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‘DC Pride 2022 #1’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by Various
Introduction by Nicole Maines

Cover by Phil Jimenez and Arif Prianto
Variant Cover by Joshua “Sway” Swaby
Published by DC Comics

 

“You’re just afraid of what we represent. Humanity’s unlimited potential.”

The Ray says these words to the villain Shadow Thief during a battle in the story “Public Displays of Electromagnetism” by Greg Lockard and Giulio Macaione. He’s speaking of superheroes, of course.

He also could be speaking about queer folk, specifically those of us under the LGBTQIA+ banner. And the philosophy of queerness – as relayed by bell hooks, Audre Lorde and many other great thinkers – can expand to encompass all who question the binary systems of thought under racism, sexism, capitalism, and who live within the spectrum of many possibilities.

If queerness is philosophically about embracing all the ways one can be human, and superheroes represent unlimited potential, then what do queer superheroes bring to the table?

DC Pride 2022 #1 is a delightful anthology celebrating just a handful of superpowered characters within the queer community in the DC Universe.

There are characters here that I forgot came out, some of whose journeys into queerness are more recent (hi, Tim Drake and Jonathan Kent), and some who have stood out for a while longer.

Either way, having more out queer characters in mainstream superhero comics is a good, full stop. Not only to reflect a society where queer people are more out and vocal. But also to confront our real world of rising autocracy and bigotry around the world, a reality in which many of those same folk are under increasingly hostile efforts to publicly erase them after decades of gains in visibility and rights.

Generally this anthology stays on the lighter side, around Pride Month and the parades and festivals.

“Super Pride” by Devin Grayson and Nick Robles sets the table well as the leadoff story. Robin (Damian Wayne) and Superman (Jonathan Kent) get ready to attend the Pride festival in Metropolis with Jon’s boyfriend, Jay. Alongside the new version of World’s Finest banter going back to Super Sons – Damian preps gas bombs and talks super-security threats, to Jon’s groans.

Meanwhile, Jay presents Jon with a costume change that would present Superman in a new light, as a symbol of acceptance and recognition for people to share their gifts with the world for the benefit of all.

Other stories aren’t as heavy on the messaging but are happy to just show queer characters existing together, happy and in love – amid some superhero shenanigans, of course. Stories such as the one involving Nubia and Io, or new Aquaman Jackson Hyde on a date, are just as meaningful. A Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy tale walks that balance as well.

“Special Delivery” by Travis Moore is a little too writerly, as Tim Drake Robin’s circuitous path to meeting with his date at Pride is overlaid with so much interior monologue that turns out to be a speech to his date with the gift he was protecting from some bad guys. And “Up At Bat” featuring trans woman character Alysia Yeoh left me lost because I never knew this character, plus some ambiguous reading on Batgirl as perhaps questioning her sexuality just didn’t come across in the storytelling.

But the story DC Pride 2022 saves for last is the one making most of the headlines in the geek media, and it’s legendary Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy’s autobiographical tale “Finding Batman.”

Drawn by J. Bone in a style reminiscent of Bob Fingerman’s Minimum Wage with a touch of that Bruce Timm feel, Conroy dives into growing up gay in the 1950s and ’60s, finding theater and living through the AIDS crisis, all while in the closet. He lived a double life trying to conceal this secret identity, and it dovetails with personal tragedies, anti-gay career setbacks, and family tribulations.

However, as it often does for marginalized people, art saves.

In Conroy’s case, he walks the reader through the moment Batman’s voice emerged from his mouth for the first time, and how Kevin found empathy with Bruce Wayne and what Batman represented. A means to cope, a means to transcend his trauma, a means to begin again not as what he could have been, but what he was now.

Conroy doesn’t explicitly state that Batman helped him come out.

That may not be true. But he also doesn’t have to state it, because his storytelling illustrates the spirit of their fact.

Such was how Conroy found the role of a lifetime, and how the superhero extended a gloved hand of limitless potential.

Conroy’s queerness was his superpower all along.

Grade: A

 

 

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