As many of you probably have heard by now, DC Comics is about Rebirth (Re - Prefix: Definition 1. again 2. back to an original place, condition, etc.). It’s a back to basics approach to the line. Meat and potatoes if you will. In order for DC to do this, they had to cancel comics. A lot of comics. And one of those books is Midnighter by writer Steve Orlando with (mostly) artist Aco.
Sure, almost all the other comics I was picking up from DC will also be cancelled including Doctor Fate, Starfire, and Black Canary, but those aren’t what I’m here to talk about today (but please, talk to me about Doctor Fate sometime). Today’s post is about Midnighter and framing it’s cancellation in where DC was and where it is going, but perhaps of equal importance it's also about Steve Orlando. We'll get to him later though.
Midnighter, like the other cancelled titles, is a part of DC’s failed DC You campaign from June of last year. The idea was to put out more comics with a more diverse group of characters to better represent “you.” This included a bunch of comics with female leads, a Doctor Fate who was actually Egyptian, and Midnighter as the only gay man at either DC or Marvel with a solo title. That meant a lot to quite a lot of people.
Especially after DC axed Batwoman, who at the time was (and would still be if she still had her own book) the only lesbian with her own solo title at either DC or Marvel. The controversy behind that is another story for another day. Midnighter did not start until after Batwoman ended, making sure we knew that although the mainstream comic industry likes the idea of gay and lesbian solo superhero comics, one at a time please! Unless you're trans. Then maybe you could land a sweet gig as a superhero’s BFF.
Now, to be fair to DC, they have had more queer characters in their own titles than Marvel. They have also increased bi-visibility by having characters like Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Constantine be more open about their sexuality. And even after Rebirth commences, Harley Quinn and Constantine will still have their own titles so we will be getting some queer representation. You just have to have been in a recent live action movie or TV series to get your own comic.
Rebirth isn't the only initiative that DC is involved in right now. They've vastly increased their offerings at Vertigo, will be launching a line of Hanna-Barbera comics, and just announced this past weekend a new imprint helmed by Gerard Way called Young Animal. While Rebirth is DC putting a stop to “Batgirling” and going back to meat and potatoes, they seem to still be willing to try new and different stories; just not in their main line.
This is the opposite approach from The New 52, in which they began to consolidate their properties that had either migrated from DC to Vertigo or bring in for the first time properties that had been part of imprints like Wildstorm (which is where we got the characters from The Authority which include Midnighter and Apollo).
Look, I’m genuinely not happy about this cancellation. I love Midnighter. I love the story Steve Orlando was telling. I love how he effortlessly weaved elements of a love story into a brutally violent chain of events - something Steve Orlando does an exceptionally good job with his Image graphic novel Virgil as well. Which brings me to the point I started at the beginning: this isn’t just about Midnighter. It’s also about Steve Orlando and we’ve still got Steve Orlando at DC Comics.
That’s not to say it was perfect either. Some of the stuff with Grayson was pretty blatant queer-baiting. But I blame that more on Grayson as a character and how he’s been developed than anything else. I’m hoping with more openly queer creators at DC, those sort of situations will be presented less and less.
Which leads me to how we not only need queer representation on the pages of our comics, but we need that representation in the creative talent as well. Luckily for us, DC values Steve’s contributions and locked him in with an exclusive contract. DC also has Phil Jimenez on Superwoman for Rebirth, and James Tynion IV on Detective Comics which will be featuring Batwoman.
While I can’t help but feel that the cancellation of Midnighter feels like a step backward, especially when another comic with a gay lead has not been presented yet for Rebirth (to our knowledge), I am hopeful for the future of DC’s queer representation. It may end up coming more heavily from Young Animal and Vertigo than from DC proper at first, but it’ll get there. And it’s going to get there because of comics like Midnighter and the ideas that creators like Steve Orlando will be contributing to the company. He’ll be writing Supergirl for DC Rebirth too. So if you liked Steve’s style and you want to support a queer creator in comics, make sure you pick up a copy when it hits the shelves this fall.
And don’t forget we still have one more issue of Midnighter to look forward to on May 4th!