Imagine this pitch for a comic book hero:
An extremely violent, sarcastic, and unapologetic Batman-type who's openly gay and dating a Superman-type character.
Sounds like everything you've ever wished for in a superhero? Well, you're in luck because this fall it's hitting the shelves in the form of the new DC comics' Midnighter and Apollo.
Steve Orlando, the writer behind the series, joined Take Two to discuss who Midnighter is, the state of LGBTQ representation in comics and more.
Who is Midnighter?
"Midnighter is a character who was created about 20 years ago in the pages of a book called The Authority, which is sort of like a pro-active alternative take on the Justice League and in-line with that, Midnighter was created to be the Shadow, if the Shadow was directed in a movie by John Woo...very based around doing these action movie things and being basically Bruce Willis in Die Hard in a superhero costume and in-line with that it happened that Midnighter was actually in a relationship with Apollo, the Superman character from the authority as well and so back in 1998 when they came out they were some of the first and definitely most visible mainstream out characters in comics.
Flash forward to today and we've moved him into the DC universe so he's standing right next to Batman and Superman and all the people you know...is bringing his own brand of explosive energy and unabashed pride to the DC universe."
What's been the impact in the comic world?
"It's been extremely well received, Midnighter was one of the best regarded book in 2015 and so far in 2016 and beyond that it's reaching new audiences and that's the most exciting thing, bringing new people into comics and showing them that there's someone like them. Comics is built around that idea you know 'Oh, my life is terrible, my life mundane', but so is Peter Parker's and he has this amazing other life and maybe I can have that too, maybe my life can be mythic. That's what everyone deserves in comics and with Midnighter we've done that for people– There were qualms when the book first started 'Oh, he's so violent in these things' is he a type of role model? Not that reading the book means that we think you should go out and explode people's heads like melons, it's more about the character. It's the way he lives his life. He has no secret identity. He's Midnighter everywhere he goes and there's no shame about who he is, there's 100 percent confidence about who he is and he doesn't care who disagrees and that is the greatest impact on people, giving them that type of confidence."
How personal is this project for you?
"These characters, in particular are very close to me. I read The Authority when I was younger and read everything that Midnighter was in and it was a big influence on me to show that there is not one sort of rubric or mold to fit into as a queer man, or even in a new type of label, you don't have to be gay or straight you can be bisexual. Because you read him and you realize that he doesn't necessarily live by anyone else's expectations except his and more so doesn't even let them bother him and that is a huge influence on me at a time when media examples of queer men were relatively limited. You wanted a counterpoint, you wanted someone to say 'You don't have to be like this, you don't have to act like a certain person you've read about or seen on television, you just have to act like yourself'."
How do you feel about the current state of LGBTQ characters in comics?
"In general, these characters are getting more visibility. Not just with us, but with others, with Marvel, with Image comics, with Black Mask Studios. Books that are putting trans characters first, books that are putting queer characters first anyone non-binary, anyone non-traditional. These things are coming up, but there's a lot more work to do because no one character can pay homage to the life experiences of everyone in a community, it's impossible. And if you try to, it kind of becomes pandering and pedantic.
So all we focus on with each of these characters, at least what I'm doing and I think all of my fellow creators is, making them well rounded. Making them respectful. Making them people and not just tokens. Making them characters and not caricatures. But we have to do that for a wide breadth of people, we have to engage intersectionality...there are so many places to go and people that deserve that moment that the majority of people had had in comments but not the minority of people. So those are the next steps, we have to diversify and increase the types of representation we're doing and then we have to diversify and increase the types of people that are doing it."
To hear the full segment, click the blue play button above.
Answers have been edited for clarity.