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The 'Pride' of digital comics: A career-spanning interview with writer Joe Glass

Comic Books

The ‘Pride’ of digital comics: A career-spanning interview with writer Joe Glass

An in-depth interview with the creator/writer of series like ‘The Pride,’ ‘Stiffs,’ and ‘Acceptable Losses.’

Joe Glass is the writer and creator of The Pride, the second season of which was released late last year through ComiXology Originals (and released as a collection near the end of January). He’s also the writer and co-writer of Acceptable Losses and Stiffs, respectively. As a joint venture between AIPT and Pull Or Pass, I was lucky enough to get together with Glass recently to discuss all of his projects as well as any upcoming endeavors and other comic-centric tidbits.

The 'Pride' of digital comics: A career-spanning interview with writer Joe Glass

What is it that got you into comics, both as a fan and as a writer?

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Joe Glass: I went on holiday with my parents to France when I was quite young, in the early 90’s, and there was nothing to do, but there was this one little newsagents, and they had loads of comics, and there was a Ghost Rider there. Now Ghost Rider is not a comic that people would generally associate with me, but my tiny five year old brain saw this skull guy riding a flaming motorcycle and was like I need this.

So that was my first comic, it then became a regular thing, but mostly British comics. I bought a lot of Sonic The Comic, and in the UK we have Marvel reprints that collect several issues and X-Men was the big one. The TV show was on and I was addicted from the get go and X-Men was my thing then.

I think from there I fell in love with the medium, and once I was in love with the medium it was the idea of being a part of it. At first I really wanted to be an artist, but I’m terrible at art! If anyone has read the The Pride one page origin for Angel which I drew you’ll know I’m terrible at art. But I can tell a story, I can write, so from there I became a writer. As I grew older and came into my own realization about my sexuality and identity, I noticed that in comics there were a lot of analogues and metaphors and I started to wonder why there wasn’t anyone that was okay to be like “Hey, I’m gay”. So I wanted to become a writer and tell the stories I wish I had growing up.

The Pride Season Two is available through ComiXology Originals, what was it that made you want to work with ComiXology?

JG: Towards the end of January we released the Season Two collection through ComiXology, and Season One and The Pride Adventures collection are also available. Which will eventually be part of the ComiXology print on demand service as well. I’m not too sure when that will happen, but keep an eye out for it, I’ll be sharing all the information when it’s ready.

Although I know a lot of people prefer print comics, I do love digital comics, I feel like they have a lot to offer which print comics can’t replicate. Part of the reason I was looking to join ComiXology Originals is that it was a large part of making The Pride what it now is. At the end of the day I’m making a small press comic here in Wales, and I could only reach so far with print copies, but the digital medium means you can reach a much wider audience, and as the book is about spreading a message of positivity and inclusivity to people who may really need to hear it, reaching the widest possible audience is what appealed to me more than anything else. I want this book to be read by everyone who needs it.

There’s been some changes in Season Two; you’ve been working with a consistent artist in Cem Iroz, and it feels like a more confident season now that you’ve got an established universe and cast of characters, would you agree with that?

JG: I think that’s accurate, when I started the first season I was hoping to have a consistent art team and the first two issues were drawn by Gavin Mitchell. The idea was we’d have him throughout, but it was self published, and it doesn’t always work out that way. So we started opening up and getting more artists involved. Which worked in a way I really appreciate and love because it meant a book about a community became a community making it. 

I know that some people will always complain about there being a different artist for each issue, so for Season Two I did want a consistent team which is something I was only able to do because of ComiXology Originals.

In terms of the story, it is more confident. The story is set up, a lot of the characters are already introduced and have gone beyond the analogues they originally were, so readers could see more than the archetypes they started out as. There’s a lot more to the universe than has been put in yet, there’s stuff that’s been hinted at which in my mind is long term. A lot of the comics I read when I was younger — The Onslaught Saga and Age Of Apocalypse — would build up over years before culminating. There’s a lot of ideas like that which I’m trying to build into The Pride.

