With ‘The Stripling Warrior’, Brian Andersen Brings the First Gay Mormon Superhero to Comics [Back Pages]
Just funded on Kickstarter, The Stripling Warrior is a new superhero character created by Brian Andersen and James Neish. A gay Mormon hero, the character is a personal project for Andersen, who is himself gay and a Mormon --- and also, perhaps, a hero. The series follows Sam Shepherd, who is approached on his wedding night by the Angel Abish --- one of the few named female characters in the Book of Mormon --- and asked to become the Hand of God on Earth.
The Mormon Church has a reputation for not being accepting of homosexuality, making this a comic that directly addresses some quite powerful taboos within the religion. Coming from Brian's own personal experiences, this seemed like a project well worth exploring further, so we spoke to him about how it came together, and why he wanted to tell this story.
ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of Stripling Warrior?
Brian Andersen: Stripling Warrior is an exciting, sexy and fun new comic book about the world's first Gay Mormon Superhero.
CA: What was the genesis of the project?
BA: The idea of a Mormon comic book popped into my iddy biddy little brain one day a few years ago while I was standing bored in line at my fave lunch haunt in San Francisco. I was reflecting back on my Mormon missionary experience in Guatemala (from almost twenty years ago!) and realized that there was a story there.
Being that I love superheroes I thought it would be interesting to pursue the tale for the spandex and cape crowd. Once I made that connect, I instantly saw what the main character would look like, what his mission would be, who the Angel in the story would be --- all of it vividly came to me in a moment. The rest of the story I mentally chewed on and developed over time.
Being gay and Mormon myself, I realized that my coming out experience coupled with the mythology of the LDS Church was great material for an exciting comic book. Or at least an interesting one, maybe even a bit controversial.
Man, I sure owe a lot to that lunch spot --- thanks Mixt Greens!
CA: How long have you wanted to get this comic up and running?
BA: It took a few years to get to where I am now. Perhaps I held onto creating Stripling Warrior for as long as I did out of fear. I honestly was a bit fearful of releasing the comic.
I didn’t want to offend my Mormon friends and family. But I realized that doing something that frightens you is a good thing. I knew that the risks were (hopefully) worth the reward of writing and creating my story.
CA: What was it about this story that made you want to tell it?
BA: Warning: a potentially political --- but honest --- rant follows:
After having my daughter last year I had a newfound view of how important family is. I want my little girl to grow up being proud of her family. I’m not ashamed of being gay and I certainly don’t want her to question the worthiness of her family just because some groups might tell her otherwise.
So many religions target gay people as "less than"; not equal; sinful and bound for hellfire. I reject these notions outright. Our family is just as worthy as any other. I’m just as worthy as any other person. Aside from living an open life I thought it’d be cool to create a something to explore my feelings. Being an indie comic book writer, I decided to put these ideals onto the page.
I want to take a homosexual character who is deeply immersed in the mythology of a religion, in this case the Mormon religion, and make him powerful. I want to show that he is completely and totally worthy of God and is even given a holy charge to be his hand on Earth.
Sam Shepard, the Stripling Warrior, is an openly gay man married to another man. He is given the powers of Heaven to smite those who do evil. His homosexuality does not stop him being God’s representative.
Part of Sam’s tale also includes a romantic element. While Stripling Warrior isn’t a sex comic, or a porn comic, it is a sexy comic. Sam is not a gay character in name only. He has an active sex life that will be explored within the bounds of a comic that’s rated T for Teen. For some this sexy aspect might be a selling point, and for others not so much. And either response is fine. I’m not writing just for a gay Mormon audience. I’m writing for everyone. Being gay and Mormon is just the basis of the story, all you need to know right out the gate.
I will say that I’ve read comics for almost my entire life and have been emotionally invested in many heterosexual relationships. I’ve seen these characters in bed, kissing, draped sexily in sheets and towels. It never bothered me. It also never made me straight. That never stopped me for loving these comics.
But gay sex is such a taboo issue for many. It’s not for me. And it’s time for people to get over their hang ups over what gay men and women do in their bedroom. Stripling Warrior will showcase a romantic gay relationship that includes sex. It will embrace that supposed taboo topic and put it front and center in the story. If it’s good for the goose and the gander in mainstream comics then why can’t it also be good for the gander and the gander?
Anyone still reading this? This was one hella long and serious answer!
CA: How did James come onboard the story?
BA: James is my very own Stripling Warrior. He came onboard after my original artist I was working with to develop the comic book had to drop off the book. James swooped in and saved the comic and me.
With Stripling Warrior I knew I needed an exceptional artist. The book would certainly raise eyebrows and the art had to be able to connect with those raised eyebrows enough to get them to read the actual story. The art had to elevate the comic past its potentially controversial title and topic.
Thankfully James is able to bring this and more. He delivers dynamic action scenes, super attractive characters, stellar panel layouts and gorgeous colors. Also, he’s the one who came up with the weapons the Stripling Warrior uses in the book. He adds so much depth to the story with his art and his ideas that I’m certain my script and story are not worthy of his work.
…Don’t tell him that! I don’t want him to leave me!
CA: Why take this to Kickstarter?
BA: Kickstarter is like American Idol in many ways --- it’s the ultimate test. People vote with their dollars and decide if your story and project will make it. I love that. It’s scary as hell, don’t get me wrong, but I love that in terms of comic books, it’s the comic book reading audience that weighs and decides if your project is deserving of their cash. That’s amazing!
Also, Kickstarter is an excellent way to help get the word out about your book. It’s a great way to connect with an audience right off the bat, before the book is even created. What other way is there to reach so many people so quickly?
CA: What stage are you at with the project? How much have you already completed?
BA: Issue one is written and the art is half completed. James is hard at work on completing the rest of the first issue, which should be done by the end of the month. Thankfully, The Advocate recently ran the first eight pages of issue one of Stripling Warrior on their site. That was pretty huge for the project.
CA: If achieve your goal, what’s your estimated delivery on the final comic?
BA: Well, praise Hera, we’ve reached our initial goal already. Yippee! With the first fundraising goal achieved I am guaranteeing that two issues of Stripling Warrior will be created and produced. Huzzah! We have a week left and are into stretch goal territory --- the coins we receive now will go towards producing more comics.
As for the estimate of the delivery of the final comics: the first two issues will be completed by June. I plan on being at San Diego Comic Con this year, and it’s going to be super awesome to debut the books there.
The Stripling Warrior has already achieved its funding target of $5000, and will remain open until 28 April 2015. You can find the Kickstarter page here.