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Love Is Love


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Page 45 Review by Stephen

Love is a Good Thing. Love is a positive power which spreads joy.

Hatred is a small, nasty thing which festers inside and destroys all those who harbour it. Hatred is short-sighted, self-destructive and so often counter-productive.

Here’s a specific, delicious irony by way of example: there is a gay gene, and that gay gene would not have been passed this far down the human line had organised religion with its co-conspiratorial political and media weaklings not condemned, vilified and so ostracised those of us who are gay to the extent that many gay women and men felt so fearful of being found out or not fitting in that they paired off with those of the other (not opposite) sex and had children. For millennia.

Those preaching hatred under the lame excuse and umbrella of organised religion thereby perpetuated that very same quality which they still desire so fervently, fearfully and vociferously to wipe out.

What a bunch of numptees!

There is no fear here.

Instead, the dearly beloved of the comicbook industry have gathered here today to celebrate and enjoy this thing which we call life in all its caring, compassionate and constructive rather than destructive diversity.

There is strength in numbers; do not underestimate that.

When we stick up for others unlike ourselves – when you as a straight girl or guy stick up for gay folks; when we as white men or women protest against racism; whenever all of us whether Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Catholic, Atheist or Agnostic confront religious intolerance; when we truly understand the plight and so fight for the rights of those being stigmatised, dismissed and financially cut adrift for being less able-bodied than ourselves – we send out the most massive signals of solidarity which do make a big difference.

There is strength in numbers. There is strength in solidarity, and one of the most resolute, inspirational and galvanising phrases ever invented is this:

Ne touche pas à mon pote!

Don’t touch my friend!

I am deeply, deeply moved by everyone who has so far snapped up a copy of this comic at Page 45 simply because you care. The great news is that this is far from a band-wagon gesture, but is instead heart-felt and has plenty to say in often witty, well thought-out ways.

We’ll get to that very shortly, but before I dismount from my hobby horse, let me say this: the vast majority of homophobia isn’t even that: it consists of careless slurs which are not even believed by those giving such casual credence to a hatred of those who love... and it is done simply because they seek peer approval. That is why a message like this is important: it says we do not approve, and you will look a complete and utter dick if you continue to be so stupid and small.

Love is love.

Right, I can’t cover everything (this is a surprisingly long read) but let’s crack on with the praise:

One of my favourite pieces – because it made me smile when I needed it the most – was written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir then illustrated by Emma Vieceli. Two proud parents phone their son as he sits alone and aghast at night for the barely comprehensible news is flooding in over the television on June 12th 2016 that 49 individuals have been shot dead in a gay nightclub in Orlando. Tears stream down his face. The phone rings. As they swap the handset between them, sharing their love, concern and pride at their son’s courage in being himself, the mum and dad also swap complementary qualifiers, and that’s what made me smile: and it sounded like a very real conversation to me, you’ll see! There are still tears afterwards, but they are different tears. Parents, eh? Awww.

It’s preceded by a very simple but striking page of “split-screen” contrasts by Daniel Beals and David Lafuente called ‘Hand Me Down’ in which two much younger children are separated from play and taken home, one to a loving him whose father sits with his son as the same news rolls in and explains why some guys are kissing:

“Because they are sad and they love each other, son.”

It’s perfectly simple.

On the opposite side of the street, the son is left alone by this father and grandfather to overhear their reactions.

“Thin the herd. ’Bout time,” says his grandfather.
“Yeah. Faggots.”
“Faggots,” whispers the child, with wide, impressionable eyes, absorbing this learned behaviour.

Paul Jenkins and Robert Hack made me chuckle with their hate-mongering placards at an incite rally (“God Hates Dogs” “God Hates Cats”), as did Matthew Rosenberg and Amancay Nahuelpan with Matthew’s stream of robust and self-deprecating parenthetical asides fearing that he’s ill-qualified to comment, immediately after which he proves he’s supremely well equipped with a single simple sentence.

Far from obvious in its angle is Eddie Gorodetsky and Jesus Inglesias’ contribution which broke my tiny heart. I’ll leave you to absorb its exact inference for yourself, but it’s about a boy whose dad was murdered in just such a hate crime, leaving behind more than one mourner.

Devon T. Morales and Rags Morales’ love letter clutched in a dead, bloodied hand was as beautiful and tragic as its final embrace, while Dave Justus and Travis Moore prove they have a heart of gold when they play with your expectations in a gun shop. No, they really, really do, especially with the final line “Don’t forget your ammo” and what is being held aloft. It’s that kind of lateral thinking I truly applaud (and am in awe of) within an anthology which could so easily have been one long stream of didactic finger-pointing, just like my introduction.

Instead this is an overwhelmingly positive comic celebrating courage and commitment and the refusal to be cowed. In Bendis & Oeming’s case this takes the form of a silent double-page spread set down a gay nightclub full of love, lust, friendship and the delirium of dance, all of which deserve the loudest of celebrations.

Oh, and if all that wasn’t enough, this is a benefit book. The publisher’s blurb:

“The comic book industry comes together to honour those killed in Orlando this year. From IDW Publishing, with assistance from DC Entertainment, this oversize comic contains moving and heartfelt material from some of the greatest talents in comics – mourning the victims, supporting the survivors, celebrating the LGBTQ community, and examining love in today's world. All material has been kindly donated, from the creative to the production, with ALL PROCEEDS going to the victims, survivors and their families via EQUALITY FLORIDA...

“It doesn't matter who you love. All that matters is that you love.”

The last thing I’d want to do, then, is rain on anyone’s Parade, but I’d just leave you with this sobering historical context from Justin Hall here, who caught up with comicbook creator Howard Cruse and his husband Ed Sedarbaum two days after the Orlando massacre when they recalled that, following an arson attack on a New Orleans gay bar in the 1970s which killed over 30 individual human beings with lives and loved ones, some of the victims were buried in unmarked graves because their families were too ashamed to claim them.

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