Working with ComiXology has given me the confidence to start building the world with the intention of it sticking around. So I think there’s been a lot more confidence with Season Two.

The 'Pride' of digital comics: A career-spanning interview with writer Joe Glass

There’s a lot of new characters introduced in Season Two, and it’s a good variety, I feel like you’re starting to cover all the classic bases of a superhero universe. As part of the first season of The Pride you did release The Pride Adventures to help fill out the universe, do you think there’ll be any more Adventures for Season Two and the new characters?

JG: I’ve got lots of ideas on what I could do with short stories, but what I loved most with The Pride Adventures was getting other creators involved. Having PJ Montgomery, Mike Garley and Sina Grave write stories was awesome, and my dream is that one day when I’ve said everything I’ve got to say with The Pride, someone else could take over. I’m only able to represent one element of the LBGTQIA community, but there are other people who can really speak to the experience of the other elements of that spectrum. So having other creators that can add that influence will only ever help in a series about inclusivity and the broadness of identity.

In Season Two, every issue is named after different Lady Gaga songs, and the chapters from Season One are also named after different songs; with that in mind, how do you feel music plays a part in your creative process?

JG: I listen to a lot of music when I’m writing, and sometimes it can inspire scenes. Before I started writing comics I’d listen to music and I’d be coming up with music videos in my head, which then became trying to translate that to scenes within comics. Often I try to think of ways to incorporate what it is that’s inspiring me. For the first series of The Pride all the chapter titles were Queer/Gay anthems, songs that were heavily linked to the gay scene like Don’t Rain On My Parade and You Think You’re A Man. Then Season Two was about the dangers of fame, and Lady Gaga has an album called The Fame Monster which just seemed to fit perfectly, so with that in mind I tried to create the story around the tracks from that album. There’s a lot of music that’s still informing the things I intend to write.

Which member of The Pride do you most relate to?

JG: Fabman. At different points in my life it would’ve been different characters. When I was a younger and more confused gay, I would’ve probably said Wolf because he’s masculine and not visibly gay, but now I’ve come to realize that I’m not that masculine and I don’t like wearing dark clothes all the time. So if you see me at a comic con now I’m always in flamboyant, loud outfits looking like the Elton John of comics. That’s who I am, I’m comfortable in my own skin and looking however I want to look, and that’s very much Fabman and even more so for all the good things Fabman wants to do and how positive he aims to be. He does have a habit of putting his foot in his mouth, and I do that all the time, I always try to be better but it does still happen. So Fabman is me, I may not look as buff as he does, but I could still rock those pink hot pants. I think there’s a little bit of me in all The Pride characters.

The 'Pride' of digital comics: A career-spanning interview with writer Joe Glass

A lot of the characters within The Pride are based on existing characters with a queer twist, what influenced which characters you choose to reimagine?

JG: Initially it was about playing with the various analogues of what superheroes are, the biggest of which are obviously the DC Trinity and then from there I wanted to play with the superhero archetypes as they developed through the history of comic books, including more conceptual powers, like Angel’s ability to confuse and postmodern Doom Patrol-esque powers.

When it came to Season Two my main thought was that there was still a lot to do in Queer representation and one of the things I wanted to do was to be very intersectional, while I was aware I’d done a lot for adding gay characters and trans characters, the team was still primarily white. Looking back I would have probably made some different decisions for the first season, so going forward the core decision was ‘what other elements of representation did I need to bring in to show how diverse both the community and the world is’. I wanted to have more than just a trans male character, an intersex character and an asexual character, I wanted to have  characters that are neurally diverse as well, characters who are disabled and characters from other ethnicities. So that became the focus of the second season, and their superpowers became secondary. I did realise some power sets were missing and needed to be touched upon to expand the universe; so now we have a speedster, a near godlike quantum powered character, and magic hero, because up until this point I hadn’t even fully established that there is magic in this world. 

