Last year’s inaugural DC Pride anthology special featured stories for a wide range of LGBTQIA+ characters in a celebration of identity and acknowledgment of past and current struggles. DC Pride 2022 promises to do just that and more with all-new stories featuring a host of different LGBTQIA+ characters. AIPT staff Dave Brooke, Lia Williamson, and Madeleine Chan share their thoughts on this year’s 12 stories which range from cute to utterly poignant.
Lia on “Super Pride” by Devin Grayson, Nick Robles, Triona Farrell, and Aditya Bidikar
The first story in the DC Pride anthology is “Supre Pride” by Devin Grayson and Nick Robles. Robles’ art is, as always, a treat to look at. His characters are always expressive and even the panel layout here is eye-catching and unique at times.
The story itself is kind of cute overall, especially with Jon talking about symbols and what it means to him. Jon’s internal monologue where he says “I AM you” at Pride is the best parts of this story, where it feels like the story has actual weight.
Damian’s role is kind of odd, though. It seems like he’s just around not because he wants to go to Pride particularly, but because he expects a riot (or even wants to take part in one). So, Jon lectures him that Pride is a party now and we shouldn’t prepare for riots. While it’s true that Pride IS a celebration now, this subplot does in a way feel like Jon’s ashamed of LGBTQ+ history and it makes the story take a large setback due to Damian’s weird characterization and it just being a really clunky scene overall. This entire scene is kind of what ruins this story overall, making it the weakest entry in the Pride anthology overall.
Overall the story is just a bit tone-deaf, especially when this is the same comic with the exceptional and very moving Kevin Conroy story.
The subtle confirmation of Brainiac 5 and Dawnstar as ace-spectrum (demisexual) and bisexual respectively is a fun little treat, especially since those labels explicitly hadn’t been used for them before. Seeing Dreamer is also a highlight of this little story.
Dave on “Confessions” by Stephanie Williams, Meghan Hetrick, Marissa Louise, and Ariana Maher
The second story in the DC Pride 2022 anthology is “Confessions” by Stephanie Williams and Meghan Hetrick. It opens with Nubia and Io basking in the sunset after a tasty meal. This scene leads to Nubia explaining how a sword was broken on the same day they first kissed. Wrestling fan stake note, Nubia and Big Barda end up in the ring!
Art by Hetrick is quite good with colors by Marissa Louise. The style almost feels like a ‘70s cartoon complete with effects and what appears to be worn pages like an old comic. It’s super nostalgic and fun.
Letters by Ariana Maher have a hand-drawn feel, especially with the word balloons. That helps sell the nostalgic old comic vibe.
Ultimately this is a story about strong women, Nubia never backing down from those in need, and a nice reminder of Io and Nubia’s love for one another. The fact that it ends in a cute way where Nubia admits the broken sword that started the tale was just an excuse to kiss Io is icing on the cake.
Lia on “Think of Me” by Ted Brandt & Ro Stein and Frank Cvetkovic
For years I had read Connor Hawke comics and thought to myself “he’s definitely LBGT.” Asexual Biromantic (or homoromantic) felt like a good label to me because Connor was always turning down sexual advances from women, borderline uncomfortable with it all. For years, headcanons like mine were so pervasive throughout DC fan spaces, as many readers saw Connor Hawke as a character with tons of LGBT subtext (even if unintentionally so at times).
So when “Think of Me” by Ted Brandt and Ro Stein was announced, I was ecstatic! Finally, Connor Hawke was canonically Asexual. And this story does not disappoint.
Connor Hawke being asexual is kind of a huge deal. Outside of Jughead Jones, I really can’t name a single big-name asexual character in comics –until Connor Hawke. It’s clear the creative team behind this put a lot of love into the story and gave it the gravity it deserves.
The story is about Connor coming out to his mother, writing a letter over and over, and trying to tell her he’s Ace as well as explaining what that means. It’s kind of beautiful, opening up with the ways Oliver has disappointed him as a father and later explaining his feelings on dating and intimacy.
The creative team on this book does something else really neat: they use gender-neutral terms to talk about Connor’s love life. Connor mentions that he wants to date someone –but he doesn’t say “she” or “he” in response to who this “someone” is. Perhaps one day, Connor might be able to date men on panel, confirming another long-standing theory about Connor Hawke. But today? Today we know Connor Hawke, Green Arrow, is an asexual superhero –and I couldn’t be happier with that.
This story has what might just be my favorite art for Connor Hawke ever, too.
This story was worth all the hype it got and the entire team behind it did a wonderful job bringing this important story to life.
