes spoke to me as a dorky, unpopular teen. And it drives me today to write and create stories about those diminished by their society, their religion, and their circumstances in life.
The first three issues of the Stripling Warrior trilogy is now available at sosuperduper.com or at Whatever... comics in the Castro. And look for the upcoming special Stripling Warrior Annual #1 in the coming months.