One of the most noticeable of these reimagined characters is Wolf. When he first appears in The Pride Season One he has a very Hugh Jackman-Wolverine feel, was that intentional or just coincidental?

JG: I wanted Wolf to be the Batman of the group with some of Wolverine in there, you’d have to check with Gavin, but I think Hugh Jackman probably fell into the design. That introduction scene was all about wanting to show the polar opposites of what a gay man can be. With the flamboyant Fabman who represents a stereotype people can be super negative about –  but it does exist – and Wolf who doesn’t present in any of the stereotypical ways and has fallen on hard times because of his sexuality being put out there. So I think Hugh Jackman might’ve been part of the influence but it was also about showing the broadness of the spectrum of what a gay man is. You also have Twink in that scene, who fits somewhere between the two. So it was all about showing that a gay man isn’t just one thing, which is why there’s like five gay guys in Season One and they are all completely different from each other.

It’s been nice to see that since I started The Pride there’s been more diversity in mainstream comics when it comes to how gay men are represented. For the longest time in comics it felt like if you had a gay character they had to be anything but flamboyant, you could not have a camp character, they had to present as straight.

The 'Pride' of digital comics: A career-spanning interview with writer Joe Glass

Speaking of mainstream comics, are there any Marvel or DC characters that you would like to write?

JG: Oh god so many! I think it’s pretty clear I want to write X-Men, that’s never been a secret it’s always been a dream and a goal. There’s a number of characters that I love and would love to have a play with – and not just queer characters – there’s loads of characters I’d love to tell stories with. I’ve got a great Kid Devil story in my head I’d love to do someday if DC wants to give me a chance. I’m an obscure character guy, and obviously my big one is that I want to write a Pixie book, so damn hard, Marvel give me that Pixie book! Let a Welshmen write the Welsh hero for a change! I’ve got this awesome idea for what I’d do with Pixie, so hopefully someday.

Let’s talk about your other projects, both Stiffs and — as of last week — Acceptable Losses are available through ComiXology.

JG: Stiffs was a co-written project between me, PJ Montgomery and Drew Davis which was also drawn by Gavin Mitchell. We got three issues through it, and it’s a series I’m immensely proud of. It was a really fun, quirky, dark humor, horror tale…set in Wales, and the fans it did have were all superfans. Unfortunately it didn’t quite pan out as sometimes happens with small press comics. One day I would still love to finish the series, but we would all have to want to finish it. I think what I liked about the series was that it was a collaborative writing project, and the issue in particular that I wrote was very different to anything I was doing in The Pride.

Acceptable Losses is my first solo written comic that isn’t The Pride; it’s kind of a superhero story but with the personal challenge of trying to do something different, it’s not my usual colorful bright superheroes, it’s more grim and gritty, which normally I push back against. But I wanted to see if I could do something that’s darker and more political. I used this Captain America-esque character to tell a story with some complex views on the way we fight terrorism and the violence that is inevitably involved, and how that violence might just exacerbate the problem. It was the first series after The Pride and I wanted to show that I can do something else, but also something that was self-contained, so it’s a full story. There’s scope to tell more in that world, but it can also be a one and done issue.

What do you have planned for the future? Will we be seeing The Pride Season Three?

JG: I certainly hope so, as I understand Season Two has done well and obviously the better it does the more likely that we can do a Season Three. I’ve got a pitch, I’ve got an idea, I’ve got a team, so we are ready to go and make that happen. It would be a very timely idea, it would be very different to what The Pride has done before, and it could even be a little controversial. Not in a courting controversy kind of way, but I think there would be a lot of interesting discussion around it.

As for my other project coming up, I can’t say a lot about it, but keep an eye out for the name Glitter Vipers. That’s something I’m working on at the moment, it will be fun and will probably be coming to Kickstarter in the future. I’m also currently working on the print editions of Acceptable Losses for the people who backed the Kickstarter campaign.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, the full podcast version from Pull Or Pass is available below!

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