Madeleine on “Up at Bat” by Jadzia Axelrod, Lynne Yoshii, Tamra Bonvillain, and Ariana Maher
Alysia Yeoh finally gets her chance to shine in this story by Jadzia Axelrod, Lynne Yoshii, Tamra Bonvillain, and Ariana Maher. “Up at Bat” follows Alysia after she gets an S.O.S. call from Batgirl after leaving the Gotham Trans Wellness Conference. Alysia’s the embodiment of trans resilience in this story as she ponders her use in a broken world but still tries to help without question. “Up at Bat” is very much aware of Alysia’s history thus far and uses it to the fullest, but doesn’t make her character revolve around Barbara or trauma.
Yoshii’s facial expressions and movements only add to Alysia’s story. From a weary, hopped-up Batgirl to Alysia kicking ass with her bat, Yoshii fills “Up at Bat” with an explosive dynamic quality. Bonvillain’s coloring makes the art really pop with vivid flats and a Black Canary-esque yellow on Alysia’s suit that compliments the blue and pink on her bat (not to mention the much-loved subtle use of the trans flag colors in backgrounds and shading). I also really love when letterers make the effort to highlight speech tone with aspects like wobbly stems for fatigue or spikey bubbles for sudden exclamation, and Maher does this in spades.
This story really picks up where Alysia was left off, making it feel like her last featured appearance in the 2016 Batgirl Annual series was just yesterday. Axelrod pens a wonderful reintroduction to ease her into the limelight she’ll be seeing more of from the upcoming Batgirl movie, and one with vibrant, cinematic visuals to boot.
Madeleine on “A World Kept Just For Me” by Alyssa Wong, W. Scott Forbes, and Ariana Maher
Jackson Hyde, now officially known as Aquaman, is back in this year’s DC Pride anthology with an equally heart-wrenching and heartwarming story. In “A World Kept Just For Me” by Alyssa Wong, W. Scott Forbes, and Ariana Maher, Jackson goes on a whirlwind date planned by Ha’wea where they visit each other’s hometowns.
What is overall a lighthearted and cute look at their relationship is also a deeper look into Jackson’s inner struggles. The soft glow of Forbes’ art and colors lends itself to Jackson and Ha’wea’s gentle and kind romance. Maher’s subtle blur of the text bubble edges for underwater scenes is a nice compliment to this glow. At the same time, the art’s spot-on facial expressions and emotion in movement speak to the heart of the matter. Themes of assimilation, passing, intersecting identities, and wanting to connect with your heritage all churn together for an insight into Jackson’s mixed race, straight-passing past turmoil.
When they visit New Mexico, Jackson’s hometown, it’s a reminder of where Jackson’s YA Graphic Novel You Brought Me the Ocean, takes place. While in a slightly different continuity, it brought back those similar feelings of isolation, anxiety, and unsureness that the other Jackson felt as well. “A World Kept Just For Me” is a sincere dive into Jackson’s past as he moves forward in his life as Aquaman, and in his partnership with Ha’wea.
Dave on “The Gumshoe in Green” by Tini Howard, Evan Cagle, and Lucas Gattoni
If you’re a fan of noir, Blade Runner, and bisexual Green Lantern Sojourner “Jo” Mullein you’ll likely love “The Gumshoe in Green.” Written by Tini Howard with art by Evan Cagle, this tale is a throwback to noir detective thrillers right down to the gumshoe waiting around in their office for a new gig. Doing just that, Jo is visited by an alien woman who thinks her husband Droso is cheating on her. She’s from an alien race of plant people that once ate humans, but have curbed that desire.
The name of the game in this story is in fact desire, as the alien woman and Jo clearly have an attraction to one another. Soon after sucking down a bowl of noodles in a scene homaging Blade Runner, Jo runs into Droso who also has similar attractions to Jo. Howard makes it clear Jo is attracted to these aliens through key captions. It’s not until the final act of this 8-page story that Jo realizes what is really going on which builds towards a fight you won’t see coming. Howard’s main point–that just because you’re bisexual doesn’t mean you lust for everyone–is well made.
The art by Cagle is fantastic using only green for much of the story and the rest of the characters and environments cast in black and white. That gives it a noir feel, but the color ends up serving a purpose with a spot of hope on the final page. The story ends on a romantic note thanks to this. The action is excellent with Jo’s powers looking really cool and her ability to change into street clothes looking futuristic. The alien threats also have an Akira vibe that’s unmistakable when they transform.
