Queer characters in comics have had a slow burn. There are more LGBTQ characters appearing in comics narratives than ever before, but there’s still room for improvement, and rather than being content just to see queer characters represented at all, readers want to see series that explore a range of LGBTQ identities and stories.
The Wicked and The Divine by Jamie McKelvie, Kieron Gillen, Matthew Wilson, and Clayton Cowles is one of the best representations of the queer community in comics. The characters are complex, multi-tiered, sexual --- and even permitted to be strange and disturbing. Near half of the WicDiv casts falls under the LGBTQ umbrella, yet they're all fiercely differentiated from each other. (Note: This article contains spoilers for the series.)
New images emerge almost daily from X-Men: Apocalypse, the latest installment in Fox and Bryan Singer's X-Men film franchise, set in the 1980s. Naturally, this has led to much discussion about how the '80s version of the X-Men look, and whether they could look better. After all, the body armor they seem to wear through much of the film has as little relation to 1980s fashion as it does to X-Men comics.
This led famously fashion-oriented cover artist Kevin Wada to tweet a suggestion that everyone should draw the X-Men in film-friendly '80s style outfits.
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are probably now best known for their Image series The Wicked + The Divine, set in a world where popstars are gods. Their other Image sieres, Phonogram, is set in a world where music is magic. The two books have a similar premise, and deal with some of the same ideas and themes, but they attack them from completely different angles.
While The Wicked + The Divine is about making art, Phonogram is about consuming it. The former is about being young and deciding to give up your life to music, but Phonogram – and The Immaterial Girl in particular – is about living with the consequences of that deal. Not burning out in your early twenties, but fading away into middle age, with a great record collection instead of a family.
Some weeks ago, a tweet from Jamie McKelvie, artist on the tremendously popular series The Wicked + The Divine and Phonogram, caught my eye. Writing about the physical difficulties of a heavy drawing schedule, McKelvie said he felt he could keep drawing for only 15 more years. Just a few tweets away on my timeline, graphic novelist Faith Erin Hicks, author of Friends with Boys, Superhero Girl, and The Nameless City, commented that a full day of drawing had left her with sore wrists.
Being a comic book artist is a physically taxing job. Long hours sitting at the literal drawing board (whether drawing on paper or digitally) can strain muscles in the back, neck, and shoulders; repetitive motions inflame tendons in the arms. Combine this demanding work with the life of a freelancer, which, in the United States, does not come with any form of health care, and you’ll realize that many comics artists are living one injury away from economic disaster. An injury will not only cost money to treat, it will also cost time as it heals --- time that could be spent drawing --- resulting in lost income.
Comic covers are meant to get their message across in a single striking image, with the implication of movement provided only by the reader's imagination. We see the single frozen moment; our brain tells the story. Yet some talented digital artists have discovered that there's some fun to be had in animating these images and providing just a little more movement to the moment. We've collected some of our favorite examples of animated comic covers from the past few years, from an endlessly recursive Batman to a lolling Hobbes; from a struggling Spider-Man to a spinning Justice League.
The second volume of The Wicked + The Divine, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s cult hit comic about a pantheon of pop stars, will hit shelves on July 1st compliments of publisher Image Comics, and ComicsAlliance is pleased to have an exclusive first look at the trailer that ushers its way into the mortal world. The title of the volume, which collects issues #6-11 of the series, shows off writer Gillen’s well-known penchant for puns: Fandemonium. (Volume 1, which centered on Lucifer, was The Faust Act.)
Fandemonium, the second arc of The Wicked + The Divine, is the work of creators at the top of their games. Jamie McKelvie gets more room than ever to showcase costume designs that tell you everything you need to know about a character at a glance, and expressive facial acting that tells you everything else. Kieron Gillen writes dialogue packed with wordplay and puns – and if they don't make you groan, the plot's gut punches will. Clayton Cowles' letters grant each god a distinct visual voice to match the way they're written and drawn, and Matt Wilson's colors add unique pyrotechnics, at one point reinventing his style between pages to create a convincing drug trip.
The sheer talent on display in these pages is enough to make you jealous and, if you haven't read previous Gillen/McKelvie collaborations Phonogram and Young Avengers, you might wonder where this team got their powers. What makes The Wicked + The Divine especially interesting is that this is exactly what the comic is about.
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's The Wicked And The Divine, published by Image Comics, has been optioned as a possible TV series by Universal Television. The show will be produced by Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, the shingle recently launched by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction. Milkfed signed a two-year development deal with Universal in February that also included an option to develop Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's Sex Criminals.
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