Batman’s onscreen battle against Superman may have been his most advertised role in 2016, but his most powerful one placed him squarely on the side of LGBT equality.
The caped crusader was one of many characters featured in “Love is Love,” a comic book anthology released by IDW Publishing and DC Comics in response to the Orlando Pulse massacre that left 49 people dead in June 2016. The book, which debuted in December 2016, has raised more than $165,000 to support the victims and their families.
Comic book writer Marc Andreyko began organizing the project just hours after news broke about the shooting at a gay nightclub, one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
“I was gut-punched by the horror and loss. And I was not alone. Feeling helpless, I wrote a Facebook post suggesting that the comics community needed to do something — anything,” Andreyko wrote in the afterword to the book.
Dozens of his friends jumped at the chance to contribute. Those dozens turned into hundreds of writers, illustrators and colorists over the next four months.
The result is a powerful collection of panels conveying a spectrum of emotions. In an interview with ivoh, Andreyko said that just as creating the book was healing, reading it can be, too.
“The pieces herein are so poignant, raw, and touching, that you will have an emotional system reboot after you’ve read the book,” he said.
Some pieces in “Love is Love” are specific to the Pulse tragedy, while other contributions speak to broader experiences of LGBT individuals.
One spread, for instance, shows Batman cloaked by his grim reaper-esque cape, standing on the nightclub floor. Bodies are sprawled out around him, and cell phones litter the scene.
“Tombs should be quiet,” reads the text. “This one is filled with the plaintive bleat of cell phones./Friends and family and loved ones calling with terrified concern./They receive no answer.”
On another page, a young woman comes out to her younger brother during a snowy drive. “Yeah, I know,” he replies nonchalantly. The bottom of the page reads, “For Erin and Eileen, 35 years later. With love./And for all of you for whom it should have been that simple.”
The connective tissue binding the diverse pieces is a recognition of LGBT community’s resilience and the affirmation that love will ultimately triumph.
For example, one page shows a parent struggling to explain anti-gay hate crimes to a child as they gaze at figures embracing during a candlelight vigil. “So their love is different,” the child concludes. “It has to be, to fight so much hate. And evil. It’s super-love.”
According to Andreyko, love is critical for finding and conveying strength after a tragedy like the Pulse shooting. “We should all be so lucky as to love someone and be loved in return. Gender, race, creed, none of that should matter and no one should be threatened by people in love. It should be celebrated,” he said.
“Love is Love” topped the New York Times bestseller list for graphic novels within a few months of publication. It was also nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. But for Andreyko, the most meaningful response came from the mother of one the Pulse shooting victims.
“She thanked me for doing the project. Can you imagine? A woman who suffered the loss of her only child, in a horrific manner, was moved and found some peace from this project. It was, and is, overwhelming and it is why we did this book,” he said.
Charity comics aren’t entirely new, but the scope of the volume, its emphasis on LGBT equality and the permission creators received to use licensed characters is “pretty unprecedented,” Andreyko said.
He cites musician-led famine relief efforts of the 1980s, such as Live Aid, as his inspiration for the project. “Love is Love” contributors included a number of famous names from the comics world, such as Cat Staggs, as well as other entertainers, such as comedian/actor Taran Killam. Using art for good is “what we (artists) are supposed to do,” Andreyko wrote in the book’s afterword.
“It has been a success far beyond anything I could have imagined, and it gives me hope that the good people outnumber the bad,” he told ivoh.
“Love is Love” is approaching its fifth print run. After that, proceeds will go to a new LGBT charity each year, “so we can keep healing others in need,” Andreyko said.