Letters by Lucas Gattoni are clear and well-rounded. Using sentence case helps distinguish emphasis as needed and the captions in white text in green boxes have a cool techno look due to the translucency.
Dave on “Public Display of the Electromagnetic Spectrum” by Greg Lockard, Giulio Macaione, and Aditya Bidikar
As the title suggests, “Public Display of the Electromagnetic Spectrum” is about public displays which in this case is affection. The main character is Ray Terrill a.k.a. The Ray story opens with him and Vixxen testing out a training area in the Sanctuary home base. His energy abilities get to go all-out thanks to his boyfriend Xenos’ genius mind. The conflict makes itself known when Xenos tries to kiss Ray only to be pushed away when Ray says “Not in front of the team.”
Writer Greg Lockard uses a big superhero fight with a villain called Shadow Thief to show just how hidden Ray keeps his emotions. In a key scene, Ray takes a major hit and is soon in a dark Shadowscape. It’s here Lockard explores what it means to grow up without getting affection and how that can lead to being able to be affectionate at an older age. It’s a touching story that tackles a real issue many of us have given the tale a mature and important message.
The art by Giulio Macaione is super clean and suits the superhero action. The style is not unlike Mike Allred’s as it uses a cel-shaded look with bright colors. Macaione will definitely hit you in the feels with its last few panels.
Dave on “Bat’s in the Cradle” by Stephanie Philips, Samantha Dodge, Marissa Louise, and Lucas Gattoni
Stephanie Phillips and Samantha Dodge team up for “Bat’s in the Cradle” along with Marissa Louise on colors and Lucas Gattoni on letters. It’s a quick 4-page story featuring Batwoman doing her best to save her dad. He’s been kidnapped, but that’s nothing when it comes to Batwoman’s moves.
Much of the fighting looks sharp and is fast-paced. A standout panel is a moment where Batwoman literally deflects a bullet with her arms outstretched grasping her cape. Dodge does a fantastic job with the costume as well reminding us Batwoman has one of the best costumes in comics.
The final page is key to the overall message of the tale, which features Batwoman and her dad at a pivotal moment in their relationship. It’s a warm moment, especially since Batwoman’s dad is an army guy. In the scene, we see he accepts her for who she is and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lia on “Special Delivery” by Travis Moore, Enrica Eren Angiolini, and Ariana Maher
When people ask me what my first comic is, I always tell them Robin. I remember being in high school and going to the backlogs of old comics, buying up any issue of Robin I could find because Tim Drake was my favorite character at the time. Tim just felt like the relatable character, someone with a relatively normal life behind the mask, someone with fears and anxieties about not measuring up to expectations. Recently, Tim Drake was confirmed to be bisexual, making him relatable to tons of people for a whole new reason.
“Special Delivery” by Travis Moore is Tim Drake’s first Pride story in DC–and it’s an amazing one.
I remember reading Bernard Dowd in Robin as a kid, he was honestly a forgettable character and not that likable. With Tim’s bisexual confirmation, DC revamped Bernard, keeping him as a friend from Tim’s past, but making the character himself a lot different from how he used to act. This change is quite welcome because the new Bernard is a likable character, one I find myself enjoying learning more about.
“Special Delivery” is the story that really sold me on Tim/Bernard, showing what makes them work and what makes them special. Moore had an interesting job ahead of him, as Tim/Bernard hasn’t been a relationship that’s been able to have been fleshed out much. The glimpses we see of them are adorable and you can’t read these narration boxes without feeling happy along with Tim. Tim seems so happy and at peace with himself, it’s such a great story for his character, especially as a longtime fan of his.
This story is as sweet as the cake Tim gives Bernard –and I’m sure I’ll get a cavity from it, but it will certainly be worth it. Moore is one of the best artists DC has and while I’ve never seen his writing before, this cute little story made me want to see him tackle Tim Drake again in the future.
Madeleine on “The Hunt” by Dani Fernandez, Zoe Thorogood, Jeremy Lawson, and Aditya Bidikar
What starts as a flirty date in the forest for Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn soon turns nightmarish for the two as they’re faced with their past selves. “The Hunt” by Dani Fernandez, Zoe Thorogood, Jeremy Lawson, and Aditya Bidikar is a surprisingly poignant tale about how the pair were before they found each other, and how they could have stayed if they hadn’t found love. The idea is executed with ease and is something so relevant to their history in comics and is also a meta look at how static these characters could have remained if they weren’t allowed to be together.
Thorogood’s art is fantastical with wavy, textured hair and looming forest backgrounds. Paired with Lawson’s muted, yet lively coloring, it’s reminiscent of Trung Le Nguyen’s fairytale art in last year’s DC Pride Batwoman story. As the manifestations of their old selves are destroyed by their current love in the emotional climax with an explosive KABOOM from Bidikar, the page and gutters are filled with flower petals in a romantic embrace for both the characters and the reader.
“The Hunt” continues the trajectory from the story in DC Pride 2021 where they fight a monster while confirming their relationship status. Let’s hope there’s more page time with Harley and Ivy actually together to continue this momentum because it’s something that’s sorely overdue (hopefully upcoming in the new Poison Ivy series, also released today).
Madeleine on “Are You Ready for This?” by Danny Lore & Ivan Cohen, Brittney Williams, Enrica Eren Angiolini, and Ariana Maher
Jess Chambers has to be my favorite character created in recent years. A genderfluid speedster with ADHD and some killer hair, what’s not to love? Unfortunately, they haven’t been seen since last year’s pride special as their Future State self, with their first appearance in their home of Earth 11 in DC’s A Very Merry Multiverse at the end of 2020. But “Are You Ready for This?” by Danny Lore & Ivan Cohen, Brittney Williams, Enrica Eren Angiolini, and Ariana Maher goes back to their origins on Earth 11 and expands on their world and character.
While trying to stop villains from hijacking a Pride parade, Jess wrestles with their ability to be a big superhero. Lore brings their signature charm to Cohen’s character in a way that feels instantly familiar but also gives Jess a new dimension. Williams’ depiction of Jess’ wild and erratic movements has an animated quality that gives the art life. Angiolini’s energetic colors and Maher’s dynamic lettering only add to this cartoon-ish joy.
A lot of “Are You Ready for This?” is an introduction to the new Multiversity: Teen Justice series (out today!) with a closer look at Teen Justice and their villains, but it’s done with room for a spotlight on Jess. Fingers crossed that we’ll see more of Jess beyond the new series, so that they can develop into a version of their potential Future State self in current continuity for more great stories.
Dave on “Finding Batman,” a personal story by Kevin Conroy with art by J.Bone and Aditya Bidikar
Wrapping up the DC Pride 2022 anthology is a story by Kevin Conroy called “Finding Batman.” Known for voicing Batman in Batman: The Animated Series, Conroy’s tale opens with an advisory to readers. In it, the DC editorial points out that many of the stories are hopeful and positive, but in this final story there is struggle and darkness. Aptly written, DC Comics editorial says “…Pride is a beautiful event not despite the dark times in our personal histories, but because of them…”
This tale is autobiographical, opening with Conroy talking about landing the role of Batman despite not knowing the character very well. The story soon takes us back to when Conroy was a boy growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s in a devoutly Catholic family. Much like Batman, Conroy talks about wearing a mask of his own be it at auditions and in professional settings. He lived a life where he couldn’t be openly gay.
This story is vivid and raw hitting deeply emotional and upsetting beats. Conroy dealing with the loss of friends to AIDS, a father who committed self-harm, and dealing with bigotry even when he kept his sexual identity a secret are factors in this story. Possibly more upsetting is the use of a slur starting with fa that rhymes with maggot. It’s used throughout this story as a kind of violence against Conroy, but in a sense, the reader will feel that violence too. It’s purposefully used to convey hate and will likely affect the reader.
The story closes in a two-page sequence following Conroy being offered the role of Batman. In these two pages Conroy’s voice, along with the excellent cartoonist art by J.Bone, convey how Conroy was born to play this role. As outlined in previous scenes, Conroy lived through trauma, and much like Batman, he could relate to Batman’s struggle on some scale. This scene feels a bit abrupt given the slower pace through Conroy’s life in previous pages, but it serves as a satisfying ending.
J.Bone’s art is excellent, drawing you into Conroy’s life through subtle changes in the look to convey age difference. Environments are simple but efficient at conveying where characters are. Cast in blue, white, and black, there’s a simplicity to the art that feels genuine and real.
Letters by Aditya Bidikar are clean and measured helping convey a stable sense of self in the captions. When the f-slur is used you feel it due to emphasis which is done in different ways. It’s striking and hurtful to see it.
Although hard to get through, “Finding Batman” is deeply meaningful and raw. It’s incredibly real and will elicit emotions from the reader–and for some, this story may be too much–but it also ends on a hopeful moment for Conroy. It’s a story that relates just how awful people can be but also finds inspiration in knowing characters like Batman are relatable and affect people in their daily lives.
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